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Zach Gallegos climbs at Stone Age Climbing Gym as part of his training to earn a potential spot for the Mars One Mission.
Zach Gallegos climbs at Stone Age Climbing Gym as part of his training to earn a potential spot for the Mars One Mission.

Student one giant leap from Mars mission

And now he’s closer than ever to getting that chance. After surviving two elimination rounds, he’s made it into the final 100 candidates for a mission to Mars.

“It’s definitely a feeling of excitement and fulfillment. It’s like my life’s work, my life’s plan, paid off,” Gallegos said.

With only one more round until the final 24 potential astronauts begin their training for the Mars One Mission, Gallegos said he’s stepped up his personal exercise schedule to prepare for the dangerous and taxing travel to the Red Planet.

“Gravity is resistance; every day you’re on Earth, you’re doing resistance training,” he said. “But in space, there is no gravity. So the whole way out there I’ll have a lack of that resistance that I’m used to, which means that my muscle mass will go down and my bone density will go down also. So the more muscle I have leading up to that is a good thing.”

Gallegos’ seven-day-a-week workout regimen includes rock climbing, biking, running, weight lifting and calisthenics for at least two hours. Now Gallegos said he’ll spend about double that time training his body each day.

Training is not the only thing Gallegos is changing, either. He said he is shifting his diet to more closely resemble the menu options that will be available on Mars.

His meals now consist of a protein shake and fruit for breakfast, a steak or burger for lunch and salad and chicken for dinner. He has already sworn off candy and sweets, but he said the hardest part will be giving up meat.

“The thing I’m going to have to train myself off of is the meat, because you don’t have cows and chickens running around on Mars,” he said.

Protein on Mars will have to come from other sources, he said. Insects, like crickets and worms, are a popular idea for protein for the Mars One participants. Gallegos said his idea is to send tilapia eggs on the mission so that the team can raise fish.

In the end, he said he’s preparing for the leanest possible circumstance for the trip.

“I’ll probably go fairly vegan about two years in advance,” he said.

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UNM President Bob Frank said he’s ecstatic about Gallegos’ move into the top 100 for Mars One.

“He’s quite an amazing guy. I’m very impressed with him. He’s like one of our Rhodes applicants,” Frank said.

Frank said he has not yet met Gallegos, but he’s looking forward to doing so soon. He said he’s not surprised that a UNM student would be on this list, though.

“He’s a typical atypical UNM student who does sensational things. We have a lot of phenomenal kids from the University of New Mexico who do these sensational things that no one ever thinks can be done by a kid from UNM,” Frank said. “I’m impressed by him, I’m wowed by him, but I’m not surprised he’s coming from our University, because we make kids like this all the time.”

According to its website, Mars One is a nonprofit foundation that aims to establish permanent human civilization on Mars. The launch date for the first human settlement heading to Mars is set for 2024, with the four-person crew landing in 2025.

Gallegos will host a talk today at the Museum of Natural History, sponsored by the Albuquerque Gem and Mineral Club. “The Mars One Mission and Future Space Exploration” will begin at 7:30 p.m. and is free to the public. The Museum of Natural History is located at 1801 Mountain Rd. NW.

Jyllian Roach is editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @Jyllian_R.

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