Austin woman a third-round finalist to live on Mars

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin woman is officially one step closer to spending the rest of her life on Mars. KXAN introduced you to Sonia Van Meter, 36, last February when she made the second round of finalists for the first manned missions to Mars in 2024. Mars One announced the third round finalists Monday morning, and Van Meter is now in the top 100.

The competition started with more than 202,000 applicants. At the LBJ Library Space Exhibit last February, Van Meter told KXAN she is determined to make the final four chosen for the one-way Mars One mission — a privately funded journey to colonize the Red Planet. Van Meter has no traditional space or science background, she says she’s just a space junkie. She studied sociology and works at a political consulting firm, but she says this is her life’s ambition — even if she has to leave everyone she loves behind.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to become part of a legacy stretching from Magellan and Christopher Columbus all the way to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldron, who wouldn’t want to be a part of that,” said Van Meter.

The Mars 100 round-three candidates were selected from a pool of 660 candidates after participating in personal online interviews with Norbert Kraft, M.D., chief medical officer. During the interviews, the candidates had a chance to show their understandings of the risks involved, team spirit and their motivation to be a part of this expedition.

Van Meter now joins 50 men and 50 women who successfully passed the second round. The candidates come from all around the world: 39 from the Americas, 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, seven from Africa and seven from Oceania. Once the final group is picked and the training is over, it will be up to you and the rest of the world to vote on who will be the first groups sent to Mars, according to the Mars One website.

Here’s a timeline of the mission:

  • 2015: Final crew starts training — The group’s ability to deal with prolonged periods of time in a remote location is the most important part of the training. They learn to repair components of their habitat and rover, train in medical procedures and learn to grow their own food.
  • 2020: An intelligent rover and communication satellite will launch — The rover will drive around the chosen region to find the best location for the settlement. An ideal location is far enough North for the soil to contain enough water, equatorial enough for maximum solar power and flat enough to facilitate construction settlement. When the location is picked, the rover prepares the surface for arrival of the Cargo missions.
  • 2022: Second rover, two living units and a supply unit launch
  • 2023: Rover sets up outpost before arrival of humans — Six cargo units land on Mars, up to 10 km away from the outpost. The rover picks up the first Life Support unit and sets it in place. The rover can now connect to the Life Support unit to recharge its batteries. The Life Support unit is connected to the Living Units by a hose that can transport water , air and electricity.
  • 2024: First crew launches, starts journey to Mars.
  • 2025: First humans land on Mars — upon landing, the crew takes up to 48 hours to recover from experiencing gravity again after spending a long time in space.
  • 2026: Settlement expands with launch of second crew — The second crew departs from Earth in 2026. This crew will land on Mars in 2027. They are welcomed by the first crew, who has already prepared their living quarters. The process continues as additional crews land every two years.

For more information visit the Mars One website.

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