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Mars Mission/ Brain & Afterlife

Show Archive
Date: Wednesday - January 8, 2014
Host: George Noory
Guests: Ken Johnston, Matthew Alper

In the first half, Ken Johnston, a former NASA Data and Photo Control Department manager, talked about his bid to go to Mars as a participant in the Mars One program (run by a not-for-profit foundation that believes it can send people to the Red Planet much cheaper than NASA). So far in the process, he has moved into Round 2-- a group of 1,058 people under consideration, selected out of an initial group of over 200,000 applicants. His next step is to submit to psychological and physiological tests, and then face-to-face interviews. In Round 3, the field will be narrowed down to 100-200 candidates, who'll then become employees of Mars One and begin their training-- an 8 year process (the mission is slated to depart in 2022).

In 2018, Mars One proposes to send a communication satellite to orbit above the chosen landing site, and then 4-5 unmanned launches carrying various equipment such as rovers, and habitats that the team will need once they've arrived. The plan, Johnston explained, will be to send 10 teams of 4 astronauts each (two males/two females) at two-year intervals, with the first team setting up the initial space, and inflatable greenhouses. While it's envisioned that this will be a one-way trip (Johnston's wife of 30 years supports his decision to participate), the teams will be able to remain in constant contact with Earth, and conduct scientific missions.


In the latter half, author and philosopher Matthew Alper discussed his contention that the afterlife does not exist. Aside from religious indoctrination, the reason humans typically believe in the afterlife is that they are genetically hard wired to experience the 'God part' of the brain, which includes a sense of spiritual reality, he explained. "We have moral guidelines that can be equally as potent without a belief in God, just because we want to maximize our lives here on Earth," he argued, adding that we can make choices based on positive values, rather than a punitive system which suggests we'll "burn in hell" if we do wrong.

There is no scientific evidence for the notion of a soul, or that our identities are somehow preserved in a spirit, he remarked. "My take is that our identities are directly linked to the operations of our organ, the brain" and that all consciousness, all of our emotions and memories, everything that makes us who we are as a personal identity stems from brain function, he continued. As evidence for this, he cited types of brain illnesses/damages that cause people's personalities to radically change.

News segment guests: Steve Kates "Dr. Sky," Charles R. Smith

Related Material

Ken Johnston Images
Ken Johnston Images
In tandem with his 1/8/14 appearance, Ken Johnston shares a set of images related to his Mars One quest. He is pictured here in zero gravity.

Bumper Music

Bumper music from Wednesday January 08, 2014