We think of certain events as profoundly life-altering. Getting married or emigrating to a new country, say. But you can always get divorced, and you can almost always move back. Taylor is weighing a life decision from which there would be no turning back.
Produced with help from LaShante Goffigan and Kimberly Elsham Vavrick.PLAYLIST
Artist – Title – Album
Tim Hecker – Night Flight to Your Heart, Part 1 – Haunt Me, Haunt Me, Do It Again
Nettle – Shining One – El Resplandor: The Shining in Dubai
Padme – Wisdom from the Stars – Created in their Image
Javelin – Garth Hudson – Hi Beams
Mouse On Mars – Ju Ju – Autoditacker
Jan Jelinek – Them, Their – Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records
Arthur Levering – Sppooo Movement 3 – Still Raining Still Dreaming
Preslav Literary School – Dirge In Marriage – Veer
Floex – Podzemi – Samorost 2 Soundtrack
Mouse On Mars – Ju Ju – Autoditacker
Psychic Handbook – Glimmer Mist – Laser Palace 2011
Speaker 3: Okay. They just found water on Mars. For years and years, they believed that there was no actual water. And what I’m saying is, if I was planning a trip to Mars, I would have to prepare myself to go there and survive. And if we’re not prepared, then we’re on a hostile planet. Okay?
Taylor Rose Nations: When I was a nursing assistant, I took care of a lady who couldn’t chew any food. Bad teeth. She didn’t want to go get them pulled out. She was so old. She just was cool with drinking juice the rest of her life. And her family decided that it would be better for her to get her teeth pulled, and get dentures. She ended up getting her teeth pulled, and after that she refused to eat. She ended up just dying.
After somebody dies, we strip the bed, sanitize the room. It’s this whole thing. And the next patient we had in there was a very short-term stay. She was just going through some pretty intense chemotherapy. She called me in, and she asked me, “Did somebody just die in this bed?” And I said, “Uh, yeah.” She said, “I thought so, because they just bit me.” And I was just like, “What are you talking about?” She said, “Yeah, they just bit me, and I reached back to where they bit me, and I found this.” And it was a tooth. It was like a full tooth, with the roots and… And I said, “Are you sure that’s not your tooth?” And she was like, “I’m pretty sure I’d know if I lost a tooth.”
If I hadn’t had those experiences, I would probably 100% say, “You just die. You just stop living.” But who knows? I haven’t died yet. I’ve never been there. I don’t believe in an afterlife in like a Biblical sense, or anything like that. I kind of think you probably just stop being.
Nick van der Kolk: From Radiotopia, you’re listening to Love and Radio. I’m Nick van der Kolk. Today’s episode, Hostile Planet, featuring Taylor Rose Nations.
Taylor: I think there are probably a lot of things that I’ll miss. My family, and books. Pizza. And beer, especially. If nobody’s actually read about it, or looked at the website, I think it kind of sounds still crazy. I think most people think that I’m getting sucked into some weird cult. I Tinder on occasion. A lot of guys on Tinder are just the worst. It’s things like, “Hey, sit on my face.” Literally. Like, “Question mark?” No, “Hey, how’s it going?” I say, “No, thank you.”
Speaker 6: So you didn’t meet that guy?
Taylor: No, that’s not one of the guys I’ve met. No. I’m not looking for long-term relationships. I’ve got 10 years, people. Yeah. But I feel like if I got serious with a dude, a man, then yeah, it would definitely be something that would come up in conversation.
I literally never go to the doctor, so I was nervous anyway, having to make that appointment kind of made this a little bit more real of an experience. Vision test, colorblind. Hearing. Breathing. Blood work. Blood pressure. Then I had to have an EKG done. Pelvic exam.
Speaker 6: You had to get like a gynecologist, too?
Speaker 6: Really?
Taylor: Like the whole thing. Yeah.
Speaker 6: What does the… Do you know what the purpose of that was?
Taylor: I think the whole thing is just to make sure that basically you’re completely disease-free. Like you don’t have cervical cancer, or AIDS. I guess it’s kind of like if you know when you’re going to die, you know when your last day on Earth is, all of your days up to that day will be so much more important, and you’ll experience them so much more, than if you were just going on like everybody else.
I work as a chemist at [inaudible] Products, and that’s basically my first job out of college. I don’t want to work there forever. As long as the soap gets made, nobody’s hassling me, so… My mixing station, and where I do a lot of research and development, is on the same bench as my computer, so I just stream The Bachelor and work on formulas, and then quickly pause it if anybody came in.
