News: US Army officer competes for one-way ticket to Mars
Story by Walter Ham
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- A U.S. Army officer from the 20th CBRNE Command (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives) is in the running for a one-way ticket to Mars.
The potential Martian colonist is 1st Lt. Heidi Beemer, the decontamination platoon leader for the 63rd Chemical Company, 83rd Chemical Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade.
The unit is part of the 20th CBRNE Command, the U.S. Army's only formation that combats chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats around the globe.
Beemer has been accepted into the selection process for Mars One, a Netherlands-based non-profit-sponsored mission to the Red Planet in 2025.
"This will be the most important feat man will ever partake in and as a representative I will have the opportunity to start the first global civilization in which people from all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds come together with the common goal of representing Earth," said Beemer.
"Other benefits of this mission will affect life on Earth," said Beemer. "Improvements will be seen in the field of medicine, water conservation, food production, communication and the list goes on and on. This mission will not just touch the lives of those living on Mars, but it will also be felt by all citizens of Earth for years to come."
Beemer is competing with more than 705 applicants from 99 different countries for the Mars mission. Beemer said the next round of the selection process will include interviews later this year.
Other American military personnel have applied for the program, including a U.S. Navy SEAL, a U.S. Navy journalist, a U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey pilot, a U.S. Army combat engineer and numerous pilots and flight surgeons.
Beemer said the competition will narrow the field of applicants down to the final 24 Martian colonists.
The journey to Mars will take approximately seven months and the colonists will travel in groups of four, with new groups arriving every two years. Once on Mars, they will occupy living pods. Robots will build the living quarters and produce the oxygen and water necessary for the first colonists.
Each additional group will bring more supplies with them.
To prepare for the mission to Mars where the weather can range from 95 degrees in the equatorial summer to -289 degrees at the winter polar caps, Beemer trained as the executive commander and crew geologist at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.
The Virginia Military Institute graduate also recently participated in the 17th Annual International Mars Society Convention in Houston, Texas, where she and other applicants discussed why they want to participate in the mission to Mars.
Beemer said her background as a Chemical Corps officer makes her ideally suited for the Mars mission.
"Being in the Chemical Corps has taught me how I react during adverse situations," said Beemer. "Doing training like the toxic agent training facility has given me confidence in my ability to react when the environment outside of my suit and mask have the capability to kill me. Knowing that I can calmly handle this pressure will be a distinct advantage living and working on Mars."
Beemer said she has been interested in Mars since the Sojourner rover landed there more than 17 years ago.
"My passion for Mars and space exploration began in 1997, when I was eight years old," said Beemer, a Virginia Beach, Virginia native. "The Sojourner rover landed on the Red Planet on July 4, 1997, and gave humans a glimpse of the rust-colored Martian surface.
"I knew that Mars was going to be the future, and I felt called to be a part of this important step for humanity. To most, the desolate landscape of Mars is uninviting; to me it was the next frontier," said Beemer. "I remember telling my eight-year-old self that the only way we will find the answers locked inside of our solar system would be to send humans -- to send me."