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Scott Stoll Wants To Go To Mars And Never Come Back March 12th, 2015

Scott Stoll Wants To Go To Mars. And Never Come Back. Cincinnati Magazine

Cincinnati Magazine Excerpt.

Sometimes Scott Stoll dreams of that first day. He steps outside, the rusty red rocks kicking up a fine dust beneath his feet. He is in an extra-terrestrial bowl surrounded by an eroded rim that rises gently on the horizon, forming the lip of a vast crater. Huge boulders are strewn across a cracked surface that resembles dry stream beds in the Australian outback. In front of him, dominating the landscape, is a towering mountain layered in shades of black, chocolate brown, gray, and cinnamon. But what usually dominates his dream is an image of him, looking up into a coal-black sky filled with a million pinpricks of light. He searches for one point of light in particular—Earth. The planet he left behind. >>>

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And read the update on the story from Cincy Mag.

Mars One Failure to Launch February 19th, 2015

Mars One. The next giant leap for mankind.

Hello fellow earthlings,

The good news is that I won’t have to eat worms and algae for the rest of my life; the bad news is that I failed to qualify for the next round of Mars One. So after almost two years, my aspirations to be the first person to bicycle around two planets has come to an end. I made it into the top 500 applicants out of 202,586. Maybe I was even number 101, but that doesn’t matter because only 100 get to move to the next round, and there were too many Americans from the start.

If you have about one minute, you can listen to my interview on WVXU, the local NPR station. I’m not sure why I’m reposting this. I was already feeling ashamed, and then to wake up the next day and see in the news about myself titled: “Cincinnatian loses out.”

My job interview to be an astronaut with Dr. Norbert Kraft (formerly of NASA, and now in charge of the applicant process for Mars One) was so bad — the worst I’ve ever done — that I literally had an out-of-body experience watching myself ruin the biggest opportunity I’ve had in years. I was saying the stupidest things and the lag and audio delay really made it impossible for me to connect on a personal level with Dr. Kraft. And somehow, of all the days in the year, I had a book due at the publishers just hours before my interview. I was exhausted from working every day for a month and somehow had just lost my mojo.

To give myself some credit, I was growing reluctant because I think I know too much about how hard this journey to Mars would be, because — not to pat myself on the back — cycling around the world is really hard. Visiting Mars is a fanciful idea, but the closer it comes to being a reality the scarier it is. (It was becoming so real, I began a list of things to bring, like: bicycle, bourbon still, 3D printer.) I mean how many other applicants know what it is like to go days without food, malnourished and fatigued; or sleep in such cold terrain that you wake the next morning with frozen water bottles and dying of dehydration; or to be isolated for days or even months; or to lay injured alongside the road with no one to help; or be sick with some strange disease in a village with no doctors? The more I learned about the trip to Mars, like spending 6-8 months in a capsule insulated from the radiation by your own bags of urine and feces, the more it seemed like a feat of survival than one of adventure and discovery.

Furthermore, I was growing reluctant to continue investing my time, money and energy into this project. The largest portion of the Mars One business plan is to use social media to earn the advertising revenue to fund the trip. I was beginning to feel like a media puppet. That’s a whole other story, involving media embargoes, nondisclosure agreements, and a lot of unhappy journalists and wasted time and opportunities. And it seemed the Mars One media blitz scheduled to launch on Monday also failed, since it didn’t break into the U.S. national media. That makes me sound a little jaded, but I was seriously considering the job and felt Mars One had some things to prove to me as well.

Nonetheless, I still wanted this opportunity very very badly. To have landed on Mars and be an astrobiologist — that would have been a dream come true. I’m sure I could have found some evidence of life somewhere. And despite some of my concerns, which I think are normal, I really tried.

Time to find a new dream.

Not making the next round was a painful experience. I felt as if I somehow betrayed myself. It really makes me question my ability to move through the world impeccably. Somehow I created these rules that I live by, like being an extraordinary adventurer; yet, I didn’t create a game that I can win. And I have made agreements and commitments with the world around me, a world that doesn’t seem to live up to my expectations and wishful thinking. One thing is clear, somehow I got lost in this equation because I didn’t value myself as much as I valued my commitment to these illusions, and I wasn’t even enjoying the journey.

Somehow I must put my life back in balance and create a new dream. As one journalist, John S. said to me: “I know you would have loved the experience and the adventure but, as your life up to now has shown, you don’t have any problem finding adventure right here on Earth.”

But what should I do? What world-record, Earth-shattering dream can I do now? Or maybe I should just have fun? It’s my life, and no matter what at the end of the sol (Martian day), the only way I can measure my life is by my own experience, memories and emotions — that is my only take away. So, can I value exploring the mysteries of what it means to be human as much as I value a journey to Mars?

Alien Landscapes: How to Visit Another Planet Without Leaving Earth February 11th, 2015

As kids, we all dream of blasting off in a rocket ship headed for other worlds. Perhaps it was the romance of discovery or the desire to escape, but no matter what the cause, we all have been entranced by the idea of extraterrestrial exploration at some point in life. Our own Scott Stoll is taking real steps to achieve his alien aspirations by becoming a member of the 2025 Mars colony, but most of us — myself included — won’t get farther from Earth than our daydreams of cosmic flight when work starts piling up.

