Why This Woman Signed Up For A 1-Way Ticket To Mars

If you had the opportunity to be the first human to set foot on Mars (and to get a guaranteed spot in every history book EVER), would you do it? What if you had to walk away from your entire life — everyone and everything you love — forever, in order to make that happen?

100 people (50 women and 50 men) have signed up to do just that. They’re finalists for the Mars One expedition, a one-way journey (!) to Mars that plans to send civilian-astronauts to the red planet to live out the rest of their days. The 100, announced Tuesday, were picked out of the 200,000-plus people who applied. In the end, only two dozen will be trained for the mission, which will occur via six trips of four people each. Mars One is hoping to launch the first one in just nine years. (Oddly enough, the initial 2024 mission will be partially funded by a reality show about it all.)

Sonia Nicole Van Meter, 36, is a D.C.-area political consultant and one of the 100 finalists. We had the chance to ask her a few questions about why she’s doing this, what she’s afraid of (if anything), and more.
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Photo Courtesy Of Sonia Nicole Van Meter.

Why did you decide to apply for the Mars One expedition?
"Space exploration and colonization is the next step for human evolution. It’s in our nature to explore, to look out out over our landscape and wonder what’s over the next hill. I think that spirit is really at the heart of Mars One.

"Space has always inspired me, and this is an opportunity to be a part of something that will also inspire future generations the way the Apollo missions and Project Mercury inspired people [in] the past. This is a legacy that will stretch [far into the future]."

Did they tell you what it was about your application that helped you win a spot?
"Not specifically, but Dr. Norbert Kraft, Mars One’s chief medical officer, did say very clearly that they were less concerned with technical expertise and training than with finding people who have the right character to survive an eight-month trip, on a very small ship, with just four other people, to another planet. [You have to be able] to spend the rest of your life on this cold, barren landscape."

Does the idea of potentially walking away from your entire life scare you?
"It’s not scary so much as overwhelming. We’re not talking about a trip around the world where you'll still have a breathable atmosphere and sunlight and green grass. We're talking about leaving behind everything the history of humanity has ever known. The only answer I can give is that it’s too overwhelming to even quantify."

What about the concept of dying out there?
"We’re all going to die. I could die tomorrow — I could get hit by a bus, or next year I could get terminal cancer. We could all be gone in the blink of an eye. If I’m going to have to die anyway, let’s have my death mean something bigger for the rest of humanity."

How does your family feel about all this?

"They are cautiously supportive. They’re very excited for me, because they know this is something I really want, but it’s one thing to be a name among 200,000 applications; it's entirely another thing to realize [you’ve become] one out of just 100 people. [The reality] is starting to get a little sharper and clearer. But...they’re still cheering [me on]."

What’s your everyday life here on Earth like?
"I’m the managing director of an opposition research firm. I live in Alexandria, VA, with my husband. We have two step-children and a dog. I work from home. My life is not dissimilar to anyone else’s!"

What you think you'll miss most if you do end up on Mars?
"My husband — walking away from a life with him would be excruciating. But, when we married, we promised each other that our marriage would serve to make us the best possible versions of ourselves. An opportunity that stands to benefit all of mankind [definitely qualifies] for that."

What one thing would you most want to bring with you?
"My wedding rings are the only things I would need to bring. Anything else you could set fire to."

How likely do you think it is that this mission will go off in 2024, as planned?
"There’s always a chance [something could go wrong] — this is just page one of a long journey. It might go off without a hitch, or they might have a hard time getting funding, or they could delay it...But, [no matter what happens,] Mars One is still advancing the dialogue of humans reaching out into space, and I'm tremendously proud to be a part of any agency that does that."

We have to ask: Did you see Interstellar? What about Gravity?
"I did see Interstellar, and I didn't like it. It was visually stunning, but [overall] it wasn't my cup of tea, even though I love space movies and TV shows about space; I grew up on Star Trek. I didn't love Gravity, either!"

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