A leap into the unknown — 25 South Africans make Mars short list

2014-01-08 00:00

CAPE TOWN — From more than 200 000 people who applied to go into a space-exile to Mars, 25 South Africans have progressed through to first short list of 1 058 Mars candidates.

The United States has the most candidates, with 297 Americans aspiring to leave Earth forever to live in a Mars space station.

The private company Mars One plans to launch the first four space pioneers to the red planet in 2024, followed by four more people every two years.

The satellite construction company Lockheed Martin has joined Mars One in this endeavour.

The South Africans who have made the second short list must submit a comprehensive medical report by March 8 and create their profiles on the Mars One website.

Dr Norbert Kraft, medical officer for Mars One, said the candidates will be whittled down during the next two years.

The final space pioneers will undergo eight years of training, both to become astronauts and space colonists.

Sister paper Die Burger talked to a few of the South Africans who have made the cut, asking them how they would feel if they make the final selection for a non-return journey to a space station on Mars.

● Maggie Wernich (51) of Pretoria said: “So far, I have found this opportunity confronts people with how we live and what drive us, and it questions important traditions.

“My seriousness and commitment to living on Mars is based on total surrender. I am ready for the leap into the unknown to create a new existence. I have peace with the idea of spending the rest of my life on Mars.”

●  Dominic Schorr (21), Pretoria, said: “I am scared I may be chosen, especially now that I am in the second round. I think it is worthwhile, we must colonise other planets if we want to survive.

“We will be guinea pigs, but I am okay with that, even though I will miss going with my dad to the bar or giving my mom a hug.”

● Tarn Alcock (26) of Plettenberg Bay, said: “I have honestly not thought about it … until I am now in this round. It is slowly getting through to me. It is not putting me off, although I think about the isolation up there and the way of life. I start to think about things that I may miss — but I remain excited.”

● Richard Grieves (19), Edenvale, said: “It will be very difficult to leave my whole life behind … my possessions, hobbies, studies, earthly ambitions, family and friends. This means starting a whole new life on a new planet.

“I have mixed feelings and excitement about taking a new step for human discovery, and also sadness.”

Second round numbers:

Three top countries: U.S. (297), Canada (75) and India (62).

Number of men: 586, of whom 414 are under 35.

Number of women: 472, of whom 385 are under 35.

Qualifications: 29 are medical doctors, 11 have legal degrees, 90 have doctorates and 159 have masters degrees.

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