DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — They could be the ultimate star-crossed lovers.
A Brooklyn resident is willing to say goodbye forever to Earth — and her fiancé — so she can be part of an elite crew of interplanetary explorers who take a one-way trip to Mars.
Kellie Gerardi, 25, was notified on Dec. 31 while on a trip to Hawaii with her beau that her application made it to the next round of the selection process for the Mars One mission, a Netherlands-based nonprofit program that plans to colonize the red planet in 2025.
The only hitch for Gerardi is that she’s getting hitched.
The same day she learned she had advanced in the selection process, her boyfriend, Steven, popped the question. Gerardi said yes, but she is willing to have a really, really long-distance relationship with him if it means achieving her dream of rocketing to another world.
“We’ve been joking that our vows are going to be ‘’til Mars do us part,’” said Gerardi, a Columbia University graduate who works as a media strategist in the commercial space industry. “I’m lucky to have someone in my life who is so supportive of me and understands the value I have on space exploration and being a part of interplanetary travel.”
Gerardi, who lives in downtown Brooklyn with her 36-year-old fiancé, is one of 1,058 Mars One applicants who made it to the second round of the competition. Mars One said it winnowed down the group from the more than 200,000 people who originally applied in September.
Eventually, the program will select six crews each consisting of four members. They will begin training in 2015, being plopped down in some of Earth’s most extreme locations, like the Arctic Circle, as preparation for Mars' tundra-like landscape. The first crew is expected to leave Earth in April 2024 for a space voyage lasting 210 days.
The bride-to-be said she jumped at the opportunity to apply for the mission because it married her loves of exploration and the universe.
A Palm Beach, Fla., native, Gerardi grew up watching space launches at Cape Canaveral.
“I've always been fascinated with space, from reading science fiction to seeing rockets launch from the coast of Florida,” she said.
After spending a week in North Korea and weeks in Myanmar studying the long-necked women of the nation's Kayan tribe, Gerardi became a member of the club a year ago and is now co-chair of its 110th annual dinner fundraiser, March 15 at the Waldorf-Astoria.
“We have a whole range of space enthusiasts,” she said of the club, noting that astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were members.
Gerardi said many people are shocked that, if Mars One picks her, she would give up her future husband, family and friends for life in cramped quarters on an unforgiving planet that requires wearing a space suit to go outside. But she said many of the earth’s greatest explorers didn’t flinch at the prospect of not coming back from their own journeys.
“I don't think one-way trips are unprecedented throughout history,” she said. “Explorers have always operated under the assumption that this wasn't going to be a two-way trip.”
She and her fiancé have been together for two years, and will have at least 10 more years together before she would blast off.
Her fiancé, whose name she asked DNAinfo New York to withhold for professional reasons, works in finance, but Gerardi said she has tried to expose him to her out-of-this world interests. The two went on a zero-gravity flight last year to experience floating in space.
“I'm completely in love with him,” she said of her future groom. “I'm thrilled to get married to him and have him as my husband, and I'm grateful to have someone so supportive in my life.”