A one-way ticket to Mars

Yari Golden-Castaño and R. Daniel Golden-Castaño, two candidates to be members of Mars One’s crew to create the first human settlement on the red planet, spoke about their potential mission on Dec. 5 in O’Connor Hall.

The event was hosted by Framingham State’s English Language Program.

According to its website, Mars One is a private organization which “aims to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars.”

Yari said her fascination with outer space began when she was young and living in Mexico. “When I was two, my mom would dress me in an astronaut onesie complete with NASA patches. … I was known as ‘the little astronaut.’”

She said she was inspired by the stories of Yuri Gagarin, the first human to go into outer space, and Framingham State’s own Christa McAuliffe.

As an immigrant from Mexico, Yari said she struggled at first to grasp the English language. She relied on math and science as “a universal language that I could understand – even if I was reading them in English and thinking in Spanish,” she said.

After her graduation from Smith College, Yari became a systems engineer developing laser communications technology. 

R. Daniel said a question he often asked himself as a child was, “How do I get into space?” For him, the answer was through the military. He joined the National Guard and worked on computer, telephone, satellite and radio communications.

“I wanted to be an astronaut and communications was one way to get into it,” he said. NASA often recruits new astronauts through the military – that’s how he would “get into space.”

Until Mars One came along.

Both R. Daniel and Yari were immediately interested in the prospect of a permanent, manned mission to Mars. 

According to Yari, applications to join the crew of the first settlement opened in 2013 with the one requirement being the applicant must be 18 or older. At that time, 200,000 applications were completed from candidates on all seven continents. As of today, the candidate pool has been whittled down to 100, including Yari and R. Daniel.

Now married, R. Daniel and Yari met through the Mars One program, and while they’d love to go together, they are not guaranteed to both be selected.

R. Daniel said, “The selection committee is looking for individuals who work well on a team.” And while Yari and R. Daniel are themselves a hardworking team, there could be more well-suited applicants in the pool. 

Through and through, the Golden-Castaños remain confident.

Both Yari and R. Daniel’s expertise in communication will come in handy on the red planet. A technology similar to the laser communication Yari has been working on will be implemented.

Here on Earth, we can send and receive emails practically instantly. However, because of the distance between Earth and Mars, sending a message could take anywhere between 5 and 40 minutes, depending on the orbital positions of the two planets.

In the coming months, the remaining 100 applicants will be grouped into 10 groups of 10 to go through a set of both physical and psychological challenges. From there, Mars One will select the first four-person crew of two men and two women who are projected to land on mars in 2032, followed by another four-person crew in 2034.

R. Daniel said before they land on Mars, unmanned robots and rovers will land and set up the colonies – living quarters, food storage, spare part storage and water purification supplies.

Once there, the Martians will grow radishes, beans, spinach and potatoes. “Just like Mark Watney,” R. Daniel joked.

The Mars One mission will be a one-way trip. Once R. Daniel and Yari land on Mars, it’ll become their permanent home.

Having already served in the U.S. Military, R. Daniel said he’s OK with the idea of not coming back to Earth. “The whole fact that I might die as part of this doesn’t even bother me. I drive in Massachusetts.”

Yari said she’s ready to “donate my life to science. I want to be a Guinea pig.

“By the time we go, we’ll be in our 40s. We’d have already lived our lives here on Earth. We’re ready for the next phase of our life – on Mars.”

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