U.S. Troops Sign Up to Become Mars’ First Settlers

MarsOneAstronautFor Army Lt. Heidi Beemer, space flight has always been a dream, but that dream seemed out of reach for the light chemical decontamination platoon leader at Fort Campbell, Ky., until she read about the Mars One project.

Mars One is a program unaffiliated with any government that plans to send a series of spacecraft to Mars in hopes of inhabiting the red planet by 2025. The program is already signing up volunteers.

Beemer is one of the volunteers selected by project leaders as she is one of many U.S. troops who have signed up and made the cut.

“When this opportunity opened up to me, at 24 years old, there was no looking back, no second guessing. This is what I’ve wanted to do my entire life,” Beemer said.

She is one of slightly more than 1,000 men and women who recently learned they made the first cut toward selecting crews to begin settling the Red Planet.

If all goes as the Mars One project plans, a series of Mars-bound spacecraft – each with a crew of four – will begin landing on the planet at two year intervals starting in 2025.

More than 200,000 people from all over the world applied to be Mars pioneers and a number of those who passed muster in the first phase are U.S. service members or veterans, according to Dr. Norbert Kraft, formerly with NASA and now chief medical officer for Mars One.

Not all the applicants have released their names and profiles to the public, but Kraft said they include a combat engineer, a CV-22 Osprey pilot, several fighter pilots, flight surgeons, a Navy SEAL, a UH-60 Blackhawk mechanical test pilot and a Navy journalist.

Military experience is not a requirement, Kraft said, but those with that background do understand the importance of teamwork.

“The key question is how do you work as a team?” he said. “You have to complement each other, depend on each other. One thing is respect, and I think you learn that in the military … and you have to know what you want and you have to be serious.”

And Mars One is serious, given that each and every person selected has to be aware there is no coming back.

“The first ones there will be [permanent] Mars settlers. Mars has only 38 percent of Earth’s gravity. There will be a point of no return, where they can’t come back. Their bones would crumble” in the heavier Earth gravity.

“It’s a hell of a thing to tell your mother,” Navy Mass Communications Specialist Glenn Brooks Slaughter said. “That was not a fun phone call. But my mom is an adventurer – she’s traveled the world. We’ve traveled together. She’s come around.”

Slaughter is currently at Syracuse University studying advance digital journalism. He has been following the Mars One project since he first learned of it a few years back. As part of the initial application he sent Mars One a brief, humorous video he produced last year aboard the USS Nimitz, pointing out that he can live and work in cramped quarters, eat anything and is very sociable.

On a more serious note, his background also includes working for AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corp, traveling around the country in 15-passenger van for 10 months at a time, building homes, working with the Red Cross, engaged in emergency programs, including search and rescue.

“I’m single, I’m 36, I don’t have any kids,” he said. “I don’t own a lot of things. I’m interested in being part of something that advances the human race.”

That’s probably the philosophy that Mars One is looking for. Given the Spartan accommodations and facilities, Mars One‘s mission does not include populating the planet, and the company does not encourage any Martian pioneers from starting families there, it says.

CW4 David Woodward could leave Earth for Mars without feeling he has left his life behind.

“If I were to get selected and was on the first crew [in 2025] I’d be 54 years old when we landed,” he told Military.com in a phone call from Afghanistan, where he is deployed to the 101st Airborne as part of Task Force Lift. “So I’d have pretty much lived a full life here on Earth, and so the opportunity to spend the rest of my life doing something so unique – Not many people who reach retirement age will get to do that.”

And he’d also be very busy on Mars, he said, gardening, doing maintenance work and conducting experiments. And there will be video calls to stay in touch with people on Earth.

According to Mars One’s mission plan, it will begin sending up unmanned craft by 2018, to establish a base and communications center, followed in 2022 by unmanned craft with settler supplies and also robots to begin assembling water and oxygen processing equipment. That process will be repeated after the first crew reaches Mars in 2025; an unmanned spacecraft will deliver two years worth of supplies and food so that each group of arrivals always is well stocked, even as they cultivate their own Martian gardens.

Mars One was founded in 2011 by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders, a physicist formerly with NASA. Unaffiliated with any government, the project is raising funds through donations, including crowd funding, and sponsorships.

