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Journey to the red planet
Former NWT recreation co-ordinator applies for Mars One Project

Kassina Ryder
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 27, 2013

A former Northwest Territories resident says he hopes the Mars One project will motivate aboriginal youth to take part in an out-of this-world opportunity.

NNSL photo/graphic

Former Northwest Territories resident Shawn Alli, now 30, poses with youths in Wrigley in 2007. Alli is one of 80,000 people applying to become an astronaut for the Mars One Project, which aims to colonize Mars. Pictured here are Ryett Cli, back row left, Savannah Baton, Brandon Moses, middle row left, Amber Clillie, Shawn Alli, Haily Moses, Raylene Peter, and Joey Moses, bottom row. - photo courtesy of Shawn Alli

"Setting the goal so high, such as Mars, I think relates back to self-motivation," said Shawn Alli, who now lives in Toronto. "There is no reason why aboriginal youth would have to settle for less."

Alli is a former resident of both Wrigley and Lutsel K'e, where he worked with young people as a youth co-ordinator and a recreation co-ordinator.

The 30-year-old is also one of 80,000 people from around the world applying for a one-way trip to Mars. Applications are done online and Alli said it cost US$33.

The project aims to establish a human settlement on Mars by 2023, according to the Mars One website. Mars One is a private space flight project. The Mars One Project is connected to the non-profit Mars One foundation, and the for-profit company Interplanetary Media Group.

Four people will be selected to make the first journey with more people arriving every two years until a total of 40 trained astronauts live on the planet.

The plan includes broadcasting the project every step of the way, according to the website.

Once the first materials are delivered to Mars and rovers begin setting up, which is scheduled to take place in 2021, a live video will be broadcast to Earth 24 hours a day.

Humans arriving in 2023 will finish off constructing the living units and other capsules before more teams arrive.

By 2025, the finished colony is expected to serve as a living area and research base for Mars exploration, all of which will be broadcast to Earth every day of the year, the website states.

It will cost about US$6 billion to send the first four humans to Mars, based on estimates by Mars One project leaders.

A combination of donations, sponsor contributions and revenue generated by merchandise sales are being used to raise the necessary funds.

Alli said making discoveries is one of the reasons he wants to go to Mars.

"In order to push humanity forward, you need to explore things," he said. "I think the desire to explore, the desire to actually understand new phenomena, that's an innate desire. I'm glad at least one organization is making an attempt."

Alli said he is a philosophical researcher, a vocation that will serve him well if he is chosen for the project.

"You don't want corporate executives, you don't want bankers," he said. "You want ethical individuals."

Applicants are asked to create a short video explaining why they want to go to Mars, which they can then post publicly on the Mars One website. In his selection video, Alli said his beliefs and moral values will make him a valuable member of the Mars settlement.

"A person's ethics is determined by their character, and if their character is not up to par, then everything else falls short, and I have character," he said.

Alli has to wait to find out if his video caught the eye of viewers, who will choose who makes it to the next round of the selection process.

Final selection is scheduled to take place in 2015 when 30 to 40 applicants are chosen to begin a seven-year training program. Audience members will then choose the final four.

Alli said while he knows there is a chance the journey to Mars won't happen, he believes the idea is enough to inspire change.

"It's the realization that things don't have to be the way it is," he said. "It can be changed."

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