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Two Somerville Scientists On Short List For One-Way Trip To Mars

By Danielle Niles, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – Here’s a thought that’s literally out of this world: a one way trip to Mars.

That might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but there are several plans to put humans on the so-called ‘Red Planet’ not all that far into the future.

When Yari Rodriguez of Somerville looks up to the sky, she has a different thought than most other people.

“A one way mission to Mars? Why not? Why not?” Rodriguez said.

Mars is not an ideal habitat for the human species, however.

It has a rocky surface and a thin atmosphere with little oxygen. Temperatures can go as low as 243 degrees below zero.

Still, Rodriguez is excited to be one of 706 finalists for the Mars 1 project.

Initially 200,000 people applied.

Mars 1 is a non-profit group planning a human settlement on the fourth planet from the sun.

Rodriguez believes a trip like this is important for humanity and is willing to leave Earth with no hope of every returning.

NASA is also working on a manned mission to Mars.

“We have the technology today to live on Mars. We understand how to do life support. We understand how to scrub the carbon dioxide from the air. We understand all these things,” said Steve Stitch of NASA.

NASA recently unveiled a specialized spaceship which could potentially transport people to Mars one day.

“The idea is to extend the human presence into the solar system. Mars is the first place to do that,” explained Jeffrey Sheehy of NASA.

NASA’s timetable is around 2030.

Norbert Kraft of Mars 1 agrees the technology exists to get a man to Mars, and his group is trying to do it faster. They would like to start with a communications satellite in 2018, and send a crew of four people by 2023.

Mars 1 is in the process of raising six billion dollars for the project.

Chris Patil is another Somerville scientist who is on the Mars 1 shortlist.

He admits family and friends ask him if he is crazy to make a one way trip to Mars.

“There is no substitute for a human scientist on the ground, on Mars, looking with their eyes, touching with their hands,” said Patil.

Patil compares the sacrifice of a Mars voyager with that of explorers here on Earth hundreds of years ago.

“The one way trip is a concept that gives a lot of people some quite reasonable hesitation,” said Patil. “A lot of our ancestors came on one way trips. They crossed oceans when it was way more dangerous person per person than space exploration has been over the last 50 years.”

Patil admits there will be some sacrifices, however.

He said he will miss pepperoni pizza.

Rodriguez thinks she might long for Spicy Cheetos.

Although both of these Somerville scientists are single, there are Mars 1 finalists who are married and have children.

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