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Mad About Mars

by Cindy Hess, communications and marketing last modified Jan 30, 2014 04:30 PM

Subzero temperatures. Frequent dust storms. Dangerous radiation levels. Those are just a few challenges facing the first humans to inhabit the planet Mars.

Mad About Mars

Stephanie Bridges

But sophomore atmospheric sciences major Stephanie Bridges remains undaunted. She says she would go to Mars “right now” if she could.

And maybe she will.

Bridges recently learned she made the first cut for the 2023 Mars One mission planned by a Dutch nonprofit organization. She was among 1,058 candidates selected from more than 200,000 applicants.

She got the news via email in December. “It was really exciting,” Bridges said. “It was a great way to start the new year.”

Space travel has been her dream since she was 9 years old. She remembers exactly the place and time.

“I was in the backseat of my mom’s car going home from the grocery store and looking at the full moon and I thought ‘How amazing would it be to go there?’”

Bridges says since mankind has already been to the moon, the next logical destination is Mars. Her trip to the red planet would take about 8 months—and the ticket is one way.

“My friends say, ‘What? A one-way ticket? I’m out.’” said Bridges. “But I would definitely go tomorrow. Coming from a military family, I see the importance of making the ultimate sacrifice.”

Mars One is expected to thin the candidate list this year and next, eventually narrowing it down to about 40 people. The chosen few will then undergo training for seven years. After the first group makes the trip in 2023, Mars One plans to send additional groups every other year.

Bridges said her primary role as a candidate at this point is to be an advocate for the program and get necessary medical clearances.

Her biggest fear going forward is simply that the mission won’t happen, she adds.

And what about becoming a Martian “for good” and never returning to Earth? Bridges says she’s fine with that.

“I lived my dream; I lived my purpose,” she said.

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