By Sarah Richards
He is a scout leader, he goes to church, he does yard work and hangs out with a Dungeons & Dragons’ group every week. Soon he will have no scout meetings, no Wednesday night church dinners, no lawn, and no fantasy role-playing groups to hang out with.
Wesley Henderson, a 2012 International Baccalaureate graduate and UWF freshman mathematics major, has applied to go where no man or woman has gone before: Mars.
The Mars One mission, which was established by a nonprofit Dutch foundation in 2011, plans to collect funds to colonize Mars by 2023. The organization will send groups of four people every two years to live on the red planet.
The catch – there are no existing technologies to bring the inhabitants back to Earth. It is a one-way ticket.
“I’ve always felt that I would do something big in my life,” Henderson said. “I am interested in what it means for humanity. It is a big step for mankind to be exploring other planets.”
The Astronaut Selection Program, which required a video, essay and resume submission, launched in April 2013 and is now closed. The videos are currently being rated by the public on a five-point scale, which will help in the final selection process to take place by the end of 2013.
Wayne Wooten, a doctor in astronomy education and UWF modern astronomy adjunct, said, “Sounds like a suicide mission, with many hurdles to be overcome before it will have any chance of success.”
Wooten, however, referenced the journey of the Polynesian voyagers who sailed west across the unmapped Pacific Ocean to colonize the Hawaiian Islands.
“They did not expect to ever return to their home islands either, and all knew well they must succeed or die trying,” Wooten said. “I guess this is exactly the kind of risk-takers we may need to finally conquer space as well.”
Henderson’s mother, Darlene Henderson, said she wants her son to live his dreams and be happy, but she is also aware of the dangers that may lie ahead.
Henderson said his training as a boy scout and now scout leader will help him with leadership skills, adaptability and survival if he is selected.
Joseph Bergstorm, 2009 UWF business graduate and logistician in the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, assisted with the Curiosity rover that landed on Mars in 2012.
“Last I heard over two hundred thousand people worldwide applied to be part of this one-way mission,” Bergstorm said. “I hope that this can help raise public interest in science and technology.”
Selected astronauts will be placed in an eight-year training program that will teach them how to cultivate crops, repair electrical and physical issues, and how to manage medical issues from bone fractures to dental upkeep.
“In one thousand years when people talk about history, they won’t ask who the first president was,” Henderson said. “They will ask who were the first people to live on Mars.”
In a decade from now, colonizing Mars may become a reality, until then, you can rate Henderson at MarsOne.com.