In April 2013, Dutch nonprofit Mars One began its search for the first human settlers on Mars. More than 200,000 people from all over the world applied to take a one-way journey, the first of which is scheduled to launch in 2024. Those 200,000 have been evaluated, interviewed, and narrowed down to 100, one of which is a senior from Duke University.
Laurel Kaye is currently studying physics and says she intends to earn a doctorate in medicine and philosophy. “This is something I love, something I’ve spent years studying. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” says Kaye. “I understand there are risks, and I’ve given them a lot of thought. But as long as the right precautions are taken, I’m willing to accept them,” reports USA Today College.
Kaye’s cohort of 100 will undergo rigorous physical, mental, and technical training to prepare for the possible journey. However, they will eventually be winnowed down to just 24 astronauts before being grouped into six crews of four. The crews will embark upon the seven-month journey to the Red Planet in two-year intervals starting in 2024, leaving the lives they know on Earth, quite possibly forever. Kaye says she has come to accept this possible reality, though she would like the ability to come back to Earth to see her family some day, if that ever becomes an option.
According to the Mars One website, the crews will settle on Mars, living and studying there for the rest of their lives. They say the technology needed to support a permanent settlement already exists, including living pods and life-support units that can extract breathable air and potable water from Mars’ “natural resources.” Mars One conducted a feasibility study in 2012, and they plan to produce a reality TV show surrounding their search for the final 24 as a way to fund the mission. Multiple unmanned missions will precede the arrival of the astronauts, bringing supplies, rovers, and communication satellites.
Kaye says she has always been enamored with space—her first word was “moon.” But she will continue to live normally, completing her studies at Duke and applying to graduate programs, while the Mars mission selection process continues. “I’ve always been very into the sciences, but there’s something about space . . . it gives me shivers,” Kaye says in an interview.
You can learn more about Kaye and the incredible journey she hopes to take in this video from Duke University.