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Students sign up for one-way ticket to Mars

by Rachel Broadley

MarsWhile UniSA students have their sights set on goals all over the globe, three students have gone a step further and are looking to become some of the first people to live on Mars.

They might just accomplish their dreams, having made the cut from 200,000 applicants to a shortlist of just over 1000 for the Mars One project.

Mechanical Engineering student Tristan Perkins.There’s a catch, however, as the ticket to Mars is one-way only. But Mechanical Engineering student Tristan Perkins (pictured right) says he would be happy to live out the rest of his life on the red planet in the spirit of discovery.

“I applied to be part of the Mars One project because everyone on earth from Archimedes to Einstein was born, lived out their lives and died on Earth; I want to break new ground,” Tristan says.

“I think that a future where we are a space-faring civilisation is a much more exciting and inspiring future than one where we are not.”

The Mars One project, the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp and space researcher Arno Wielders, aims to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. Crews of four will depart every two years, starting in 2024.

Tristan says he has always been interested in space exploration, and chose to study mechanical engineering to help him in his future career.

“When I started studying mechanical engineering my goal was always to study postgraduate aerospace engineering, and hopefully either work for a rocket or a satellite firm, or become a pilot in the military,” he says.

“From the mechanisms in a clock or a car to how the universe started, I enjoy exploring how and why things work, which is a passion I could easily transfer to the mission. There will also be lots of construction and things needing to be maintained or repaired, so being mechanically minded would be helpful.”

The next step in the application process involves examinations by a general practitioner, a psychologist and an optometrist, before an interview with the Mars One selection panel. Eventually the current field of 1058 will be reduced to 40, who will undergo rigorous training and simulation testing.

“I am passionate about science and technology, and whether I make it through to the final group of astronauts or not, I hope this gets people interested in talking about science and technology because there’s a huge gap in the conversation,” Tristan says.

Josh Richards, who was a student at the Southern Hemisphere Summer Space Program (SHSSP) run annually by UniSA in partnership with the International Space University (ISU), first heard of the Mars One project when he was researching a comedy show about the frustration he felt that humans hadn't left low earth orbit since 1972 and how we can only send people one-way to Mars.

Josh, a stand-up comedian and science communicator, says within minutes of researching the show he found that Mars One had made its first major press-release just three days before.

“I knew from my physics degree that the real financial and technical challenges of exploring Mars were the return trip,” Josh says.

“Rather than write a comedy show about how we should be colonising Mars and being frustrated that we haven't, I started writing a show about how we were going to colonise Mars, which I ended up touring around the country and performing at the Mars One Living on Mars Convention in the Netherlands last November.

“In April 2012 when applications opened I put my money where my mouth is and applied!

“I studied with UniSA/ISU as it was an amazing opportunity to learn about how the space industry works, meet some of the key players (and a few astronauts!), and see how I could use my skills and strengths to contribute to the exploration of space.

“The Mars One project presents an incredible opportunity for everyday people who would otherwise be prevented from becoming astronauts (primarily by national politics) to participate in the expansion of our species beyond low Earth orbit.”

Fellow SHSSP student Sarah Fitzjohn completes the stargazing trio.

For more information about the Mars One Project, click here.