NORMAN — A 71-year-old man sat in his blue, full-body NASA flight suit Sunday, telling stories about his work with NASA and how he now has a shot at fulfilling his own dreams of going to Mars.
Ken Johnston, who spent many of his younger years in Oklahoma, is one of 705 semifinalists in the Mars One astronaut selection process that plans to send the first humans to colonize the planet Mars in 2024.
“The teams will consist of two men and two women, all four from different continents, or different countries,” Johnston said.
There were over 200,000 applications sent in from all over the world for the first selection program. Only 40 people will be selected to go on the mission to Mars to permanently settle, he said.
“We land in 2025 and our first job is to hook up those habitats and get the green houses going, and we won’t be doing much science research, although you’re there in the middle of it trying to get things ready,” Johnston said. “Every two years Mars comes back into conjunction with the Earth on the same side, we’ll launch another team of four people.”
If Johnston gets selected for the project, he will be leaving behind on Earth a wife, five children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. While some may have a hard time being separated permanently, Johnston said it was his wife who heard about Mars One and told her husband to apply, knowing it was a life-long dream of his.
“It has been my dream since I was a child and now I have the opportunity to take my whole life’s experience and put it towards the accomplishment of something that will have an effect on all of mankind. Even with the dangers there, it’s worth it,” he said.