COEUR d’ALENE – Charis Adams has always thought about going to space, and on October 24, she will – sort of.
Adams, a 16-year-old student from Coeur d’Alene, was selected to be part of Spaceward Bound High School’s Crew 266, the first school-age team to train at the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah. She is a student at Tech Trep Academy, a K-12 homeschool program.
“I wanted to be an astronaut for many years. It was my childhood dream,” Adams said.
The seven students who make up her crew were handpicked from dozens of applications received from students around the world. They will embark on a five-day mission in a full Martian simulation.
The crew will begin with an onboarding and training day in Utah. Then they spend five days in simulation before a day of debriefing.
In the Martian environment, students will perform tasks to maintain the space station, overcome obstacles, or perform repairs as if they were on the surface of Mars.
The job can include anything from changing a light bulb to testing operating systems or inventorying supplies.
“And throughout the mission, our plan is to bring other experts into the station,” Adams said.
Instructors will guide students and lead training courses. The director of the Mars Desert Research Station will invite research consultants to the station from “other Martian plantations” to further train the crew.
The space station has outbuildings connected by rabbit holes, or covered walkways, to protect students from intense Martian radiation.
On the ground, there is a habitat, a science dome, a repair assembly module and a greenhouse. There are also storage buildings for electric vehicles that the crew will use when traveling outside.
Adams will have to don a flight suit and a space suit in order to go from building to building as if she and her crew were really on Mars.
“We have a guide to give us the basics of what we’re going to do, but we don’t have a ton of experience,” Adams said. “We will learn a lot from the professionals while we are there.”
The Mars Desert Research Station training campus was created by the Mars Society to mimic the environment on the planet’s surface. The model space station is used to train analog astronauts, scientists and crew to live and work in the intense Martian environment.
Spaceward Bound is a Mars Society course program partially funded by NASA grants. It is designed to train elementary educators to inspire their students.
Adams was passionate about space exploration before joining Spaceward Bound, and she is already inspired.
“I always thought John Glenn and Neil Armstrong were really cool,” Adams said. “Especially because Glenn has the same birthday as me, and as an 8-year-old, that was really cool.”
Adams found out from her school that the Mars Society was accepting applications for crew members and she was both excited and reluctant.
“My big role was to encourage him to do it,” said Joanna Adams, Charis’ mother. “She wanted to apply, but I remember her saying ‘it’s no use. They’re not going to choose me.
Joanna coached Charis, saying she would definitely not be chosen if she never applied, and gave her the confidence to write her application.
“I was super excited that this could happen, so I applied,” Charis said.
Students who have been selected will have all fees paid except transportation.
Another student from Idaho, from Lewiston, Micah McCallum, also made the cut. Other crew members include Ian Davis from Texas, Owen Flanagan and Riley Nuttycombe from Colorado, Barnabas Pasztor from Hungary and Hope Lea from Florida.
The crew members worked together online to prepare for their mission together.
“We were able to collaborate on some things because some of our roles overlap, so we were able to figure out which books to read together ahead of time, to better prepare for them,” Charis said.
Each crew member was assigned a job before the mission, to allow them to research and prepare before their arrival.
“The directors chose me to be the reporter,” Charis said. “Everyone has a different role, and I’m happy with my role.”
Charis admits to being a little nervous about the formal writing structure of a journalist, but she thinks she can get away with it. She hopes to bring poetry to the post and wants to add artistry in the way she presents the mission.
“Charis is a real light wherever she goes,” said Zak Adams, Charis’ father. “Whatever the circumstance… we are constantly told what a joy she is wherever she is. The joy for me is seeing her use her gifts and abilities, her heart and character in more places as she grows.
Charis’ parents, her sister, Nora, and her family know that she will do well in her training mission.
“I think for her own personal growth, it’s fantastic that she has this opportunity,” said Jackie Adams, Charis’ grandmother. “I think she’s a great example of what a young woman can do.”
The Mars Society, a non-profit organization funded by members and donors and made up of volunteers, organizes conferences and presents research internationally on their mission to colonize Mars.
They have 54 chapters worldwide in dozens of countries and operate two research simulation stations: the Hanksville location and another in Canada.
“The Mars Society is the world’s largest and most influential space advocacy organization dedicated to human exploration and colonization of the planet Mars,” according to its CEO, James Burke, in the video. introduction to the organization.
Astronaut Jessica Watkins was a former Spaceward Bound student, according to Michael Stoltz, director of media and public relations for the Mars Society.
Watkins was the first black woman to complete a long-term International Space Station mission in April.
Charis had heart problems and asthma throughout her childhood, so she thinks she has little chance of becoming an astronaut.
She thinks we’ll send people to Mars one day. With so much going on in the world, she really hopes it will be in her lifetime, but doubts she’ll make it there herself.
“If there was an opportunity to go there, just as a passenger, and it became less physically taxing, then I would be all for it,” Charis said. “But right now I don’t think it’s a super practical career, but I’m open to it.