MIAMI (CBSMiami) – On July 21, 1969 the Apollo 11 space flight took the first humans to the moon, with Neil Armstrong being the first to step on the lunar surface.
In grainy black and white video images that somehow, in a miraculous feat of technology, beamed to Earth, Armstrong is shown stepping off the lunar module and apparently stumbling over his carefully predetermined words.
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” said Armstrong.
He was inferred by Americans as brilliant and poignant prose.
Now, 45-years later, more than a thousand people are on the short list to go where no man, or woman, has gone before–to Mars. Also–if chosen–they’re not coming back.
More than 200,000 people worldwide applied to be a part of a mission to colonize Mars.
The Mars One organization said with conviction it’s going to happen, and finalists said they want to be on-board for a trip to Mars that will be their final destination.
The red planet has a rocky surface and a thin atmosphere with little oxygen. The usual high is 70 degrees, and the low, an incomprehensible 243° below zero.
What about those snow-capped mountains we’ve seen pictures of? That’s not snow at all but frozen carbon dioxide.
“It’s terrifying, truthfully,” said Mars One candidate Stephanie Buck.
Most would never visit, much less live where no human has set foot before.
However, Buck and fellow candidate Kristin Richmond, a civil engineer with the state of California, have actually volunteered to do just that.
“When I first told my parents I was applying their eyes bugged out of their heads,” said Richmond.
“I don’t think anyone took it seriously,” said Buck.
If the nonprofit group Mars One gets its way, a human settlement of Mars is right around the corner.
The 200,000 applicants have been narrowed to about 1,000, including Buck and Richmond who still can’t believe they’re in the running.
“I got an email and I was going to 7-Eleven to get a cup of coffee and I’m standing in line and I look at my phone and my jaw dropped,” said Buck.
“I thought, ‘whoa, this is serious,’” said Richmond.
A lot has to happen before anyone begins to pack their bags.
The plan is that in 2018 a communication satellite will be launched to prove technology can work properly when people arrive. In 2020, a Mars rover will be on its way to find the perfect location for the future settlement.
Two years later, two living units, two life support systems, and two supply units will be sent out.
A year later, by that time it will be 2023, four people will arrive to begin colonizing a foreign planet.
“I’m so excited,” said Buck. “It’s kind of a nerd’s dream. Who would have thought that this would happen for an average person?”
It may be a dream but there is a harsh reality, too. Colonizing a planet is a big job.
“Growing food in small places, growing nutrients in small places with limited resources,” said Buck.
“Resource management, solar power, life support systems, traveling farther into space,” said Richmond.
And if they go, there’s no coming back.
“You’re going to take a step in that direction and never go back, be miserable and hate the rest of your life because you’re stuck on Mars?” said Richmond. “Yeah I’ve thought about that.”
“Forever is a really long time,” said Buck. “It’s a pretty small space with three strangers.”
And there are definite fears.
“I don’t want to be just some dummy that got on TV, and blew themselves up,” said Buck.
Richmond is married and though her husband declined an interview about his wife’s possible departure, she said he’s very supportive.
The trip will also expose everything else most of us take for granted.
“When you think about actually leaving earth there are those things you start to think about not just relationships with people, but air, the sound of fresh running water, wind through the trees, those are things you’ll never hear again,” said Richmond.
Buck knows this trip means she’d never see her two teenage daughters in person ever again, but she said the opportunity is still one that she can’t pass up.
“I’ll obviously miss my family, what’s great is there is communication. We can’t hug, but you know Skype is wonderful,” said Buck.
Her daughters are very supportive.
“I am so thrilled for her because I feel like this is just so great for her,” said Buck’s daughter Lhiannan Buck-Gay. “I know her obsession with Sci-Fi and the need to explore, and how important that is for us.”
So for now, the candidates wait for word of when they can pack their bags for the last time, breathing in the moments here on earth, and dreaming of the possibilities of life on another planet.
“I’m just excited to see what my efforts toward this and the future can inspire in younger minds,” said Richmond.
“I don’t know I mean if I’m being realistic. The odds are not very good but the odds were crazier for me to get this far, so anything is possible,” said Buck.
The two are ready and waiting to take the next giant leap for mankind.
Both Buck and Robinson must pass a physical exam in order to be considered for the next round. The group will eventually be to cut to just four who will make the first trip.
Mars One officials will not comment on when they will let the women know if they’ve made the cut, but they do plan on making everything that happens on Mars viewable through a variety of media.