Mars One projects it will cost about $6 billion to get its first crew on Mars, with subsequent missions costing about $4 billion.

Beemer said her own parents were not entirely surprised when she broke the news to them that she would be volunteering to settle on Mars. Many of her choices have surprised her family, she said, such as going to a military college, Virginia Military Institute, and then going Army when they thought she would go Air Force.

“He was taken aback once again,” she said of her father. “But he’s been super supportive. By the time I got to the big, major [news] – that I wanted to leave Earth forever and go to Mars – he was, once again, speechless.”

But given her longtime interest in space, he knew this day would have to come, she said. His view is that “if somebody’s going to do this it may as well be my kid,” she said.

Correction: An early version of this article stated that Mars had 6 percent of Earth’s gravity. It is 38 percent as our readers astutely noted.

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • Andrew

    I’m pretty sure that Mars actually has 38% of Earth’s gravity, not the six percent mentioned in the article.

  • Musson

    Send ahead a small robot factory to distill O2, water and methane into large collapsable bladders. Once you have a large reserve, then send people.

  • Really?

    Really? Inhabiting Mars by 2025?

    Whatever is that they are smoking, I want some, too. Must be really good.

    Talk is cheap. In fact it’s free. Why not talk about inhabiting the Sun by 2030, if not, inhibiting it.

    Design a rocket that can carry 2-3 people to the Moon by 2030, and I’ll be shocked.

    Such pipe dreams aren’t worth the paper they aren’t printed on.

  • hibeam

    Maybe we can start a new society up there without all the welfare dead wood.

  • D-SKI

    This is just pie in the sky dreaming.

  • Jeffery McNair

    Can they breath the mars air freely

  • ziv

    Given the probability that Spacex will in fact reduce the cost to get cargo to LEO by a huge factor within a couple years, this isn’t pie in the sky dreaming any longer. They have reduced the price per pound to LEO from $4k-$10k (for the less expensive Western rockets, not the pricey Shuttle) down to $1k. By getting the price down to less than $2,000,000 per ton, everything changes and even Mars is possible.
    Time to pick up that tatty old copy of Red Mars and start to think about how todays technology is better and/or worse than that which Robinson based his novels on. Because it will be done within a generation, the only question is which nation will lead the effort.
    http://www.nss.org/articles/falconheavy.html

    • blight_

      People’s Republic, of course.

      Turning Foxconn et al to the production of massive numbers of cheap rockets, they colonize Mars on waves of rocket payload. Some blow up in the atmosphere. Some don’t quite make it to Mars. But Red Mars for Red China.

      In the meantime, we build Littoral Combat Ships…

      • ziv

        And yet it is Spacex that is taking the steps needed to make space travel affordable. As long as we don’t tax or regulate it to death, space flight could be a huge money maker and it could make life better for people all over the world.
        China is looking at a hard decade or three coming up, they don’t have the money they need to build clean electricity plants or to build a mass transit system for their new cities. They sure as heck don’t have the money to do anything other than a symbolic trip or two to the moon.
        China will do what they do because they gain face and they will do it at the lowest possible price. Whether it is a trip to the moon or claiming the Senkaku islands, it all comes down to face.

        • Really?

          Really? America can afford to do what China can’t? Even though China is the biggest creditor funding the US government right now? I suppose it was the Chinese government that had to shut down for a week late last year?

          You must be some intelligent life form from Mars.

          • HongKongCharlie
          • Guest

            That’s even more absurd.

            You might as well argue that a private company would have won the Vietnam War if given a chance.

            The technology is simply not there. Nor can a private company complete a single development-test cycle in 12 years for a spaceship to Mars.

            And what does a HongKongCharlie know about space travel? Stick to stocks and real estate speculation.

          • Guest

            Google could put someone on Mars, but facebook couldn’t.

  • conradswims

    I have a list of people I would like to send there.

  • Jacob

    If we’re going to colonize any other celestial bodies, shouldn’t we start with the moon? A one-way trip to Mars in 2025 is just a death sentence.

    • whoszat

      Staying on Earth is a death sentence.

      • guest

        Not if you kill off all the polluters.

