First human on Mars could be transgender

Matthias Ritters

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“All started with my virginity auction”

Melissa Ede / Credit: Melissa Ede
Melissa Ede / Credit: Melissa Ede

The dream for many children is to be an astronaut, fly to space, explore new places and be a hero. Melissa Ede never wanted to be an astronaut as a child, at this time she had to face other challenges: She was born in a wrong body and had to realise being transgender. Her childhood was anything but easy. Fortunately she could now make the dream of so many children come true for herself. She is amongst the final candidates for the Mars One Project, a Dutch program that will send people to Mars in 2024.

“Actually, all started with my virginity auction,” Ms Ede says, thinking about the Mars One Project. She wanted to sell her virginity at an auction.  The prize being, “the winner will get to spend a night with me! What happens after that, who knows?” She set up a homepage for this, followed by a lot of messages via mail, Facebook and Twitter. People started to ask for her advice about diversity. “I found out my website could help more people this way. I also didn’t want to be seen as a prostitute so I closed the auction again.”

At the meantime the press jumped on her, and Melissa Ede was getting into the focus of the media. She was getting popular, or how she calls it “visible”. This opened up the possibility to talk about diversity in public and spread her advice around the world. She is sure, that without her auction and the following media presence, she would have never applied to Mars One.

Melissa Ede was born as a boy with the name Leslie Lawrence Ede. Mother Nature played a prank on her, because Leslie didn’t feel male at all. “I had always known, that I was wrong, -right from being a little child. But nobody understood me.”

In the 1960s transsexuality was quite unknown. Her classmates bullied Leslie Ede and her parents treated her in a wrong way. “I wanted to be a girl and therefore I took a little bit punishment, for example when I was dressed up in my moms clothes and things like that.” The misunderstood girl was feeling misplaced: “As child it was very difficult. On Christmas my toys were wrong. I have got toys for boys, but I liked it more to play with the toys of my sister.”

Within decade’s society changed and transsexuality was a more usual phenomenon. However, still no one wanted to help her, that’s when she decided that she has to take action. “Ten years ago I decided: If nobody wants to help me, I have to do it myself. I could no longer carry on living this. I hoped the whole time that something would change. Now I’ve learned nothing changes unless you change it. That’s why I am Melissa now and not Leslie any more.”

Admittedly Melissa Ede is happy now but this is her not enough. She is searching for new challenges. “If you break down life on earth it is just waking up, do socialising, breakfast, work, go home and go to sleep. Not very exciting, right? I heard about a project to fly to Mars. Seeing things nobody else did before, that sounded amazing to me.” That’s when she decided to apply for the Mars One project.

Mars One is a non-profit foundation that is going to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars in 2024. According to the foundation, human settlement on Mars is possible with existing technologies. It is a one-way mission to Mars that means, there is no coming back.

Thus 200,000 people applied for the program. The search for six teams of four astronauts began in April 2013 and should be finished 2015. The selection program proceeds four rounds. The first round is already over and just 660 potential candidates were left, Melissa Ede is one of them.

The next Mars One Round began in December 2014 and ends in January 2015. In this round personal interviews take place with the remaining candidates. Only 100 candidates will come through this.

“We are all equal. It doesn’t matter if the others are studying astrophysics or being younger than me. I am totally into this. Willing to learn, study and practise!” If Ms Ede’s past life has showed her anything, she has the mental strength that is necessary for such a mission.  She feels confident to reach the next round.

There is no coming back to earth – a fly would be too expensive. Planet Mars would be the last destination in the lives of the astronauts. But it is no reason for Melissa Ede to be afraid. “Why wouldn’t I want to fly there? It is something no one had done before!” And besides she would be a hero of humanity.

Many space experts remain sceptical about the program’s odds of success. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed a study that any manned mission to Mars would result in the crew dying after 68 days. Even this doesn’t scare Ms Ede: “I would still do it to complete my dream and make history. No one was on the Mars yet. Imagine me saying: A small step for a man, a giant step for transgender!”

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Matthias Ritters