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At least eight Gauteng hopefuls have made it to the second round of the selection process for the Mars One non-profit foundation’s journey that will send the first humans to the Red Planet.
Last year, 39 South Africans applied for the space adventure that aims to set up a permanent human colony on Mars by 2025.
Mars One received over 200 000 applications from aspiring astronauts wishing to form the crew of the one-way mission, and at the end of last year, had narrowed it down to 1 038. Of these applications, 25 are South Africans, making us the country with the ninth highest number of candidates.
Only eight of the Gauteng applicants have public profiles, including 30-year-old Kobus Vermeulen, who spoke about his dream of space travel with online publication mybroadband.co.za. Despite the risks of the mission, Vermeulen said he didn’t fear the possibility of dying while making history.
“Which is much more interesting than spending my time slowly dying in traffic for the next 35 years,” he said.
“Some very clever and capable people are working on this venture behind the scenes. Lockheed Martin is involved in the concept studies, Nobel laureates and ex-Nasa employees serve as advisers. At some point you have to trust in their expertise,” Vermeulen said.
The Pretorian said the next selection round would test candidates’ willingness to participate, their medical history and their understanding of the nature of the mission. The Mars One website revealed that reality television shows were planned to televise the historic journey, but broadcasting rights were still under negotiation.
When asked why he wanted to leave planet Earth for ever, Vermeulen said he had had an interest in space since his childhood, and that he wanted to indulge his adventurous side.
He also believed that if the human race wanted to prosper, we had to secure our future.
While he said his mother was horrified at the idea of him blasting off into the black void of space for ever – and that he’d miss his family and friends – he wanted to make his mark on history.
But it’s still a long way off, as the first planned mission is set for 2024.
In Durban, another potential candidate has also described her reasons for applying.
Since the age of six, Adriana Marais had imagined that, given the opportunity to get on a spaceship and never return to Earth, she would take it. The 30-year-old Durban quantum biology PhD student said she was not frightened by the prospect of venturing into the unknown.
“A one-way trip is a huge sacrifice and it would be a sacrifice of day-to-day life on Earth, but it’s a sacrifice I’m prepared to make for this idea, this adventure that would not be my own, but that of all humankind.”
The funding for the programme will be largely through the selling of TV rights for the expedition with cameras following the selected 24 from the start of the training through to their eight-month shuttle trip, following their life on Mars.
After submitting a medical report by March, she will wait to hear what the next step in the process will be.
“My parents are, of course, not happy that it would be a one-way trip. But they understand my sense of adventure, and said I must have the explorers’ blood of our ancestors,” she said.
“Most of my friends think it’s crazy.
“The last generation had the moon mission, but there’s been no new space revolution,” Marais said. “Mars will be our next venture.”
Survivor red planet
Each astronaut undergoes eight years of training with periods of isolation every two years within their teams, while they learn skills to survive on Mars.
This is a one-way mission.
In 2020, a rover will be sent to Mars to identify a location for the settlement and prepare the surface for the arrival of cargo missions.
Communication satellites will be launched into orbit around the sun to enable communication with Mars. Two living units, two life-support systems and two supply units will be sent to Mars in 2022, with the remaining units arriving in 2023.
The life-support and living units will be set up by a rover with the life-support unit connected to the living units transporting water, air and electricity activating the life-support system.
The journey will be a gruelling seven to eight months in a small space with no option of showering, only using wet wipes, and all food is freeze-dried and canned.
There are three hours of exercise daily and, if hit by a solar storm, astronauts will take refuge in a smaller area of the rocket for days.
Astronauts will spend much of their time doing research on Mars and will determine if life still exists on Mars. They will also determine the effect on the body of living in a 38 percent gravitational field. - The Star