By Walter T. Ham IV
20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives Command
MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION, Utah, Dec. 10, 2014 – An Army officer is competing to spend a year on a Canadian island with the Mars Arctic 365 program.
First Lt. Heidi Beemer is taking part in a Mars simulation here this month.
Beemer is a decontamination platoon leader from the 63rd Chemical Company, 83rd Chemical Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade, 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives Command, the Defense Department's only formation that combats CBRNE threats around the world.
Three Teams Competing
The Virginia Military Institute graduate said three teams are competing to be the first crew to spend a year in an analog Martian simulation at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station on Devon Island in Baffin Bay, the second-largest of the Queen Elizabeth Islands in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
The program is run by the Mars Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to human Martian exploration research.
A Chemical Corps officer from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Beemer not only is striving to take part in the Mars Arctic 365 program, but also is in the running for a one-way ticket to Mars as a part of the Mars One selection process. That process, run by a different nonprofit organization, has more than 705 applicants from 99 countries competing to colonize Mars.
Beemer said the Mars One competition will narrow the field of applicants down to the final 24 Martian colonists. The journey to Mars will take about seven months, and the colonists will travel in groups of four, with new groups arriving every two years. Once on Mars, they will occupy living pods.
Robots will build the living pods and produce the oxygen and water necessary for the first colonists. Each additional group will bring more supplies. Beemer said the selectees for both programs should be announced next year.
At the Mars Desert Research Station, Beemer is training with an international crew that has members from the United States, Finland, Japan, the United Kingdom and Brazil.
Located in the San Rafel Swell in Hanksville, Utah, the Mars Desert Research Station is two and a half hours west of Grand Junction, Colorado.
"It is a near-perfect analog site for Mars and looks a lot like it should," said Beemer, a native of Virginia Beach, Virginia. "It's amazing to wake up to these views out the window every morning."
Army Brig. Gen. JB Burton, 20th CBRNE commander, said Beemer personifies the pioneer spirit.
"Lieutenant Beemer seeks to boldly go where no one has gone before," said Burton, who has a Beemer2Mars sticker on his jeep. "We are proud that she is a part of this command."