ARUN RATH, HOST:
Back in January, we told you about various ongoing projects, all aiming to put humans on Mars, and we introduced you to one aspiring Martian, Heidi Beemer.
(SOUNDBITE OF MARS ONE APPLICATION VIDEO)
HEIDI BEEMER: Everything I've done academically and professionally has been for one reason - to leave this Earth and represent humanity on Mars.
RATH: That's a clip from Heidi Beemer's application video for Mars One, a nonprofit that's aiming to get people settled on Mars by 2025. She made the first round of cuts to be Mars One astronaut, and she's now about to interview for the next round. But Beemer is so determined to get to Mars, she has a plan B. She's also a finalist for a year-long Mars simulation planned for next year in the High Arctic. I spoke with her just after she'd finished a two-week test for that mission in the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.
BEEMER: My crew and I acted as if we were astronauts. We got to do full Martian simulation inside of a building called a hab, or the habitat. And every time you went outside, you had to wear a spacesuit. And you really got that feel every time you looked out the window - like, I feel like I'm on Mars.
RATH: And having gone through that stimulation - has that affected your enthusiasm for Mars?
BEEMER: Not at all. If anything, it's kind of reaffirmed it. I really learned a lot about myself while I was there. The group I was with - I was with six other people from around the world. And with different cultures and different backgrounds, it really forced us to work together in ways I never really thought would happen.
And I kind of found myself taking steps back. Like, I tend to be the kind of person that is gung ho and gets involved as much as I can, but I felt more of a team player, which was a really cool opportunity for me - just learning about how I interact with other people and learning how to get along in such an isolated environment. So it was really cool not only doing scientific research, but also learning so much about myself. And it really made me more excited about just knowing that I could feel comfortable in those scenarios and one day, using those skills that I learned while living on Mars, again in isolation and close quarters.
RATH: You told us the last time we spoke that even if you don't get the chance to go to Mars, you want to educate people about the red planet. Have you got a chance to do that this past year?
BEEMER: I definitely have. That's one of the most exciting things, I think, about being a Mars One candidate - is the fact that I've kind of gained a little bit of micro-fame within my community. I've had the opportunity to travel to a couple different schools - elementary, middle, high schools. I've Skyped classes all across the country and, to this point, all across the world. Giving kids the opportunity to have aspirations just like I did when I was so young has been so rewarding for me.
RATH: And you've been dreaming about this - about the possibility of going to Mars - since you were a little girl. Since the last time we spoke - just under a year - has it gotten a little bit more real - that dream?
BEEMER: Oh, yeah, it really has. It's crazy that I'm really - I feel part of this. And I feel like as the project moves on and it gets closer to selecting its astronaut candidates, I just - I feel just so honored and accomplished. It's so crazy that I'm only 25-years-old, and I'm already part of such a big mission.
RATH: Lieutenant Heidi Beemer is a Mars enthusiast, and she's also in the Army. She's a chemical defense officer with Fort Campbell's 63rd Chemical Company in Kentucky. Heidi, pleasure speaking with you again, and good luck.
BEEMER: Oh, thank you so much. I really appreciate the time.
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