Scott Stoll’s feet are firmly planted on the ground. And they’ll stay that way.
Stoll, a 44-year-old Northside resident, wanted to be one of the first people on Mars. He hoped his ticket to the Red Planet was aboard a Mars One spaceship, a seven-month journey created and financed by a Dutch non-profit with suppliers like Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, and Paragon Space Systems. But he didn’t make the cut.
Mars One is more than about traveling to Mars. It’s about colonization. In fact, there is no return ticket. You go, you stay. Still, with that daunting caveat—leaving family, friends, green grass, and blue skies behind forever—more than 200,000 would-be astronauts applied in an online free-for-all. Mars One selected around 1,000 from that field, including Stoll, to go to the next round. Stoll, a self-styled dreamer and optimist, started to mentally pack his bags.
“I’ve done probably 300 interviews in my life,” Stoll recalled as he sipped his coffee. “That was the worst one ever.” He called his online conversation with Dr. Norbert Kraft, Mars One medical director, an “out of body experience” and found himself saying “the stupidest things” to the enigmatic Austrian who is an internationally renowned expert in the psychological impacts of space travel.
As he struggled with a poor internet connection, Stoll was surprised by the questions from Dr. Kraft, many of which focused on details published on the Mars One website or in reading material he had been given. He laughed about one question-and-answer in particular: “Dr. Kraft asked me how big the solar panels were on the ship,” he recounted. “I wasn’t sure but I said something like around 3,000 square feet and he corrected me right away and said it was something like 3,600 square meters.” Stoll slammed his fist against his forehead and with a sardonic smile said, “Dammit! It’s meters, not feet!”
There may have been one question that Dr. Kraft used to test his subject’s psychological profile or, perhaps, his fealty to the mission: “If a rocket ship came to Mars two years later and could take you back home, would you go?” Stoll answered “yes” and wonders if that was the wrong answer.
Were they testing his resolve? He’ll probably never know. “All I know is they picked 100 people and I wasn’t on the list. They sent me an email and all I had to do was read the first sentence and I skipped all the blah-blah-blah stuff that followed,” he lamented.
There was one person who was happy: Stoll’s girlfriend, Dr. Sara Williams, a child psychologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. She was relieved, Stoll said, but low key about it because he was so disappointed.
Stoll and Williams have moved on to more earthly endeavors. They are co-authors of a new book The Dream Playbook: How to Create Meaning To Your Life, which is being lab tested by the University of Cincinnati at the YMCA after-school program, the School for Creative and Performing Arts and the Academy of Multilingual Studies. Students from the capstone program led by associate professor Dr. Farrah Jacquez are leading the study of the curriculum, which is designed for students in grades 2-8.
Stoll’s dream was to go to Mars. He’s not going but knows he can and will make a difference. “My book is about creating happiness and giving kids a sense of hope, passion and possibility,” he says. That seems like a decent consolation prize.