By Greg Bennett
A self-professed “space nerd” from Shelburne County has made a short list of candidates from around the world hoping to be among those chosen to establish a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet.
Last week, Kendra Christie learned she is among the remaining 54 Canadians still in the running as the Mars One project pared down its list of potential worldwide candidates.
The Dutch-based non-profit organization said a total of 705 people around the world still remain in contention and will be subject to an interview by the Mars One selection committee before more cuts are made.
Christie will be one of those to have a face-to-face interview with project managers in the coming months.
The Mars One project, an ambitious plan to establish a permanent human settlement on the planet beginning in 2025, is the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Landorp.
That she has made it this far in the process is a source of pride for the 29-year-old Barrington-area resident, who has plans to join the Canadian military but for now works as an administrator at her family’s automotive business.
As a seven-year-old watching shows like The X-files and The Outer Limits with her father, Christie says she developed a passion for space exploration early in life, a “hobby” that has stayed with her to this day.
“This is an amazing opportunity and I’m going to stick with it for as long as I can,” she said.
Christie says some the few people (up until now) who knew about her application to Mars One have questioned how she or anyone could consider a venture that is expected to be a “one-way” ticket to a planet that ranges between 55-million and 400-million kilometres away from earth.
“I’d leave today,” she said, noting she’d need someone to look after her two cats.
Questioned about how she could leave her friends and family behind, Christie pauses before she offers an answer.
“Those who know me, know that this is what I want,” she said.
However they may feel about it, Christie believes that if she was selected that the people who care about her would be cheering for her at the launch pad.
“Deep down, I hope they would be happy for me if anything,” she said.
She has already gone through a battery of medical tests as part of the selection process and thanks to regular workouts Christie says she is in peak physical condition.
While nervous about the upcoming interview, Christie says she also welcomes the opportunity to talk to Mars One managers.
The $6 billion project calls for the use of existing technology and will be funded through sponsors and private investors.
The organization has said that primary funding will come from a “global media event” that will document the astronauts and their preparation.
The 54 Canadians remaining are divided equally between male and female candidates.
Initially, Mars One had an applicant pool of more than 200,000 from 100 countries, with 8,243 Canadians applying.
Last December, the organization reduced that number to 1,058 candidates, including 75 Canadians, who were asked to provide medical and personal information.
One-third of those potential Mars settlers were eliminated, leaving the current crop of 705 candidates from around the world.
After the interview round, candidates will be narrowed down to several international teams consisting of two women and two men, who will take part in an extensive training program.
The current plan is for a crew of four to depart every two years starting in 2024, with the first groups arriving in 2025.
On its website, the Mars One group says the first four settlers would be followed by more groups, every two years.
The rocket trip alone would be more than six months long.
At first, the home base would be limited to provisions, oxygen and water, but would eventually expand to everything the settlers might need, including solar panels.
For Christie, she will continue to hope to be one of those few early explorers and plans to carry through with the selection process for as long as possible.
“I would love to learn why I’ve made it this far …I came into this fully expecting not to make the cut,” she said. “But in the next year or two they will be making the final selections …so I’m excited.”
(With files from the Journal-Pioneer)