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Chula Vista Woman Signs Up For One-Way Ticket To Mars

A rendering of the Mars One outpost. The outpost design will contain living quarters, private areas, food production, life support systems, recreational areas and more.
Courtesy of Mars One
A rendering of the Mars One outpost. The outpost design will contain living quarters, private areas, food production, life support systems, recreational areas and more.
Chula Vista Woman Signs Up For One-Way Ticket To Mars
GUESTS:Carmen Paul, Chula Vista woman who is one of 100 finalists in the Mars One contest Rob Manning, chief engineer of technology development and former chief engineer, Mars science laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena

This is KPBS Midday Edition . I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Whether it's a serious attempt to go where no human has gone before, or an elaborate publicity campaign, the Mars One project has at least one local believer. Carmen Paul of Chula Vista has been selected as one of the 100 finalists to become the first colonists on the planet Mars. The Mars One project is the brainchild of a nonprofit.organization that plans to launch the first four colonists into space by the year 2024. Carmen Paul still has a number of qualifying rounds ahead of her before she selected as a Mars astronaut, I spoke with her this morning, here's that interview. Carmen Paul, thanks for joining us. ________________________________________ Thank you for having me, Maureen. ________________________________________ What did you tell the Mars One selection committee about your qualifications to join the mission to Mars? ________________________________________ I really hit hard on my teamwork experience, and a lot of my technical background in the military, some hoping that is what interested them the most. ________________________________________ What kind of experience have you had in the military? ________________________________________ Well, I was on active duty, I came into the Air Force in 2001, and spent a few years on active duty, and I was deployed overseas in support of the coalition networks over there. And then, in 2004, I came into the air National Guard, and it worked in network control center for a while, in the communications unit, and then I worked in network infrastructure for a little bit, and then in the quality assurance office. ________________________________________ Okay, so you've certainly got that down. I'm wondering, is this something, is going to space is something you have always wanted to do? ________________________________________ Oh my gosh, yes. I grew up in the Sarasota, Florida, only about two and a half hours away from Kennedy space Center. Whenever the settlement up I could see it from a health center member one morning as a kid, I was walking out to my busstop, it was early morning, and the sun was coming up and I did not know about it before hand, but the shuttle was going up and the sight of it going up in the early morning, the sun rise, it stopped me in my tracks. And I just stood there, and I stared at it and I thought, what are they feeling right now? You know, like our they terrified? Are they exhilarated? I mean, I just wanted to know what that felt like, it was just so beautiful, you know, and it just really made me excited just to watch it. ________________________________________ I understand that you were selected from an original applicant pool of 200,000 people. It is now down to 50 men and 50 women. ________________________________________ Yes. ________________________________________ As the final selection gets closer, are you getting nervous? ________________________________________ [ Laughs ] Yes, I did not even think I would make it this far because it was so many people to begin with, I think it was a little over 200,000, and then when I got the first email after the first cut, it was a little over 1000 people left, I got that email and about had a heart attack. I'm like, how did I get picked out of so many people? ________________________________________ Now, what do you understand about how difficult this project is actually going to be? Have you gotten any materials from Mars One on what the duties of the colonists will be? ________________________________________ Yeah, we've gotten a few things. So, the hardest part will definitely before the first crew, he can is they are going to have to help not only set up their own habitat, but they are also going to have to prepare for the second crew as well. And I mean, we've gotten, you know, a lot of documentation on, you know, how hostile the environment is there, and we're going to have to undergo like a decade of training to prepare for this. We can't just jump right on into it. So, but, I think you know, it will definitely be plenty of time for preparation. ________________________________________ Now, if you are selected, one of the biggest aspects of this is that it is a one-way trip. It is a one-way trip to Mars, you will never come back to earth. How does your family feel about that? ________________________________________ Well you know, it's really upsetting. But you know, this is a crazy opportunity. And you know, it's something that not a lot of people would get a chance to do, even if it was a round-trip, you know, still not a lot of people would be able to do it. But overall, the intent of the mission is not just for exploration, but for colonization. So, but, my family is extremely supportive, and I mean, we are all set about the possibility of me not coming back, but, they are very supportive because they know it's something that I have wanted to do for forever, you know, so they are very supportive that I would be able to achieve my goals and dreams, even though there is a huge downside to it. ________________________________________ You are married, right? ________________________________________ Yes. ________________________________________ Your husband is okay with this? ________________________________________ He's really supportive, I'm not sure if I should be worried about that or not. Are you trying to get rid of me? No. But actually, they're supposed to be reopening the application process sometime this year, he's pretty interested in applying as well. So, if he gets to come with me, that would be perfect. ________________________________________ [ Laughter ] ________________________________________ Now how will the 100 finalists be whittled down to the actual flight crew? ________________________________________ So, from what I understand, we have not gotten a whole lot of details on the next round of cuts, yet, but hopefully this fall, we are supposed to be undergoing some sort of trials that are kind of a mystery at this point. I'm guessing it will be, you know, psychological, physiological, academic, I mean, there's probably going to be a lot of studying involved, and so, they mentioned that they might split us up into teams of, like, 10 to 15, and the biggest thing that they're going to be looking for is conflict resolution. I mean, because conflict is going to happen no matter what. But, you know, in the event of some kind of catastrophe happening, they can't afford to have people that are going to bigger with each other and not solve the problem. So, it's going to be one of the biggest things they are looking for. ________________________________________ Carmen, Mars One says on its website that the final selection trials will be televised to people around the world in the audience will have a chance to vote on which group goes to Mars first . I'm wondering, does it concern you that this sounds a little bit more like a reality show been assigned to the project? ________________________________________ You know, honestly, I hit reality TV shows. ________________________________________ [ Laughter ] ________________________________________ But, I think that it being built that way is a little bit deceptive. I think it's going to be more like a documentary. But, that is going to be their biggest source of funding, because it's going to be televised anyways, so their intent is to get it funded by the sale of the broadcast rights