Three hundred fifty-two individuals will not be going to Mars, at least not with Mars One.
Seven hundred six of the 1,058 Round Two applicants, including me, received official emails this morning announcing that we are still in the Mars One international astronaut pool, which has now been reduced in number by one third. Do the math: Three hundred fifty-two are out.
There were predictable thrills all around on Facebook, specifically among the Mars One - Aspiring Martians Group:
"We are the 706"
"Someone's getting an interview"
Many questions remain. Still to be announced are details about the regional interviews with the Mars One committee: Who are they, anyway? And that rumored reality show documenting the "competition" among finalists -- when can we tune in?
My own burning question is: What's up with the 352 who are no longer in the running?
The typically terse Mars One email revealed little, only that some did not provide medical clearance, did not make their profile public, or else dropped out for "personal reasons."
It's understandable that some applicants were not healthy enough to make the cut, and some, I gather from their Facebook postings, could not afford the required medical tests. "Personal reasons" are also easy enough to imagine: intense and agonizing conversations between husbands and wives, parents and children, besties and near-besties. "You're going where? For how long? What do you mean I'll never see you again?" No easy answers here.
For career-driven professionals, there are serious life-planning issues involved: They'll need time off for interviews and those as-yet-undefined "competitions" that may or may not be televised. Moreover, those who make it to the next round will become full-time employees of Mars One. Forget that job you currently have. Forget promotions, office parties, water-cooler gatherings. Forget vacations, personal leaves, sabbaticals. There will be no time off in a race to survive on a hostile planet.
Continuing with Mars One is buying into an uncertain future. People have worked long and hard to build and sustain the lives they have on Earth. Now to see everything go "poof" could certainly be dismaying, although I have to wonder: Why hadn't this sort of soul searching already taken place?
The reason others dropped out, apparently, was that they didn't go to the Mars One website and reset their profile from "private" to "public" as instructed. What's with the sudden shyness? Did they think we'd never find out about them? That they could go all the way to Mars in stealth? Turn off the habitation-pod cams when they got there and just sit silently in the dark?
This is the biggest issue for me by far. I'm a private person trying hard to get over it. Of course, I have personal misgivings about my role in the Mars One mission. I've had them since the beginning, only now my sentiments, good or bad, are on their way to becoming public, big-time. Interviews will soon be scheduled. As the Mars One email instructs us, "We expect you to show your knowledge, intelligence, adaptability and personality."
If any are left among us, the 706 remaining candidates, who aren't that serious about moving to Mars forever, it's time to opt in or opt out. Revealing oneself to the universe is not for the timid or the unsure, or, as Joan Rivers says in that annoying car commercial, "Go big or go **** yourself."