When Whistler resident Joanna Hindle heard she was one of 100 people across the globe that could embark on a one-way mission to Mars, she admits to reacting like the lead character of the popular ‘90s TV series, The X-Files.
“Honestly, I sounded a little bit like Dana Scully; all I said was ‘Oh my God!’ for 10 minutes,” Hindle said. “I think you could say I was gobsmacked.”
A fitting reaction perhaps considering the Mars One Mission, a project launched by a Dutch group to colonize Mars, sounds like something out of a sci-fi epic. Plans are to send 24 people to the planet in groups of four, starting in 2024. Hindle was picked from over 600 candidates, down from an initial pool of over 200,00, after being interviewed by Norbert Kraft, the mission’s Chief Medical Officer who has also worked for NASA and the Russian and Japanese space agencies. She’s one of 50 women and only six Canadians still in the running.
Applicants are not permitted to reveal too many details about the interview with Kraft, which was designed to make clear the risks involved and measure the candidates’ team spirit and motivation levels, but Hindle said it was the moment the reality of the mission first started to set in.
“I was really starstruck, and that’s when it hit home that, ‘OK, we’re really doing this and I’m really talking to this guy who is a rockstar in some circles,’” she said. “That, for me, was when the reality of it all became tangible.”
The next selection round will focus on composing possible teams that can endure the hardships of permanently inhabiting an unforgiving planet, and Hindle will get her first taste of what it will be like while training in a copy of the Mars Outpost on Earth.
“I’m really curious, not only about the kinds of tests and situations we’re going to be put in, but I’m really curious to see if I’m the kind of person who can handle it,” said Hindle. “No normal job interview lets you find out the things about yourself I think I’m going to find out.”
Although she’s fully committed to the mission, Hindle is understandably not without her reservations.
“Do I have doubts and fears? Yes, and I hope everybody who’s involved with Mars One has a lot of doubts and fears because the more doubts and fears they have, the safer the people who take the journey will be,” she said.
Since Mars One was first announced in May 2012, the project has had plenty of naysayers, from leading scientists and astronauts who’ve questioned the project’s ambitious timeline and finances, to others who see the mission and associated reality TV show planned to fund the expedition as a mere cashgrab.
Hindle doesn’t buy into the negativity.
“I believe in the earnest nature of this project. I think that everybody who is involved in it from the highest levels all the way down are in it because they believe in the importance of learning more about Mars and how important it is for human beings to keep pushing themselves further,” she said.
“I think the goal is to get human beings to Mars and have them live there. I truly believe that’s the goal and the calibre of the people who are involved with the program supports that belief.”
For more information, and to see the full list of The Mars 100, visit www.mars-one.com.