Living on Mars could solve Earth’s problems

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Adriana Marais (Facebook)
Adriana Marais (Facebook)

Johannesburg - Earth is the only home we have ever known… for now.

This pale blue dot in a sea of vast space is perfectly suited to life, but if Nasa and private companies like Mars One can get it right, our next home will be the fourth rock from the sun - Mars.

Mars is 225 million kilometres away and is inhospitable for humans. But finding a way to survive on the red planet could help humans find solutions to problems facing Earth.

"It will be difficult to survive," theoretical physicist and one of the 100 candidates for a one-way mission to Mars, Adriana Marais, told a packed auditorium at the Sci-Bono centre in Johannesburg on Tuesday night.

"It can show that it is possible, using technology, to survive in a hostile environment. This means there can no longer be any excuse for having people live in poverty.

"This is a question for the young people to think about."

Better future

Her comments were part of discussion titled: Mars: How are we going to get there? Marais, 33, is head of innovation at software company SAP.

Marias, who speaks with an unbridled enthusiasm and passion about her possible trip, said despite the deep problems we face, our future in the stars will influence our future on Earth.

"I used to read a lot and used to wish that I was born in a different era," she told the crowd.

"But now I have changed my mind. This is the most fascinating and exciting time in the history of the world, in the history of human experience."

Joining the conversation, retired Nasa senior executive Jim Adams said the highlight of his career was the landing the Curiosity rover on Mars in 2012.

He expressed a deep faith in humanity, saying that despite what happens on Earth, our species will be able to build a better future.

"We will be able to solve the problems Earth has, now and in the future."

One-way trip

Adams said the missions to Mars would unite the Earth - its countries, as well as public and private institutions.

"When we go, we go as a global community. We go as all humanity."

While Nasa is aiming at sending astronauts to the red planet and bringing them back, Mars One's mission is a one-way trip. Both are aiming to be there in the 2030s.

The Mars One mission looks to establish a permanent settlement on the planet. Unmanned missions would first be launched to establish a habitable settlement before a selected and thoroughly-trained crew makes its way to spend the rest of their lives there.

Of the people that initially applied to be part of the mission, Marais has made it to the top 100. By the end of 2018, 24 will remain.

This entire process will be broadcast through a television show. It will follow the crew as they make their way to Mars and try to live there.

"If you had to talk about the 100 as a group, what brings us together is that we really don't see volunteering for this mission as leaving our lives behind. We see it as a continuation of our endeavours here on Earth," she told News24 before the discussion.

"The cut down to 24 will largely be based on how you perform as a team player. Your individual capabilities might be amazing and phenomenal, but if you can't work well as a team to deal with challenges as they arise, it could be to the detriment of the whole mission."

Broken rules

The moment she read about the mission in a newspaper article, she made her decision.

"Every cell in my body was like: 'Yes'. This is what I have been waiting for my whole life. So not to say I am looking forward to leaving Earth behind, of course that will be difficult. But we see this as a continuation of what we are doing here on Earth."

The candidates will undergo almost the same training as other astronauts, but have to learn extra skills and become space MacGyvers.

"We will be living there, so the training is all-encompassing. We are going to have to grow our food there. We are going to be doing our own medical treatments. If anything goes wrong, we are going to have to fix it. There is no one to call."

"3D printing will be a huge aspect of it. We will become multi-faceted."

Marais said humans have always been exploring and pushing out further. We started in Africa and moved out to explore and populate the entire planet.

"We have been explorers since day one."

Adams echoed this, saying that humans have always pushed through boundaries and broken rules.

"We are constantly asking what's beyond the horizon. Our imagination takes us there. If we begin to imagine this, it will happen.

"It is written in our DNA to ask what's next."

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