Edmonton woman one step closer to mission to Mars

An Edmonton woman is one of 1,028 people chosen worldwide to advance to the next round of an out-of-this-world competition.

The prize? A one way trip to Mars.

Christy Foley, 32, was one of more than 200,000 applicants to the Mars One project, a not-for-profit foundation that seeks to establish a permanent human settlement on the red planet by 2024.

An early meeting with Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar helped solidify Foley’s interest in space life.

In an elementary school yearbook, Foley wrote that she wanted to colonize the moon – an ambition she’s now happy to put aside in favour of a much bigger trip.

“I don’t mind missing the moon – I get to go to Mars”

Foley, a strategic planner with Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, has a background in philosophy, ethics and business administration.

On a self-described “mission to save humanity,” she hopes that learning how to lived in a more-or-less closed ecosystem with limited means could eventually benefit earth as a whole.

As for the one-way nature of the trip – Foley admits the thought is terrifying, but says its worth the risk.

“It would be a really cool way to die,” she said, “but it’s a better way to live.”

Foley’s husband, Ian Runkle, also applied to the program, but did not make it through the first cut. He plans to reapply, but for the meantime, is content supporting his wife’s astronomical ambitions.

"Ultimately if she goes I'm gonna miss her – there's no way around that,” he said. “But I'm going to be tremendously proud and already am proud – I don't see how anybody could stand in the way of a dream like this."

To apply to the program, hopeful pioneers had to assemble a substantial application package, including multiple essays and a video submission.

Foley is one of 75 Canadians to make it past the first round of cuts.

Next comes a medical exam for those candidates that have made it through to round two. Foley is anticipating hearing from the mission’s medical officer this coming week.

What follows the medical is essentially a regional ability and popularity competition between applicants,with the pool eventually being whittled down to 40 finalists who will then train for about seven years before the first group is shipped out.

The price tag for the first mission is hovering around $6 billion US.

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