• Sat, Jan 18 - 10:01 am ET

Internet In A Flurry Over Utah Father’s Plan To Live On Mars

Mars One Project

Shannon Ocean

A father of four from Utah has caused quite a flurry on the Internet over his decision to possibly spend the rest of his life on Mars to take part in the Mars One Project - even though it doesn’t start for another 10 years.

According to a report from The Salt Lake TribuneKen Sullivan applied to take part in the mission, along with 200,000 other people. Sullivan has been reportedly short-listed and is a part of the final 1,058 people being considered. So yeah, it’s still a long shot that he will even be chosen. So why the drama? Apparently he kept his application from his family, and it’s only come to light now that he’s on the final list. His wife, Becky, seems surprisingly supportive:

“The question is do we get divorced now or get divorced later. If I stand in the way of his dreams and passions, then we get divorced now, so I have to be supportive.”

Sullivan has two older children from a previous marriage, ages 12 and 13 plus two with Becky, ages six months and three years, so while the eldest two will be adults when the mission potentially takes part, the younger two will still be pretty young. Having your father leave like that might be a bitter blow for them.

That being said, I think the Internet has jumped the gun, here. Let’s put our pitchforks away, at least until he’s, ya know, actually chosen to go, m’kay?

“I’ll be very relieved if I don’t make it to Mars because it won’t take me from my family,” Sullivan explained. “But if I don’t make it, it will be tough and I’ll be disappointed.”

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  • Andrea

    I don’t think the point is that he probably won’t get to go. I think the point is that he chose to apply for something that would mean no one sees him again. Even if it is a long shot, the point is HE WANTS TO GO. He WANTS to leave his family. I find that pretty crappy no matter what the odds of it actually happening.
    I personally would be very heartbroken if my husband would choose living in Mars without me and our children.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I got heartbroken when my husband wanted to take a job three hours away that would have only separated us for a few months. :)

    • Andrea

      He didn’t go?

      Personally, for me, if this would have happened when I had ankle biters, I would have NOT been happy. But now, that the kids are older and more self-sufficient, depending on the amount of money and time we are talking about, I would have considered it. Short term and for a substantial amount of money though.

      For ever to Mars? Heartbroken and PISSED wouldn’t really cover it.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      No. I’m a teacher and it would have been a move once my contract was over. I was pregnant and would have had the baby with him away while I served out my contract. So he didn’t. The money would have been more but the cost of living would have made it a wash, so in the end we didn’t do it.

    • Andrea

      Yeah moving away while pregnant would have been a big no no for me. I get that some people (i.e. army wives) don’t have a choice on this.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      That’s what we talked about. If you have to, it’s different than if you’re a little bored at your job.

    • SusannahJoy

      *I didn’t mean to respond here. Moved to it’s own post.

  • keelhaulrose

    I read somewhere he didn’t consult his wife before applying. I know the chances are remote that he will be picked, but wouldn’t you think that would be something you’d discuss with your life partner before signing up for?
    And does it pay at all? It might be ten years away, but those ten years are training, not ten years to do whatever you want before showing up on launch day hungover and ready to go. And I don’t think training is in Utah.

  • pixie

    From my understanding, or at least from what I heard on the radio when they began talking about applications to live on mars, is the program would only accept youngish, single people so families weren’t separated. I guess he could have lied on his application, but now that it is known that he has a family, I doubt they will choose him now.

  • AmazingE

    I don’t think it’s a big deal that he applied, but that he apparently didn’t discuss it with his wife and family, that’s the big deal. I applied too, because space and space exploration are two things I’ve been interested in since I was very young. I discussed it at great length with my husband first though, and while he wasn’t exactly thrilled that there was a chance I would never make it back, he understood that being a part of something like this meant a great deal to me. I didn’t make the final list of candidates, but if I had I know he would have been supportive of my participation.

    • Andrea

      I applaud your husband for supporting you, but isn’t it a little different when there’s children?

    • AmazingE

      It is, and we do. Which is why I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t make the cut, and neither was he. We figured it was probably a million to one shot that I would get picked anyway, so why not at least submit the application and see what happens? Our thinking was that if by some miracle I did get picked, that we’d deal with it then, and if I didn’t then at least I could say I tried.

  • lin

    Going to Mars would be 10 years from now (or longer), but he’ll need to move away and spend months at a time in isolation preparing for it.
    The point is not that he likely won’t make the cut, it is that he would leave his children given the opportunity. I am guessing this must be a lifelong passion of his, but you just don’t choose to leave your kids to follow a dream. As a parent, I can’t wrap my head around this at all. Maybe if they were adults.
    I totally get the judgement, but it isn’t my family, they will work through it in their own way.

  • Angela

    Honestly I think that when you choose to become a parent you do commit to be there for your kids which pretty much precludes packing off to some other planet. But the truth is that I don’t really know what is inside this guy’s head. It’s possible that he applied never actually intending to go but just to see if he’d have a shot at being chosen. Even if he was selected we don’t know what his choice would be. In high school I had a friend who applied and was accepted to Harvard despite the fact that she knew she’d rather choose a great state school instead. To her just knowing that she COULD have gone was more important than actually going through with it.

  • Alicia Kiner

    What irritates me here is that he signed up for this without even mentioning it to his wife. His children (at least the little ones) are too young to really understand. But regardless, you don’t make life-altering decisions without your spouse. If my husband were to decide to quit his job and sign back up for the Army, I would expect to have several discussions about what that would mean to our family. This man is incredibly selfish in this regard. He may never be picked, and this whole conversation would be mute, but if he were my husband, I’m not sure I could ever fully trust him again.

