January 4, 2014 6:27 pm

Edmonton woman makes shortlist for one-way ticket to Mars

EDMONTON – An Edmonton woman is one step closer to becoming one of the first human beings to set foot on Mars.

“I’ve always loved space,” said Christy Foley. “In elementary school I even said in my yearbook I wanted to colonize the moon, but I’m willing to miss the moon to hit Mars.”

Foley, a strategic planner with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, applied for the one-way mission to the Red Planet earlier this year.

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The Mars One project, the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Landorp, plans to send a few willing earthlings on a one-way trip, with no chance of returning to Earth. The mission plans to send up crews of four, every two years starting in 2024, in hopes of colonizing Mars by 2025.

“There’s not a lot of places left to settle on Earth, so human pioneering spirit is going to reach for the unattainable,” Foley said.

On Monday, Foley received an email stating she had made it – along with 1,058 others around the world – to the next round of selection.

“I sort of shrieked,” she said Saturday. “It was very crazy, my heart started racing.”

Foley and her husband, Ian Runkle, both applied for the chance of a lifetime. Unfortunately, Runkle did not make the cut.

“I’m bummed out,” he said. “But I sort of knew the chances.”

READ MORE: Canadians line up for one-way Mars mission

Mars One expects to send six teams of four on the initial journey. Prior to departure, those selected will go through extensive technical, medical, psychological, personal and group training. At least one person from each team will also gain expertise in exobiology – the biology of alien life.

And while some may say this endeavour is a bit far-fetched, the couple says it’s not the first time an idea has seemed out of reach.

“There have been a lot of things in human history that have seemed far-fetched right up until they’re accomplished. At the point where people were initially talking about, ‘can we put somebody on the moon?’ it was far-fetched, and now there’s flags up there and it’s been done,” Runkle explained.

He believes humanity is capable of extraordinary things and wants the chance to be a part of it.

“It’s human nature to strive to achieve and that’s what we’re doing. Ultimately, I think it’s nobler to, sort of, fall short of an unattainable goal than to sit and only do what’s comfortable,” he said. “I’m hoping that this is actually the beginning of efforts to, sort of, branch humanity out so that we’re not just on one planet… Let’s actually set ourselves up there, build a colony, start doing our research, make it a home.”

Although Runkle didn’t make it through this round, he says he’ll continue to apply, in hopes of boarding a future mission to Mars. In the meantime, he’s behind his wife every step of the way.

“If she’s selected, and I hope she is, it’ll be hard to sort of be sitting here on Earth watching her leave knowing it’s a one-way trip,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s the sort of dream you can’t get in the way of.”

“I can’t wait to see the pale blue dot disappearing behind us,” Foley added.

For her dream to become a reality, Foley still has to make it through three more rounds of selection, which include medical exams, a physical demonstration of skill, and an internationally broadcast ‘survivor-type’ demonstration of the ability to live in harsh conditions and work with others under difficult circumstances.

The search for astronauts began in April 2013. More than 200,000 people from around the world responded to the first call for astronauts.

With files from Shannon Greer, Global News.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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