Zachary Gallegos is among 100 astronaut candidates for private venture mission to the Red Planet

Mama’s Minerals was pleased to host Zachary Gallegos as a featured guest at the recent Grand Opening of our new Albuquerque store, where he met with the public and shared his personal mission—to be one of the first human settlers on Mars.

Gallegos is a graduate student and researcher in Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico. He is now among 100 finalists selected from over 202,000 applicants for what is planned to be the first manned mission to the Red Planet. The Mars One project is a privately funded venture that aims to send astronauts on a one-way mission to establish a permanent colony on the planet.

Mission architects say that they do not plan to return the astronauts back to Earth, due to the expense that would entail. Because funding of the project will come from crowd-funding, grants and sponsors—not government funding—the mission has to be tightly focused on the goal of establishing a Mars settlement.

That “one-way” nature of the mission is what many people—including Gallegos’ parents—find so shocking, daring and dangerous. For Gallegos, it’s simply visionary. “Humans are meant to live, to learn, to explore,” he says. “I have always been fascinated with exploration. Everything I’ve done, up to now, has been to make myself an astronaut.”

In many ways, Gallegos has been preparing for the Mars One mission for years, even before the idea was formed by its two co-founders in the Netherlands. He says that he knew from an early age that he wanted to become an astronaut, and decided that studying to become a geologist was a good way to get there, because planetary exploration missions require study of the rocks, minerals and geologic processes of those planets.

As an undergraduate at UNM, he participated in development of a laser instrument that is now part of the onboard research hardware on Curiosity, the robotic rover that has been exploring the landscape on Mars for nearly two years. He also worked as a researcher at the Lunar and Planetary Institute at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where he contributed an 80-page chapter to the book “A Global Lunar Landing Site Study to Provide the Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon.”

Gallegos is now working on a master’s degree in the geochemistry of water–as it relates to water on Mars–and would be content to spend his life on the Red Planet researching Martian soil.

The initial stages of the mission would include launching of a robotic Rover in 2020 that would explore sites for establishment of the colony, then work on preparing the landing site for the cargo supply missions to follow. Launching in 2022, these missions would include a second Rover, two Living Units, two Life Support Systems, and a Supply Unit. The second Rover, upon landing in 2023, would then begin setting up the colony facilities, moving and assembling the various components from the cargo missions in advance of the colonists’ arrival.

The first group of four colonists would launch in 2024, landing on Mars in 2025. Additional groups of colonists would follow, launched every two years. The colonists would live in hermetically-sealed, climate controlled capsules, and would venture outdoors in pressurized space suits.

Life support for the colony would be supplied via extraction of water from the Martian soil, by evaporating the subsurface ice particles in an oven. The evaporated water would then be condensed back to its liquid state and stored. Part of the water would be used for producing oxygen, supplemented by oxygen produced by greenhouse food production modules. Nitrogen and argon, filtered from the Martian atmosphere, would make up the other components of the breathable air inside the habitat. Electrical power would be generated by banks of solar panels.

The colonists selected for the mission are expected to be more or less balanced by gender, and it’s expected that they will ultimately produce the first generation of native-born Martian humans.

The Mars One mission is not without its skeptics. A recent study by a team of MIT scientists has raised an array of concerns and technological hurdles that must be surmounted. According to Olivier de Weck, an MIT professor of aeronautics, astronautics and engineering systems, “We’re not saying, black and white, Mars One is infeasible… But we do think it’s not really feasible under the assumptions they’ve made. We’re pointing to technologies that could be helpful to invest in, with high priority, to move them along the feasibility path.”

Gallegos says that he appreciates the MIT scientists’ findings and concerns, and says they will certainly be incorporated into ongoing mission planning. “Personally, I think it’s a really good thing MIT did this… A lot could change in the 10 years before lift-off. This will only help.”

He also sees the Mars One mission in context with the larger prospect of future manned missions to Mars. “NASA is now seriously talking about sending people to Mars in the 2030s,” he says. “This will help people realize that it’s not such a crazy idea.”

Learn more about the Mars One mission at >>

Follow Zachary Gallegos on Facebook. >>

Man on Mars from Manifest Motion Pictures on Vimeo.

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Zachary Gallegos participated in development of onboard research instrumentation for the Mars rover Curiosity.

Mars One aims to establish the first permanent human colony on Mars.

Initial stages of the mission would send exploratory / preparatory robotic rovers to the chosen region for the settlement.

Unmanned remote cargo lander missions would set the stage for setup of the colony.

Robotic vehicles would move and set up the colony's habitat and survival support modules.

The first group of four Mars One colonists would launch in 2024, landing on Mars in 2025.

Additional groups of colonists would be launched every two years, establishing a planned initial colony of 16 Mars settlers.