and sponsorships. So, because I really don't think it would make such an interesting reality TV show, since those tend to stir up a lot of drama and the objective is to have the least amount of drama possible. ________________________________________ [ Laughter ] ________________________________________ Right. ________________________________________ So, whenever I think about that, it's like, I'm going to hate it when people call it a reality TV show. Because that's not really what it's going to be. It's just going to be more of a documentary, more of a televised process of what is going on. ________________________________________ Well, Carmen Paul, congratulations. ________________________________________ Thank you so much. ________________________________________ And please keep us posted. ________________________________________ I definitely will. ________________________________________ Joining me now is Rob Manning, chief engineer of technology department and former chief engineer of the Mars science laboratory at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena who led the team that landed the Mars roverCuriosity could welcome. ________________________________________ , For inviting me. ________________________________________ What you think about the plan to colonize Mars? ________________________________________ Well, at first glance I have to say it's really exciting to see so many people around the world being so excited about exploration. I mean, this is something I thought that just a few of us were head over heels over. I have been, like Carmen, inspired by the very early days of human exploration of outer space. So, I was also inspired. And although I have not been involved in human traveling to outer space, I have been very much involved in getting robots to Mars, and it's been a great privilege . but I can tell you, it's very exciting to see the enthusiasm around the world. And, it's growing, it seems, every day. ________________________________________ What about the fact that the settlers won't be coming back to earth? ________________________________________ Well, I have to admit, I don't quite understand that part. I do understand that it's simpler to take people there and not having to come back, but, it seems like you could do it if you wanted to. And, it's going to be, you know, getting to Mars is really challenging . my specialty is landing stuff on Mars, and Mars is an irritating place to land on, because I have too much atmosphere to land like we do on the moon. And you need heatshield, for example. And, there's not enough atmosphere to land like we do on earth with parachutes that land on the ground or wings, like the space shuttle has. You need to kind of convert your earth lander into a new lander. So it's very calm skidded and this thing that we have put together to get these things landed is very, to be honest with you, despite all of our efforts to get the robots there safely, it's still very safe -- scary and we land vehicles on another planet, you see a sweeping up and down and screaming, it's because we are relieved. And have to admit I'm terrified at the thought of trying to land people there, myself, but if we do get them there anything is possible to do that, I really think that we should give them the option to go home. The problem is, I mean, there's a reason, I think, people have not colonized and are to have. You know, Antarctica is cold and is much warmer than Mars, it's codfish, it's got water, it's got a lot of wonderful attributes, but, it is still uninhabitable for all practical purposes. In us of somebody wanted to move to Mars, they are going to have to bring earth with them in a sense. They have to live in closures, there's not enough atmosphere to survive on earth without a spacesuit. And, the atmosphere that is there is carbon dioxide, and so you have to bring, you know, greenhouses, pressurized green houses to live in, and, in some sense, reproduce the environment that we evolved to become comfortable with at Mars. And so, I don't know, it's a tall order. And I think after a time, people are going to want to go back to our lovely blue dot. ________________________________________ I asked Carmen about the televised aspect of the Mars One plan, the fact that they will be taking votes from viewers about who goes on the mission, how does that sound to you? ________________________________________ Well I can tell you I'm pretty sure that they took this selection process pretty seriously. And you know, congratulations to Carmen for being selected, I'm sure she's got some amazing skills . and her skills really are, you know, teamwork, communications, networking, long-distance communication, all of those things are absolutely essential skills for the team that goes to Mars. And so, I think she's the right kind of person. You know, I think ultimately, when they get down to a small crowd of people, all of the people are going to be so fantastically good, but I think you can flip a coin. And whoever likes the best ones will be fun. And so, I don't worry that we found the wrong people, I worry that we have the ability to pull all of the resources together to get them there safely, and to allow them to survive for long periods of time. And, I, for one, would like to give them an escape route back home if they need. ________________________________________ Considering that Mars has such an inhospitable planet, I mean, it is such an inhospitable place for humans, what will be the advantage of having people there? ________________________________________ Well you know, for us as scientists, here at JPL and NASA, we are excited about learning more about the planet. We send multiple rovers there, four in total, a tiny one that we send in 1997 where we learned how to drive, then we send these two little rovers, roving geologist and Spirit and opportunity in 2004 and now in 2012 landed the big behemoths of a rover that is going in and drilling into rock and chemically analyzing the samples of Mars. These are, although I'm pretty proud of them, not nearly as efficient as a real human being. And, there's a long turnaround because communication between Earth and Mars is very time-consuming, takes a long time, you have to wait for signal to go across the planet plus you have to wait for Mars and Earth to be in the right positions to communicate properly so there's a lot of delay of communication . so, a human scientists exploring Mars with her in a week what we have learned in a year of exploration with robots. Of course, robot technology is improving every viewers, and so I think that we will get better at it but still, humans will be really great and we can learn over time. In terms of going there as a home, I think you might get tired of the color red, or a salmon sunset. ________________________________________ [ Laughter ] ________________________________________ JPL has been working on Mars mission after Mars mission with the rovers, so you are not set up to start a manned mission to Mars, so do you think a private company can be successful at this? ________________________________________ I think it won't be a single private company. I think it would involve a collaboration between large numbers of organizations, both private and public. I mean, ultimately, we were sending our humanity to put footprints in another planet. You know, that is something that we, as human beings, should own. It's not something that you delegate to one group, because first of all, what if it doesn't work? What if we have a bad day? We don't want it to stop exploration, it could put a sour taste in people's mouths about ever going again. If we do this, we have to do it right. And I think that those engineers and scientists to work on this are going to feel obligated to make sure that it is done safely and that the people that they send it will become their friends and colleagues will go there and have a very good chance of surviving. ________________________________________ Rob Manning from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, he's also the author of Mars Rover Curiosity, thanks so much. ________________________________________ Thank you, Maureen. Great talking to you.

