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From Masterton to Mars – Kiwi woman on a quest to red planet

Feb 4th, 2014 | By | Category: Latest News, News

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NO REFUNDS, no returns, no way back – Masterton woman Kristy Flower, 20, has passed a selection round for a one-way trip to Mars planned for the year 2024.

The competition started last year and attracted more than 200,000 applicants worldwide but the latest selection round has cut the list cut to about 1000.

Mars One, a non-profit organisation based in the Netherlands is aiming to send teams of four to the red planet every two years starting in 2024.

With the goal being to start a human colony, Mars One say international space exploration is a way to unite humanity.

The trip will take between seven and eight months and the Mars One team say the trip will not be easy.

“The journey will be arduous, pressing each of them to the very limits of their training and personal capacity,” said the Mars One website.

Ms Flower said she was “shocked” to be selected after initially hearing that she had missed the cut on December 30 last year.

She said she contacted chief medical officer of Norbert Kraft to confirm the selection was real.

Ms Flower, who found out about the competition on Reddit, said people were sceptical about it but she went ahead with the application anyway.

“I was not going to look back later and kick myself because I didn’t apply for it,” she said.

“If there’s any chance that this could happen then I want to be in on it.”

Ms Flower said she’s had mixed responses to her out of this world travel plans.

She said her parents thought it was a joke at first but were quite shocked to hear she had made it through.

After the honeymoon period of the selection had worn off, Ms Flowers wrote a pros and cons list, to pit what she will miss against what she will gain.

She said she would miss her family and friends the most but also little things like walking her dog Rooney or spending time out in the sun.

At present, the best possible video call would have a seven minute delay each way.

“But I also think of what I’ll gain,” she said. “Knowledge about our universe which others and myself would not have without this opportunity.”

Ms Flower, who was born in Harare and grew up in Zimbabwe, said she has been interested in space and exploration since she was young.

“In Zim[babwe] we had the most amazing night skies and when we flew back in 2000 to New Zealand I remember looking down at Earth from my plane window,” she said.

Last year, Ms Flower went to an observatory and planetarium in Auckland where she visited and paid for the same exhibition several times in a row.

“Eventually the receptionist said I could have the last ticket for free because I stayed for ages,” she said.

After making it through this latest selection round, Ms Flower needs to pass a medical test.

“I suppose when you send people to Mars you want to make sure they’re at the top of their game,” Ms Flower said.

To get to that level, Ms Flower has been studying the effects of space on the human body, continuing with her nursing studies and getting fit.

Ms Flower said she always wanted to help people and that was the reason behind her decision to study nursing.

“I started out doing radiography because I knew I wanted to do medicine. I like the technical side of things and the idea of working in a hospital,” she said.

“But I changed to nursing because it would be more frontline and contribute directly to people’s well-being.”

After the Times-Age spoke with Ms Flower, she was off on a tramp to Powell Hut from Mount Holdsworth.

Mars One intends to fund the project through television rights and sponsorship deals.

Touted as the “interplanetary Big Brother”, Mars One said it has investigated past summer and winter Olympic Games competitions and hopes to follow their business models.

“When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon, the whole world was watching.

In the next decade, about four billion people will have access to video images. Mars One expects that virtually every one of them will watch when the first humans land on Mars.”

Ms Flower said she was excited for the adventure but apprehensive about the media coverage she would be getting.

She hopes to get used to the media and sharing her thoughts through a blog.

“It’s getting more and more followers but I am really just posting on developments for the competition,” she said.

“I’m 100% committed,” she said. “I’m willing to give up my comfortable life.”

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is a Whitireia journalism student covering the Mount Cook area in Wellington. He has a BA in Political Science and Media Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.
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