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"There are some [applicants] who are married, who have boyfriends or girlfriends, and some who have children. It’s their decision to make, and some are supported by family and some not at all," Kraft said. "It’s how he deals with it. We have to look at how he’s doing with a team and how big the baggage is."
The trip is one-way not only because there’s no feasible way to launch a ship from Mars, but also because a person’s bone density would decrease significantly under Martian gravity, which is a third as strong as Earth’s.
From Utah to Mars
Six Utahns made the first cut of applicants from more than 200,000 to 1,058. Further cuts will come between now and 2015, eventually whittling the applicants down to about 24. Missions would consist of four people, with the first one scheduled to blast off in 2024 and subsequent missions to take off every two years. The Utahns who made the first cut are:
Jill Cramer, 63
Casey Hunter, 33
Katelyn Elizabeth Kane, 23
Cody Don Reeder, 21
Will Joshua Robbins, 28
Kenneth Ray Sullivan, 38
"There’s a point of no return for bone-density loss," Kraft said.
There are also concerns, Sullivan said, about radiation exposure during the flight and while living on Mars that would make getting home safely increasingly unlikely because the cumulative exposure on a return trip likely would prove unsafe.
The trip would take between six and seven months to complete, and the initial crew would have only four people. If everything goes according to plan, four more people would come up every two years. The reason for the time gap, Kraft said, is that Earth and Mars need to be at their closest points to reduce travel time.
"I’ll be very relieved if I don’t make it to Mars because it won’t take me from my family," Ken Sullivan said. "But if I don’t make it, it will be tough and I’ll be disappointed."
Becky Sullivan looks to the future, too, and about what new adventure her husband will attempt if he doesn’t get to walk on Martian soil.
"What’s worse than Mars?" she said. "That’s just who he is. I’m sure this won’t be the last thing he wants to try."
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