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11 May, 2014 15:41

Girlfriend or Mars? RT interviews Mars One hopefuls

As the ambitious crowd-funded project Mars One narrowed down the candidates for the first Mars colonization to just 705, RT asked two possible trailblazers, one from Quebec and one from Moscow, why they are so determined to take a one-way space ticket.

This week, the international “not-for-profit foundation” seeking to establish a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet – Mars One – announced that only 705 of more than 200,000 applicants for the one-way flight to Mars have been left after medical and other tests.

“We’re incredibly excited to start the next phase of Round 2, where we begin to better understand our candidates who aspire to take such a daring trip. They will have to show their knowledge, intelligence, adaptability and personality,” Mars One chief medical officer, Norbert Kraft, said in a statement on the project’s website.

Of the shortlisted 418 men and 287 women from all over the world, only six teams of four will be eventually selected, according to the project’s plan.

RT’s Matt Trezza asked two of the remaining Mars One candidates, Canada’s Norman Green and Russia’s Anna Popenko, how they have come to terms with that there is no coming back from the mission.

“The thought has been there since the very, very beginning that this is a one-way trip. If it became possible to come home after several years, I’m not even a 100 percent sure that I would jump on that ship, simply because it’s not part of the mission, it’s not in the plans of the mission,” Green, a father of two, told RT.

Popenko too never had a shadow of doubt that the dream mission to Mars is the thing she needs, despite outside attempts to discourage her enthusiasm. She said she was even told by a Russian cosmonaut Maksim Surayev, “You’d be better finding a husband, having children and being happy. Why do you need this Mars?”

However, Popenko and several dozen other Russian candidates have already decided their priorities in life, she said.

“Our Russian guys, when asked about finding a girlfriend instead of going to Mars, they say: “Can you ever pretend there are girlfriends that can be better than Mars?”

Both interviewees say they realize that they will not escape missing their family and will have to make do without many other habits, too, while living in extreme Martian conditions in a fragile settlement.

“I would miss surely my friends and my family, but, apart from this, I think eating meat. We will all have to become vegetarians,” Popenko said, smiling.

Green’s children may also have to bid him farewell at the age of 16 and 20, if he blasts off to Mars in 2024. But for the Quebecois, humankind’s future in space is at stake.

Asked if he sees Mars One mission as trailblazers, Green said:

“Absolutely! Every science fiction movie that we have seen, that takes place in space or on the other planet, had to start somewhere. And it looks like it’s going to be us.”

Despite massive enthusiasm surrounding the project, many are still skeptical it will be able to raise even the very modest set sum of $6 billion to cover the flights, the equipment and the preparations for establishing a human settlement on Mars. So far, a total of $544,000 has been raised, as of February 28.

However, the project’s team hopes to turn the first Martian settlers’ work into a reality show to help raise the money. It also has a detailed roadmap of the project, involving the use of commercial SpaceX Falcon Heavy spacecraft for the launches.

The project’s website also warns candidates that the training work will become their “full time job” even before their final approval for the mission.

“Teams of prospective Mars settlers will be prepared for the mission by participating full-time in an extensive training program… Whole teams and individuals might be selected out during training when they prove not to be suitable for the mission,”
a Mars One statement says.