Aussie Mars One candidate locks himself in a box for 5 days
Josh Richards sits outside "the HAB" in Sydney's Circular Quay, before starting his five-day Martian adventure. Courtesy: Twentieth Century Fox
Monday, February 8, 2016, 2:17 - Mars One candidate training hasn't started yet, but one hopeful - Australia's Josh Richards - is getting a head start this week as he embarks on a five day simulated stay on the Red Planet.
For Mars One candidates to prove they have the "right stuff" to become humanity's first off-world colonists, Andy Weir's The Martian (whether the book or the movie) is an excellent field guide.
To promote not only the movie's Australian DVD release, but to also get just a brief preview of what his life may be like in another 11 years or so, Mars100 candidate Josh Richards - soldier, physicist, explosives engineer and comedian - has started a special five-day event in Sydney's Circular Quay.
Entering The HAB - a small replica of Mark Watney's Martian habitat - on Monday morning, Sydney time (Australian Eastern Time Zone), Richards is livetweeting his experiences, and there will be livestreamed events, including emergency simulations throughout the week.
Josh Richards' "Martian" schedule. All times in Australian Eastern Time. For EST, add 15 hours. Courtesy: Twentieth Century Fox, www.bringhimhome.com.au
Been too busy settling into the hab I forgot to eat - jerky is a good start, but need to cook something NOT POTATOES pic.twitter.com/pbNG3YDMgI— Josh Richards (@BringhimHOME) February 8, 2016
Can Mars One succeed?
Presumably, private colonization startup Mars One will put their astronauts down on the Red Planet in a position far better than what Mark Watney suffered through during his fictional time there. At the same time, though, the realism of Weir's story makes it very clear just how difficult it would be to survive on our neighbouring world, especially with the minimal prospects of any immediate help from Earth should something go wrong.
The project has received perhaps more than its fair share of criticism since it was announced in 2013. Public perception has been mixed, with some excited at the prospect, but others calling it fantasy, or even a suicide mission. Reports have pointed out several potentially deadly flaws in the plan.
Still, 100 candidates from around the world remain in Mars One's program to start up the first Martian colony. Richards is one of two Australians still in the running to be among the first 24 to make the journey. Canada currently has six candidates.
There's good reason for these hopefuls to remain in the program. The plan, as it was originally laid out, specified that a Mars colony could be started with the technologies we have in existence today. Thus no big scientific breakthroughs would be required for the mission to go forward. Even if that part of the plan turns out to be unfeasible, though, if Mars One brings about such a breakthrough from their work, that one act will mean a major contribution to human space exploration. Will it really matter if they succeed in putting a viable human colony on Mars, but it wasn't specifically "as written" in their plan from 2013? The results will still be remarkable.
While neither the funding nor the technology is available for Mars One to succeed now, they have 11 years before the first of their 4-person crews are set to launch in 2026. As an example of what can be accomplished in that time frame, first Moon landing, in 1969, took place 11 years after NASA was first established in 1958.
Now, decades later, we'll find out if 11 years is enough for us to land colonists on Mars.
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