TO BOLDLY GO
Updated: Mar 3
Where do you see yourself in five to ten years? A typical question you might be asked in a job interview but ask it to Dr Pablo Martínez and ninety-nine other individuals around the world and you might be surprised by their answer.
You see Dr Martínez and the rest of Mars One’s hundred Round 3 candidates, imagine themselves, on another world.
For anyone frozen in carbonite, living far far away, who might not have heard of Mars One, let me try to explain the lofty plan. They want to establish a colony on Mars, not a colony of ants, but a colony of men and women with the plan of sending 24 people in total to the red planet.
Of the hundred selected, two are from Spain and looking to travel from Madrid to Mars is Madrileño Pablo Martínez. The other Spanish candidate Angel Jané, hails from Barcelona.
A little further away than the moon, Dr Martínez is not exactly excited about the 6 to 8-month bus ride to Mars. Our neighbouring planet Mars, is the second closest planet after Venus and Pablo Martínez would probably prefer a trip to the Moon considering that is the kind of milage you put up on your car at roughly 400 thousand kilometres.
Mars on the other hand, at its furthest is closer to 400 million kilometres which I am sure is nothing in light years or with warp drive from science fiction. 400 million miles is nothing in cryogenic sleep but neither warp drives, transporters or cryogenic sleep are planned for Mars One. Expect to hear several months of “Are we there yet?”.
Advances in technology according to Pablo Martínez could mean the difference between several months and only one month if for example we can increase thrust and propulsion in the next generation of rockets being designed by SpaceX.
Mars One is a small company trying to figure out the big space puzzle of what we have now so lets imagine for the sake of the final four space candidates that, Mars is not the kind of journey you do over the weekend.
The good news is, if selected and the project can get off the ground, literally, Dr Martínez will only have to make the several month journey once as Mars One are trying to send a colony to Mars to inhabit the planet for the rest of their natural life.
It is believed that the technology exists where we can send people to Mars but we currently lack the technology to make the return journey back as the challenge to send sufficient fuels and launch platforms does not yet exist.
The prospect of traveling for months in space might convince many against the trip but this is after all the next big step and you have to imagine how long it has been since landing on the moon.
Imagine if you will, the current Spanish king as a baby, exploring the world around him, his father is not yet king and the Apollo program and the 12 astronauts who went to the Moon would be history even before his father's lengthy reign began in 1976.
Did the one-year-old prince look up at the black and white television and watch a man with a very strong arm, take a very big step? Did he hear the words “One giant leap”, as he took his baby steps?
Over fifty Earth years later and it is time to take the next big step, not just setting foot on another planet but colonising it too. Not going into space with black and white cameras but with smart phones in the digital age where any basic smart phone has thousands of times more memory than Apollo 11.
Talking about the success of Apollo 11, we cannot forget the disastrous failure of Apollo 1. Any venture where you require having to bring your own oxygen is dangerous. From diving the Lusitania or a WW2 submarine to climbing Mount Everest and venturing higher still, space travel is not always the safest and Houston has had a few problems.
From Apollo 1 to the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, people have watched in horror at the disasters of what happens when little things go wrong.
The company has a lot to overcome, finance and sceptics being two of them but once Mars One eventually get off the ground, candidates such as Pablo Martínez may have to adapt to a whole new world.
Goodbye to Earth’s similar gravity, goodbye 24-hour clock. Life as we know it, would be different for the brave people who say goodbye to friends and family and embark on the six to eight-month space ride to Mars.
Most parents are happy to see their children fleeing the nest but Pablo’s parents and all the other Round 3 candidates’ friends and family have to be supportive and proud in what must be a very difficult concept. Are they actually going anywhere?
You see, Round 3 will be replaced by Round 4 which will edge closer to Round 5, grouped into teams of four, each candidate will train with their team and will have to re-enter the programme should anything happen to their team.
In the vacuum of space, no one can hear you scream but inside their confined space, people can probably hear you snore and to spend so much time in close proximity to three other people means the group has to be a proper team.
Getting to know future possible team mates, Dr Martínez keeps in touch with Round 3 candidates via e-mail groups and MySpace, sorry Facebook.
Whether or not Mars One can launch successfully, Space X rockets and capsules will probably play a significant part in future space exploration including the possibility of reaching the red planet but Mars One has done much to once again ignite our imagination for Space exploration and in October 2016, President Obama spoke of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth.
Thanks to Mars One we are no longer talking about the possibility of going to Mars but rather when and who will get there first.
We are not going to Mars today, tomorrow or even next year, but imagine growing an apple tree, you are going to have to be patient, wait and see what shoots up, but first, you have to select the right seeds.
Selecting the right people with the right stuff is not an easy task but I was happy to meet with a grounded individual reaching for the stars.
Pablo Martínez is a physicist with a PHD in Electrochemistry, Science and Technology. He has published several papers and has also studied Solar Energy Systems in recent years.
I met with Dr. Martínez in July 2016, preparing for a trip to Extremadura. Not quite as Extreme as travelling to Mars but it is his favourite place on Earth. If he is selected for one of the many imagined Mars One journeys, will he look back at the beautiful blue planet he left behind?
Replacing Spanish cuisine with space rations, never to enjoy his favourite dish, mom´s meatballs. I guess the sand is always redder on the other side.
For more on Dr Martínez and Mars One, watch this space.