Astronauts have begun a ten-year training programme on a one-way mission to Mars

February 17, 2015 11:45 am

discovered yesterday that she was on a shortlist of 100
volunteers for the four places on board a one-way mission to set up a
human colony on the Red Planet. Why on earth would she want to do that?
From
202,586 hopefuls, to the 100 would-be astronauts. The 24-year-old
astrophysics students at Birmingham University was yesterday named on
the shortlist of candidates selected to set up the first human colony on
Mars – on a one-way mission that, if successful, would represent one of
the most audacious achievements in human history.

One hundred would-be astronauts have begun a ten-year training programme
that could see them on a one-way mission to Mars to set up a colony.

“I found out
at 6am that I’d made the final 100,” MsLieu said yesterday from her
home in Coventry, shortly after receiving the phone call that could
change her life forever.
Along with 50 men and 49 other women,
she has been selected to spend the next decade learning everything she
needs to know to live on the Red Planet as part of the Mars One project.

If her training is successful – and it will all be broadcast
on reality television around the world to fund the mission – she could
make the team of 40 chosen to leave Earth. The first spacecraft,
carrying two men and two woman, is due to depart in 2024.
Ms Lieu
is one of five Britons to be shortlisted for Mars One, having
previously been named on a longlist of 600. The other Britons are
Hannah Earnshaw, a 23-year-old PhD student at Durham University; Ryan
MacDonald, 21, an Oxford University student; Alison Rigby, 35, a
laboratory technician and Clare Weedon, 27, a systems integration
manager.
With nothing to build on but dusty rock and craters, the
astronauts will have to become self-sufficient, building everything
themselves and taking all the food and oxygen they will need to keep
them going in the meantime. This means ten years of learning everything
from plumbing to medical care.
Independent
Luckily, learning
is what drives Ms Lieu more than anything else. “I’ll finally have time
to read all those textbooks,” she says.
Currently studying for a
PhD in astrophysics at Birmingham University, becoming an astronaut
would make Ms Lieu’s childhood dream a reality. “It’s exciting because
we all have so much to learn from each other,” she said, speaking of her
future co-inhabitants.
“I’d start an educational system and make it my aim to inspire people to take an interest in science.”
Ms
Lieu, who lists pilates, rock climbing, fashion and photography as her
non-science hobbies, has already made headlines for admitting that she’d
like to be the first to have a child on Mars, but with so much risk in
keeping herself alive, doesn’t she think that bringing a baby into such a
hostile natural environment might be selfish?
“I think it would
be really exciting to have a child because it would be the first real
Martian. I don’t know what race or nationality it would be because there
are no countries on Mars – yet.”
Like everything the participants would experience on Mars, giving birth would be an experiment.
“There’s
not really been much research into it” Ms Lieu said, “Nobody knows the
effects low gravity would have on a foetus. Also, the high levels of
radiation would make the guys infertile. So I don’t know if it would
work but if you want to start a colony… you have to reproduce.”
Members
of the Mars One project have been warned that the prize is strictly a
one-way ticket. Launching into in groups of four, each trip will
cost around $6bn, and a return journey is considered economically and
practically unfeasible due to the lack of infrastructure on Mars.
But
Ms Lieu is optimistic about the possibility of a return to Earth.
“Technology is advancing so quickly, so who knows what might be possible
later on. NASA are launching their own mission an extra ten years down
the line, so maybe I could catch a ride with them…”
That said,
she’s not so sure she’d want to come back. Aside from the fact she would
be physically disabled back on earth after years of muscle and bone
wastage, the PhD student received her first hate mail this month.
“Somebody
wrote to me saying: ‘Why do you dye your hair like that? I hate people
like you….’ This person also tweeted me some horrible things. They
compared me to a mass murderer in the US who had gone round shooting
kids in a school… What did I do to deserve that?”
Some
aerospace experts have dismissed Mars One – which is being run by a
Dutch not-for-profit organisation – as a gimmick that will never get
off the ground.
But Ms Lieu is confident that – if the spacecraft do set off as planned – a model community could be built on Mars.
“There’d be no legal system or parliament so it would be really fascinating to see how we work out our lives.”
With
no rules, might there be chaos? What worries Ms Lieu most is that the
habitations designed for the astronauts are inflatable. “They’re built
to be light, but what if they burst.”
Even if I don’t make it to
Mars this time, I’ll be happy just knowing that the project is getting
people excited about science. To be curious is to be human and that’s
what it’s all about.”

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