MONTREAL – Members of the space community are excited about NASA’s recent announcement that Mars appears to have flowing water, while two Canadians who hope to take a one-way trip to the red planet say it increases the chances of human beings surviving the harsh environment.
Johanna Hindle, a British Columbia high-school teacher, is one of six Canadians who remain in the running in the plan by Mars One, a Dutch-based organization, to establish a colony on Mars by 2027.
The Canadians are among 100 finalists from around the world on the Mars One short list. Hindle says they will be whittled down to 24 in September 2016.
In the meantime, the news that Mars has liquid water has brought a smile to her face.
“Definite excitement, because anything that increases the chances of possibilities of human beings being able to find helpful products on Mars is good for us,” Hindle said in an interview.
“Running water is a bit of a hopeful way of putting it. I heard it’s briny sludge, which I thought was a really good description of what’s happening up there.”
But nothing has made her change her mind about taking the no-return trip.
“I know the dangers are unimaginable and the challenges are out of this world, but the opportunity to do this; I’ve yet come across anything that would shake that in me,” she said.
Hindle has also read “The Martian” and seen the Matt Damon blockbuster movie about an astronaut who is left to fend for himself after his crewmates desert him during a Martian storm.
“My initial reaction was equal parts increasing hope and it also terrified me because of the amount of science I don’t know yet,” she said.
Daniel Benjamin Criger, another Mars One hopeful, says the news of liquid water on Mars makes him feel “pretty good” about the mission.
The native of Hamilton, Ont., is currently studying in Germany and will complete his classes next September “right in time to be selected to be in the final 24.”
He also had a chance to read the Andy Weir-penned “The Martian.” Criger was inspired by the way the main character was able to improvise in order to survive.
“There’s a lot that human engineering can do that can’t be done otherwise with the equipment that’s on Mars,” he said from Aachen, Germany.
Criger also compared himself to Damon, who plays astronaut Mark Watney in the movie.
“I like to be surrounded by technology, I like work on little problems and see if I can improve things,” he said.
Criger said if he makes the trip, he will still be able to remain in touch with his family despite a 20-minute delay receiving messages from Earth.
“There have been lots of people in history who have really left everything and I’m not going to have to. . .I live in an era which is dripping with technology.”
The president of the Canadian Space Society also welcomed the liquid-water announcement, saying it would, hopefully, allow the success of some future colony or establishment on Mars.
“It’s going to be a good thing obviously, with liquid water there it’s going to be a lot easier to get access to it and a lot easier to do stuff with than if it’s just a big frozen ice ball underneath the North Pole,” Marc Fricker said in an interview.
Scientists confirmed the existence of frozen water on Mars in 2008.
Fricker said he has been a longtime fan of the possible colonization of Mars, so the liquid-water announcement was encouraging.
“I see that as being substantial…we’re not alone,” he said. ”OK, we may be just sharing the galaxy with little microscopic bugs, but at least we’re not alone.”`
Fricker also gave the idea of a one-way mission a nod of approval.
“We’ve done it in the past, maybe not so extreme as going to Mars, but it’s something humanity is ready for,” he said.
“And if these guys succeed, their names will be etched in stone forever. We’ll never forget them.”