LSU PhD student planning for Mars
BATON ROUGE - An LSU student is preparing for mankind's next giant leap: a 2024 mission to Mars.
Mars One, a privately funded mission, hopes to establish permanent human settlement on Mars. Teams of four will depart every two years, designed to expand the human colony.
Randy Paylor, a hydrogeologist and PhD Candidate at LSU, is hoping to be part of one of the teams.
"Humans setting the first foot on Mars, that's what I'm most excited about," he said.
Paylor was one of 200,000 candidates who first applied to be part of the mission. In January, the number was narrowed down to 1,058. After a physical exam, some people were excluded or dropped out. The number is now at 705. Four of them live in Louisiana and Paylor is one of them.
"A lot of people say I can't understand why you would ever go to Mars, even live their permanently, I can't understand why people wouldn't want to go."
At 16, Paylor got his first backyard telescope. He remembers looking at the Tennessee sky, and seeing Mars for the first time.
"It was fascinating to me from day one," he said. "You could see the polar ice cap and you could see weather patterns and dust storms."
For years, Paylor has been exploring caves and walking underground in places never set foot by humans. His studies take him there. He looks at the way sediment moves through underground streams. Something he says could be beneficial on another planet.
"There's a lot of water there, and it's not very far under the soil," he explained.
If Paylor is selected for the Mars One mission, he has a lot of learning and training to go through. The trip to Mars alone is six months. It could be done quicker, but the six-month trip allows the group to slingshot around Mars and return to Earth if something were to go wrong.
Paylor says while he's excited about the possibility, he has fears about the trip.
"Getting up in space is going to be pretty scary," he said. "No matter what, I mean the risks are very, very high. There's no guarantees."
The Mars One group is hoping to raise about $6 billion for the project. The group will be narrowed down even further. The next step is an interview and then a test to see how the candidates fair in long-term isolation, which could be televised in the form of a reality show.
Mars One's first unmanned mission will be in 2018, with crews departing in 2024.