Preparing to say goodbye to Earth

Published 6:24 pm Monday, March 16, 2015

Driving out to Hampton Roads Executive Airport last week to meet a story subject, I kept telling myself to keep an open mind.

Oscar Mathews, 32, has recently been named to a short list of 100 folks for human history’s first manned mission to Mars.

Anyone who follows offbeat news might have heard of Mars One. The nonprofit claims it is working on a serious plan to colonize the Red Planet.


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The interview lasted about 1-½ hours, spanning what seemed to be light years of subject matter.

Community journalism normally deals with school district budgets, Rotary Club fundraisers, cops and robbers. It was a rare treat to sit down and talk about humanity’s ultimate destiny, the next frontier.

Mathews was serious about his prospect of becoming among the first humans to settle another planet. To me — pretty much a complete layman — his obvious intelligence, educational and professional background, hobbies and general outlook seemed to make him the perfect Mars One candidate.

The would-be space colonist was philosophical about the program. He thinks we have the technology, and if we can just match it with the funding and the will, it’s going to happen.

He also said that if it doesn’t, Mars One will play an important role in firing debate about the future of the human species, and even — depending on how far the plans progress — marshalling technology toward such a mission.

On the Internet, you’ll find Mars One has a lot of detractors. It seems many people don’t want it to succeed.

Personally, I’m not afraid to come out and say that it’s perfectly clear humans will eventually move beyond being a one-planet species; it’s not just the baseless, far-fetched imaginings of science fiction writers.

The question is this: Is the time now?

In his famous speech on Sept. 12, 1962, President Kennedy said the nation would land a man on the moon, and return him home safely, by the end of the decade. And it happened.

We already have folks living beyond the surly bonds of earth, on the International Space Station.

People saddened by the ending in 2011 of America’s space shuttle program should take heart in how it got government out of the way to let private leaders and innovators in space technology bloom.

I drove away from the airport thinking that if Mathews is among the first 24 to colonize Mars, it’ll be an interview I’ll look back upon as important.