Zachary Gallegos

It's a one-way ticket to Mars and University of New Mexico student Zachary Gallegos has been named as one of 100 people still participating in the Mars One Astronaut Selection Process for the trip to the Red Planet. Mars One named the 50 men and 50 women for Round 3 after the field was whittled down to 660 last year. Initially, more than 200,000 applicants from 140 countries applied.

Mars One is a Dutch not-for-profit foundation with plans to establish permanent human life on Mars. Plans call for crews of four to depart every two years, starting in 2024. The first unmanned mission will be launched in 2018. The candidates come from all around the world, including 39 from the United States, 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, seven each from Africa and Oceania.

Mars One says the next stages of the process will focus on composing teams that can endure all the hardships of a permanent settlement on Mars. The candidates will receive their first shot at training in the copy of the Mars Outpost on Earth and will demonstrate their suitability to perform well in a team. By the end of the year, only 24 candidates or six teams of four, will begin the rigorous training.

In Round 3, the candidates will learn the skills they’ll need for the journey as well as life on Mars. The combined skill set of each astronaut team member will cover a very wide range of disciplines include survival skills and math ability, and how the candidates deal with adversity. The candidates will also learn about operating and troubleshooting equipment, medical and dental skills and space agriculture. Only four will make the first trip if plans proceed accordingly.

“Being one of the best individual candidates does not automatically make you the greatest team player, so I look forward to seeing how the candidates progress and work together in the upcoming challenges.” said Mars One Chief Medical Officer Dr. Norbert Kraft.

The 27-year-old Gallegos graduated from UNM cum laude with a B.S. in Earth and Planetary Sciences in December 2010. He is currently a graduate student working on landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover and analyzing terrestrial impact-induced hydrothermal processes for Mars analogue studies.

Gallegos describes himself on the Mars One website as having “unmatched passion for exploring the universe. Solving complex problems, both individually and as a member of a team, is what I do best. I am very fit and can withstand grueling physical activity. My temperament is calm and relaxed, handling the most stressful situations with ease.

“The background I bring from the planetary sciences will be invaluable to the Mars One mission; I designed and conducted rover simulation missions for Mars Science Laboratory scientists, as well as co-authored a NASA Lunar landing site reference book for future human exploration while at the Lunar and Planetary Institute.”

Gallegos’ research interests include astrogeology, astrobiology, giant impact processes, analog simulations, and mission design.

He conducted undergraduate research with Research Professor Horton Newsom, who is one of several scientists associated with the Mars Rover Curiosity and the ChemCam laser, which can vaporize rock at a distance of 20 paces, and evaluate the remains and assess whether or not there are any signs of life in the form of water. ChemCam also study the geologic chemistry of nearby, surrounding areas to help researchers determine what direction to send the rover.

** Video courtesy of Mars One website.