Why One Woman Volunteered To Go To Mars—Even Though She Will Never See Her Family Again

by Jamie Bogert

A Dutch nonprofit called the Mars One Project announced in 2013 that they were accepting applications for a one-way ticket to—wait for it—Mars. Over 200,000 people jumped at the opportunity, putting together their audition tapes and answering questions. Many of them were surely under the impression they wouldn’t make it through the first couple of rounds.

Now there is a small pool of just one hundred applicants, and Sonia Van Meter is one of them. In a recent Time opinion piece, Van Meter speaks candidly about why she is not backing down from the once in a lifetime experience, and what this means for her family.

“Space exploration has inspired me since I was a little girl. I would watch Star Trek with my parents and daydream about what other life forms might be out there waiting to meet us, and what challenges we would face as a species if (and when) we find out we’re not alone in the universe.”

As reality sets in, however, the choice to apply and then stick to the Mars One Project process is not for the faint of heart. It could take between 39 and 289 days to reach Mars, depending on where in their orbits the two planets reside at the time of the launch. Not exactly a leisurely road trip. And there’s a catch: You do not get to come home. You leave Earth. That’s it. This is not a study abroad program, a Peace Corps expedition or an extended vacay. THIS IS YOU LEAVING PLANET EARTH TO GO TO MARS FOREVER.      

Of course Van Meter, the managing director of the national Democratic opposition research firm, Stanford Caskey, has a much more eloquent way of talking about her potential departure. She shares that many people question how she can possibly leave her husband, her family, and everything she’s built on earth for an almost certain death on Mars. But hearing the way Van Meter views life, however, helps make sense of her reasoning:

“Space exploration is worth a human life…And there’s no guarantee that I won’t be crushed by a collapsing roof tomorrow or diagnosed with a terminal illness next year. Some call this a suicide mission. I have no death wish. But it would be wonderful if my death could be part of something greater than just one individual.”

Van Meter admits that her token of personal truth is not necessarily what people want to hear. One thing that helps others comprehend is the basis of her marriage with her husband. “The promise I made to him on our wedding day was that our marriage would serve to make us the best versions of ourselves. He knows I’d walk away from Mars One without a second’s hesitation if he asked me to. And that’s why he won’t. He knows what this mission means to me.”

To learn more about Van Meter and the rest of the Mars One 100, visit their website here. Check out this interview with the co-founder of the mission and learn about what’s up with this whole leaving earth thing:

via austinmonthly.com, photo by Sarah Frankie Linder 

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