Whether it's a serious attempt to go where no human has gone before, or an elaborate publicity campaign, the Mars One project has at least one local believer.

Carmen Paul of Chula Vista has been selected as one of the 100 finalists out of more than 200,000 people who applied to become the first colonists on Mars.

The Mars One project is the brainchild of a nonprofit Dutch organization planning to launch the first four colonists into space by the year 2024.


Paul, 32, has worked in cyberspace support for the Air Force and the Air National Guard for more than 14 years. She still has a number of qualifying rounds ahead of her before she can be selected as a Mars astronaut. And the trip is one-way. There will be no return to Earth.

Paul grew up in Florida, where she watched the space shuttle launches. She said it was so exciting to watch and wonder "What are the astronauts thinking, feeling? Are they scared?"

"Whenever the shuttle went up, I could actually see it from my house," Paul told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday. "The sight of it going up in the early morning sunrise stopped me in my tracks."

Paul, who is married, said her family is supportive of her possible one-way mission but it's also sad.

"It's really upsetting," Paul said. "This is a crazy opportunity. It's something that not a lot of people would get to do. We're all sad about the possibility of me not coming back."


She said her husband may also apply for the mission when the nonprofit begins to accept applications again later this year.

But landing on Mars has proven to be a challenge.

Rob Manning led the team that landed the Mars rover. He said one of the challenges is the environment on Mars.

"You have to create an Earth environment on a planet that doesn't want to be Earth," he said. "It's been billions of years since it may have been inhabitable."

Still, Manning said it's exciting to hear there's a move to put people on the planet.

"We've been working on Mars exploration for a long time, now the enthusiasm has really build to put people on the planet," he said.

Mars One Astraunt Selection Video