The first rocket ship carrying earthlings to Mars is tentatively scheduled to depart in 2024.
And Manitoban Julie Perreault is one of the few humans who could be on board.
Perreault, 31, is one of the 1,058 applicants – including 75 Canadians - to be selected by the Mars One project committee, which has the audacious goal of establishing a colony on the red planet by 2025.
Perreault, a self-confessed "life-long" science fiction fan, submitted her online application to the committee last year. She received confirmation that she was one of the chosen few on Dec. 30th.
"I had to re-read it (the confirmation) at first and make sure," she said. "For 20 minutes I was feeling pretty good about myself. Like, ‘Right on’. And then I started realizing what that meant. So all the questions I asked myself when I first applied I started asking myself again. Reaffirming that, ‘yes’, I want to do that... make the sacrifices and risks."
The sacrifices are obvious. Mars One is being described as a "one-way mission", although it will include an infrastructure which includes living quarters, communications systems to Earth and a water supply which according to the plan will be set up prior to the humans arrival.
Mars One is a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands which received over 200,000 applications for the journey, including 8,243 from Canada. The Canadian applicants accepted include 43 women and 32 men.
In all, 297 applicants were chosen from the U.S., while India was third with 62 candidates.
Perreault, who works as a medical transcriptionist at Concordia Hospital, has come to grips with the possibility of leaving her family - including parents, two sisters and an older brother - behind. The apprehension, she said, will be the possibility, if ultimately selected, of the public scrutiny that will await the final selections. After all, part of the funding for the ambitious endeavour is expected to come from reality-based broadcasts.
"The biggest thing for me is the public," she said. "There will be parts of this that will be televised. As you might expect from a sci-fi geek I’m more of an introvert. So for me that’s the biggest challenge. That might sound heartless because I’m leaving everyone and everything I know but that’s the biggest thing.
"This whole experience is pushing myself probably harder than I ever will and to know that not only am I doing that but everybody gets to see what comes of it. That’s kind of a daunting thing."
The plan is for a crew of four to depart every two years starting in 2024, with the first group arriving in 2025.
The next step for applicants is to acquire medical, physical and mental clearances. Those selected to the next phase will take part in a simulated Mars environment, spending three months in an isolated habitat in the U.S.