Settlers set sights on mars

2014-01-20 08:00

Potential pioneers have an 11-year wait until they build the first colony on the Red Planet. Yolandi Groenewald tracks some of the South Africans involved.

Twenty-five South Africans are a step closer to leaving their lives on Earth behind and making an interplanetary move to Mars.

Almost 650 South Africans applied to be part of Mars One, a reality TV series that will see intrepid earthlings settling on the mysterious Red Planet.

Now the competition is in its second round and organisers are working with a short list of 1?058 people.

Among them are Hester Mende (66), a project manager at Eskom in Joburg, who worries that her age will count against her (she will be 77 by the time the first flight leaves for Mars in 2024).

But she remains optimistic after making it through to the second round.

“Please keep your fingers crossed all the time. I have a consuming desire to go,” she said on Facebook after being selected.

“The first team leaves two years later than planned, which most probably means that my chances are now lower, which breaks my heart.”

Dominic Schorr (21) from Pretoria jokes that he fears he might actually be chosen now that he is in the second round.

Schorr, who wants to study but isn’t sure what interests him, decided that applications opening on his 21st birthday were a good omen.

“I took it as a sign since my main goal at the moment is to find direction for my life.”

Richard Grieves (19) from Edenvale, east of Joburg, says he has mixed feelings about being selected, but is mostly excited.

Gerhard Lourens (30), a military pilot from Pretoria, believes the project is one of the most ambitious to be undertaken by humankind, so he wants to be part of it.

Tarn Alcock, a 26-year-old programmer from Plettenberg Bay in Western Cape said he felt strongly about going to Mars because he always wanted to be a pioneer of some kind.

“It will be an amazing adventure. The idea of starting a new colony on a faraway planet is so captivating to me.”

There are two more rounds to come, where the applicants will be whittled down to a final 40 by 2015 before starting the training process.

After that, 24 people will be selected to take part in an eight-year intensive training programme in teams of four.

Then it’ll be down to the wire: four people will be chosen for the first mission – and in 2024, it’ll be up, up and away.

»?For more about the mission and the TV show, visit

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