Over the Moon about Mars.

Dr Adriana Marais is said to be "over the Moon" about going to Mars.

Dr Adriana Marais is said to be “over the Moon” about going to Mars.

Many South Africans debate, daily, the reality of a ticket to live elsewhere. The difficulty is usually in choosing the destination with NZ and Oz being the usual contenders. There is also always the option of returning, should things not turn out as one hoped.

Explicable then the complete mind blow as the enraptured audience at a recent WiB Breakfast pondered the question “would you take a one-way ticket to live on Mars?” The question was posed by quantum Physicist Dr Adriana Marais, and was neither rhetorical, nor said in jest …She is one of the shortlisted prospects in the Mars 1 project destined to depart on a one-way voyage to Mars in 2026. Next year the 24 candidates will be selected, and then 10 years of intense preparation for these “extraordinary” people will commence.
My instant internal response to the question was an emphatic NO, but after an hour of listening to this beautiful young quantum Physicist update the audience on events leading up to this stage of the Mars 1 project, and then going on to share the next decades lead-up to a successful Mars 1 Mission, I was prepared to consider it, “as long as I get to go with Dr Adriana Marais”. Her knowledge is beyond ordinary, and a “burning curiosity” is one of the primary qualities of her make-up.

Adriana addressed "Women in Business" at Varsity College recently and shared some of her reasons for her desire to travel to Mars. Above left to right: Karen Vally, Ali Engelbrecht, Naz Mather, Dr Adriana Marais and Verona Khan.

Adriana addressed “Women in Business” at Varsity College recently and shared some of her reasons for her desire to travel to Mars. Above left to right: Karen Vally, Ali Engelbrecht, Naz Mather, Dr Adriana Marais and Verona Khan.

The challenges of the project are beyond enormous, but Marais seems matter of fact about the 10 year preparation period leading up to the send-off. She is passionate, and at ease with the enormity of what drives her and and millions of scientists like herself to probe beyond what is known, and extends into the realm of “imagination”. During the course of the talk she says simply “If somebody said I had an opportunity tomorrow to go and live on Mars, I would give up everything I have on earth”.
This UKZN graduate submitted her PhD in quantum physics, and wants to go to Mars on a one-way ticket. As she smilingly commented, “it’s a subject that arouses much cynicism and humour too, but as was so simply put at a recent local school talk I did, the headmaster closed a recent session with the comment about the fact that at the time people called Christopher Columbus “crazy””.

Fact Box:
The Mars One Project was started by Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders in 2011. The objective is to establish life on Mars.
The estimated cost is USD6 billion, which will be privately funded, mostly via reality TV.
It will take seven months to get there. The first batch of 4 astronauts will leave in 2026.
There are 5 South Africans in the current shortlisted 100. Two are from UKZN. SA was in the top 10 countries of successful Round 2 applicants – of the 1058 initially selected.
According to Dr Marais, “18 out of 43 missions to Mars have been successful, but humans have never been there, and nothing has ever come back.”
Selling points for Mars: Highest volcano in the solar system; its has one of the biggest canyons in the solar system (4000km long). putting the Grand Canyon in the little league; days are only 39 minutes longer than on earth; Winter and Summer temperatures range from-143º to 35ºC; the atmosphere is 96% CO², with very little oxygen, so the astronauts will have to make their own; surface pressure 0.6% of that on earth; there is no longer a global magnetic field.

And from the incredible Dr Marais: “Imagine the future of Space Tourism!”

“The one-way doesn’t frighten me. Our forefathers were all on a one way. In a sense, we’re all the result of a one-way journey.” (Dr Adriana Marais)