When Whistler local Joanna Hindle was in high school, she could think of at least a few teachers she'd like to send on a one-way trip to Mars.
Now, the English teacher has the opportunity to embark on that very same journey, having been selected as one of 75 Canadians, and over 1,000 people around the world, who will move on to the next round of selections for the Mars One mission, launched by a Dutch non-profit organization.
Hindle, who teaches in Mount Currie and moved to the resort from Pemberton in June, beat out thousands of other applicants to make it to the next round, and is now one step closer to earning a one-way ticket to the Red Planet, with the first shuttle slated to depart in 10 years.
"I applied, I thought it was awesome but I never imagined in a thousand years they would pick a 41-year-old English teacher to make it to the next round," she said. "I was actually surprised at how excited I was."
Hindle doesn't know exactly why the selection team pinpointed her written and video application versus the more than 200,000 other candidates worldwide, but she thinks it may have something to do with how easily she can relate to others.
"One of the ways they want to raise money is through reality television programming, so I think that had to be a factor," she said. "I'm not saying I'm a superstar or something, but the idea of looking for people who are funny or relatable, I don't think you can ignore that part of it."
Hindle also thinks the weeks at a time she spends alone at a secluded cabin in the summertime may have stuck out in her application. Successful candidates chosen to establish a colony on Mars will have to endure eight years of rigorous training and a 220-day voyage in a tightly confined space, "basically an elevator," Hindle said, making their ability to handle extreme solitude and group dynamics a crucial factor in the considerations.
"You're alone up there for two years before the next four people arrive," she said. "It's not like you can go outside for a breath of fresh air."
Mars One plans to send between six and 10 groups of four on the mission, leaving every two years beginning in 2024. The first team is slated to arrive in 2025. Mars One will also launch an unmanned mission in 2018.
So why exactly would Hindle choose to leave the comforts of Earth for such a harsh environment, never to see her loved ones again? Well, the fact that she has no children and both of her parents have passed away was certainly a factor, she said, but there was something else entirely that inspired her to apply.
"I really admire people who don't pay attention to the boundaries that we live within all the time. I find that really inspiring," she said. "It would be naïve of me to say that there wouldn't be an enormous amount of grief (if I was selected). In the end, what it all boils down to is, it's Mars, and that's crazy."
The majority of Hindle's friends and family are supportive of her efforts to make it to Mars. "They all think it's hysterical," she said, although, unlike her own formative years, Hindle's students in Mount Currie don't want their teacher to leave.
"When I was in high school there were a lot of my teachers I could have sent on a one-way trip to Mars no problem, so I was really pleased that a lot of (my students) were like 'Don't go!'" she said. "That was really nice actually."
Still, Hindle has no illusions about her chances of being one of the handful who makes the final cut, knowing she has to compete against the likes of "20-year-old bodybuilding astrophysicist Navy pilots."
And while she realizes there are many reasons to be skeptical about the trip, the Mars One mission's potential for adventure far outweighs any lingering doubts Hindle may have.
"Philosophically, morally, environmentally, financially — there are tons of really good reasons to be skeptical about (the mission), but I also think it's really great to choose to believe in adventures like this," she said.
Candidates now have until mid-March to provide a health certificate from a doctor, with regional selections to be made later this year.
Visit www.applicants.mars-one.com to ses Hindle's submitted video application.
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