Meet Kenya Armbrister, the Oakland resident seeking a one-way ticket to Mars
on April 23, 2015
Many of us wanted to be an astronaut as a kid, but this dream comes true for only a few. It would be a journey into the unknown filled with unforgettable experiences. But there is a hook: If you want to be one of the first explorers to reach Mars, you have to leave everyone behind—forever.
The Dutch foundation Mars One received more than 200,000 applications for exactly this, a one-way trip to Mars. The global application elimination process started in 2013 with interviews and mental and physical health tests. Every applicant explained why he or she is the right person for the mission.
Now there are only 100 applicants left remaining, including Oakland resident Kenya Armbrister. Mars One will pick the last 24, who take off to a life changing adventure—if the foundation’s plans for a Mars lander works out. (It recently postponed the start of the planned mission to 2026.) The non-profit-organization will not build new parts for the mission, but plans to cooperate with established aerospace companies. The participants would travel in an already-existing Mars Transit Vehicle.
Traveling to Mars would take expertise, experience, an enormous amount of money and, last but not least, volunteers. Scientists are torn over the question if the mission is feasible or just a dreamer’s fantasy.
Matt Fillingim does research at the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. Most of his research deals with the atmosphere on Mars. “The biggest difference between Mars and Earth is the much less atmospheric pressure on Mars,” said Fillingim. In addition, the air on Earth mostly consists of nitrogen and oxygen, which allows us to breathe happily. On Mars, the volunteers would have to deal with an atmosphere that is 95 percent carbon dioxide. Furthermore, it is much colder on Mars’ surface. The global average temperature on Mars is minus 60° Fahrenheit.
The radiation exposure during the flight is also potentially dangerous for the astronauts. Additionally, they would experience bone loss of approximately ten percent during the journey because of the lower gravity.
“The nail-biting parts of any space mission are launch and arrival,” Fillingim said. “You do not miss the planet—we have done that before with unmanned spacecraft. Or land too hard—we have done that before, too. You want that nice, cushy little spot to land on the surface.”
Kenya Armbrister is one of the remaining applicants for the Mars One mission. A lively and buoyant 36-year-old woman from Oakland, she loves to travel, holds two masters degrees and speaks English, French and German. But if you think she wants to go to Mars because she is tired of life on Earth, that is certainly not the case. Instead, she enjoys it to the fullest. Find out what drives her desire to participate in such a mission by clicking on the audio link below.
Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: email@example.com.