  • Momma425

    I get that this is a lifelong dream of his, but choosing to abandon your wife and young children is a very selfish decision. Deciding to apply without discussing or even TELLING your spouse is even more selfish, even if he had no intention of ever going. I don’t know how I would trust my husband if he pulled something like this.

    On the flip side, if this man really has such disregard for his family, perhaps mars is the best place for him.

  • SusannahJoy

    If my husband signed up, I’d be ok with it. As much as I’d miss him and it would be so hard and all that, I think this is something big enough, like big for all of humanity big, that I would support him. He didn’t sign up because he wants to leave his family, he signed up because he wants to be a pioneer and change history.

    Although I highly doubt that we will have people living on Mars in our lifetime. That kind of thing is way expensive and complicated and expensive and I can’t see it getting the funding it would require.

    • Andrea

      I think it will happen. They are taking applications now. I was under the impression that the project is a go and they are beginning the process of starting the colony (thus the applications?)

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I know there is definitely some serious testing going on in the desert. They covered it in one of my students’ new science magazines.

    • SusannahJoy

      Oh, I know there is a real plan for it to happen, I just think it’ll fall apart. I’m a pessimist, especially when it comes to getting funding for something sciencey.

  • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

    I don’t know what the BFD is because when I went there it wasn’t so great they don’t even have a McDonalds yet

  • Kay_Sue

    It’s (at least currently) a once in a lifetime opportunity, so honestly? I don’t really blame him, personally. It would have been better had he discussed it with his family–especially his wife–first, but if she’s supportive, and they’ve got ten years to prepare for it if he’s selected, I don’t see any reason to be up in arms over someone else’s decision.

    • Gangle

      To be honest, I don’t know if she is really being supportive because she gives his decision her blessing or if she is just playing a numbers game. The odds are he won’t be chosen. In that most likely event that he won’t be going anywhere he will never be able to resent her for not being supportive and so she doesn’t have to lose her husband over it. But I bet she will resent HIM down the track. After all, he basically ambushed her with this, she doesn’t really have many choices right now on how to react.

    • Kay_Sue

      I still don’t see why it’s anything for people to make a fuss over. It is their marriage, at the end of the day, and if this is the face she’s chosen to present to the world, it’s between them…not them and the rest of the world. Personally, I’d have said, “Of course, my husband is going to Mars. My foot up his ass will send him there personally after this fiasco.” If she lets resentment build, that too is between the two of them, and something they have to deal with as a couple.

      The bottom line is, at the end of the day, these are currently private citizens who have a big issue that affects no one but the two of them and their family…so why is this something for people to be angry over? I just don’t get the big deal.

    • Gangle

      I don’t really feel it is worthy of fuss, but since either the couple or the mars program decided to make it public I do have an opinion about it.

    • Kay_Sue

      As do I. Although mine essentially amounts to it’s not worth having an opinion over to me, so to speak, lol. Does that count? I don’t really know. ;)

    • Gangle

      I think going on the importance of the subject matter, that definitely counts! :)

  • aCongaLine

    I can’t help but feel horribly sad for his kids… Applying was his business, and if he wants it that bad to apply, maybe he’d be a shitty dad, because he literally would rather be on Mars… but the kids didn’t ask for a dad who’d rather live on Mars.

    No one asked their opinions before applying. How awful for them? I would think they’ll be battling abandonment issues as they grow- especially since they’ll be 10 and 13 when he will supposedly leave? Their entire childhood will be defined by the fact that Dad is preparing to leave them forever, and live on Mars.

    I have terrible, awful separation anxiety, though, so maybe I’m seeing this through that lens. If I was his wife, I’d be pissed, and hurt, and upset because of the potential damage he’d be doing to the little ones. And pissed that he’d rather live on Mars than live the life he built with his family.

    Dunno. This one’s tough.

  • Gangle

    I am sorry, but this guy is a complete wanker. I won’t even go into him signing up without talking to his wife (dick move). I get that moving to Mars forever and ever is a once in a lifetime opportunity. But it isn’t the only once-in-a-lifetime thing that there is. (and to be perfectly honest, colonising Mars is such a pointless, ridiculous thing to me. I don’t see how it is for mankind or the greater good). When you decide to marry someone else and have spawn with them, your priorities ought to change from just what you want to how your choices affect the people that you chose to spend the rest of your life with and bring into the world. Friends of mine had their mother decide to go on a nursing abroad program which would take her away from the family for 5 years when the children were about the same age as this guys kids will be if he gets accepted. Yes, it messed them up, and no they don’t have much of a relationship with their mother now. Because following her individual dream was more important than caring for and about them.

    • SusannahJoy

      You don’t see how colonizing Mars could be good for humanity? Really? You know how many things we use every single day that were only developed for the moon? Something like that will require huge amounts of fancy tech and equipment and scientific discovery, which absolutely WILL benefit everyone.

    • Gangle

      Even so, I am positive that those discoveries will happen without some douche abandoning his family.

  • Diana

    So he’s quite happy to tell his 10 and 13 year old. ” Ok kids its been nice knowing you, Daddys going to his certain death now. “

  • Abbe

    Yes this would be a fantastic, life-changing experience for him. But if you have small children, maybe it’s meant for someone else. I’m sure there are a ton of more qualified citizens who are in a better place in there life for this. There are other things you can do for humanity that don’t involve a one-way trip to another planter.
    Sounds like he’s having a mid-life crisis and this is way out of a life he’s not happy with.