Dreaming Big: Army Lt. Heidi Beemer Takes One Step Closer to Mars

When it comes to dreams, living on Mars is one of the bigger ones.

Where once it seemed like an impossible wish, the goal of going to the red planet is getting closer and closer to becoming a reality for some people.  Specifically, the people in the running to be the first colonists of Mars via the non-profit Mars One mission (the private spaceflight project is led by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp).

Concept art for the Mars One Capsule. (Mars One courtesy photo)

Concept art for the Mars One Capsule. (Mars One courtesy photo)

Hundreds of thousands of people applied, a thousand were chosen, and now, after the first round of cuts, we’re down to about 700 people vying for less than 25 positions.

Among the hopeful candidates is U.S. Army 1st Lt. Heidi Beemer. I’ve interviewed her, you might recall, before the first round of cuts.   I’m excited that she made it one step closer to achieving her ultimate dream.

I caught up with Heidi recently to get a glimpse at how much her life has changed in the last few months, and what the future holds for the military Mars One hopeful.

So!  You’ve made the next round of cuts for Mars One!  How do you feel about that?

“I’m very excited to be part of this process.  They went through a medical screening portion and they dropped about three hundred people from that. The pool is sitting at 705 right now.  I’m excited to be part of it.  I’m moving forward, same as I was before, but I’m excited for the next round.”

I know you’ve been spending some time speaking with kids.  Can you tell me about your “dream big” slogan and what it means to you?

Photo: Army Lt. Heidi Beemer speaks to students from the Ocean Lakes Math and Science Academy. (Army Lt. Heidi Beemer courtesy photo)

Army Lt. Heidi Beemer speaks to students at Rossview Elementry School in Clarksville, TN. (Army Lt. Heidi Beemer courtesy photo)

“Something that I’ve really enjoyed out of this whole process is the fact that I’ve been invited by schools.  I’ve been invited to come to their classes, to come to auditoriums full of kids, and even Skype kids at this point, from all across the world.  I just talk to them about my experiences of what I’ve done in my life so far, and how all of it was with the intention of one day becoming an astronaut and going to Mars.  So the slogan I’ve been putting out there is ‘dream big’.”

Where did the phrase come from?

“It’s actually something that was given to me by an astronaut, Naval Academy grad Dom Gorie.  He sent me a signed autograph and it said ‘dream big’.  It’s something that I’ve held on to since the beginning, and it’s something that I want to turn around and give back to the kids.  Not all of them are going to want to grow up to be astronauts, but they do have things that they’re considering, things they want to turn their life into.”

“It’s something that I keep giving back.  Showing kids that it doesn’t matter how you get there, what matters is that you have that passion in your heart and you look at every opportunity to make yourself better to get you closer to that goal.”

Why do you think it’s important to foster an interest in space exploration in children?

“Back in the day, in the 1960s, kids all across the country stopped and watched people land on the moon.  Since then, NASA and different space organizations have done great things.  They’ve put satellites into orbit around different planets, they’ve put robots on Mars.  They’ve done great things, but the human aspect [of it] has kinda stopped.  Through international cooperation they created the International Space Station, and we’ve learned how to live and operate in space, but the actual pushing of the frontier has stopped.”

“I think that’s something that, through Mars One, through companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and different companies in the private sector, are starting to look more towards putting humans back into space.  They’re looking into that exploration piece again.”

Why does this next generation matter for the future of the space program?

“This is something that these kids, in the next ten to twenty years, are going to actually see put into action and actually see come forward.  It’s going to be really important, especially with this generation, to foster that excitement for space again, and foster that exploration mentality.  This is so that, when these kids grow up, they can go to college and get degrees in things we’re going to need to make these dreams come true.”

Photo: Army Lt. Heidi Beemer speaks to students from the Ocean Lakes Math and Science Academy. (Army Lt. Heidi Beemer courtesy photo)

Army Lt. Heidi Beemer speaks to students at the Tech Savvy Middle School Girl’s Conference at Tidewater Community College. (Army Lt. Heidi Beemer courtesy photo)

“It’s really important that we continue to inspire these kids.  Space is something that has inspired me greatly, so I just want to be able to share that excitement with kids.  I mean, you walk outside and you look up at the stars and you can see it for yourself.  [Space is] always kind of there for you.”

Armed with Science’s motto is “science matters”. In your own words, why does “space matter”?

“Space matters because it’s our future.  It’s where we’re going to proceed.  We’ve figured out a lot of things about the Earth, and we want to continue pushing to the next frontier.  To see what’s out there in space for us to discover.”

Why is it important to place an emphasis on STEM research, education and development?

“The great thing about science and STEM is that it’s all interconnected.  You can’t have just one discipline of science, say chemistry for example, and not dig into the other disciplines like biology, engineering, biochemical engineering, geology.  All of it works because it all works together.  It becomes very important to not just push space or science, but to push all of them so that you can show the kids and people around the world that without one you can’t have the other.”

How has the U.S. Army, and your military training, helped you on this journey toward Mars?

“The biggest thing so far that I have gained from the Army is leadership.  Learning how to interact with my soldiers, learning how to help them along on their career path and their lives, and interact with them on a deeper level has shown me what type of leader I want to be.  Even when we go to Mars, there are still going to be leaders, and there are still going to be people put in charge to really keep these people alive.  It’s a really important role, so the leadership I’ve gained through the Army is definitely something that I’m going to carry over.”

Have you learned any other skills through the military that you think would help you if/when you go to Mars?

“Understanding myself and how I react in stressful situations, I think, is the second most important thing I’ve gained from the Army.  Just learning how I can cope with stress and learning how I can make decisions quickly.  Why I make the decisions I make will keep me going and keep me safe.  So those are things that I’ve learned through the Army and through the training that I’ve gained.  Especially through the chemical corps, dealing with situations where we’re in dangerous environments.  It’s something that directly translates to being an astronaut and being on Mars.”

Do your military leaders support you in your goal to go to Mars?

Photo: Army Lt. Heidi Beemer holds up an ironic book ironically. (Army Lt. Heidi Beemer courtesy photo)

Army Lt. Heidi Beemer holds up an ironic book ironically. (Army Lt. Heidi Beemer courtesy photo)

“Definitely.  The Army has been nothing but supportive of myself and my dreams.  They’re supportive of what they think I have the potential of doing.  They can’t support the program directly, but they can support me as a candidate.  They’ve helped me get into a good situation where I could become a good candidate and can continue moving forward through the process.”

It’s exciting and encouraging to see the military standing beside you on this.  The U.S. Army wants to see an Army astronaut!

“Absolutely.  They have a lot invested in this and so they gain a lot by supporting me.  They’ve also gained a lot … by supporting me to go out and talk to kids.  I’ve been talking to kids at the schools on post, and just being able to not only inspire these kids for science and STEM, but also show them that, just like their moms and dads, that the Army has done something well for me, and possibly these kids will turn around and join the Army.  So it’s kind of a win-win for everybody.”

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 science and technology in the military.

Relevant stories:
From Army Officer to Mars Colonist
Moving to MARS

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