the couple in a bar
Could you leave everyone you love for the chance to settle on Mars? Sonia Van Meter describes herself as an “aspiring Martian” – she hopes to be one of the first humans on the planet in 10 years’ time. But it would mean never seeing her husband again.
Sonia’s audition video: “My purpose on this mission is to help people back on Earth to look up”
Construction phases of the planned Mars One settlement
Her stepchildren, Henry, 13, and Hatcher, 11, think it’s “cool that their stepmum has decided to be this hero,” Stanford says.
There is one thing about their life post-separation – if Van Meter is selected for Mars – that the couple prefer not to talk about publicly.
“There are many aspects to discuss,” says Stanford. “My sex life isn’t one of them.”
Stanford compares the magnitude of the Mars mission to those of Columbus or Magellan (the first to circumnavigate the earth).
“They didn’t stay home because they were married,” he says. “They explored, and they were assumed probably to be facing great peril. The peril here is guaranteed, and the fact she’s willing to take this on for noble reasons is something I can get behind.”
The mission, if it goes ahead, will be dangerous, some say suicidal.
“This is the biggest risk I’ll ever take, but some things are worth that risk,” says Van Meter. “If there isn’t something out there you’re willing to put down your life for, you haven’t really found what you want in life. I feel quite lucky.”
Before the rocket takes off, candidates face nine or 10 years of preparation on Earth – a full-time job, according to Mars One, which will be chronicled as a reality TV show. Whatever form the programme takes, it won’t be Star Trek. There are plans to select the first “human ambassadors” to Mars by public vote.
What will life be like in that small group of pioneers far out in space? Boring, thinks Stanford. Claustrophobic and uncomfortable, guesses Van Meter, but with plenty to do. “There will be so much activity required of us just to keep us alive that I don’t know there will be a lot of time to focus on the lack of fresh air and sunshine,” she says. Among other things, they will have to grow their own food.
Will it ever actually happen? Van Meter is optimistic. “Before magnificent and tremendous things can happen, somebody first has to say, in the face of outrageous odds, in the face of all of the naysayers, that we are going to do this,” she says. “Mars One has thrown down their gauntlet and now it is up to them to meet the challenge.”
When Van Meter’s father, Ike, heard that she was one of those selected from the 200,000, he asked her how she could choose to do such a thing.
“Imagine the grave site of the first person to die on another planet,” she replied. There was a pause. Ike said: “Gosh, I see your point.”
Sonia and Jason spoke to Outlook on the BBC World Service. Listen again on iPlayer or get the Outlook podcast.
Follow @BBCNewsMagazine on Twitter and on Facebook
How would you respond if your spouse signed up for a one-way trip to Mars? A selection of your comments will be published.
Perhaps it is fractionally better than them signing me up for it?
Judith Davies, Deal, Kent
This is something we would do together. It’s either both of us or none of us. As a team we would bring so much more to this than just one of us.
I would be devastated if my wife had chosen to go to Mars forever. You can not argue against it being one of the greatest achievements to populate another planet, but the thought of never being with the person you love again, and knowing the risk that they might not get there safely anyway is too much for me personally.
Mike Lewing, East Grinstead
I would wish her the best of journey .But remind her to look down or up, whichever way the earth is tilting ,at me and family and know that we are looking up to mars and imagine her being there.
Gurpal Singh Kingra, Westfield, MA, USA
I think this couple are incredible – this really is what making a commitment to another person is all about and they should be applauded.
Tim McIntyre, Dingwall, Scotland
When we made our wedding vows – which were those found in the standard Reform Jewish service – nothing said we promised these things only in immediate proximity to one another. We would be just as married if one of us were on a different planet as we are when one of us is out of sight of the other. Still, I would hope that we would talk any such decision through before either of us decided to apply for a mission!
Elizabeth Guss, Santa Fe, NM, USA
My opinion is that this is similar to a friendly divorce settlement, brought on by one party deciding to go her own way.
Pierre, Hermanus, South Africa
I would be happy if my wife decided to leave for Mars and would support her. I would support her every step of the way and give her the support she needs as it would be her decision and I respect that.
Henry Montgomery, Cambridgeshire
“Can you take my mother-in-law with you?” I would say.
Ian M, London
Space exploration is great, but you’re pretty much choosing to end your marriage which you publicly vowed to not do when you were married.
Valerie S, Zory, Poland
If she was happy to make the decision to potentially never see me again then she clearly doesn’t view me as her life partner. I’d end it now rather than live in uncertainty.
Alan Hobson, Nuneaton, UK
It seems there are now fifty-ONE ways to leave your lover…
Andrew Nicholson, Milton Keynes
I would be devastated. I’m absolutely sure beyond all doubt that neither my wife nor I would embark on a one way trip, sacrificing our future together, and willingly inflicting the heartache that would undoubtedly ensue.
If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.
Terms and conditions