Why I Want To Go To Mars

The story so far … When we last left the intrepid explorer wanna-be, she was wielding shields against the forces banding against her in her quest to leave the fragile ship Earth for planets in space and beyond. Today, we will watch as she musters her weapons in her fight for self-determination and exploration.

So, how do I explain to those foes who would thwart my desires to leave this planet? What arguments do I formulate and exposate to bring them into the fold?

First, why do I want to go to Mars?

That was the first question Mars One asked. Why do you want to go to Mars? I answered:

When I was a child, I looked at the sky and saw possibility. The stars were dazzling, and somehow I knew there were other worlds, other places to go. Humans always want to go somewhere new — to keep pushing the boundaries, and space is the ultimate boundary to push. Though I was born just a few years too soon to really take advantage of the women’s movement and become an astronaut, I never lost that yearning to keep going up and out, to explore the next planet, galaxy, universe, dimension.

As a sci-fi fan, I’ve read so many stories about Mars and space exploration, but reading it, even though I have a good imagination, is never the same as doing. I really want to do it.

Yeah, right, I’m surprised they didn’t toss my name in the round file and be done with it.

Of course, most people who’ve known me for more than a few years know I was born without the risk gene. You know, that something inside explorers and adventurers that makes them dare anything, try everything, go anywhere. I never got that. I never liked risk, or surprises, or anything that even remotely looked adventurous. Most of my life, I followed the rules, or else broke only the safe ones (you know, like cutting boring classes or walking when the sign said “Don’t”).

I liked the status quo, the regular, the rut. It was safe, it was easy to anticipate (no surprises), and it took little effort to be amazing. Of course, then I had kids, and realized life is anything but safe and boring. Still, I stuck with the normal, the expected – stay-at-home mom, room mother, swim parents, Girl Scout leader. It made life simpler.

An unanticipated divorce shattered everything I thought I knew about life and my role in it – my plans were no longer relevant, and following the rules and doing what you’re supposed to didn’t seem to matter anymore. So why bother?

Thus, I ended up in Fairbanks, Alaska, a land of vast landscapes and bone-chilling cold. Of adventure and surprises and nothing ever goes as planned.

And I like it here. While surprises still shake me up a bit, especially the big ones, I find I roll with them better. I even – gasp – thrive when my back is to the wall and I have no choice but to fight. My mind starts racing faster, my creativity goes into overdrive, and I have energy and attention and the will to make things happen. I guess that’s what they mean by adversity making you stronger.

So now, adventure is no longer a dirty word. In fact, it’s a word I’m beginning to be quite fond of. But I know at my age, the real adventures – those here on Earth – are beyond me. Most of what’s left is for those younger and stronger and far less risk-adverse (or maybe I should say getting-into-real-trouble-that-might-be-painful adverse). That leaves outer space.

Yes, I know it won’t be easy or even fun. I know the dangers are high, the risks enormous, more so than anything I could do here on this planet – but I also know that with high risk comes greater rewards. Dust and radiation – bring ‘em on. Living in a tin can with 99 strangers in a highly stressful environment – no problem. Leaving Earth and everything and everyone I’ve known – well worth it.

Because I will be one of the first Earthlings to see the Red Planet up close and personal.

I will watch my feet sink into the reddish grey dust, see it puff up about me, coloring everything with its rosy hue. I will walk past mountains and canyons carved by ancient geologic forces, just like those on Earth but different, because the background will be different. Instead of looking up at a red dot in the sky, I’ll be looking up at a blue marble, watching it in awe, knowing how small it is, even as I believe it is bigger than anything else.

Yes, I understand – intellectually and emotionally – I will never see my kids, parents, siblings, and friends again. I will not have a furry companion keeping me safe and warm at night. I will be dependent on strangers to watch my back and help me survive. And they will be experiencing the same thing, depending on me for survival.

Maybe I’m not articulating this well. It’s such a powerful want I’ve got – stronger and more all-encompassing than any feeling I’ve known or imagined. Trying to explain seems as futile as trying to explain why I keep breathing in and out – because I must. Because I should. Because, finally, I can.

I’ve always believed science is the key to making us better human beings – to cracking our superstitious, mythological thought processes. And the ultimate science — the ultimate rationality – is to leave this planet and let science take us someplace else. Someplace not made in the image of a mythological omnipotent being who is a little confusing with his/her requirements. Some place where humans can truly be the beings we are meant to be – at one with and part of the universe, rather than attempted masters of.

So, I’m going to finish up my application, including the (ugh) 3-minute video. I’m going to try to put into words the why. I know what I can contribute – that’s easy. All adventures need to be recorded for posterity – blogged and tweeted and facebooked and print-booked so everyone knows what and how we did it. That’s how I make my mark on the world – words.

As to my grandchildren hating me, I prefer to think they’ll understand – after all, kids have that sense of awe and wonderment until it’s beaten out of them by parents, school, and life. Kids believe it’s possible to go to Mars – and what’s more, they don’t understand why not. Why not go to Mars. Why stay here when you can go somewhere else? What’s the point of life if you just stay put, letting the water fill up and boil around you?

So, when I do the video, I’m going to tell the Mars One people I’m going because of my grandkids – so they don’t spend their lives doing what they’re supposed to just because they are supposed to. So that maybe, when given a choice, they’ll drop everything and climb into a tin can with a bunch of strangers, flying off to who knows where and what, just because they can.