However, I have found a way to explore the wonders of the galaxy without letting my feet leave the ground. The world is incredibly vast and bizarre, and I love finding places that make me feel transported to other planets. Here are my favorite other-worldly destinations as well as a few I’m looking forward to in future travels.

Atacama Desert

While the thought of South America often conjures up images of rich, dense rainforest, the truth is that South America is as ecologically diverse as any other continent. The biggest evidence for this is the Atacama Desert, which stretches from southern Peru to Northern Chile and directly contradicts any biases of South America as wet and humid.

The Atacama is known as an absolute desert, which means it contains many stretches that have never (never!) seen rainfall during the human record. Bone-dry and full of reddish sand dunes, the Atacama looks exactly like scenery captured by Mars rovers. In fact, NASA often uses the desert as a test site for explorations. Perhaps Scott should camp out here before absolutely committing to his Mars journey.

McMurdo Dry Valleys

The McMurdo Dry Valleys represent another desert landscape, though these have temperatures more similar to Pluto than Mars. This region is the largest ice-free area in Antarctica, and without the pristine white snow of the surrounding landscape, the black sand and boulders of the Dry Valleys look incredibly bleak.

Though I haven’t ventured as far as the Dry Valleys, I can attest that Antarctica as a whole looks utterly foreign. I was fortunate to journey to the continent a few years ago, and I was able to see the icy landscape during a helicopter ride. The giant, unending stretches of ice with not a settlement in sight make up the perfect setting for a Lovecraftian horror story of alien lifeforms.

The Pinnacles

The massive island continent of Australia was separated from the rest of the world for millions of years, allowing its scenery and life to change in surprising and unique ways. Though there are many places in Australia perfectly suited to adventure travel, my favorite is the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park. Walking on the soft, yellow sand dunes around thousands of weathered rocky projections, I felt just like Captain Kirk stranded on an alien planet, waiting for rescue by the U.S.S. Enterprise.

The Great Blue Hole

Sinkholes are terrifying and confusing phenomena, but they can create marvelous and fascinating geological sites perfect for exploration. Inarguably the most interesting sinkhole in the world, the Great Blue Hole, lies off the coast of Belize, where it offers some of the best scuba diving in the world, as extolled by Jacques Cousteau.

Though I am not yet one for deep sea adventures, the Great Blue Hole is just begging to be explored. Near the center of Lighthouse Reef and a significant part of the Belize Barrier Reef System, this sinkhole is the epitome of alien scenery on Earth, as so much of the oceans have yet to be fully studied.

Socotra Island

If humans ever discover a planet lush with life, I imagine it will look something like the isolated island of Socotra near Yemen in the Middle East. Filled with all types of terrain, from dense forest to dry sand dunes to mountains spotted with karstic caves, Socotra has earned the popular moniker “most alien-looking place on Earth.”

While the geography is certainly transporting to other worlds, what felt the most foreign to me was the island’s distinctive and mesmerizing flora. More than a third of the life on Socotra isn’t found anywhere else on Earth — due to the island’s long isolation from the mainland. The short, globular trees, though pretty, are off-putting and otherworldly in their dimensions and location around the dry, flat landscape, and the sparse animal life, though identifiable, is startling in such a quiet, seemingly deserted place.

Despite what we see and read in science fiction, interplanetary travel for leisure is probably quite a long ways off. However, with the power of imagination and the magic of air travel, anyone can be transported to an alien landscape.

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Scott Stoll is Mr February February 1st, 2015

Hang on to your hearts ladies, I’ve got my own centerfold in a new bicycle calendar.

Scott Stoll Mr February in South Africa

Albert Einstein bicycle quote. Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

A bicycle ride around the world begins with a single pedal stroke.
~ Scott Stoll

When I started the oldest and best collection of bicycle quotes on the internet, I never imagined that I would be one of the people quoted. My quote is featured for the month of February in the 2015 Bicycle Bliss Calendar. The publisher’s website description of the calendar reads: “With inspiring cycling quotes by luminaries such as H. G. Wells, Scott Stoll, and Mahatma Gandhi.” I can’t even believe my name is in that sentence!

Jumping jacks on a frozen lake January 26th, 2015

Scott jumping up and down on a lake

Here’s another item to add to your bucket list. Walking on top of a frozen lake is a simple and fun adventure many people can do near their home. It’s surprisingly scary to walk across the crunchy snow and a experience you won’t forget, and for an extra thrill I added a few jumping jacks. I’d also advise you to ask the locals if it is safe. In the picture above you can see a soft spot created by a spring in the lake.

Mars One astronaut update January 19th, 2015

A quick update: There are less than 600 applicants left to be an astronaut with Mars One. I had my job interview today with Dr. Norbert Kraft. You’ll have to wait for the results on February 16th. I can’t talk about it yet.

Visit me on the Mars One website.

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Visit our archive to see more guest posts January 1st, 2015

When The Argonauts first come online in 1999, our vision was to give adventurers a forum to share their hopes and dreams. However, we were  over-ambitious and ahead of our time.  We were an online adventure magazine before the notion of “webzine” and blogs didn’t even exist.

Even with the invention of social media, we still love to share your story; and it gives all of us greater reach.

Here is an archive of some of our old adventures from before the era of social media, digital cameras and convenient GPS devices.

And don’t forget to send us a blurb and photo of your adventure.

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