By Megan Locke Simpson, Courier staffJanuary 13, 2014
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- For two Soldiers at Fort Campbell, childhood dreams are one step closer to reality after the Mars One announcement, Dec. 30.
Mars One is a privatized foundation with the goal of establishing a permanent settlement on Mars by 2025. As a preliminary step in this process, the foundation is assembling a pool of cadets who will help colonize the Red Planet.
1st Lt. Heidi Beemer and Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Woodward heard about this mission several months ago and they were two of about 200,000 to start the application process for the outerspace opportunity. Both Soldiers are celebrating making it past the first cut.
A more intensive second-round elimination process, including medical screenings and one-on-one interviews, will trim the remaining 1,058. The applicants come from across the globe with the eventual goal of creating four-person teams for the one-way trip to Mars.
Beemer, a 63rd Chemical Company platoon leader, remembers the newspaper clippings that adorned her walls as a child. Her father was in the Navy and fostered in her a great love for science.
"He tried to push as much science on me as he could, as far as like astronomy and geology and all that stuff," she said. "… One of the articles was about the Sojourner rover, which had just landed on Mars, and it had this big panoramic of the image that they were getting. And this little rover roved around for a few hours and then died, and it was a huge deal back then."
Woodward, a 159th Combat Aviation Brigade UH-60 Black Hawk Maintenance Test Pilot, recalls watching space programs on his local public television station as a child -- one of few stations his small town received.
"Most recently my interest was sparked for Mars by Robert Zubrin's book 'The Case for Mars,'" said Woodward, in an email. The Soldier recently deployed to Afghanistan with Task Force Lift.
"I was later intrigued by the Science magazine poll on who would volunteer for a one-way trip to Mars, not thinking that any organization would seriously consider this revolutionary avenue which places us back to our pioneering and colonial spirit. After discovering Mars One, it was only logical that I would attempt to go as far as possible in the applicant process as well as try to promote the program."
Before accepting an Army commission, Beemer attended a math and science-centered high school and the Virginia Military Institute. She also got the opportunity to work at the NASA Langley Research Center and the Mars Desert Research Station. These experiences spurred her to pursue life as a Soldier, after she learned that 86 percent of NASA astronauts have prior military service. Beemer's interest lies in discovering the geological features of Mars.
While survival will be at the top of the list should Woodward make it to Mars, he also anticipates time to conduct experiments and other duties.
"The key areas of development that the colony will need to focus on will be increasing the agricultural, mining, manufacturing and medical capabilities in order to grow sufficient food; provide habitat space and medical care for the colonists to include the capacity for human reproduction," he said.
In recent years, NASA has transitioned increasingly away from manned space flight after retiring the U.S. space shuttle fleet in 2011.
This move leaves the door open for more privatized options to take hold, including Mars One. This concept is an exciting one for both Soldiers, and one they are willing to back with vigor.
"What interests me the most about the program is the fact that it is designed to create a permanent settlement in much the same way as ships sailing to the New World and wagon trains traveling out West did, thus truly entering humanity into the Space Age," Woodward said.
In this vein, part of the cadets' mission is to raise interest and funding for the project. No governments are currently involved in this endeavor. For an overall view of the Mars One plan, visit www.mars-one.com.
Both Soldiers feel as though their military experiences give them a heads-up on many other hopefuls. Desirable traits that Mars One is seeking include leadership and resiliency, which receive heavy emphasis in the Army.
Currently part of a homeland security mission with her unit, Beemer is trained in mass casualty decontamination.
"In order for this to work, where you have a limited amount of people in a small group, you have to have order," Beemer said. "You have to have a rigorous schedule where you wake up at the same time everyday and you go to bed at the same time and you have your days planned out."
"Just like the reason NASA accepts so many people in the military, I think the traits that we gain and the training that we get sets us above. I'm only 24 years old and I'm in charge of 20 people. I'm in charge of their lives. I'm in charge of their well-being."
For Woodward, it is about the specialized skills and technical knowledge he brings to the table.
"I have a variety of technical skills to include having been a diesel and gasoline powered electrical generation equipment repairer and a psychological operations specialist," he said.
"… The Army has provided me with leadership training and experience to include leading a crew of four during stressful and dangerous situations. "The Army has also supplied me with resiliency training and the opportunity to demonstrate my resilience during 54 months of combat operations in austere conditions in a desert environment."
As the process unfolds, those interested can follow Beemer's journey on Twitter @beemer2mars.
"I'm just excited," she said. "I love talking about this. I love being a part of this. I'm just really excited for it to continue forward in the next round."