A Sailor's Journey to Mars
A manned mission to Mars has long been thought to only be possible in science fiction films. But for one Sailor, it could soon become a reality.
We recently sat down with MC2 Slaughter and asked him our top ten burning questions about his new potential mission.
AHM: So, what exactly is MARS One? It's a joke, right?
A: Yeah, I get that a lot. Mars One is very real. It's a privately-funded organization based in the Netherlands. They intend to establish a permanent human colony on Mars by 2024. The first group will consist of a crew of two males and two females, with more crews arriving every two years after initial touchdown.
Space X, the first private company to send a ship to the International Space Station, is working on the craft that will send us to our new home. The Chief Medical Officer is Norbert Kraft M.D., an award-winning NASA doctor that specializes in keeping humans physically and mentally healthy in space.
The list of heavy hitters goes on, but here's where it gets really interesting.
Mars One needs $6 billion to get humans to the Red Planet. They plan to raise money by televising the astronaut selection process. Yeah, it's going to be the greatest reality TV show ever produced. We started with 200,000 applicants. Now we're at 1,058 candidates. Those of us that make it past the upcoming interview phase will compete on television. There will be multiple rounds as we're put to the test working in teams and surviving in harsh living conditions. Basically, we try to inch closer to becoming one of 40 paid Mars One astronauts. The public will be involved and will be able to help decide the outcome.
AHM: How did you hear about the mission and what made you apply? Is your command OK with it?
A: I heard about it a couple of years ago when Mars One first announced the plan. I immediately signed up for the newsletter. When the call went out for applicants, I made my 60-second video selling why it should be me. As a professional videographer, I had a bit of an advantage.
What made me want to apply... That's a great question, and it's the most common one I get. I say why not? How many chances do we get to truly make an impact on the future of an entire species? And I feel like I'm the perfect candidate, so it's my duty to try and help out.
I just passed the physical checkup and am waiting to be interviewed before a Mars One board. My command has given me the green light to go to the interview, but we need to see how it works out with my active duty obligation. The Navy's been really good to me, and after studying advanced journalism at Syracuse University, I owe three years of service. We'll see what happens. I'll be disseminating information as I get it. I love my job, so it's not a tragedy if I can't move forward. I'm looking forward to working at Defense Media Activity when I leave Syracuse in May.
AHM: Man, your girlfriend must have been pretty upset that you might leave the planet.
A: No girlfriend. I am a 36-year-old bachelor. (By choice!) No kids, heck I only own about 10 shirts. I live life with a small footprint and I really enjoy it. I'm free to live the adventure, you know?
AHM: So no girlfriend. How about your parents? How did they react?
A: Oh, that was rough. My mom's a huge adventurer so I told her first. She's a black belt in karate, and I thought she might chop me in the neck for a minute there. I waited a bit longer to tell my dad. I was really worried that he'd have a heart attack, but he handled it. I think the idea is still abstract enough that they aren't truly freaking out yet. If I make it past the interview that may change. My parents mean the world to me. The hardest part has been the idea of hurting them.
AHM: What will the training entail?
A: Well the TV show begins production in 2015, with the final crews selected in about a year. After that, those teams train for seven years. I believe there will be ten teams of four that will become official Mars One employees. I don't have specifics on training, other than every two months we retreat from the world to train in total isolation for several months. As far as the show goes, the first phase is regional competition, the second phase is global. So for the final phase I could be on a team made of individuals from China, India, and England.
AHM: Will you be part of the crew that leaves in 2024?
A: Only four will be chosen, with nine teams as backup. Will I be a part of that crew? I hope so.
AHM: If you are selected and get to Mars, what next? Do you start colonizing right away?
A: Robots will land several years before us and set up our camp. We'll have a good supply of oxygen and water running in our inflatable pods before we ever show up. Once we arrive, our days will be filled with planet exploration and scientific projects. There will be big things happening in solar power research, for example.
AHM: What about illnesses up there?
A: That's a very real threat. Two members of each team will be fully-trained medical experts, and the other two will have advanced training, kind of like EMTs. We all have to become dental pros, and fill cavities and do gum cleaning. My team better brush daily is all I'm saying.
AHM: What if you decide you don't want to do it? Can you come back?
A: We are free to change our minds before liftoff. That's part of the reason there will be so many backup teams. As far as returning ... that's the kicker. The first waves can never return. Our bodies couldn't handle Earth's gravity once we're gone for too long. Also, it's too expensive and not very practical to send us back. So, not coming back ... that's the real gut check.
AHM: So I guess this is goodbye? Any last words for us Earthlings?
A: You know I'd love to say something really witty, but we'll have internet and probably Facebook up there. I know that's so anti-climatic. There's a manageable delay of six minutes on email, but phone calls are going to be a bit tricky. Don't worry, with a Navy mass communication specialist up there, you can be sure things will stay interesting for everyone on Earth.
Click HERE to see MC2 Slaughter's application Video