Can Mars One gorria planeta kolonizatzeko?

Can Mars One colonise the red planet?

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukIzeneko artikulu hau “Can Mars One gorria planeta kolonizatzeko?” zen Andrew Smith-ek idatzitako, Guardian larunbatean maiatzaren 30ean on The 2015 10.00 UTC

Noiz Nasa lehen rover ezarri behera Mars azalera gainean 1997, bere erreproduzitu kolore irudiak hasieran internet sentsazio bat eragiten. ametsetan mendeetan ondoren, hemen izan dugu, Begi gure gertuen potentzialki bizigarria bizilaguna mailan, eta ikusmena bleakly gisa majestic zen dugu imajinatu izan dute gisa: harritsu, eskala bat erabat Earth alien on desertscape gorria. mendi One, Olympus Mons, Gure eguzki-sistema handiena izan zen (Hiru aldiz Everest altuera, aztarna bat Suediako tamaina); duna-itsaso swept bere ipar hemisferioan arroilak 7km-sakona zaineztatua hegoaldean, berriz,.

clunky mahaigaineko ordenagailu batean Watching unibertsitate Twente herrian Holan, 20-urteko Bas Lansdorp lehen ustea harritzekoa bat izan zen; Bere irrika bigarren ("Ez joan nahi dut!"), gero malenkonia gauzatzeko, izate Holandako, inoiz ez zuen Nasa batera hegan. Beraz, egin behar berak izan zuen litzaidake.

Nolako pertsona bat ustez hala nola outlandish pentsamenduak, gero saiatzen horiek benetako egiteko? Hemezortzi urte geroago, Lansdorp eta dira tren bat dut en Heathrow ibilbidea, eztabaidatzen Mars One, inbertitzaile benetako benetako enpresa bat eta hasiberria astronauta prestakuntza programa bat, gure ikaskide bidaiari erori isila bitartean, eta asmoa ez den ipurtsarde. Lansdorp brusque ditu, Kristal-eyed positivity; boyish xarma bat ekintzaile asko ikusteko aukera hori, Bere Holandako azentu konbinatzen, Egiten zintzoa eta limurtzaile badirudi zion. Guztiak berdinak, emakumearen ondoan me ha sido smartphone bera pantaila begiradak ere iragana da 10 minutu, eta bere pentsamendu burbuila irakurketak: "Gizon hau Mars joan buruz hitz egiten da. Handik. Like esan nahi zuen. I Am ametsetan?"

Lansdorp hasi Mars pentsatzen ariketa intelektual gisa arabera, hobby bat: nola liteke pribatuan sortutako Mars misio bat benetan lan? George Bush Sr agindu Nasa hori 90eko hamarkadaren hasieran Bidaiaren kostua Bazekien, itzuli ziren 0bn portzentajearekin, horren ondoren, Mars giza bidaia espazio estalpearen osaba ero bihurtu zen. One Nasa ingeniari mintzatu identifikatu a "giggle faktorea" nahi dut bere agentzia at oso aipatzearren bertaratu.

Pixkanaka, arren, Lansdorp etorri zen, ez zen kostuak idatzibarrarik egia sinple bat onartuz modu bat dela uste da: Mars bidaia baten zati gogorrena ez zela joan, baina atzera datozen. Nix itzulera eta zure teknologiako arazoak jaitsi kanpoan, neurrian teknologia berriak ez dela beharrezkoa izango litzateke. Nasa bezalako erakunde publikoa For, esaterako, jauzi bat politikoki pentsaezina izango litzateke. Baina pribatuan sortutako bat - zergatik ez? Bat-batean,, Lansdorp enpresa bati buruz hitz egiten ari zen beste inor ausartu are moot: Mars likidazioa eginkizun bat, bn for, gobernuen aldaketa txiki eta gero gizabanako Cadre.

Lansdorp bere graduondokoa bukatu ingeniaritza eta energia berriztagarrien enpresa bat sortu, Ampyx Power, haize-energia-sortzaileak delta agindu eta frogatu popular inbertitzaile espekulazio batera (makinek ez dute oraindik eraiki dira). maitemindu zuen, halaber, eta familia bat pentsatzen hasi. Ondoren, in 2010, Posta elektronikoz bidali zion paper bat arabera Fisikari britainiarrak Paul Davies, Bat-modu Mars misioa baten ideia flotatzen. "Begira, lapurtu dut dute zure ideia,"Lagun joked.

