How I met my first Martian.
Update from Lex (September 11, 2013):
“Mars One has begun screening applicants. The selection committee led by Dr. Norbert Kraft, chief medical officer at Mars One will review the applications over the next several months, and will let all candidates know who goes on to the second round by the end of this year, and interviews will begin next year.”
Let’s face it, most of us have a read-only approach to adventures. We love them to the point of obsession and we get quite a kick from watching them unfold before our eyes; but we seldom step out of this “voyeuristic” role. Adventures, we seem to believe, are best left to others.
As luck would have it, I’ve had the chance to interview one of these elusive “others”. Alex Marion, aka A-Lex on Mars is a fellow Vancouverite and proud Mars One applicant. Forget little green men with bulgy heads. Instead, take a good look at him (the one on the right): this is what Martians might prove to look like one day.
Sorin: Lex, if all goes well, how old will you be when you will be setting foot on Mars?
Lex: Assuming all goes well and I get to be one of the first four to go, I will be 36 when I leave and when I get there.
Sorin: What can you tell me about the screening process? I would imagine psychological profiling, fitness and vocational training as likely candidates.
Lex: Vocational training is actually not going to be a significant factor. Because the first four people will get seven years of training, and the next four another two years, and so on, everything the colonists will need to know will be taught by Mars One trainers. Doctors, engineers, geologists, etc. Candidates will of course have to be physically fit. Part of the second round of applications is providing a medical record showing that you are in excellent health. The psychological aspect I think is the most important thing, and Mars One has stressed that as well. The colonists will be spending the remainder of their lives in very close quarters with very few people, and will have no opportunity to go for a walk or to the mall to let off steam. It is imperative that everyone who goes understands what that means for them as individuals. The third round will be testing people’s resolve through various psychological and physical challenges, pushing them to their personal limits, and weeding out those who can’t cut it. It’s survival of the fittest! The final training phase will also be intensive, and it is assumed that even when Mars One has essentially selected you, people will be dropping out. So in addition to the 24 to 40 people training, Mars One plans on having several on a waiting list as back-ups to replace people who drop out or have to be removed. One thing that they haven’t mentioned as part of the screening process, and I think they should, is a criminal record check!
Sorin: Any plans of becoming a daddy on Mars? Speaking of which, do you think gene profiling (not necessarily Gattaca style) will also be part of the screening process?
Lex: As far as I know, gene profiling is not part of the screening process, but I do imagine a family health history will be part of the medical examination and record in the second round. With that said, I don’t really plan on having kids on Mars. I’m not opposed to it, I think I would make a great dad one day, and it would be amazing to do that on another planet. However, because of how new the colony will be, and the fact that we don’t know what effects reduced gravity will have on pregnancy and childbirth, there is a lot of research and expansion that will be required before people can start having children on Mars, and that likely will take longer than the appropriate age for childbirth. Most people will be 30 or older when they get there, and research shows that the chance of birth defects increases drastically between 30 and 40.
Sorin: I’m sure you get this question a lot, but what is it that sets you apart for this mission? I’m sure strong motivation is a given with all candidates, so what is the A-Lex element that will make the difference?
Lex: I think I have a deeper understanding of myself than most people my age. In addition to being young, fit, and stable, my life experience has offered me the opportunity gain insights into myself and others that I don’t think a lot of other people have. Especially in the past three or four years, I’ve found I have a knack for understanding a situation from multiple perspectives, not just my own. I think this is an excellent – and rare – skill that will make it possible for me to meet the rigid and intense interpersonal demands of the mission.
Sorin: I have trolled your public profile enough to learn that you are a wine connoisseur. Will you miss wine on Mars? What else will you miss? I know I’d go crazy without Gruyere cheese.
Lex: I will only miss wine on Mars if they don’t give me the supplies to start my own vineyard and wine cellar. They’ll let me… right?
Sorin: What will you do in the meanwhile?
Lex: Besides working full time (often overtime as the company I currently work for is severely understaffed), I’m trying to focus on getting myself and the mission noticed. I want to get as many people into following the Mars One mission, so that when it comes down to actually getting the viewership to fund the project, it will be there waiting. Of course I am a sci-fi nerd, so I’m often reading, watching, or playing pretty much anything space related.
Together we can put a nerdfighter of Mars!