Archival: It’s easy to just…
Archival: Then don’t tell me. Don’t tell me that. That to me is not a man.
Taylor: The Bachelor is a very silly show, where a bunch of lades try to date the same guy. The bachelor might offer you the key to the fantasy suite. You can take it, or you can pass.
Juan Pablo: I want to propose to you.
Taylor: Juan Pablo, who is the bachelor now, the season I applied for.
Juan: I’m 100% sure.
Taylor: Super cute.
Juan: I just don’t want to let you go.
Taylor: I’m in. I’m single. I’ve got nothing going on. I’ll be on The Bachelor. You get to go fly around the world, and go on all these crazy dates. Go to the fantasy suite if you want to. Totally in.
Juan: I like you a lot. A lot.
Speaker 6: How do you think that’s going to be, going from being a viewer of reality TV, to being the person that could potentially be in a lifelong reality TV show?
Taylor: I think if I were in something like The Bachelor, or Survivor, or something where it’s filmed and then the cameras go away, I would be hyper-focused on it all the time. But since it’s going to be just literally part of our day, all day every day, I think it’ll kind of blend into the background. And then, we don’t have like a cohost who’s interviewing us all the time. I think it’ll be way easier in that respect, than a traditional reality TV show. [inaudible ] kept joking that if my Bachelor application fell through, at least I’d have this to fall back on. Which is kind of funny, because my Bachelor application did fall through, and here I am.
They had said by the end of December 2013, we’ll hear something. That week, I was realizing I hadn’t heard anything. I’m going to hear something soon. And I woke up, and I always check my email in the morning on my phone, and I got that letter, and did the whole eye rubbing, like, “No way,” thing. “Dear Miss Taylor Rose Nations, you and only 1,057 others around the globe have been preselected as potential candidates to launch the dawn of a new era. Human life on Mars. Congratulations. You have made it to the next round. Now catch your breath.”
Archival: Mars One will establish human settlement on Mars in 2023. In that year, the first group of four humans will land on Mars.
Archival: The Touch Organization, Mars One, heads to build a community of settlers on the planet.
Archival: Every two years after that, another group will join the settlement.
Archival: It’s an idea belonging to Bas Lansdorp.
Bas Lansdorp: I am Bas Lansdorp, and I am organizing a human mission to the planet Mars in the year 2023.
Archival: Mars One has designed a mission that is much simpler than previous designs for Mars missions. The most significant stipulation is that the crew is actually going to stay and live on Mars, with the intention to remain there for the rest of their lives.
Taylor: I jumped out of bed. My roommate was down the hall, and I was knocking on her door, freaking out. I’m like, “Megan! I’m going to Mars!” She said, “That’s fucking awesome!” I’m like just sitting in the living room, thinking this could actually happen. I’m just rereading that letter over and over, and realizing that I didn’t feel scared about it. I wasn’t worried.
The one way mission means we don’t ever get to come home, but we’re going to be setting up camp there. A lot of people have been talking to me like, “Is this a scam? You had to pay $35 to apply. Do they just want your money? Don’t go. You’re just a human guinea pig.” I don’t mind. If I can go to Mars and be a human guinea pig, I’m willing to sort of donate my body to science. I feel like it’s worth it for me personally, and it’s kind of a selfish thing, but just to turn around and look and see Earth. That’s a lifelong total dream. Never thought in a million years that that would be something I could ever experience. That, to me, is worth the whole thing. Worth my spaceship crashing, or getting taken advantage of. To me, that in itself is worth it.
Oh, you know what? They did have a handicapped girl. They had a chick. Whoa. They have a pregnant one?
Speaker 6: And so, this is the season that you applied for, right?
Taylor: Yes. Yeah. I sent out my application for The Bachelor and Mars One around the same time. Yeah, this is where it gets good. All of the girls, they have like 30 seconds to sell themselves to this dude when they walk out of the limo. Some of them tumble out and do gymnastics, and others have prepared joked, and… Oh, there he is. Love that guy.
Archival: A new season on The Bachelor. Last season on The Bachelor, we met a man who…
Taylor: Unlike The Bachelor, where you’re on a show and it’s a season, and you go and you vacation and make out with Juan Pablo, if you actually get selected for Mars One, it’s the rest of your life. So, it’s probably really important to be completely authentic. That way you’re not selected on false pretenses, and then you end up hating everything, and… Yeah.
