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Mission to Mars

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Tyler Reyno

Tyler Reyno

Jordan Reyno doesn’t want his older brother to leave, but it would be selfish to ask him to stay. When the two brothers, a year apart, were small, Tyler Reyno built spaceships out of Lego. Tyler first dreamed of leaving earth at age eight. Now 21, he is willing to leave his parents, his close friends and his brother to walk on the surface of Mars.

The Sackville native is one of 1,058 people selected from 200,000 applicants for the Mars One mission—a project that aims to send four individuals to the rusty planet on a one-way trip. If they make it—and given the wobbly nature of Mars One’s funding model, that’s a big if—the goal is to establish a colony on the solar system’s second smallest planet. Their lives would end there.

The applicants are well aware of this—some even embrace it. In a depressing mini-doc that surfaced after the first selection process, five Mars One hopefuls, including a hair stylist, said they had no future prospects on earth. According to the doc, it wasn’t an instinct for adventure that propelled them so much as a desire to change their lives.

That’s one difference between Tyler and his competitors. Between sips of a chocolate iced latté at a cafe near Dalhousie, he describes the duty he feels to humanity. “Well, I understand someone’s got to do it, right?” he says. “There always has to be a first person to do something, and I really feel that there’s no better contribution I could give to the world…It’s less of a personal thing and more of an accomplishment for man as a whole, for mankind really.”

To him, Mars is the obvious next frontier. Tyler likens it to the first Europeans visiting what we now call North America. He is willing to train tirelessly for as much as a decade to get there. “I feel it’s my duty to push us in the right direction, and I feel I have to do it.”

If Jordan knows his brother, when Tyler sets his mind to a goal, he will most likely achieve it. When the older sibling decided he wanted to be an engineer, for instance, he worked hard in school and earned a spot in Dalhousie’s engineering program. It doesn’t escape Tyler for a moment that Canadian Chris Hadfield and other successful astronauts have engineering backgrounds.

Unlike his competitors, the mechanical engineering student is working on three separate trajectories. If Mars One fails, he has started his own company, Open Space, while also cozying up with prominent private company SpaceX. The idea is to create more chances to make it to space, and eventually Mars.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wants to build a colony of up to 80,000 people on the red planet, charging space tourists $500,000 for a one-way trip. Earlier this year Musk proclaimed that a launch system to inhabit Mars could be ready in 10 to 12 years. The project would start with a group of fewer than 10 people. The CEO has projected its cost at $36 billion. In 2012, the private company became the first to deliver supplies to the International Space Station and return the rocket safely to earth.

By comparison, Mars One is a non-profit model drawing revenue from crowd-funding campaigns, sponsorships, intellectual property and even the broadcast rights to the Mars One applicant selection process. Tyler envisions a reality TV show: “It would be a mix between Hunger Games and Big Brother, I guess.”

The project’s first crowd-funding campaign ended Feb. 9 with $313,744 of its $400,000 goal raised. Initial earnings will pay for studies into the non-profit’s first unmanned mission scheduled for 2018. Mars One will then attempt to leverage those studies into interest from investors. Costs could reach hundreds of billions of dollars, though Tyler hopes it will only amount to $10 billion or so for a one-way trip.

“When you speak to a lot of people in Mars One, a lot of us are under the impression it may not materialize at all because of the lack of funding.” Due to the growing private space industry, Tyler believes a commercial mission to Mars could launch in the next decade. Yet another inter-planetary hopeful, Inspiration Mars, aims to launch in 2018. “I have a feeling it might not be Mars One. It might be SpaceX, actually.”

The goal is to send small groups on six-month one-way journeys to a hostile planet with 38 per cent of the earth’s gravity and a thin, carbon-dioxide-based atmosphere, 55 million kilometres from us at its closest reach. At that distance, real-time communication with earth is impossible. Even under ideal circumstances, due to isolation and harsh conditions, those first Martians will suffer depression, insomnia, loss of muscle and eyesight, and increased cancer risk from radiation, according to numerous studies.

The risks don’t deter Tyler. He has been campaigning election-style for his Mars One ticket. To prepare for the second round of cuts, Tyler’s doctor gave him a check-up and his first EKG. His heart is strong: “I’m astronaut-qualified medically.” Next up Mars One will interview him to assess his personality. If he is selected, he will start training with 23 other finalists next year.

After his first Mars One achievement, his parents took the two brothers to Swiss Chalet to celebrate. When the time comes to blast off, however, Tyler expects his family will reveal their fears. But for him, sense of purpose comes before relationships.

“I can really only enjoy my time here to the best that I can, and cherish the time I have with great people,” he says. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them, without their support and their love and their encouragement. Hopefully I can use all the great things they contributed to my life and those experiences, and contribute them to an even more worthwhile cause, such as going to mars, I guess. Leaving earth.”

He hopes his brother won’t ask him to stay. “I hope he wouldn’t, but if he did, I would just ask that he forgive me. I have to do it. I feel it’s my duty in this world.”

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