Orain edo inoiz ez zen. Lansdorp hasi finantzaketa eredu bat kontuan hartu behar oinarritutako difusio eskubideak eta publizitatea. Premier League bada, Olinpiadak eta errealitate TV ikuskizunak merezi bilioika ziren, zer prezio Mars misioa eta bermatuta entzuleen ... denek Lurrean? Zortzi milioi eyeballs bikote batzuk kohete bat erosi litzateke, litzateke ez dute?

***

Lansdorp gizon gogorra behera Pin da. Susmoa dut, hau da neurri batean, hedabide bat da, gero eta zion susmagarriak bidean anbibalentzia (eta nola ezin izango bloke bat kohete edo spacesuits ez du, baina dio off dio Mars laster susmagarriak); eta, neurri batean, bilaketa zigortzen bat inbertsio batzuetarako ondorioz. Noiz betetzen dugu, Iragan astean ikusi du shuttling US arteko hura, Kanadan, Australia, Holandan eta London.

Non bere lehen txandan finantzatzaileen gehienbat aingeru inbertitzaileentzako ziren, 30-bakoitiak gizabanako aberats eta hiru edo lau enpresek ez dutela beren inbertsioaren itzulera eskatzeko, bigarren txandan finantzaketa tradizionalki dakar tenplatuaren pros irabazien espero adostutako epe baten barruan. puntu horretan Mars One babesarekin iragar daiteke guys horiek puntu horretan aukeratu ez baina serio hartu behar dugu. Eta puntu horretan, Lansdorp dio, da itxi.

Mars: Bas Lansdorp
Mars One en Bas Lansdorp: 'Children astronautak izan nahi du, Ez pop izarrak. Hori delako izango izango cool gauza izan '. Argazkia: Manuel Vazquez Guardian

Bere plan da hau: lehen, Zortzi uncrewed suziriak bidaltzeko, ekipamendu betetako, materialak eta robot base bat muntatzen, 2,000 sq bizi eta lan espazio ft, suziria kapsulak eta gogorra puzgarriak eraiki. suziriak litzateke ziurrenik garatutako sorta bat datoz Elon Musk SpaceX at; batetik 2027, kolono eramateko hasten ziren, lau, bi urtez behin taldeek ere bidali. Lansdorp boluntario deitu 2013, eta otsailean bere lehen hautagaiak arrakasta sorta iragarri - Mars du 100. Hurrengo udaberrian, du 100 taldeko ariketak egiteko bete, eta 24 full-time Prestatzen azaleratzen ditu.

Lansdorp kritikariek uste hori da oso ona egia izan. Late iaz, Ikertzaile talde batek Massachusetts Institute of Technology (CON) aldarrikatu Mars One tripulatzaile hilko zela 68 egun lurreratu ondoren: oxigeno mailak orekatzeko beharrezko ekipamendua besterik ez da existitzen. (Mars One erantzun du arazo hori garaiz konpondu litzateke.) akordio bat ezin izan da aukeratutako misioa buelta show bat sartu TV ekoiztetxea batera iritsi sortu da, UK Big Brother ekoizle zatiketa Endemol. (Lansdorp dio ekoiztetxea beste leku batean egon azarotik, baina hori xehetasunak dira komertzialki sentikorra.) kontratu Another, US aeroespazialak irmoa Lockheed Martin batera, halaber bidez behera egin du, bi urteko atzerapena bat behartuz proiektatutako aireratzea hasi, ra 2027. (Lansdorp dio kontratu bat dauka Paragon Space Development Corporation Arizona, bertan Mars One bizitza-laguntza sistemak diseinatu ditu, eta gaur egun, espazioa jantziak ari da lanean. Paragon baieztatzen honetan.)

gehiago damagingly, gazte Dublin fisika eta astrofisikan doktorea akademiko bat, Joseph Roche, Martxoan esan zuela irten zen 100: bakarra aukeraketa prozesua izan laughably eskasa, forma-line eta Skype bidez egin, baina Lansdorp zen hautagai sakatuz "prozesatzeko tasak" eta erosi duten merkantziak horiek saritzeko (kartelak, pegatinak, Kamisetak). balitz bezala, begiratu egiten hasi da fatwa bat, abisua musulmanak Mars One parte hartzea: suizidioa eta bekatu eurokoa, Lansdorp arazo gutxien zen.

Baina, azpimarratu zuen bere arrazoi benetako. "Gauza handia Mars One lor daiteke One,", Dio, "Dela, denean bezala Neil Armstrong eta Buzz Aldrin ilargia lehorreratu, gizakiak Martera joan bada, haurrak astronautak eta zientzialari eta ingeniari berriro izan nahi du, pop izarren ordez. Zeren hori da cool gauza izango da izan. Oraintxe bertan, ez da."

Beraz triunfo litzaidake zuen X Factor Mars Factor batera? "Hori baino gehiago izango litzateke,", Dio. "Emaitzak bertan bada 10% zientzialari edo ingeniariak gehiago, adimenak aparta klima aldaketa bezalako gauzak aurre egiteko behar dugun marrazki eta munduko elikadura aukera handitzen da. Ezer ez dakar jendea elkarrekin proiektu komun bat bezala. "

askatasuna erosteko full-time Marten lan egiteko, Lansdorp saldu bere akzioen Ampyx hasi. Nik esan izan den horman euli bat nahi nuke gauean bere neska-laguna, esan zuen, orain bere seme-alaben ama, Horri buruz. barre egiten. "Beno, hau aurretik, I Airean energia eolikoa egiten ari zen, gogoratu. Eta nire doktore irten nintzen nire lehen enpresa hasteko, nola gogor astindu gogoratzen dut nire ama zen. Nire neskalaguna daki sortu naiz gauzak handinahi eta saiatu konturatzen. Eta orain dugun izan soldatak ordaintzeko bi urtez, talde bat 10. Mars One Inork bertan da dirua egiteko, baina erreala da. "

Ez dago sinpleagoak arerio plan bat Mars iritsi da, aeroespazialeko ingeniari-ek zehazten eta Mars Society sortzailea Robert Zubrin bere 1996 erreserbatu Case For The Mars. bueltan hainbat kokapenak misioak serie bat planeta gorria proposatzen du, programa bat ere kostatzen bn-30bn egin zuen. Ez litzateke azkarragoa izan da Zubrin en dirua pasatzeko politikoki salable (Itzuleran bat barne hartzen dituelako) alternatiba? Lansdorp ez dio. Lehenengoa, Niri gogorarazten zuen Lurrean kohete abiarazi dela zaila eta arriskutsua da, eta ehunka aditu eskatzen du - beraz imajinatu zailtasunak hacerlo Marte tripulatzaile gutxi batzuekin, makina ondoren bidaiatu 50m mila eta bota inguruan ek abian jarri eta lurreratze bitartean. Zubrin en aurrekontuekin zalantzan jartzen zuen, halaber,: “Because of the new technology his plan would require, it’s a longer timeline, so I wouldn’t know how to finance it. Our investors are already on the edge with the 10-year timeline we have.”

Lansdorp points out that we don’t yet know how to land 10-tonne payloads in the red planet’s thin atmosphere, let alone a 100-tonne return launch system (to understand the depth of this challenge, go to Nasa’s website and watch the video “Curiosity’s Seven Minutes Of Terror”, which animates the hair-raising machinations of a system necessary just to land the Mini-sized rover). Which could mean that Nasa, with its vague pedestrian plan to orbit Mars in the 2030s and maybe land in the 2040s, is right: we’re simply not technologically or politically there yet, and the new Mars rush is all a lot of hot air.

Lansdorp insists that, even if a return trip were practical, he wouldn’t go for it. “It’s such a waste of money and effort! There’s a whole world to be built – there’s work for centuries on Mars. Why send people who want to go for a holiday, when there are 200,000 applicants who don’t need to go back? You can send 10 settlement missions for the cost of one return. If you go for that option, the first mission will always be 20 years away, as it’s been since the 1960s.”

***

Who signs up for a one-way ticket to Mars? Clare Weedon is a whip-smart 27-year-old IT systems expert, curious and empathic, with opal-blue eyes and a pierced lip. We meet in a cafe in London, where she speaks excitedly about a forthcoming holiday chasing tornados in the American midwest. Becoming an astronaut was never part of her plan: when her brother sent her a link to Lansdorp’s call for astronauts, her first thought was, “Is this for real?” But she applied anyway. It was only at round two, a form that took most of a day to complete, that she started to take the prospect seriously. Asked to describe an experience of cultural awkwardness and how it was resolved, she recalled the time she (a pescetarian) and a vegetarian friend had lodged with an elderly, non-English-speaking Spanish couple who cooked them wonderful meaty meals; they managed a difficult situation with enough aplomb to be invited back. Prompted for a frightening incident, Weedon remembered being stuck on an icy motorway for six hours.

Mars: Clare Weedon
Mars One candidate Clare Weedon: ‘My boyfriend and I have been together for six years. We’ve had a row about it’. Argazkia: Manuel Vazquez Guardian

Overseen by Mars One medical director Norbert Kraft, a veteran of the US, Russian and Japanese space programmes, the process aimed to slough off those who lacked the necessary application, intellect or self-awareness. From an initial 202,000, the candidates were reduced to 1,058; a routine medical, conducted by their own GPs, brought the numbers to a global 660. And then, 100. Mars One intends to repeat this selection process on an annual basis, delivering six fresh teams of four every year, leading to a pool of 100 by first flight.

Weedon was at her DJ boyfriend’s flat when she received an email headed “Congratulations!", which she opened with heart in mouth, palms sweating. “It was such a surreal feeling,", Azaldu. “I was totally stunned – just so excited! I bounded off the sofa and ran upstairs, screaming.”

Ryan MacDonald interviews Dr Norbert Kraft, Mars One’s medical director

Her boyfriend was less thrilled. What do her family and friends think about her desire to leave the planet? Her eyes flick to the floor. “Yeah, it’s difficult. Esan nahi dut, my boyfriend and I have been together six years and we’ve not spoken about it since I got through to the last 100. We’ve had a row about it, but not spoken. I don’t know what to say.”

Does she understand how he feels? “Yeah. Esan nahi dut, it’s not worth ruining our relationship if nothing’s going to come of it. But I also understand the turmoil of feeling that someone might just fuck off and leave you – and that’s horrible! Esan nahi dut, I’m laughing, but if I think about my situation…”

Does she share any of Roche’s reservations about Mars One? “I agree with some, but I totally disagree with others. I didn’t earn any points until last week, when I bought a T-shirt, so that part was bullshit. The points system means bugger all.”

Like everyone else, Weedon paid a £20 registration fee and thinks this fair. (“If you’re serious, what’s 20 quid?") As far as her suitability for a trip to Mars goes, she acknowledges that the process can at best have scratched the surface; but she contradicts Roche’s claim that applicants had been promised face-to-face interviews – and with a round-two cadre of 660 scattered across the globe, it’s hard to see how these interviews could have been conducted differently.

Weedon’s brother didn’t make it to the 100 eta, until she did, no one else in the family knew they were applying. How did they react? “They’ve been great, benetan. They can see the passion in my eyes and that there’s no holding me back, so they might as well support me.”

What awaits Weedon and her fellow pioneers, should Lansdorp raise the money? Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun, the last rocky “terrestrial” world before the ethereal planets, the gas giants, take over. The distance between us varies with each opposition, baina 2003 saw Mars pull within 55m km of Earth, the closest it had been or would be again for 60,000 urte, during which it was the largest object in our sky – a ruby light you felt you could reach up and pluck from the night, then release again, like a firefly. Guztiak berdinak, where the moon takes two days to reach, Mars is six months away, with a return journey becoming available after only six months there: a long time to spend floating in a tin can.

The planet could scarcely be less appealing to a human. Freezing cold and arid, Mars is a uniform rusty red, coloured by the oxidised iron in its soil. The Martian day is 37 minutes longer than that of Earth, which will appear as a pinprick of light in a sky that contains two moons. Weedon won’t be going outside without a spacesuit, because the atmosphere is 95% karbono dioxido, and planet-swallowing dust storms can last for months. On the plus side, gravity is a third of Earth’s and water is far more plentiful than once thought, meaning that everything necessary for life, from air to water to metals and plastics, can be manufactured there. Yet life will be monotonous and hard.

The space geologist Peter Grindrod, a professor at Birkbeck College, London, is part of a Europe-wide panel tasked with choosing a landing site for the European Space Agency’s UK-built ExoMars rover, which is scheduled to land and drill two metres below the surface in 2018. In his Bloomsbury HQ, Grindrod shows me photographs of sweeping Martian landscapes that make me ache to go. Like most scientists I consult, Grindrod is a Mars One sceptic. “Who would you want to spend the rest of your life with?” he asks. “Somebody who’s decided to give up everything and die on another planet? I saw one guy interviewed who had a wife and three children, and a reporter asked him, ‘What will you say when your daughter asks you, Daddy, why aren’t you going to come back? Would you change your mind?’ And he said, ‘Well, she’d be upset, but no, I’d still go.’”

***

Alison Rigby’s reaction to making the round two group of 1,058 was “ecstatic”, tempered by the fact that her partner didn’t get through. In a south London pub near her home, the 35-year-old lab technician and avowed science geek recalls the moment. “I said, ‘Should I continue?’ and he said, 'Bai, Bai, yes – look what you’ve done already! Keep going, I’ll apply next time.’”

Then came the news she’d made the final 100. “I was shaking. I could not do anything. I was, atsegin, ‘They chose me? me?’ I’m a pragmatist, and obviously the odds were against me, so I’d been convincing myself that I wouldn’t be selected and working out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. Ordutik, they’ve explained the criteria and I was like, 'Oh, OK! I was a shoo-in!’”

At the Skype interview stage, everyone was asked the same thing: three knowledge-based questions, to see if candidates had learned the material they’d been sent, and five interconnected general ones. Perhaps the trickiest of these came last and sounded innocuous: “If, after three years on Mars, you had the chance to come home, would you?” I would have fallen at this hurdle – who knows how they would feel about anything after three years on Mars – but the correct answer is no, because not only would you be abandoning your team, but your physiology would have adapted, with radical bone and muscle loss making a return to Earth inadvisable.

How have Rigby’s family taken the news? "Beno, we’re still very close,", Azaldu, “but this has become an issue for them. Esan nahi dut, it was a big step for me to move down to London from Blackpool. My dad’s very proud of me, but sad to think of the implications. My mum’s more against it: I’m her only daughter and she wants me nearby. I think she’d say, ‘It’s more important to think about your family than yourself.’ And I’d go, ‘I’d love to, Mum, but I can’t.’”

How does she reconcile that? “By saying that what I’ll be doing is more important to more people than just my family. And while my family is really important, this is important for the whole world.”

She points to rocket designer Wernher von Braun’s words about the first moon landing being humanity’s biggest moment “since life crawled out of the slime”. “Surely the Mars mission will be an equally big step,” Rigby says. “This won’t just be flags and photographs, this is a settlement mission and people will be able to look up and see there are actually humans on Mars. Which makes the world seem so much smaller.”

Mars: Alison Rigby
Mars One candidate Alison Rigby: ‘A mission to Mars might break us out of our ennui, our powerlessness’. Argazkia: Manuel Vazquez Guardian

Standing on a dusty red desert plain, gazing up at a speck of light, knowing it’s Earth and that there is no hope of returning, strikes me as the loneliest and most desolate feeling. But both Rigby and Weedon are uncowed by it. No one has left Earth’s orbit since 1972 and no one has ever ploughed beyond the moon into deep space, let alone for good. There’s also the question of why?

“Yeah. Somebody tweeted me, ‘Why do you want to go to Mars when we have so many problems here on Earth? Shouldn’t you stay and fix them?’”

Zer, you personally? “Ha! Exactly! esan nuen, ‘Shall we change mankind and then go to Mars, or shall we be bold and change mankind arabera going to Mars?’ The way I see it, we need a new vision, a new purpose. Even if Mars One doesn’t make it, it has definitely stoked the fires of exploration again. And if they do, or if Nasa does, if they choose an international crew and make it humanity’s mission to Mars, it will have a very big coalescing effect. It might break us out of the ennui that has descended, where we feel powerless.”

People predicted the same thing when the Apollo lunar missions brought back the first whole Earth photos, but Rigby thinks the psychology of a Mars mission will be different. “You’ll leave, then you’ll get to where you’re supposed to be, a planet – but it’s a different planet this time.”

We talk about the defection of Roche (who declined my interview requests). It turns out his criticisms had a curious effect on the rest of the 100, drawing them together as they formulated a response that Mars One management seemed unable to provide. “We left it for a day and thought, ‘Well, let’s see what Mars One has to say about this.’ Because we were expecting the hammer to fall.”

When the hammer didn’t fall, 76 members of the Mars 100 community group, a secure online forum, stepped up to post very effective retorts on YouTube (Ryan MacDonald’s 10 Reasons Mars One Is NOT A Scam demolishes the arguments one by one). A closeness began to form. Rigby asked a couple of European candidates to stay with her and meet fellow travellers. “It’s a wonderful resource,” she says of the forum, “a place where we can express our feelings without worrying about them slipping out or anything. The only slight worry is it’s taking us away from the public forums like the Facebook groups, so our presence there isn’t as strong as it was. But the issues we have to discuss are quite pressing.”

In this sense, the candidates are already pulling away from their lives on Earth. Clare Weedon pointed out that standing on the surface of the Moon was like being in space, because there is no atmosphere, whereas Mars will feel distinct, like a planet; hasiera. Hala bada, someone will have to get there before we’ll know whether that feels liberating, or crushingly claustrophobic.

***

With so many problems here on Earth, can there be any justification for spending billions of dollars on Mars? Some people think so and, significantly, one of them is the PayPal/SpaceX impresario Elon Musk. When I visited him at SpaceX’s factory in Los Angeles in 2013, he made no bones about the motivation behind SpaceX: it is to colonise Mars.

“Fundamentally, there are two reasons to go to Mars,” he explained. “One is defensive, as a form of life insurance, of preserving life, which we know can be wiped out by catastrophic events [such as comet strikes and supervolcano eruptions]. And the other is that it will be the greatest adventure ever. I am motivated more by the second, that it would be a fantastic adventure, even for those who don’t want to go. Just as with the moon, it was only a handful of people who went, but in a sense all of humanity went there with them. And I’m hopeful we can do it with better life expectancy than the original English colonists in America!"

Meet the people on a mission to be first on the red planet… and stay there – video

Musk wants to go himself, he told me, but expects to have the option of coming back. Of Mars One, he has been dismissive, telling MIT students last October, "Beno, the plan I’ve seen has them buying a bunch of Dragon capsules eta Falcon 9 rockets to go to Mars. That’s cool, if they want to buy our rockets, I’ll certainly sell them – though I don’t think they’ve got anywhere near the funding to buy even one. But trying to go to Mars in a Dragon… that’s a long time to spend in something with the interior volume of an SUV.”

Later this year, Musk hopes to unveil designs for his own Mars Colonial Transporter, a craft capable of taking large numbers of people there. Whether through him or Lansdorp, it looks increasingly likely someone will go in my lifetime, a proposition that, even three years ago, looked laughable.

Lansdorp remains convinced that a whimsical tech billionaire will appear in time to get training and hardware off the ground – and he may be right. The sudden return of interest in human space exploration is in part a symptom of the displacement of state by corporate power: Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Paul Allen and computer game designer John Carmack have all poured personal riches into space companies.

Are Mars One’s investors being naive in buying Lansdorp’s untried business plan? “It’s interesting as a thought experiment,” the Mars Society’s Robert Zubrin tells me. “I mean, Lansdorp doesn’t have bn, but Nasa does and in terms of going only one way – hey, we’re all on a one-way trip to somewhere! But I think it’s utterly fantastical that you’ll fund a Mars mission with a reality TV show.”

A Nasa insider who asks not to be named is more specific: "Begira, I support any initiative that’s trying to get to Mars, and I wish them nothing but the best. Their business plan – selling it as a reality TV show is clever, but I don’t think it’s going to be sustainable. Zergatik? What makes a good reality TV show? Tension, conflict, difficulty – all the things you’re wanting to avoid. And you don’t want to be sending four kooky divas to Mars! Ondoren, even if you do, the one thing we know about reality TV ratings is they go down over time, so as broadcasters lose interest, who’s going to keep those people alive? The technology won’t be ready for them to be self-sustainable for quite some time, so what if the show’s cancelled? Is someone going to cough up bn to save four people? Really? And what if the astronauts decide to turn off the cameras?"

Born 29 years ago to British parents in South Africa, Mars One candidate Alexandra Doyle put herself through law school by moonlighting as an orthodontic nurse and now lives in the Midlands, where she works on the tills at Tesco, as a receptionist/sales consultant at a gym and as a film and TV extra. Last weekend she came to London to meet with other candidates, including Rigby’s guests from Spain and Denmark, and found the experience inspiring; she is thinking about applying for a degree in Space Exploration Systems at Leicester, if she doesn’t end up in full-time training.

Doyle’s enthusiasm for the Mars One experience thus far, which she describes as “probably the best and strangest of my life”, is hard to gainsay. To my desolation at the thought of leaving Earth, she counters, “I don’t know if it means I’m incredibly strange, but that moment where you’ve worked hard and you’re moving away from Earth and you’re never coming back… It sounds horrible, but to me that’s just amazing. And a lot of people have said, ‘Don’t you appreciate Earth? Are you not happy here? What are you trying to get away from?’ Fair enough, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s so much about the Earth that I love, but that doesn’t mean there’s not something else out there. A whole new way of life, a whole new existence. It’s a huge thing to get your head around, but as soon as you hear about it, I think your gut reaction tells you whether this is something you find awe-inspiring or that makes you feel sick. It’s built into our DNA, to imagine what else might be there and keep pushing the boundaries.”

For all her pragmatism, ordea, there is a point in the conversation when the emotion wells up. “Yeah. It’s funny, ez da?” Doyle says. “On paper I can be quite analytical, but whenever I chat to somebody about this, have a proper conversation, I get really emotional. It’s such a huge thing to contemplate.”

How many of this initial Mars 100 will make it there in 2027, if Mars One succeeds? Lansdorp reveals that he and medical director Kraft disagree on what to expect from the first group. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see all of their first group drop out along the way,” he admits. “No one has ever selected for a Mars mission that lasts a lifetime, so it’s not only the risk that people will get ill or change their minds, it’s also the risk that the groups we choose won’t be good enough. The first crew is really about keeping the team together and overcoming the challenges they will find – together.”

His intention is to have between three and five teams ready for each launch, choosing which one to send at the last moment. “Because I wouldn’t be surprised if the team we’ve selected climbs the tower to the rocket and at that moment one of them decides to drop out.”

What about him – is he still desperate to go? “Absolutely,", Dio, and pauses. “I have a son who is 18 months old and for me this changed my life completely. I would never leave him while he is young. But before I had my son, I wouldn’t have hesitated a second to go, if I had the idea that I was the right guy for the job.”

Wait a minute. He doesn’t think he’s the right guy? “No! Psychologically, I am absolutely the wrong person to be in such a small team for such a long time.”

How so? “I am stubborn, impatient, unwilling to take no for an answer. These are great qualities for an entrepreneur, but terrible for an astronaut working in a small team. I am absolutely the wrong person to be in the first wave of settlers.”

Will Mars One make it? The attrition rate among startup companies is huge; for those with ambitions to colonise space, we don’t even have a measure. But what Lansdorp, Musk and others have done is reopen a conversation that had died. Somewhere on Earth, right now, the first human to set foot on Mars is probably among us.

@wiresmith
• Photographs shot on location at sciencemuseum.org.uk


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