East Sooke woman on short list for one-way Mars mission

An East Sooke woman took one small step Monday toward fulfilling her lifelong dream of exploring outer space.

Marina Miral learned by email that she was one of 1,058 candidates short-listed for a one-way mission to Mars that aims to establish a human settlement on the red planet by 2025.

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The Mars One project selected the 30-year-old author from more than 200,000 applicants around the world.

“I was shocked, for one, because I’d kind of given up; I sort of thought I would have heard sooner,” Miral said. “I just haven’t been able to stop smiling.

“I’m so excited. I’ve never been so excited.”

Miral first heard about the project last May, but delayed applying until just before the Aug. 31 deadline so that she could have more time to consider what she wanted to say.

There was never any doubt about putting her name forward. Miral said she has wanted to become an astronaut ever since she began watching Star Trek at age 10.

“This might sound a little bit silly, but my dream for my entire life was to go to Starfleet Academy,” she said. “But that is fictional, so it’s been pretty hard trying to find something that will substitute for that dream.”

She found her answer when Mars One, a Dutch non-profit foundation, began searching for astronauts in April.

The foundation expects to send its first four colonists to Mars at a cost of $6 billion. Officials plan to raise the money through sponsorships, donations, crowdfunding and the sale of broadcasting rights to every aspect of the mission from astronaut selection to landing.

Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp said in a statement Monday that the short list of potential astronauts offers the first “tangible glimpse” of what the Mars settlement will look like.

“The challenge with 200,000 applicants is separating those who we feel are physically and mentally adept to become human ambassadors on Mars from those who are obviously taking the mission much less seriously,” he said. “We even had a couple of applicants submit their videos in the nude!”

Miral said she’s unsure why she was selected.

“I tried to get across in my application just how important it was to me and that I was taking it seriously. So I think that was a big thing.

“I just love the idea of exploring, going somewhere completely new. Going to space — I can’t even describe how wonderful the thought is for me.”

Miral, who recently changed her last name from Miller, earns a living by writing juvenile fiction novels with her mother, Angela Dorsey. The pair co-author the Sun Catcher series of books.

Though torn by the one-way nature of the mission, Dorsey said her daughter is a perfect choice.

“She’s always dreamed of doing something like this, but she just never thought it was possible until this Mars One thing came along, right? It’s sort of an unusual life dream.”

Miral still has to make it through three more rounds in the selection process.

Mars One expects to pick its final candidates by the end of 2015. Up to 40 people will then spend the next seven years training to survive on Mars for the rest of their lives.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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