From Army Officer to Mars Colonist?

Army 1st Lt. Heidi Beemer has career ambitions just like any military officer.  She wants to excel in her field.  Make a difference.  Serve her country.  Live on a foreign planet.


Have you heard of the Mars One mission?  They’re an ambitious organization that is planning to send actual people to Mars.  Yes, you read that right.  They’re sending people.  To Mars.  In less than 10 years.

Here’s the skinny:

According to their official website, it is Mars One’s goal to establish a for realsies human settlement on Mars.

Global mosaic of Mars. Visible in the center of this mosaic is the largest known chasm in the solar system, Valles Marineris.  (Photo from National Space Science Data Center - NASA)

Global mosaic of Mars. Visible in the center of this mosaic is the largest known chasm in the solar system, Valles Marineris. Just the place for a startup homestead, right? (Photo from National Space Science Data Center – NASA)

Mars One is a non-profit organization that plans to establish a permanent human colony on Mars by 2023. The private spaceflight project is led by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp.  According to their mission statement, “Mars is the stepping stone of the human race on its voyage into the universe.”

So how does one go from being a chemical officer in the U.S. Army to potential Mars colonist?  I sat down with 1st. Lt. Beemer to find out just that.

So tell me about yourself.  What sparked your interest in the red planet?

“My interest in Mars really started in ’97.  My dad gave me a newspaper article of the Sojourner rover, which is a little tiny rover that they sent before Spirit and Opportunity, and it kind of just roved around for a few hours, took pictures.  To me that was just awesome. Even as a little kid I was like, man, we should send people there. It would be cool to see what that looks like.”

I’m told that Mars One received over 200,000 applicants for this mission.  What happens next?

“At the end of [the application selection] process they’ll have 24 people that they’ll send [to Mars] starting in 2023.  They’ll send 4 people to Mars every two years.”

What about gear, equipment, habitats? 

Graphic mock up of the habitats for the Mars One Mission. (Graphic illustration provided by

Graphic mock up of the habitats for the Mars One Mission. (Graphic illustration provided by

“Two years prior to that, so 2021, they’re going to send the habitats and the equipment and robots to Mars.  That’s going to set up the base and the settlement.  They’re going to start making oxygen from this carbon dioxide, breaking it down into water, methane, pulling out the oxygen, getting all the resources, everything there that you need to survive.  Then two years after that, once they get the green light saying yes, it’s 100 percent ready for people, then they’ll send a man-mission.”

So, then the four astronauts will go to Mars.

“Yes.  They’ll land.  They’ll start living in their new world.  Two weeks after they land, the equipment, the supplies, the robots for the next four, two years later, will arrive to Mars.”

What about the other twenty people?

“For every two years after that, four more people will come until they have a total of twenty-four.  Twenty-four, right now, is what they’re budgeting for, but the whole purpose of this is to colonize it.  To send people and initially to do research to figure out how to actually live.”

So you’re not just sending scientists to go research.  You’re sending people to actually colonize Mars.

“Eventually the goal is to send more people and more people to where you’re not just 24 people sitting on a planet going, ‘What do we do now?’  It’s we’re having colonies.  We’re having families.  We’re having a new world.”

Do you think that the military has prepared you for life on Mars?

“Yes.  I am a chemical officer, so that means that I have received extensive training to give me certain explicit skills that would help me on Mars.  For example, we’ve done hours and hours of training in toxic and contaminated environments.  So, I’m in a suit.  I’m in a mask.  I am being exposed to threats where if I was not wearing them, I would die.  Granted, it’s not as extreme as there’s no oxygen, but it’s still, there’s chemicals there.  I’ve actually done live-agent training where there was live agents, and if we weren’t wearing our masks, we would get sick and die.  So, I’ve had that experience.”

What are you most looking forward to regarding life on Mars?

“I am looking forward to the scientific aspect of it.  I think the biggest thing for me is just being able to see things that no one’s ever seen before and experiencing it and getting to hold it.  Getting to pick up a rock that’s never been looked at or stepped on done before.  Getting to do that every day for the rest of my life.”

What will you do for entertainment?

“The cool thing is that we have the technology of iPads and tablets.  So instead of bringing libraries full of books, we can bring tablets that are already pre-loaded with tons of books.  I’m really big into audio books.  I like to listen to books while I’m working on stuff or driving and that kind of stuff.”

And that’s all you’ll have is what you bring there?

“Well every two years another group will show up, so they can bring new stuff.  They can bring new books.  You can continuously be getting stuff from Earth, new information, new research.”

Any final thoughts?

“I’m really excited about this project.  I know there are a lot of people that have a lot of doubts, but we have time to figure it all out.  I have time.  If I got selected all the way through I will eight years of training.  There’s time to figure out what you’re going to do, to figure out the contingencies.”

So do you think this is the next giant leap for mankind?

 “I really believe that this is going to happen, and I believe that when it does happen it’s going to be the biggest thing that ever happens to us as humans.”


Jessica L. Tozer is a blogger for DoDLive and Armed With Science.  She is an Army veteran and an avid science fiction fan, both of which contribute to her enthusiasm for technology in the military.

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