New quest focuses on Mars

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Attorney Richard Lupinsky of Blair County has done many things in his life.

The Wilkes-Barre native served with the Army’s 82nd Airborne. He spent two years in Tanzania as a member of the Peace Corps during which time he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

And after traveling the world, he graduated from Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law and then took a job as a law clerk for

Blair County President Judge

Jolene G. Kopriva.

Even with all that, the 39-year-old still has a yearning for adventure. But his latest quest has caused even him to pause and contemplate where he may be heading.

At the end of December, Lupinsky was informed by email that he is one of 1,058 “aspiring astronauts” who have been selected as possible candidates for a trip to Mars. That is Mars the planet, not Mars, Pa., as many people thought when they first heard the news.

There supposedly were more than 200,000 applicants worldwide for the Mars One project, conceived by two scientists and entrepreneurs from the Netherlands, Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders.

Lupinsky filled out an application last summer to be among those considered for the nine-month, one-way flight to Mars but said he pretty much forgot about it until the last weekend of December when he received the email that stated, “You and only 1,057 other aspiring astronauts around the globe have been pre-selected as potential candidates to launch the dawn of a new era – human life on Mars. Congratulations. You have made it to the next round.”

The next sentence stated, “Now, Catch your breath.”

That next round, the email stated, will include a conversation to Dr. Norbert Kraft, the chief medical officer of the Mars One project.

Lupinsky said he intends to continue to participate in whatever comes next.

“It’s interesting. … It’s a little bit overwhelming,” he said Thursday.

Lupinsky has real-world goals. He said he is interested in working for the federal government, possibly the foreign service.

But he also is interested in the possibility that space travel provides.

He did not seem too enamored with the prospect of a one-way trip to Mars but said there is plenty of time to consider what that means.

There is, he said, the moral aspect of just placing people on a less than hospitable planet with no way home.

On the other hand, he said, when Columbus sailed toward the new world, he didn’t know if he would return. Many at that time thought the world was flat and sailing far into the Atlantic meant dropping off the end.

The flight to Mars is a long-term project, meaning it probably won’t occur for a decade or so, Lupinsky said.

In reality, he feels his chances of being selected are a long shot, noting the first flight is expected to include only four or six people who would live in dwellings preconstructed by robots.

“There’s still over a thousand people. I don’t know my chances of being part of it. I would be happy to support the effort, support the idea even though we have a lot of problems here [on Earth] we need to overcome.

“There is a value exploring our capabilities beyond Earth, whether it be a moon colony or trying to colonize a planet that could possibly be habitable,” Lupinsky explained.

He said he was attracted to the idea to colonize Mars because, “It seems like it is a pretty ambitious project, something that would generate a lot of interest for people and expand the idea of what’s possible.”

The cost of Mars One is expected to run into the billions of dollars.

Lupinsky said that may be a low estimate.

He said he has talked to his father, Richard Lupinsky Sr., about the Mars One project as well as with friends, some excited by the possibilities and others saying “We’ll miss you.”

He said, “I don’t know where this is all going to go.”

Mars One put out a news release on New Year’s Eve announcing the selection of more than 1,000 people for the next stage of the planning phase.

It stated that 297 of the those selected were from the United States with Canada, India and Russia providing 75, 62 and 52 candidates, respectively.

The selectees are 55 percent male and more than 700 are under age 35.

A friend of Lupinsky’s in the Blair County Courthouse, Sarah Ergler, who works as a legal secretary, said she would not want to go to Mars, but, she said, he has a sense of adventure.

“I’m still in disbelief,” she said.

“I think it is very admirable he has made it to the top 1,000 people in the whole world.”

While Lupinsky has a sense of adventure, he also has a sense of humor. In applying for the Mars mission he had to provide a one minute video. In it he said he is able to learn anything. Then, he added another advantage of selecting him is that he will not take up much space in the capsule, a reference to the fact he is not tall.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.