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Minnesotans on Mars? 4 are semifinalists in one-way trip to colonize the red planet

Published 10:23am Thursday, January 2, 2014

ST. PAUL — Four Minnesota residents willing to take a one-way trip to Mars are among the semifinalists in a fanciful program that would send humans to colonize the Red Planet with no prospect of ever coming back.

The four are among about 1,060 semifinalists chosen by The Netherlands-based nonprofit organization Mars One as possible volunteers to travel to Mars beginning in 2024, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported (http://bit.ly/KjHDmB ).

The plan, which has been criticized as unrealistic, may never come to pass. Still, the finalists say they’re still excited to make it this far.

“When I heard about this, I was gurgling with excitement,” said Jackson Kisling, of Woodbury. The other state semifinalists are Paul Larson, of New Hope; Catherine Johnson, of Excelsior; and Chad Schilling, of Eden Prairie.

Mars One says its goal is to recruit volunteers who would undergo years of training before blasting off for the months-long journey. Once they land they’d help colonize the planet, all as stars of a reality show.

The project, estimated to cost between $4 billion and $10 billion, would be funded through advertising and TV fees.

Some have dismissed the plan as unworkable. For example, NASA says living on Mars would be dangerous, especially because of the risk of radiation exposure on a planet without a protective atmosphere to shield it.

That didn’t stop volunteers around the world from signing up. Mars One said it received more than 200,000 applications worldwide, with each person paying a $35 application fee.

Kisling, 37, manages a shop in Hudson, Wis. He acknowledged that someone would have to be crazy to go, but if his participation meant advancing human knowledge about the cosmos it’d be worthwhile.

“I strongly believe that space exploration is the most important thing we will do this century, or not do,” Kisling said.

Larson, 46, said he applied because he dreams of changing the world. He understands that leaving for Mars means never coming home, but he’s OK with that. Larson, a stay-at-home dad who’s married with two children, said his family doesn’t know he applied.

“We have not had the big sit-down discussion,” Larson said.


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