    • voodkokk

      Was thinking more like Arizona or New Mexico.

      • guest

        Don’t forget Nevada and the Sahara Desert.

    • james

      Being born is a death sentence.

  • AAK

    It’s theoretically do-able, the tech exists. There are people who genuinely want to participate.

    But there is no real funding. $10 billion plus by crowdsourcing, sponsorship, TV show? Nonsense.

    • Steve

      I’m donating every month, this could be the biggest step in our history ever! And even if I can never go I’m happy to pay my part in it.

  • Rob C.

    Good for her for making the cut. I just hope Mars One project has its act together when they eventually send these people. Its not only going be challenging, they’ll be fighting for their lives. The technology they’ll be using needs to work right. Someone with her expertise will be god send if they get there.

  • hibeam

    I like the helmets. You can walk around on mars without getting sucker punched in the face.

    • Burt
  • mrlee

    One thing puzzles me, if they are encouraging them NOT to populate the planet, who gets to be the last person to die there? And to what end? Let’s face it, people are people are people, babies will come along in time. And then they will have to supply them with Pampers.

  • Robert

    What a venture.

    • Guest

      You can bet the ranch that they will see plenty of dentures, but not a venture.

  • Knyte
  • Wolf
  • Wolf
  • ALWAYSVERITA

    “Pipe Dreams?” Absolutely! We ALL have them but only some are “brave” enough to chase them. Amazing – Exciting – Incredible – GOD Speed!!!!!

  • David Beemer

    I’m glad so many military personal where picked for for the initial 1000. We have the training and the discipline that will be needed to make this work. Sucks that it’s a one way trip but I’m hopeful, for maybe not so obvious reasons, that technology will be such that one day people will be able to visit Mars.

  • oblatt2

    For a lot of our servicemen facing unemployment, an epidemic of brain and psychological injuries and the shame of two defeated wars volunteering for a suicide mission to mars sure beats ending it any other way.

    But NASA cant even get them into LEO let alone to Mars. Although I can see the Chinese being interested in a reality TV program where 25 Americans are marooned on mars and only one will be allowed back.

  • SGT BJH

    I read in the El Paso Times, we have a 2LT here at Ft. Bliss. Hey, do you think they’d take a 61 year old QM SGT? My family is VERY long lived. ;)

  • onlyamerica

    only american can going to mars without ussr russia..
    NO NO ussr russia come with america to mars..
    no thank ussr russia..
    ussr russia can go venus and stay there

  • Dawn

    Think they should put money into saving this planet, where we belong, instead of continuing to wreck it with hopes of moving somewhere else!

    • Ben

      Overpopulation and food shortages are huge problems not necessarily associated with pollution. It’s not as simple a fix as “ride your bike to work and recycle” there are other problems that necessitate that we expand outwards.

  • When Columbus set sail, everyone knew the world was flat and everyone would fall off the edge and die. Will people die on the way to mars? Maybe. Will people die once they get to Mars. Most likely. If the governments get involved it will never happen or it will cost 10 times as much. It is all about the human spirit, the yearning to see what’s over the hill. The need to explore the unknown. Is it for everyone? No. Remember. a lot of people that came to the new world, died, but they kept coming for their own personal reasons. I just wish I was in my 20’s or 30’s. I would sign up in an instant. What a wonderful adventure this will be.

    • Matthew

      When Columbus set sail most educated people knew the earth was round. This was discovered by Galileo and his papers were published after his death for fear of persecution. The issue with Columbus is he didn’t realize there was a giant land mass between him and the East-Indies hence the name of the locals as Indians rather, than Native Americans. In addition many other civilizations knew the earth was not flat for centuries prior to Columbus’s journey in 1492 such as: The Phoenicians, The Vikings w/ Eric the Red and Leaf Ericson who landed in Greenland and went as far south as New Newfoundland, the Polynesians, The Chinese, and even Egyptian reed boats from the time of the pyramids have been shown to have the capabilities of crossing the Atlantic.

      • oblatt2

        I think what Bill is trying to say is his relative thought it was flat and probably still do.

