Whistler local Joanna Hindle belongs to a pretty exclusive club.
The 41-year-old is now one of 705 people worldwide who could be selected for a one-way trip to the Red Planet as part of the Mars One Mission, a project launched by a private Dutch group who plans to send 24 people to colonize Mars, beginning 10 years from now.
Hindle, who teaches Grades 8 to 12 in Mount Currie, passed a physical and eye exam to make it to the second round of selections. Her original application was one of the more than 1,000 that made the first round of cuts in January, beating out over 200,000 video submissions from across the globe.
"I'm still super excited. Passing the physical felt good," Hindle said. "It was like, 'Yay, I'm healthy enough to go to Mars!'"
Now, Hindle awaits a series of interviews in the coming months to see if she will move onto the next round. The team behind the Mars One Mission has released few details about the process, but Hindle believes the timing of the interviews will coincide with a contract the group is trying to ink for a reality TV show about the expedition.
The prospect of being in the spotlight is what the Whistler resident finds most intimidating — not the arduous journey in a confined space to an uninhabitable planet.
"I have a sinking feeling that there's a possibility that I'm the bad singer at the beginning of American Idol. I'm that girl," Hindle joked. "I mean what business does an English teacher have in going to Mars?"
Successful candidates chosen to establish a colony on Mars will have to endure eight years of rigorous training and a 220-day voyage through space. The first shuttle of four people is slated to depart in 2024, with subsequent expeditions launched every two years after that. An unmanned shuttle will also be sent to Mars in 2018.
The prospect of leaving with a one-way ticket to Mars also has Hindle beefing up on her limited knowledge of aerospace engineering.
"What's been interesting is that it's spurred me to learn a lot," she said. "I've been reading up on where they're at as far as the research on getting people to Mars, and what the science and math is that's involved in all that, neither of which are yet my strong areas."
Now that her family and friends have warmed up to the idea, Hindle said the majority of people in her life have been supportive of her exploratory desires. Her students in Mount Currie? Not so much.
"The younger kids at school are super excited," she said. "The teenagers... Well, their opinion hasn't really changed. They don't think this is a good idea."
Hindle's older students aren't the only ones skeptical about the Mars One Mission. The project has gained some negative attention in the media, including from Canadian former astronaut Robert Thirsk, who told the Calgary Sun this week that the expedition would be "a suicide mission." Thirks, who holds the Canadian space endurance record with 204 days in orbit, said that we don't yet have the technology to support a one-way trip to Mars.
Visit www.applicants.mars-one.com to see Hindle's submitted video application, and for more information on the Mars One Mission.