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Why Would a Parent Sign Up for a One-Way Trip to Mars?

07/21/2013 11:19 EDT | Updated 09/20/2013 05:12 EDT

I'm not a risk taker and I'm particularly not interested in the possibility-of-death-type activities that are a draw to some. There are no Everest or Denali summits in my future, no survivalist white water canoe treks to the northern wilds that require rifle training in case of polar bears. I was nervous snorkeling in Cuba. I've always been this way but having kids somehow justified my self-protective inclinations.

I know there are folks who pursue their extreme passions after becoming parents, and I understand that's who they are -- that cutting off those loves would be to give up on life -- to betray something fundamental. I can't say I'm not a bit judgey about it. You've got dependents, responsibilities, what the hell are you doing three quarters of the way up a sheer rock face in below zero weather?

One could ask what's the difference between that and a pack of smokes a day, driving drunk or over-consuming Cheetos? What risks feel acceptable? We humans get to make those choices, to weigh the benefits, to choose how we want to live.

Then there are the guarantee-of-death activities.

Eight Canadians have applied for a one-way trip to Mars being organized by Dutch-based venture Mars One -- a company looking to beat NASA to the red planet. Three of the volunteers, one woman and two men, have kids -- youngish kids.

Sure the trip might not happen right away so they have some time to reconsider -- but that's not the point.

Pamela Nicoletatos is a 39-year-old home-schooling mom from B.C. She says "I love space and sci-fi, so when the opportunity arose, it seemed kind of silly (SILLY???) not to take it. My husband is really supportive, and my two kids, 12 and 14, are excited to say that their mom is a Martian." Was the constant together time too much? Maybe if she'd sent them to school she might be less inclined to head off permanently. Personally, I think it's a little silly (narcissistically self-absorbed and selfish) to abandon your kids for sure death or the miniscule possibility of pioneering a brave new world.

Paul Kroeker is a 46-year-old bush pilot and oil-patch technician, from Alberta with four kids. "Two of my kids think the mission is cool and the other two think it's nuts. When my wife and I got married, I asked, 'If you could travel to another planet would you?' She said, "Of course!' I'm trying to get her to put her application in and maybe we could go together." Now there's a romantic getaway. You should definitely both go. I'm sure between the four of them, your kids can look after themselves.

Sgt. Justin Semenoff, a 34-year-old army combat engineer, from Saskatoon says his son doesn't get to see him much anyway. "I've got one son, Levi, and he's incredible. He's 13 right now and hugely supportive. As he was growing up, I was away for long periods so he's used to that a bit. It wouldn't be an easy transition, but he's got my back." Nice. Off you go then and leave Levi with your dead back.

Maybe I'm just a sissy who can't see the great-adventure save-humanity picture here, but I kind of feel that when I had kids, I signed on for a life-long job that I wouldn't dump for a more exciting opportunity. Of course if it was a two-way trip...thank goodness I'm a wuss who doesn't have to face these gut-wrenching choices.

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