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 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?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Sun August 17, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
updated 5:46 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
updated 6:26 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
updated 4:24 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
updated 6:56 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
updated 4:35 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
updated 7:08 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
updated 11:25 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT