Some people consider it to be the greatest leap for humankind; for others it’s a suicide mission. But that hasn’t stopped thousands of would-be astronauts from applying to the Mars One project – a privately funded mission to colonise the Red Planet. Five shortlisted Britons will find out later this year whether they have made the final 24. Two of them tell Catherine O’Brien why they’re ready for their one-way ticket Daily Mail Read More>>>>>>
HANNAH EARNSHAW, 23
FROM: FORT WILLIAM
CURRENT ROLE: PHD STUDENT IN ASTRONOMY AT DURHAM UNIVERSITY
DREAM JOB ON MARS: GEOLOGICAL RESEARCHER
I first heard about Mars One two years ago through Twitter. I looked on the website and spent ten minutes wondering if it was some sort of cosmic joke before realising that, actually, these guys are deadly serious. From that moment on, I became ridiculously excited.
I have always been in awe of space. As a child, I read about the Apollo missions and hoped that I would live to see the day when we could land on Mars. By 13, I’d decided that I wanted to be an astronaut, and my ambitions were cemented three years later when I won a place at a Nasa-run summer space school held in Edinburgh. One of the stages of that competition was designing a Mars base – little did I think then that I might get the chance to do it for real.
I didn’t rush my application. I had a chat with my father first, and then with my mother and sisters to float the idea. My parents are the sort of people who have always encouraged us to pursue our dreams. We’ve been working through the process together and they are supporting me wholeheartedly, but there are many more hoops for me to jump through before I reach blast-off.
A tipping point came for me when I travelled to Germany to meet with Bas Lansdorp, the Dutch entrepreneur and co-founder of Mars One. A lot of people were denouncing the mission as a scam, so he held an event to enable potential applicants to judge for themselves. I spoke with Bas and other supporters and it was immediately clear that they knew their stuff and were serious and level-headed about what they were getting into.
The reality is that we are not going to be astronauts, we are going to be settlers. This is not about planting a flag and saying we were here, it is a lifelong project – the first step in making humans a multi-planetary species.
As a student of extragalactic astronomy I already know something of the huge potential – and also the risks – involved. We’ve been able to achieve amazing things by landing robotic rovers on Mars. But they can only do so much. A Martian colony kick-started by an incredibly diverse and intelligent group of people will pioneer new survival technologies.
Yes, the conditions are inhospitable – the air contains too much carbon dioxide and too little oxygen for human consumption – but unlike the moon, Mars is resource-rich. There is water in the soil, enough light from the sun to enable the generation of solar power and a day/night cycle similar to that on earth.
We will have spacious living units, connected by passageways, and Mars suits – similar to those worn by Apollo astronauts – for when we need to go outside. We will have internet communications with Earth, although there will be a time delay. The social developments are going to be fascinating. Will we remain connected to Earth or develop our own culture? Either way, the implications for the future of the human race are enormous.