Where do you see yourself in five to ten years’ time? A normal 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.
Dr Martínez and the rest of Mars One’s hundred Round Three candidates imagine themselves on another world. For anyone living in a galaxy far, far away, who might not have heard of Mars One, let me 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. From the one hundred selected candidates, two are from Spain, one of whom is madrileño Dr Martínez, whilst the other Spanish contender, Angel Jané, comes from Barcelona.
A little further away than the moon, Dr Martínez is not exactly excited about the six to eight-month journey to Mars, which is the second-closest planet after Venus. Martínez would probably prefer a trip to the Moon, which is roughly 400,000 kilometres away, whilst Mars on the other hand, at its farthest, is closer to 400 million kilometres. This may be nothing in light years, or with a warp drive from science fiction, or in cryogenic sleep, but none of these are likely to be available for Mars One. Expect to hear several months of “Are we there yet?”.
According to Dr Martínez, advances in technology 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.
Mars One is a small company trying to figure out the big space puzzle of what we have now, so let’s imagine for the sake of the space candidates that Mars is not the kind of journey you do over Semana Santa. The good news is, if selected and the project gets off the ground, literally, Dr Martínez will only have to make the several month journey once, because Mars One are trying to send a colony to inhabit the planet for the rest of their natural life.
It is believed that the technology exists whereby we can send people to Mars, but we currently lack the know-how for them to make the return journey, due to the difficulty of sending sufficient fuels and launch platforms. The prospect of travelling for months in space might convince many against the trip but this is, after all, the next big step in space exploration.
Almost fifty years have passed since the moon landings and it is time to take the next leap for mankind, not just setting foot on another planet but colonising it too. No black and white cameras, but rather everything the digital age can offer.
The past wasn’t all about success. We cannot forget the disastrous failure of Apollo One. Any venture where you require having to bring your own oxygen is dangerous, as anyone who has tried diving to the Lusitania wreck or climbing Mount Everest will confirm. Houston has inevitably had a few problems.
From Apollo One to the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, people have watched in horror at the consequences of what happens when little things go wrong. Mars One has a lot to overcome, not least financial backing and sceptics, but once a spacecraft eventually takes off, candidates such as Pablo Martínez will have to adapt to a whole new world.
Most parents are happy to see their children fleeing the nest, but Pablo’s and all the other Round Three candidates’ friends and family will have to be supportive and proud about participation in a very difficult concept. Ultimately a team of four will be chosen.
In a vacuum, no one can hear you scream, but inside the candidates confined quarters, people can probably hear you snore. Any group has to work together perfectly. Getting to know future possible team mates, Dr Martínez keeps in touch with Round Three candidates via e-mail groups and Facebook. Rounds Four and Five of the process lie ahead, if he is successful. Our imagination has been ignited, and in October 2016, even President Obama spoke of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s.
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 rather like growing an apple tree, you have to be patient, wait, and see what shoots; but first you have to select the right seeds.
One thing doesn’t change, however. Since the start of space travel, it’s been about selecting the right people with the right stuff.
37-year-old Pablo Martínez is a physicist with a PHD in Electrochemistry, Science and Technology. He has published several papers and last year he studied Solar Energy Systems.