When Sonia Van Meter signed up for Mars One, a controversial one-way mission to establish a permanent human colony on the red planet, she accepted the possibility of leaving Earth behind — and her family.
Now confronting public scrutiny, Jason Stanford — Van Meter’s husband — recently wrote a coming-to-terms essay in Texas Monthly. Titled “Galaxy Quest,” his op-ed contemplates what it will be like to say goodbye to his wife and defends the seriousness of the mission.
Stanford’s essay is probably for naught, though, since experts say you can’t take the Mars One mission seriously.
Many will tell you the the private company behind the trip is placing last in the race to Mars, and that NASA and SpaceX are much closer to having the capability and resources to send people there. They also argue the application process also seems far too lax for a company that intends to drop its future employees onto a hostile, alien world. (Van Meter is one of 100 finalists in the company’s prospective Martian astronaut corps.)
Media companies have pulled Van Meter into the spotlight as a result, and Stanford has defended her.
“People attacked Sonia, accusing her repeatedly of abandoning her family, of seeking glory at the expense of her earthbound obligations,” Sanford wrote.
Van Meter has handled all the press attention exceptionally well. It’s arguably a sign she might have the right stuff for an emotionally-taxing way of life on Mars.
But that’s not really the point.
I’ve previously written about Mars One’s lack of preparedness, and how its mission timeline is wildly optimistic, at best (and so have publications like Buzzfeed News, Quartz, and The Huffington Post).
But it doesn’t look like much has changed:
- The finalists are supposed to start training for the mission next year, but Mars One has yet to announce where that training facility is located.
- Mars One says the funding for the mission will come from a reality TV show starring its would-be astronaut candidates, but it hasn’t announced any deal with a network.
- In illustrations of what the colony will look like, it appears that Mars One is planning on using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets to get the colonizers to Mars, and SpaceX’s Dragon space capsules for the colonizers to live in after landing. Mars One has not announced any deal with SpaceX.
- Most importantly, some of the technologies a Mars colony will require do not yet exist.
The first group of four Mars settlers is supposed to launch in 2026, according to the company’s timeline. It seems unlikely that Mars One can resolve all the problems listed above in such a short amount of time.
One notable paragraph of Stanford’s recent op-ed reads:
Am I prepared to actually say goodbye? Am I prepared to steel my spine and not beg her to stay? Am I prepared for the moment when I will be left standing on Earth with my face pointing up at a rapidly disappearing rocket carrying my partner away from me on a one-way trip to Mars?
It’s likely that he’s got a lot more time left with his wife than he thinks, and maybe won’t have to say goodbye at all.
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