  • guest

    Let us first solve humanity’s infinite capacity for nonsense :-P

  • Paul

    Maybe we can just send bill &hillary& an Obama to lead. Just send the dead wood welfare bums. Tell them they won a free trip from the government with new housing.

  • Paul

    The government will screw it up like obamacare, Medicare, social security, postal system etc.

  • I would have liked this article to go into a bit more detail about why we are going to Mars. I am sure the potential benefits are limitless– but I would love to know what some of those benefits would be. Without that info, all I can feel is sadness for the families of the volunteers.

    • mrlee

      Wouldn’t you like to know about every experiment that has been done on board the space station? Maybe that is your problem? You are asking the wrong questions. Don’t you think that they have worked out some of the problems for this trip, already? After all, we have had astronauts up there for over one year straight. And having worked in research and development in the military almost 50 years ago, I will trust to their secrecy.

  • SGT BJH

    I have a name for the first (especially if it is an all american crew) ship. The Susan Constance, she brought settlers to the James River to found Jamestown.

  • Candise

    I don’t want to go to space; I like just praying & finding my answers happening in the new star formations. Like yesterday when I went to purchase the Peter Pan peanut butter that I have wanted & always liked. I wondered if the new star formation seen in news today had anything to do with my praying? It did because they said on the news it looked like the Hand of God and near to it was a hook for Captain Hook.

  • Lucent

    I guess the democrates are not satisfied that they have a dependent class of people here….not they want a dependent class of voters on Mars too…..geeezzzzz…..

  • mrlee

    As people hit retirement age in the future, they will be put aboard these rockets to Mars with their travel papers. As you read through them and translate them, you find out that they are cook books for all nationalities.

  • voodkokk

    Who ever is funding this should be fired today. We can’t even take care of the people we have on earth.

    • Ben

      This is a privately funded operation and you should be applauding it. Most of humanity’s upcoming problems can only be solved by expanding outwards beyond our planet.

      • Guest

        Nonsense.

        • Ben’s right, Guest, and you’re a cynical fool.

  • dan

    I’m calling Mars One a ponzi scheme. The two Dutch “entrepreneurs” must have been big fans of the Tulip Mania.

  • hibeam

    The people who go first will do all the back breaking hard work. People looking for welfare will follow but they will still be compared to those who went first.

  • Ben

    Start a colony on Mars for half the cost of a Ford-Class carrier? Our priorities need to be re-assessed..

    But I supposed if it were a government-run operation it would have to be criminally more expensive.

  • Shakes

    So much pessimism here! Worst case scenario they fail. Best case scenario a new age of human history and scientific advancement begins. Do you people go out on a sunny day and think “it’s just going to rain eventually”?

    There was another one-way colonization attempt into a difficult to inhabit area far from the comforts of civilization with the potential benefits not to catch up with the initial cost for years to come, only succeeding after numerous failures. It’s called America.

  • Bob

    Humans cant live in low earth gravity for long periods of time. This has been proven on the ISS. If they want this to work, they will need artificial gravity provided by a centrifuge. Its expensive and complex and huge, but necessary.

  • hibeam

    I’m only 29 Mars years old. Count me in.

  • Manasseh Corder
  • oblatt2

    Pretty much a list of people who wouldn’t pass the psych test to go to mars.

  • mrlee

    Actually, since this is a one way trip, the space craft has to be part of the colony housing to start with, if you think of it. Otherwise, it just becomes space garbage.

  • jim

    Lets make it a prison planet!

    • Guest

      America already has the largest, most expensive yet crappiest prisons in the world.

      You want to make Mars a prison planet because American prisons are not large enough? not expensive enough? not crappy enough? or a combination of the above?

      By the way, American prisons and judicial systems are now among the worst human right violators in the world. Would you like to move the whole country to Mars?

  • iLikeGuest
  • guest

    good luck with this one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Big-B

    1. its just a dutch tv show… but keep on bashing each other its great fun to read
    2. if humankind would invest 10% of the energy some people here are wasting to tell us that a colony on mars will never become reality we would have been already there and back. i believe without the gwot and other useless adventures we would already see human outpost on moon and mars and some asteroids. but instead we stupid apes fight about some tiny ressources around some unknown asian islands and build expensive stealth fighters and aircraft carriers (on both sides) to secure our claim.

