Seven Australians have made a shortlist of 100 candidates competing for a one-way trip to Mars to establish the red planet’s first colony.
Nineteen-year-old Sare Teah, stand-up comedian Josh Richards and geoscientist Electra Navarone were among the Australian finalists for the Mars One project, which aims to begin settling the fourth planet from the sun from 2025.
The project, set up by Dutch entrepreneur Bad Lansdorp, claims to have received more than 200,000 applications from budding Martians, and says it is whittling the list down to 50 men and 50 women.
The candidates were chosen based on “their understanding of the risks involved, team spirit and their motivation to be part of this life-changing expedition,” according to a statement.
The project’s chief medical officer, Norbert Clark, said the next selection rounds would focus on building strong teams that could withstand the isolation of interplanetary settlement.
“Being one of the best individual candidates does not automatically make you the greatest team player, so I look forward to seeing how the candidates progress and work together in the upcoming challenges,” Clark said.
Locations are being scouted for earthly training facilities. The list of 100 candidates will be cut by the middle of the year to just 24, who will be sent to Mars in groups of four every 26 months beginning in 2024.
That’s the aim, anyway. Mars One signed up Lockheed Martin in December to build a satellite to put into orbit around Mars in 2018. But significant technical issues – such as how to land a manned craft safely on the Martian surface, and how to minimise the impact of deep-space radiation on the astronauts – remain unresolved.
The project will also require at least $7.7bn to get off the ground, which it aims to raise mostly by selling sponsorship and rights to a reality TV show about the project. An Indiegogo campaign in 2013-14 raised more than $400,000. Total donations as of last November amounted to about $630,000.
Independent scientific analysis has suggested that, contrary to Mars One’s claims, sustaining life on the red planet would require “technologies that are more capable than the current state of the art”.
Plans to grow crops inside the colony, composed of space capsules and an inflatable habitat, might actually lead to a suffocating oversupply of oxygen, the researchers said, predicting the first astronaut would die after 68 days.
But the finalists, including Dianne McGrath from Melbourne, are not perturbed. “Whether people think it’s going to be Mars One, or Nasa, or some other program, we will go to Mars, it’s on the agenda for space exploration,” she told Channel Ten’s The Project.
“That’s part of the human spirit, to continue to explore. I’m just lucky to be part of that.”
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