Edmonton pair one step closer to living on Mars

Two Edmontonians are preparing for the biggest interview of their lives - one that, if they pass, might take them out of this world.

Christy Foley, 32, and Alexandre Lutsenko, 22, advance to interview stage of Mars One project

Christy Foley recently passed her medical exam and came one step closer to one day living on Mars. (CBC News)

Two Edmontonians are preparing for the biggest interview of their lives -- one that, if they pass, might take them out of this world.

Christy Foley, 33, and Alexandre Lutsenko, 22, are two of 200,000 people that applied to be part of the Mars One project, a non-profit foundation that seeks to establish a permanent human settlement on the red planet by 2025.

Foley is a strategic planner with Environment and Sustainable Resource Development while Lutsenko is wrapping up an electrical engineering degree at the University of Alberta.

After passing a medical exam, both have officially become two of the 705 finalists to have advanced to the interview stage of the Mars One application process.

The biggest interview of their lives

So how do you prepare for an interview that could come with a one-way ticket to Mars?

“Like a normal job interview,” said Foley. She has been studying standard behaviour-based questions, as well as ones that test thinking processes. Next, she plans on preparing for stress questions and ones that test her ability to deal with conflict.

But Foley doesn’t actually know what the interview will entail -- none of the finalists do. 

Lutsenko is trying not to worry too much about the interview or the possible subsequent stages ahead of him.

“It’s not that I’m nervous or that I’m not excited,” he said. “I’m going in this as exactly what I am. I’m going to give it my all and do as much as I can. If there is somebody else who is better qualified… I’m happy with that.”

Leaving family behind

Should either of them be selected, Foley and Lutsenko would be leaving family behind.

Foley’s husband, Ian Runkle, also applied to the program but did not make it through the first cut. He plans to re-apply, but in the meantime, is content supporting his wife’s astronomical ambitions. Her parents are also supportive, but ultimately, don’t want her to go.

“They don’t want me to be disappointed, but they’d also rather I stay,” she said.

Lutsenko’s family also has mixed memotions.

“They want to support me but at the same time they don’t want to face the idea that you’ll never see each other again,” he said. “It’s an extremely difficult situation to ask your family to be in.”

But still, Lutsenko says he’s “gung-ho to go.”

“I don’t think I would ever be able to take a big enough step with a girl on earth if I knew [going to Mars] was a possibility,” he said.

Mission to Mars

Foley says the scariest part of the mission, if she is eventually selected, is the idea of not being able to go because something happens to another finalist.

“My big fear is I get through, I’m put on a team with three other people, and we train and train and five years down the road someone slips and falls in the bathtub and our entire team can’t go,” she said. “I have no control over that.”

Mars One is in the process of dividing the applicants into regions. Once the regions are decided, the applicants will book interviews with the Mars One selection committee.

After that, there will a vote on the applicants, with the pool eventually being whittled down to 40 finalists who will then train for about seven years before the first group is shipped out.

The price tag for the first mission is hovering around $6 billion US.