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NC State Student Is A Candidate For A One-Way Trip To Mars

Mars One

A North Carolina State University bioengineering student has made the first cut for a Dutch non-profit's mission to Mars. 

Of the 200,000 applicants for a mission to colonize the red planet, Raleigh's Charles Parrish made it to the recent cut of 1,058 candidates. The 23-year-old  has been passionate about space since childhood and has already done research for NASA and the Mars Society.

Parrish says he was skeptical of Mars One when he began looking into it a couple years ago.  Now, he says he’s impressed by the program, which has assembled a team of credible experts and has contracts in place. He appreicates that Mars One is an independent group not run by an individual government, which takes some of the politics out of the process.

Parrish says the studies conducted on Mars could be invaluable to humanity, especially if researchers find life there.

“It could potentially help form a more unified global culture while still retaining the beautiful parts of everyone's cultures, but having an air of collaboration versus competition, like we have now,” he says.

Parrish has been studying waste processing for years. He is interested in researching sustainability and eliminating waste, and says the Mars One mission could be an invaluable opportunity for that research.

“If we knew how to live on Mars, then we would know how to live with a smaller footprint here on Earth,” Parrish says. “If we could demonstrate that in the public eye, with Mars One being televised, I think that could be a beautiful thing that the Earth could really benefit from.”

The first manned Mars One mission isn’t scheduled until 2024, and the astronauts would be signing up for a one-way journey. If Parrish makes the cut, he knows he’d never return to Earth. His parents aren’t thrilled, but he says he thinks it would be worth it.

“I do think that this mission could be successful. And if it was, then if I lived my life knowing that I didn't apply and had that chance, then, it would be a little unsettling.”

Parrish says if he's chosen, the soonest he would leave would be 10 years, which, he says, gives him a lot of time to experience the things he wants to on Earth.

Mars One is currently crowd-sourcing funding for an unmanned preliminary mission in 2018.

The next steps for astronaut candidates include physical exams, interviews and a series of team evaluations. The final 40 astronauts will then have almost a decade to train before their missions

In the mean time, Parrish says he will also apply for NASA's astronaut program as soon as he's eligible.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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