The date was July 21, 1969.
The Apollo 11 space flight took the first humans to the moon, with Neil Armstrong being the first to step on the lunar surface.
In grainy black and white video images that somehow, in a miraculous feat of technology, beamed to earth Armstrong stepping off the lunar module and apparently stumbling over his carefully predetermined words but inferred by Americans as brilliant and poignant prose – “…one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…”
Now, 45 years later, two local women are on the short list to go where no man – or woman – has gone before.
And if they’re chosen, they’re not coming back.More than 200,000 people worldwide applied to be a part of a mission to colonize Mars.
The Mars One organization says with conviction it’s going to happen, and these two women say they want to be on board for a trip to Mars that will be their final destination.
The red planet has a rocky surface, and a thin atmosphere with little oxygen. The usual high is 70 degrees; the low: an incomprehensible 243° below zero.
And what about those snow-capped mountains we’ve seen pictures of? That’s not snow at all but frozen carbon dioxide.
“It’s terrifying, truthfully,” admits Mars One candidate Stephanie Buck.
Most would never visit; much less live, where no human has set foot before.
But Buck and fellow candidate Kristin Richmond, a civil engineer with the state of California are actually volunteering to do just that.
“When I first told my parents I was applying,” says Richmond, “their eyes bugged out of their heads.”
Buck says “I don’t think anyone took it seriously.”
If the nonprofit group Mars One” gets its way a human settlement of Mars is right around the corner.
More than 200 thousand people in 140 countries applied to take part. Now that’s been narrowed to about 1,000 including these two women from the Sacramento area, who still can’t believe they’re in the running.
“I got an email and I was going to 7-Eleven to get a cup of coffee and I’m standing in line and I look at my phone and my jaw dropped,” Buck said.
“I thought whoa, this is serious,” Richmond says.
A lot has to happen before anyone’s packing their bags.
The plan is in 2018 a communication satellite will be launched to prove technology can work properly when people arrive. In 2020, a Mars rover will be on its way to find the perfect location for the future settlement. Two years later two living units, two life support systems, and two supply units will be sent.
Finally, a year later in 2023, four people will arrive to begin colonizing a foreign planet.
“I’m so excited!” exclaims Buck. “It’s kind of a nerd’s dream! Who would have thought that this would happen for an average person?”
It may be a dream but there is a harsh reality, too. Colonizing a planet is a big job.
“Growing food in small places, growing nutrients in small places with limited resources,” says Buck
“Resource management, solar power, life support systems, traveling farther into space,” Richmond says.
And if they go there’s no coming back.
It gives even these two adventure seekers some pause.
“You’re going to take a step in that direction and never go back, be miserable and hate the rest of your life because you’re stuck on Mars?” Richmond tells us. “Yeah I’ve thought about that. “
Buck follows up saying “Forever is a really long time. It’s a pretty small space with three strangers.”
And there are definite fears.
“I don’t want to be just some dummy that got on TV, and blew themselves up,” admits Buck.
Richmond is married, and though her husband declined an interview about his wife’s possible departure, she says he’s very supportive.
And then there’s everything else most of us take for granted.
“When you think about actually leaving earth there are those things you start to think about not just relationships with people, but air, the sound of fresh running water, wind through the trees, those are things you’ll never hear again” Richmond says.
Buck knows this trip means she’d never see her two teenage daughters in person ever again, but she says the opportunity is still one that she can’t pass up.
“I’ll obviously miss my family, what’s great is there is communication. We can’t hug, but you know Skype is wonderful,” says Buck.
And her daughters are very supportive.
“I am so thrilled for her, because I feel like this is just so great for her because I know her obsession with sci-fi and need to explore and how important that is for us,” says Buck’s daughter Lhiannan Buck-Gay with enthusiasm.
So for now, these two women wait for word of when they can pack their bags for the last time, breathing in the moments here on earth, and dreaming of the possibilities of life on another planet.
“I’m just excited to see what my efforts toward this and the future can inspire in younger minds,” Richmond, a civil engineer with the state of California, says.
“I don’t know I mean if I’m being realistic, the odds are not very good but the odds were crazier for me to get this far. So anything is possible,” says Buck.
They’re both ready and waiting to take the next giant leap for mankind.
Both Stephanie and Kristin must now pass a physical exam in order to be considered for the next round. The group will eventually be to cut to just four who will make the first trip.
Mars One officials will not comment on when they will let the women know if they’ve made the cut, but they do plan on making everything that happens on Mars viewable through a variety of media.
For more information about the Mars One mission, click here.