Last week I interviewed a Jonesborough resident who is in the running to be one of the first settlers on Mars through the Mars One Astronaut Selection Program. She sounded very excited while I interviewed her on the phone. Check out the article and learn more about the Mars One mission plan.
Our Favorite Martian?
Local woman on track for out-of-world experience
Published in Herald & Tribune Jan. 7, 2014 issue
If all goes according to plan, Jonesborough resident Darlene Denis may soon trade her Tennessee address for one that is out of this world – on the planet Mars.
Denis was recently notified that she has been selected to move into the second round in the Mars One Astronaut Selection Program, a mission plan devised in 2011 by Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders.
Out of more than 200,000 applicants from more than 140 countries who applied to be one of six to ten four-member teams to be among the first human settlers on Mars, only 1,058 individuals worldwide made it to the second level – the interview round.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to pieces,” Denis said. “It blows my mind.”
She recalled reading a post online about Mars One asking for individuals who were interested in living on the planet to send an email. She responded with her answer to the question, “Why do you want to go to Mars?”
The answer to that one seemed to be a no-brainer for Denis.
“Have you looked outside?” she asked “Have you watched the news? Have you seen the state that we are in?”
She received a response back from Mars One last year, telling her she was one of the first to contact the organization and was invited to fill out an application on www.mars-one.com. She filled out a profile and recorded a 70-second video answering three questions.
“It was fairly simple,” Denis said. “The basic application asked about skills, background information and why an individual thought he or she was a good candidate.”
Denis said she thought she was a good candidate because she’s always wanted to get off of Planet Earth at the first opportunity.
“I’m not afraid to take chances and I can’t have any more kids,” Denis said.
In the second round of competition, she will be interviewed by the Mars One selection committee. She is also required to spread the word about the project, something she hopes to accomplish through her Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Individuals who make it through this round will move into a third and finally, a fourth round.
According to Mars One, the selected candidates should have good physical and mental health, as well as resilience, adaptability, curiosity, ability to trust others, creativity and resourcefulness.
Denis said there is discussion that Round Four may be televised worldwide to allow people with the chance to weigh in.
“Between 24 and 40 individuals will survive the four rounds and will go into 10 years of training,” she explained.
Between 2016 and 2021, eight robotic cargo missions will establish a settlement on Mars and a human settlement will be established by 2023, according to the Mars One organization, a private, non-governmental enterprise.
The organization estimates the cost to be $6 billion to put the first four people on the planet.
Then, every two years, four more crew members will join the settlement. Each additional manned mission will cost an estimated $4 billion.
Denis moved to Jonesborough a few years ago and is now managing The Store, which her parents own.
She and her partner, Roger Michael, were on the road for nine months after leaving New England when the real estate market buckled. The two purchased a motor home and began chasing work. The found jobs along the way on small organic farms in Maine, Virginia and North Carolina.
“It was interesting, a little terrifying,” Denis said. “You never knew who you would be in contact with. We worked for food and produce and internet connections.”
Since her parents have lived in Jonesborough for 13 years, they decided to stop and say hello before finding their next job on the road.
Once they arrived, Denis agreed to manage her family’s business for a little while and see how it went.
“We stayed, we didn’t have a better offer,” she said.
Denis said she enjoys working at The Store because it’s very local.
“You see the same people day in and day out,” she said, adding that it feels like you are “going to work with your family every day.”
That familiar lifestyle will be a thing of the past, however, if Denis is chosen to go to the fourth planet from the sun.
If she makes it through all four rounds, she says she is looking forward to learning new things and becoming self-sufficient. Colonists won’t have access to what they have on Earth on Mars.
“Most of what I am looking forward to is not know what is coming next,” she said. “I think it’s a really awesome opportunity, almost a chance to start over.”