So, I had submitted my application to Mars One probably a few months prior to submitting my video. You don’t have to do it all at once. So, we developed a little script about me and the future, when Earth’s gone to… It’s really dorky, and it’s awful. I hope nobody’s ever seen it, or will ever watch it.
Archival: My name is Taylor. The date is March 10th, 2085, and I’m here in America. Things on Earth are getting worse every day. With the rising sea levels, we’re all forced to live so close to each other, and disease is spreading rampantly. We’ve got no food. We’ve got no drinking water left. What is available is being hoarded by those with money. People are dying in the streets of dehydration and starvation. The hurricanes are coming almost constantly now, and there’s no escaping them. I fear that the end is near. Why do we not do something about this while we have the chance? Why did we not expand beyond Earth? Why did we not go to Mars?
Speaker 7: Go. Go with throttle up, Capcom. Booster flight.
Speaker 8: Go ahead, flight.
Speaker 7: You copy? Okay. Status, Fido?
Speaker 9: Go.
Speaker 7: Guidance?
Speaker 9: [inaudible].
Speaker 7: Roger Eight Four Two. Booster?
Speaker 9: Go.
Speaker 7: Go at 5:30, Capcom.
Speaker 9: Stand by, negative [inaudible].
Speaker 7: How you doing, [inaudible]?
Speaker 9: Still building up [inaudible].
Taylor: It’s funny how much added value everyday experiences kind of have, when you know that in 10 years, you might not have any of those anymore. Especially at night, when it’s windy and dry, and I’m just like, “I only have a set amount of these left.” I remember a lot of nights, my dad would get up for work at like 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. Anytime there was an awesome lightning storm going on, or you could see the Northern Lights or a meteor shower, he would wake us all up, and we’d go sit out in the front yard and watch it. Sometimes I still just look at the moon, and I’m like, “Holy crap. That’s a real place.” Like, “We could go there.”
When I told my dad I was [inaudible 00:14:23], he had been watching Game of Thrones, which I got him for Christmas. I told him I had been accepted, and that there were 1,000 of us left. It was silent on the phone for like 30 seconds. “Dad, are you there?” He got all tearied, and said, “Oh, you’re going to Mars, and Ned Stark’s getting his head chopped off. What’s next?” Since then, we literally have not had a conversation about it. I had way more reservations about telling my mom than telling my dad. She freaks out about everything. Like, everything. And she said, “Oh, I’m happy for you, and I really hope you don’t get picked.” She keeps telling me that I can’t have her grand babies on Mars, so…
We’re not supposed to have babies right away, because it’s just not going to be habitable for them. But eventually that’s going to have to happen, in order for the community to grow, and to really learn about colonizing a new planet. I guess that sounds terrible, to have like a baby guinea pig. But I mean, nobody knows what it’s like to get pregnant at a third, or just over a third of Earth’s gravity.
Speaker 6: And you’re going to be there with only three other people, right?
Taylor: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s the plan.
Speaker 6: Do you ever think to yourself, like, “That’s not a lot of options for eventual sexual partners”?
Taylor: Yes. But I also think, at least initially, we will basically just be trying to survive. And so, we probably won’t be… Well, I don’t know. Probably we will be. I don’t know. I don’t know. Yeah, I’ve thought about that a little bit. But also four more people are coming in two years, so that’s like seven people. Water, food, a good book, and a vibrator. You’re set. I feel like if they don’t, there’s going to be some sort of Donner Party massacre. It won’t end well. I think people will think of these things.
Speaker 6: You mean if they don’t equip you with vibrators, there’ll be a Donner Party massacre?
Taylor: Yeah, something’s going to go wrong. It’s a lot of stress.
Speaker 10: It is an extraordinary project, by people with vision and imagination. This is going to be a private enterprise. Only private firms are going to contribute. No political mumbo jumbo. No taxpayer’s money will be involved.
Bas: The inventor of Big Brother is one of our ambassadors. We will finance this mission by creating the biggest media event ever around it.
Archival: It’s a Big Brother style competition.
Bas: So everybody can watch as we progress. The astronauts are selected, as they’re going to training, and as they explore Mars.
Speaker 17: This is going to be a media spectacle. Big Brother will pale in comparison. The whole world will be watching, and experience this journey.
Taylor: I kind of feel like 1,058 people just volunteered for a tribute, like The Hunger Games, and we’re all just kind of standing around, wondering what’s going to happen. When I picture the launch, I picture a lot of media. From that point forward, our entire lives will be televised. If you had asked me, like, “Hey, come over and give a speech about Mars,” I’d be like, “No problem.” I’m like, I know what I’m going to say. I’ve got it written down. I’ve memorized it. And the same with like, “Oh, you want to go do something?” “Sure. I’m prepared for that.”
