It’s the first question everyone asks me. It’s hard to comprehend just how much I would be leaving behind if I were selected to go to Mars. Of course, the easy answer is everything. But how do I wrap my head around what that really includes? For starters:

  • My family, my dearest friends, everyone I’ve ever known, and a planet full of those I haven’t met yet,
  • All the places I’ve ever felt safe at home, or anywhere remotely near that concept,
  • All experiences of outdoors: hiking trails, swimming in the ocean, riding a bike, breathing fresh air,
  • All the cultural contexts that have surrounded me my whole life: shopping, going to festivals, gigs, restaurants, etc,
  • A world full of delicious food,
  • A normal, easy future.

Yep, that’s a lot of really wonderful things. So the question is really, how can I consider leaving them all behind?

The first thing I want to say is that leaving Earth doesn’t actually give all of those things up. Loved ones, for example: when I go to Halifax, I feel the love of my friends in Vancouver. They’re a part of me; they’re with me always. On Mars, I won’t be able to hug them or drink wine with them or talk in real time, but I will feel their bond and their support, and they will feel mine. Experiences of nature, for another. I know the feeling of the wind on my face and my hands on the drop bars, breathing fresh salty air as I ride my bike along the seawall. It’s a glorious feeling of joy that I’ve had countless times, and I can call it to mind clearly right now, as I write this in a friend’s living room with the shades drawn. All the experiences that I’ve enjoyed in my life, they’re a part of me; they’ll still be with me on Mars.

The second thing I want to say is that people get stuck focussing on this idea of ‘giving things up,’ and it prevents them from seeing the incalculable value of what I would be gaining. Playing a part in the most profound act of exploration in the history of our species, and potentially the birth of an entirely new society. It takes my breath away. It’s an opportunity that vastly, vastly outweighs the ‘everything’ list I started this post with. All of us want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves; I’ve spent several years now really questioning what my role is and how I contribute to the world around me. Well, if this were my role? Hell yeah, it just doesn’t get any bigger than that!