Paige Hunter, Mars One Candidate

This week’s campus celebrity is first-year Arts student Paige Hunter, who happens to be one of the candidates for the Mars One mission! For those of you who don’t know, Mars One is a project with the objective of establishing a human settlement on the planet of Mars. In other words, the final people chosen for the mission will be receiving a one-way ticket to Mars.

Having signed up immediately after turning eighteen years old, Paige is the youngest candidate for the Mars One mission. When asked why she signed up for the project, her answer is simple: “I’m a strong believer in taking every opportunity possible, and I think people could do a lot better for themselves if they were more open to what was available to them. I asked myself, ‘Can I go the rest of my life knowing that I could have applied for this and didn’t?’ Since the answer to that was ‘No,’ I went ahead and filled out the application.”

There are currently 663 people left in the running. That number will be reduced to just fifty at the end of this year, after each candidate undergoes an online interview. The fifty people chosen will then begin an intensive training program, which will last several years and include a wide range of topics, including everything from medicine to engineering.

“A lot of it is just conquering personal fears,” Paige says, “and psychological training: how do you keep your cool in really dangerous, exposed situations?

In terms of fears regarding the mission, Paige’s biggest fear involves keeping public faith in the project.

“I want people to see this as a legitimate endeavour,” she explains. “I think that’s hard to really convince people of, especially because it’s so dangerous and it’s unprecedented.”

While many people understand Mars One as a mission to populate Mars with human beings, Paige contends that the point of the mission is to start a colony for scientific exploration purposes rather than for reproductive purposes. Those who are ultimately chosen will be seeing the true conditions of Mars’ landscape and atmosphere, and will be judging the feasibility of cultivating earthen plants on Mars. If selected for the mission, Paige hopes to eventually leave behind a legacy that is greater than herself. In her words, her ultimate wish is that “when astronomers and astro-engineers look back, I want them to think that not just me, but the whole team did something meaningful to the scientific community that would benefit humanity as a whole.”

However, if she is not chosen to participate in the mission, Paige aspires to work on an international scale, naming the Red Cross and the UN as possibilities in the case that Mars is not in her future. Her main goal would be to leave Canada, as a way of broadening her horizons. She also hopes to fulfill her desire to be an astronaut.

“If Mars One doesn’t happen, I’ll still pursue being an astronaut in some way,” she affirms.

In the meantime, while she undergoes the selection process, Paige keeps herself busy by pursuing high alpine climbing. She describes her love for the sport with a quote: “You climb mountains not so that the world can see you, but so that you can see the world.”

“I think that really rings true from my personal experience,” she adds.

In addition to high alpine climbing, Paige also spends her time as a motivational speaker, and delivered a speech at We Day in Vancouver earlier this year. We Day is an event organized to promote the idea that everybody has the power to fight social injustices and to contribute to the greater good.

“I think it’s really important that people learn from experience and not just have a finger wagged at them and told that,” she says.

Finally, with the Philae comet lander recently making headlines, Paige expresses her thoughts on the feat in one word: impressed.

Her eyes sparkling with excitement, she tells me, “When you see a mission like this succeed, it just makes you open your eyes a little bit more and see that as much as we face problems, we’re also facing great triumphs.”

For Paige, having the chance to be a part of the Mars One mission would be her hope of accomplishing a great triumph for humanity.

 

Images contributed by the interviewee.