Prepared to die: meet the people willing to risk their lives to visit Mars


Why are people willing to risk their lives for a chance to visit Mars?

After SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced on Tuesday that he hoped to send manned missions to Mars by 2022 but admitted there was a high chance of death for participants, we asked readers why they’d risk it all.

Their answers are varied – from helping humanity to preferring to die in an interesting way – and inspiring. Of the 50 responses we got, only a handful were from women (at least, based on their names).

Are you prepared to die? If that’s OK, you’re a candidate for going, Musk said on Tuesday.

Here are some willing Red Planet visitors:

Jared Kellogg, 28, a photographer from New Mexico:

Dying is something we all will face at some point, so why not thrive for something the human race would never forget?

Why limit our lives to our known Earth when we should be pushing the envelope on advancing our understanding of the universe? Going to Mars is not the end goal here – finding the answers to why and how life exists is.

Would we find life? Would we discover ruins of a past race of species? The questions are endless, and I think space travel is the only way to answer those.

As a photographer I would love to be the first human to take vast landscape shots of Mars and send them back to Earth so other young-minded explorers like me can be inspired by the beauty of the unknown.

Mark Vandersluis, 59, an IT manager from the UK:

When I was a child I read a juvenile science fiction book in which the Chinese undertook a one-way suicide mission to the moon for the prestige (naturally, they were rescued by a joint UK-USA mission!). I became hooked on the idea of space exploration.

When I was 12 I watched the moon landings and read that in a decade or two there would be expeditions to Mars. I was inspired by the idea of humanity leaving the bounds of Earth for other planets.

While I was at university, 40 years ago, it became apparent that the costs of a manned mission to Mars would be astronomically high. I saw that a one-way mission would cut costs enormously. I knew straight away that if the opportunity ever arose, I would be willing to go on a one-way mission, regardless of the personal outcome.

Today, it looks as though the possibility of travel to Mars might soon be here, optimistically within my lifetime. It’s a step which must be taken by the human race, regardless of the individual risk. If I died in the process, lessons will be learnt and progress will be made. If I lived to see Mars, it would be the single most amazing achievement of my life. How could I not take an opportunity like this?

Dan Horner, 32, a transport planner from New Jersey:

I don’t think civilization progresses without taking risks and making sacrifices. If my death provides valuable insight into preventing future deaths in space, then it was worthwhile.

Admittedly, though it would suck to suffocate in the depths of space, it’s more romantic than the deaths I’m statistically most likely to experience here: cancer, heart disease, or car crash.

When I was growing up, Nasa was much more a part of the public consciousness, and I dreamed of becoming an astronaut. I hope recent advances in technology, and press coverage of new efforts to reach Mars, will lead to renewed interest in science in public schools.

Anonymous 18-year-old from North Carolina:

I have always been fascinated with the planets. Mars more than others due to the fact I used to read DC Comics as a kid about Martian Manhunter. I would love to be able to help and build a city on Mars. I also wouldn’t mind exploring under the surface of Mars. I also want to visit Europa [one of Jupiter’s moons]. I’ve researched it a lot. Not to mention how beautiful it is.

I have heard possibilities of alien life there too. I know they’re out there somewhere, and we should all come together. If humans are going to Mars, then why can’t aliens finally reveal themselves?

Nathaniel Tallent, 27, a teacher of first, second and third grade in a Montessori Elementary classroom in Decatur, Illinois:

I work to inspire my students each day to think outside of the normal, outside of the average person’s thoughts, to imagine the things that no one has ever imagined before, and to go where no one has ever gone before. The kids of today have a world at their feet and in their future that they have no idea how complex and fascinating it will be.

To see humans attempt to and set foot and possibly colonize another planet is like when Christopher Columbus sailed to the new world, when Leif Erickson landed in the north, when settlers first laid eyes on the Grand Canyon or Yosemite, or even when the first humans left the Rift Valley in Africa to see what else was out there (if you choose to follow that belief; my students always have the choice to decide where their beliefs lie).

I applied to go to Mars with the Mars One Program that released a few years ago. Going to Mars is part of one of most historical events in human history. It is the next step in human civilization. This is bigger than a rally for rights, a gathering for equality, a push for this country to be better than this other country; this is the human race and humanity as a whole stepping beyond the planet Earth to a whole new level of existence.

My first year teaching I worked with high school seniors and I gave a test with an extra credit question. The question asked: If you could go anywhere, where would you go? I had 50 students in a course designed for advanced high school seniors looking to work in the education field. Of the 50, 49 students said a city that was within a couple hours drive of Decatur; one student said Paris, and he passed away the following summer. This is a phenomena that needed to change. I want to see that same question asked in 10 years and see answers that not only leave the state of Illinois or the United States, but to see answers that show students believe it is possible to leave the planet would show a level of adventure and desire that an educator could only dream of for each student they encounter.

Matthew Hawkins, 19, a student from Indiana:

Because Mars is the best chance for the future of humanity. Not only will it provide us with a second home after extensive terraforming, but it also increases our land by an unbelievable amount. It could prove to be an industrial wonderland that could supply us with almost unlimited resources for thousands of years. All of this only serves to help the species in the future to thrive.

It creates jobs, safety, increases imagination, inspires children, and can lead to a cultural renaissance not seen since the 1500s. People’s whole outlook on life will change with each celestial body we settle, creating new possibilities that not even our children could imagine.

I want to be a part of that. I want to help humanity down a lighter path. This is why I want to go to Mars. I want to be like one of the great explorers of the 16th century and discover things our ancestors could only have dreamed of.

An anonymous 25-year-old from Alabama:

On Earth you are one of approaching 8 billion people. Unless you’re a billionaire businessman, a pop culture icon or a genius inventor, you’re inherently replaceable, unmemorable. You’ll be forgotten and consigned to the dust of history, just as uncountable people before you have. What you do has little meaning, anyone could do it. What you say has little meaning, your voice will be lost in the swarm. Your failure has little meaning, your success has little meaning. You won’t likely change your society on a meaningful level, the identities of our societies (especially in the west) are already set in stone.

Mars, however, offers you the chance to be more than that. Much like the religious groups colonizing the new world, you have the opportunity to shape society with your very existence. The legends and culture of this future society will be influenced by your actions. You will be the people legends are written about, you might be the next Abraham Lincoln, people might tell tall tales of your hidden wealth or you might be known for your infamous villainy. You might be one of the men and women who throw off the shackles of oppressive companies or you might be one of those who ensured their hold and success. Even if you’re never directly attributed to anything, even if you live a quiet life. The way you lived, your attitudes, the culture you helped create, your political leanings, all of that will contribute to an ingrained memory in this new society. You will be one of the people who helps shape the identity of a whole new society, and the opportunity to be part of that is worth the risk of dying on the way there.

I also feel there are probably many worse and less cool ways to die than being sucked into space, so that’s a plus too.

News Source TheGuardianNews

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