  • Noneya

    You know what they say? Money talks and Bullshit walks.

  • Victor
  • chief

    I am not amazed at the stupidity some of our smartest people display. Just because you go to a prestigious school, doesn’t automatically qualify you an expert in anything. Respect is earned by being right in a humble manner and often proves itself out over time through verifiable truth. Before one should make any claim as truth one should have the proof, that can be independently verified, at hand to gainsay nay-sayers, otherwise you will be perceived as a liar, never having the respect you want. Of course, espousing contrary information, just to be doing so, makes you appear to be an idiot and a fool, out to be heard only for the hearings sake.
    Eventually, even a fool will realize his error (the electorates re-election of Obama is proof in the pudding), only, to late to repair the damage to their self-image among others, his peers.

  • Paul

    Mars sounds great. Mars Candy Company, that is!!!

    • Guest

      Yes, but unfortunately they are talking about Mars Loony Company here.

  • Francis

    I am retired from the military and now old. But I remember when everyone said that no one will ever get into space. No one will ever make it to the moon. A lot of man’s adventures were from explorers that had the need to do something new. Columbus discovered America. The expansion into the west in the US. Many died but that never stopped the human need to look into something new. I think that it is grat that we still have adventures people out there and goint to Mars is a great idea if that is what the explorers want.

  • Joseph S. Steward
  • Lordlarry

    Think about it. No taxes, no income, no Obama care , no one on welfare because if you don’t work you don’t eat. And best of all…no need for lawyers!

  • Cathy B.

    I think if we are going to settle Mars we are going to need an orbiting Space Station to send settlers’ to for some R and R. The station will have to be like a mall and have all the fascilities available to prevent homesickness. No matter how well trained a person is R and R is necessary to keep their sanity. The station should also, have a state of the art hospital for those who become very ill and for delivering babies safely.

  • LTC Allen ARvig

    I believe in having faith,hope and trust that we can do the hard things, I am grateful that Columbus didn’t pay any attention to those who said he was dreaming. Going to Mars most likely have accidents and even loss of life, but with courage and determination, we can do live over come the most difficult problems. Retired Lt. Col. US Army

  • There is a strong sense of unreality about Mars One. There are many unanswered questions about the entire enterprise, from that of the manned vehicle to the habitat to be built there. I am sceptical if this were not simply a pipe dream.

  • Guest

    They can name their colony Jamestown
    Glad to see there are common man/woman explorers that are willing to pioneer such an effort. Like many who came to the New World 400-500 years ago, most did not expect to return, and these will not either. They may also die there earlier than expected, as the people in Jamestown did. That risk is the price of exploration and colonization, people will go, people will die on the way and while there.

    Any grand venture in the beginning is fraught with risk and peril, want a comfy, safe, no risk existence? So did many others 400-500 years ago, and they did not come to the New World.

    Let these folks go if they can raise the money and get there.

    Having said

  • Roland

    First thing to consider is safety. In driving you place safety the primary objective and concern. On space and outer space living, the question of : Is it livable? Then after sorting it out if the place does not support life then it is like jumping on a high rise building without a parachute. One thing to consider is if it is your life worth or that of your love one. That’s my one cent

  • Richard

    So, are we going to be dividing Mars up between nations or is a new nation going to be formed? I feel like America is claiming Mars here.

  • Wayne

    Well, I’m a high school senior and will be 29 in 2025 but I’ve done plenty of my research and come to find out; it’s not a one way trip, ceramic bone replacements and other augmentations can override need for grim expectations. I’ve done a Mars Colonization research project looking into a lot of details, 3 options for Mars government; (from worse to best) 1, UN controls it, 2, US owns it, the natural tendency is a dependent state rebels and becomes, 3, an independent state.

    So it’s all good to go, just needs funding, resources, and possibly an anaphrodisiac in the food. NOT Saltpeter. That’s a myth.

  • TiddlyWinks

    I have a feeling this will be the New Age “Big Brother…”

  • Paul

    Lets send everyone that works in Government from Washington DC….

  • Ed

    That’s what they used to say about going to the moon in ten years and we did it. Obamacare will take care of all!