By Garrett Estrada
Ely Times Staff Writer
Frank Daniels has a map of the planet Mars hanging behind his desk in his office at Great Basin College. He got the poster from a National Geographic Magazine over 30 years ago and has been fascinated by the red planet ever since.
When a multinational non-profit organization called Mars One announced they planned on raising an estimated $6 billion to send the first humans to Mars, Daniels caught notice. But it wasn’t until last year that he realized that he could potentially be one of those first people to step foot onto the planet’s surface. In 2013, Mars One announced that they would hold open recruiting for the mission.
Mars One received over 200,000 applications from around the world. Daniels was one of them.
“They took in applications for a while. They had to sort through them all to find out who were serious applicants that had the skills necessary for such a mission,” Daniels said. “After doing so, they eventually narrowed that list all the way down to 1,058 and I’m still in.”
Daniels made a video explaining his interest in space exploration as part of the application. When combined with his knowledge of mathematics and his abilities to communicate clearly as part of being a college professor, Daniels made it through the first round of cuts. He passed a rigorous physical in January and sometime later in the year will move onto an interview phase that is expected to narrow the field down to 200.
But to Daniels, the cuts are the least interesting part of the whole process. His passion and interest lie in a thirst for knowledge and a hope that the mission could in turn help those back on Earth.
“I love to explore,” Daniels said. “I also see myself in a position to help people with something like this. We could discover things about the human experience that could change the way we live.”
The mission would launch sometime in 2024 and arrive at Mars approximately nine months later. Once the astronauts arrive, they would live in an underground habitat constructed in advance by remotely-controlled robots, not dissimilar to the rover sent to Mars by NASA. Inside the habitat, Daniels said the main focus would be survival, since natural resources Earthlings commonly take for granted, such as breathable oxygen and drinkable water would have to be recycled.
“The science behind it all is fascinating,” Daniels said.
In terms of what could be gained, Daniels described Mars as a much simpler version of Earth. As a planet, Mars still has forces similar to Earth’s. such as gravity, but without all the multitude of variables involved that can make it difficult to scientifically study.
If it all sounds like science fiction, Daniels says the mission is anything but.
“NASA had the technology to send someone to Mars by the ’70’s but the funding was never there. With an organization like this, there is no government involvement, instead it is a cooperation of over 100 countries. It truly is a multinational effort.”
When Daniels found out that he had moved onto the second round, he admitted to calling everyone he knew to break the news. However, if he is selected, he realizes that he would probably never see his friends or family again.
“For all intents and purposes it is a one-way trip,” Daniels said. “It’s a very difficult and even dangerous decision.”
Daniels often chats with other remaining applicants on a private Facebook group specifically for those involved in the Mars One project. Former NASA astronauts and engineers are just some of the people he said he has received advice from through the group. He isn’t even the only remaining Nevadan left in the hunt, with a woman from Reno still shooting for a spot.
Even still, Daniels pointed to the fact that there have been very few space related deaths when compared to the number of astronauts that have travelled safely off-planet. He even has plans to continue his teaching through online courses he could offer literally from space.
“Students could submit questions to me and I could reply. It would take approximately 20 minutes for me to receive them and another 20 minutes for them to receive my answers, but technically it could work,” Daniels said, though he admitted that teaching from Mars would pose unique problems. “I might not be able to offer classes one semester because I might be on the other side of the sun.”
For more information about the Mars One mission, visit their website at www.mars-one.com