Voyage to the Red Planet Two Saskatchewanians make it to the second phase of the Mars
hen Justin Semenoff was young he was fascinated by space. Every chance he had he’d be outside gazing up at the stares, intrigued by what was out there, out beyond Earth. “I remember being a kid, outside looking up there, and my dad would be like, ‘Oh, the Leonids meteor showers are happening,” recalls Semenoff. “Or we’d be out there and I’d see what I thought was a shooting star and Dad would be like, ‘No son, that’s a meteorite,’” Semenoff continues. “So that’s where my interest in space and space programs sprang from.” It was an interest that never wavered. As the years passed, Semenoff continued to be fascinated by space. Then late last year he found a way that maybe, possibly, there was an outside chance he’d be able to go to space. That chance came in the form of the Mars One — a space-exploration project that seeks to establish a human settlement on Mars. For Semenoff, a combat engineer from here in Saskatoon, the opportunity was too rare, too good, to pass up.
“When I first saw it, first read about it, looked at the business model … I was captivated,” says Semenoff. “But it’s not my nature to just jump into something blindly. Before I filled out the application, I took everything into consideration. How it would affect my life? What kind of impact it would it have on me?” Eventually, Semenoff decided the rewards outweighed the risks and submitted an application video. On December 30th he received an email saying he was one of the 1,058 applicants selected for a second round of interviews.
He wasn’t the only person from Saskatchewan to get that message. Four thousand miles away, in Oxford, England, Maegan Reed received the same email, telling her she’d made it to the next round of the Mars One selection process. It was an email that she wasn’t really expecting. “When I saw Mars One online, it looked like such an amazing project. I just wanted to be involved so I applied,” says Reed, who grew up in Dalmeny. “But I never thought I’d get through to the next round. I mean, I’m not massively qualified.
I have a degree in archaeology, I work in publishing here in Oxford. I’m not exactly a nuclear physicist or anything.” Thing is, the Mars One team isn’t looking for just nuclear physicists or astronaut types. “They are looking for different types of people, different personalities. They want normal people, normal citizens who are willing to take the adventure.” And should either Reed or Semenoff make it through, should they be selected to be one of the 24 people who may one day colonize Mars, what an adventure it will be. But it won’t be an easy one. Like the journeys taken by the ancient Chinese, the Vikings and all the famed explorers of Old World Europe before, the trip to Mars will be fraught with danger, immense challenges and the unknown. “The project can be quite scary, if you think about it,” says Reed. “If you think about the radiation. If you think about the implications of leaving earth and never coming back.” Here Reed’s voice trails off a bit, as though lost in thought. Then she says, “But the opportunity to make history, to change history, it’d be worth any risk.” Continued on next page »
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Published on Jan 17, 2014