But running into people, or this kind of thing, where I have no idea what you’re going to ask me. I don’t know if I have an answer. I probably don’t have a good answer, either way. I’m getting taken off guard. I usually start talking like a robot, and doing weird things with my hands. I always just get… My face, I can feel it turn red.
Speaker 6: But it seems like with a potential Bachelor application, that would definitely be attention on you, and the Mars thing. How do you think you’re going to handle that, as someone who’s sort of nervous?
Taylor: I think the lead up to takeoff is going to be harder than post-takeoff, because it’s all this attention, and you have to kind of be a public figure eventually. You know, nobody knows who I am right now, but 10 years from now, people will, if things go as planned. I feel like every year, I sort of… I feel a little bit more comfortable in my own skin, if that makes sense. So, it’s gotten less… It’s still hard, but less… I kind of couldn’t give a shit at this point in my life what anybody else thinks. So, it’s like I still do the whole awkward robot thing, but then I walk away, and I don’t, like… It used to be where I would awkward robot people, and then for two days I would be hanging my head, and just like, “Why did you say that?” Now I just embrace it.
My freshman year at Evergreen, one of the elevators just stopped moving. We were trapped in the elevator for a couple hours. There were about five of us in there. And it’s difficult for me. I just have a hard time with the lack of air in rooms, when there’s so many people in a small space. There’s also a room at my work. It’s the worst room ever. I think it’s heated to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. You walk in, and there’s just a little pathway in between a bunch of raw material totes, which are just like cube containers full of surfactant. It’s really dark and really humid, and you can’t breathe. And I literally can’t go in that room, because there’s no air. Yeah.
Speaker 6: Is there anything you’re doing to kind of emotionally prepare for that confined feeling?
Taylor: I have been making myself go into that room at work. When I walk past it, I will just go in for like a minute and then leave. It’s kind of hard. Some days I can’t. I can’t make it a minute. Or sometimes I can go for five minutes, and it’s fine. But the way that I feel like panicky in there, is decreasing.
Speaker 6: When you go on to Mars, you’re going to be in kind of a similar situation when you take your trip, and when you’re there. You’re almost going to be in a room like that, but forever.
Taylor: Yeah. I think you… I don’t know. I think I would get used to it. Yeah.
Speaker 6: It’s like a surfactants room that you could never leave.
Taylor: Yes. Hopefully there’s more to do than sit around and look at boxes of surfactant. I mean, I’m sure that that will all be part of our training and evaluation, so hopefully we’ll be prepared for it. But I don’t know if you could ever truly prepare for spending the rest of your life in a tiny little box, basically.
You know, I think about it a lot, that I only have one life to live, and I can choose to do whatever I want with it. So, I can choose to stay in Olympia and hang out here and play roller derby and ride my motorcycle, and live life that way. Or if I choose to go to medical school, that’ll be another path. Or I can choose to… Well, can I answer again?
Speaker 6: Yeah, go for it.
Taylor: Okay. I feel like I’ve been purposefully putting myself out there a lot more than I have in years previous, just easing into it. Going into that hot room at work, where I’m trying to get over claustrophobia. The same thing, where I’m trying to put myself in social situations where I don’t know people, and I have to learn to talk to people. And probably five years ago, I would not go to a party if it wasn’t like my best friend’s birthday party. Now a friend of a friend could invite me somewhere, and I’ll make myself go. I’ll probably be weird, and I’ll go home and think, like, “Learning experience. What not to do when you go to parties.” Or I’ve been going on dates a little bit, but I’m not at all in a rush to commit to anything.
Speaker 6: If you do get to that next round, it’s for keeps. You know, you’re not going to be able to leave the planet. What if you get there and it sucks?
Taylor: Yeah, that would suck. It probably will suck pretty… Like, it will suck, I’m sure. But you get to know that your life is about something bigger than just paying your bills, and living and dying and being born.
Nick: That’s it for Love and Radio. The show was produced by Elizabeth Jenkins, Brendan Baker, and myself, Nick van der Kolk, with help from LaShante Goffigan and Kimberly Elsham Vavrick. We are a founding member of Radiotopia, who is supported in part by the Night Foundation and Mail Champ, celebrating creativity, chaos, and teamwork. Thanks.