Skip to main content

Why I signed up for a one-way trip to Mars

By Heidi Beemer
updated 8:41 AM EST, Wed February 12, 2014
Water-ice clouds, polar ice and other geographic features can be seen in this full-disk image of Mars from 2011. NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover touched down on the planet on August 6, 2012. Take a look at stunning photographs of Mars over the years. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/14/tech/gallery/mars-curiosity-rover/index.html' target='_blank'>Check out images from the Mars rover Curiosity</a>. Water-ice clouds, polar ice and other geographic features can be seen in this full-disk image of Mars from 2011. NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover touched down on the planet on August 6, 2012. Take a look at stunning photographs of Mars over the years. Check out images from the Mars rover Curiosity.
HIDE CAPTION
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mars One, a nonprofit, aims to establish the first human settlement on the Red Planet
  • Heidi Beemer: I signed up to volunteer for a one-way trip to Mars
  • She says despite risks and challenges, the trip is worthwhile in what we can learn
  • Beemer: For one thing, the human race can fulfill its dream of living on another planet

Editor's note: Heidi Beemer, a first lieutenant in the United States Army, is a chemical defense officer in the 63rd Chemical Company at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

(CNN) -- I signed up to volunteer for a one-way trip to Mars. Yep, one-way.

Mars One, a Dutch nonprofit organization, aims to establish the first human settlement on Mars in the coming decades. I am one of 1,058 people chosen from around the world to be in round two of Mars One's astronaut application pool. The next few rounds will narrow the field until at last 24 candidates will be picked to begin 10 years of training for the mission.

The process is very competitive. In my application, I highlighted my strengths, including adaptability, resiliency, curiosity and leadership skills. I am ready to accept all the hard challenges of going to space and living on Mars.

Heidi Beemer
Heidi Beemer

My passion for Mars and space exploration began in 1997 when I was 8 years old. NASA had been sending humans to space for several decades, but it began to push new frontiers by sending the first rover to Mars. The Sojourner rover landed on the Red Planet on July 4, 1997, and gave humans a glimpse of the rust-colored Martian surface.

Seeing the images ignited a passion inside. For most people, perhaps the desolate landscape of Mars is uninviting; for me, it was the future -- the next frontier. I remember telling myself then that the only way we will find the answers locked inside our solar system would be to send humans to Mars; and I wanted to go.

When I was a senior in college, I was selected to be the executive officer and chief geologist of Crew 99 at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. Much like the astronauts on the International Space Station learn to live and work in space, the Mars Society's MDRS outpost teaches us how to live, work and solve problems on Mars. My crew consisted of five other students from across the country and we lived at a Martian analogue station for two weeks. We learned how to conduct daily missions, maintain our habitat, take quick showers and utilize recycled water systems.

Although our two-week stay is relatively short compared to Mars One's lifelong expedition, it is scientific research like this that is going to help us find a way to adapt to living on other planets.

200,000 people apply to live on Mars
Curiosity Rover marks first anniversary

Once the Mars One crew arrives on Mars the members will begin living their lives as Martians. A majority of their time will be spent conducting scientific experiments, exploring the surroundings, maintaining and improving their habitat. They will also stay connected with the world they left through e-mail and video messages. They will live like the scientists at MDRS and spend their days learning how to adapt to a foreign environment.

The opportunity the Mars One project presents is extraordinary. Humans have always dreamed of living on another planet. The technology to send us to the surface of a planet like Mars exists; it has been available for more than 20 years. But limited funding and unknown health risks have put a brake on our desire to try to settle on other planets.

200,000 apply to live on Mars

Because Mars mysteriously lost its atmosphere and oceans millions of years ago it is important for us to find out why. By sending humans there, we can find answers to Mars' past and future, and ultimately, maybe find answers to the future of Earth.

Of course, there are concerns about whether it makes sense to start a human settlement on such a cold and harsh planet. In an article in The Times, astronauts and physicians acknowledge that the human body isn't equipped for long-term space travel. Risks include extended exposure to radiation and cosmic rays. Even at low and acceptable levels, they may cause health problems.

Luckily, it does not take a lifetime to travel to Mars. In fact, it may only take 210 days to reach the Red Planet. This is a mere 30 days longer than a normal crew rotation on the International Space Station.

While we know about the negative toll of prolonged space living on the human body, astronauts returning to the gravitational force of the Earth recover from their stay in space. Although research is still being done on the loss of bone mass, most other effects felt during space missions subside after physical therapy and treatment.

Mars is also a much smaller planet than Earth. This means the gravity felt on the surface is one-third what we feel on Earth. Once the settlers arrive on the surface after a seven-month space journey, their bodies will eventually adapt to the surface of Mars.

Obviously, there will be unforeseen challenges in such a huge endeavor. But they shouldn't deter us from the attempt. If we never put our collective efforts together to do this, the human race will never fulfill its dream of living on another planet. We owe it to future generations, who will be left with the problems of Earth, to try to find new homes throughout the solar system. As long as there are volunteers like me willing to make the sacrifice, we will find ways to survive in space and beyond.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Heidi Beemer.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:16 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 9:40 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT