FARMINGTON - Some dreams don’t die.
Farmington resident Ken Sullivan is one of the 1058 international applicants to make it past the first round in a process that may eventually send him on a one-way mission to Mars. Though he works as a medical helicopter pilot, Sullivan said that he’s had a yen for space ever since he was a child.
“I wanted to become an astronaut,” he said. “I think a lot of kids dream about going into space.”
Sullivan, who is married and has children ranging in age from six months to 13 years old, is fully aware of the perils space travel can bring. He recalled watching launch of the space shuttle Challenger live on TV one day in elementary school. Though the explosion shook him, it didn’t lessen his desire to see the stars.
“Afterward, I thought ‘Do I still want to be an astronaut?’” Sullivan said. “But then I thought ‘Well, that’s just one of the risks.’ Even watching that unfold didn’t stop the dream.”
Through Mars One, a private, non-profit organization hoping to send a team of four astronauts to Mars, he may get his chance to make that dream come true. The group recently partnered with Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. in preparation for an unmanned trip to Mars in 2018. If all goes well, Mars One plans to send four astronauts up by 2025.
“What really appeals to me is the amount of challenges that will have to be overcome,” he said. “I love a good challenge.”
Before that can happen, Mars One will also have to raise the $6 billion needed to complete the project. Organizers have made deals for a book, and are in the process of making deals with other media organizations to help raise the funds. Individual people can also get in on the project through the Mars One Indigogo page, http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mars-one-first-private-mars-mission-in-2018.
“So many things have to happen for it to line up just right,” said Sullivan. “My wife and kids take comfort in the fact that the odds of me being able to go are pretty slim."
Still, he's not about to give up the quest. He said that the Mars One officials will winnow the pool of applicants down to somewhere between 24-48 people over the course of this year. Starting in 2015, the tests and simulations will begin that will winnow the group down to the final four.
"My job definitely shows I can handle a little bit of stress and adventure, but to (the Mars One team) our jobs didn't really matter," he said. "They said they can teach us everything we need to know about medicine or geology in 8-10 years, but it's far more difficult to teach someone to have a really good attitude."
Even if he never makes it to those 8-10 years of lessons, the experience has taught him something about his life on earth.
"It's opened my eyes to a number of things, like wanting to go back to school for an engineering degree and wanting to spend more time with my family," he said. "I need to make the most of the here and now."