“Mars One will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. In the coming years, a demonstration mission, communication satellites, two rovers and several cargo missions will be sent to Mars. A reliable living environment will be waiting for the astronauts when they leave Earth.” This is how the official website of Mars One describes their mission. Sounds like the first sentences from a science fiction film, right? It is not fiction anymore. Guys, the future is here! Jose Vicente Martinez Villar, from Spain, is one of the pre-selected people who has passed the second round of applications to join Mars One, the Dutch company’s reality show. From the 200 000 applicants, only four people will be chosen for the first trip. Jose explains to Sensa Nostra what it means for him to be part of the Mars One project. Dreams, although they may seem crazy, can become reality.
One year ago, I was working at home. I manage some Facebook pages where I publish news stories about space. One of them was about Mars One. That’s I how I found out about it.
The article explained that a Dutch company wanted to do a trip to Mars. I thought, “Brilliant! Finally someone wants to go to there. Fifty years ago humans went to the moon, unfortunately these missions stopped. Luckily someone decided to give manned space flight another go!” I kept reading and saw that they were seeking astronauts for a one way trip, with no return.
In the first moment I thought, “Oh my god! No return… That’s totally crazy.” Then I meditated about the importance of the mission, and how much I want to investigate this planet. After a week, I decided I wanted to be part of human history.
Mars One is about to create a permanent settlement on Mars. There will be humans living there permanently, doing scientific research. The idea isn’t to be a colony as some media have said; no one will bring their families. The company wants to finance the interplanetary travel and establish a permanent base using private contributions, so the whole thing will be broadcast, packaged in a reality TV show format, in order to find more sponsors.
When I signed up I didn’t trust the company much. They only wanted me to send a forty second video describing why I wanted to go to Mars, and fill out a standard personality test. Furthermore, the private company organising the whole project was, in my opinion, just looking for ways to make money. Selling T-shirts, cups, earn a bit more money on TV with the reality show… in the end, they’d probably cancel the trip. After all, they are a private company which was never interested in space before.
However, I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut. I’m passionate about space, stars, galaxies… and to be given the possibility to go into space is simply fascinating. This has always been my dream, and I’ve always considered myself a dreamer. If ten years ago they had asked me, I would’ve said yes, although the technology for long distance space travel was still in its infancy. I would’ve still done it, but I might have died trying. With today’s technology, it seems feasible that we could arrive on Mars within ten or fifteen years.
Recently, a lot of technology for interplanetary travel has appeared which didn’t exist before. Now I’m realizing that NASA is working hard to get to Mars by 2030. It looks as if they might be scared of this company, thinking, “Imagine they arrive first and plant a flag before us; we can’t let that happen!” It seems to me that if it continues as it has began, the Mars One project has a future.
Fortunately, I am one of the people shortlisted to participate in Mars One. I’m an astrophysicist; this might have weighed on the decision to shortlist me as a participant. For me, this is also the reason why I would love live on the red planet! I’ve seen Mars, but only through a telescope. There are many areas to explore. It’s been said there are volcanic tunnels that contain life; there is also, for example, the area of Cydonia, which we can see from space as some kind of pyramids. Hey, who knows if they are natural pyramids or an archaeological discovery waiting to be found? I should go there and check it out.
At the beginning I was worried about it only being a one-way ticket, but when I think about what lies ahead waiting to be discovered, it doesn’t seem to me like a bad idea to stay on Mars and research for the rest of my life. Not because I’m bored with Earth—I’m just going to another place in the solar system. For me Earth, Mars, and Venus are like neighbourhoods. I’ll just be going to another neighbourhood of the solar system, that’s all. People die on Earth, and in future some will die on Mars. I don’t see the problem.
It doesn’t seem that simple to my family. It’s hard to convince them to accept me going. Their first reaction was, “Are you crazy or what? Couldn’t you go somewhere closer?” Some people don’t believe we will go. My family are among them. Some people don’t even believe we ever reached the moon. So imagine trying to convince all the unbelievers we’re going to Mars! Nowadays, I’m doing interviews, I’ve passed the first trials, and so on… So my family is starting to believe it’s a possibility, although they still don’t like the idea.
I tell my family that if I move to Mars it is as if I were going to live in Australia, which is in the other side of the world from Spain, and would not be coming back. Or if I were to go to Antarctica, where it is also very cold. It’s the same, more or less. The only thing is that if I were in Antarctica, they’d still be able to visit me.
Probably I’m feeling more or less relaxed about it because I have to wait another ten years to go. One year before the trip I guess I’ll rethink it, but during this time they’ll prepare us psychologically to reduce our fears. What concerns me is how to adapt to the routine on my possible new planet. Of course, as I mentioned, it’s like any other area of the solar system, but nonetheless the conditions are very different. We’ll have a normal life inside the base, but if we go out we will have to wear a helmet to protect us from radiation, and there will be no oxygen… It will be a difficult life, I’m sure.
I guess we’ll have to do maintenance work first, and then, when everything is fixed, we’ll start a ‘normal’ life: I’ll work, have free time, maybe I’ll be able to go for a walk sometimes, but only for short time. On Mars there is a third of the Earth’s gravity, which means walking will be easy, but because of all the equipment needed to walk outside, our daily routine will be on the base.
At the base there will be oxygen and an Earth-like climate. We will be lighter because we’ll weigh less, but it won’t cause any problems. What will take longer will be adapting to the new atmospheric pressure. We’ll eat from our lettuce plantation; we will have to be vegetarian… (What a pity, I love omelette with chicken! Anyway…) We’ll also recycle everything. And each of us will be able to do with our free time whatever we want, like on Earth. There will be men and women, so anything is possible, but the main goal is to keep the settlement going and to live there.
I hope the other participants will share my objectives. The company has talked about the ‘reality show’ aspect of this project, but they haven’t explained it much. I wouldn’t want it to become an interplanetary Big Brother: sitting on a couch doing nothing. I guess the reality show will focus on our trials as astronauts, our experiences at the base, etcetera. We’re a bit concerned about it. I’m not really enthusiastic. But hey! If I have to join, I will. I’ve prepared myself over the last seven or eight years, and, more or less, this is the easiest opportunity for me to be an astronaut.
If everything goes as planned, in 2025 I’ll fulfil my dream. Not only will I be an astronaut, but I will also be part of the first human interplanetary travel. A milestone for humanity. Until that time: Greetings for all readers (from Earth at the moment), and… to infinity to beyond!