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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 April 2019

Two UAE residents shortlisted for Mars programme

Rikita Singh and Mikolaj Zielinski are two of the remaining 100 applicants for the final round of the 10-year programme. There were 200,000 applicants originally.
Ritika Singh from India is among the 100 applicants shortlisted for the next round of Mars One. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Ritika Singh from India is among the 100 applicants shortlisted for the next round of Mars One. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

DUBAI // Two candidates from the UAE have been chosen from 200,000 applicants for the next round of Mars One, which plans to take humans to the Red Planet.

Indian Ritika Singh and Mikolaj Zielinski, from Poland, received the good news on Friday that they had made the cut of 100 contestants for the final two rounds of the 10-year project.

“It was an amazing feeling,” said Ms Singh, 29.

“I was so nervous as the time approached. I couldn’t sleep the night before because I knew we would get the results at 8am so I was waiting all night.”

In the first round, applicants had to film a one-minute video explaining why they wanted to travel to Mars.

From these, 1,000 were chosen to undergo a medical test, after which 705 remained.

Another 45 pulled out, leaving 660 candidates who took part in a 15-minute interview.

“They asked us three technical questions based on the history of Mars and the Mars One organisation,” Ms Singh said. “There were also three general questions as to why we want to go there and our experience in bringing value.”

Mr Zielinski, 38, was surprised that those 660 were then whittled down to 100.

“I thought they were going to select more people for the next round,” said Mr Zielinski, who lives in Dubai. “For the interview, we had to learn something about Mars, historical missions to Mars and the Mars One organisation.

“I was almost sure that all candidates would learn everything and almost everyone would make it to the next round.”

He said he was extremely surprised by the outcome.

“I had enough time to learn everything and I answered all questions properly,” Mr Zielinski said.

“I was really happy when I got the email but I was also really surprised when I saw they only chose 100 candidates.”

Ms Singh was thrilled when she read her acceptance email. “We did the interview on January 24 and have been waiting since.

“It’s not that long but when the results are so critical, you get really nervous. I was so happy to see how close I am to the finish line.”

She also lives in Dubai and said her family was worried at first.

“I flew to India just to talk to them about it and explain that this is my dream,” she said. “They eventually understood.”

The next step includes a task to see how candidates perform as a team, followed by a physical task.

Only 24 people will go through the 10-year programme.

“It’s a nice feeling,” Ms Singh said. “I’m looking forward to this 10-year journey. It’s going to be very challenging but I love challenges.

“They will apparently perform real simulations with the Mars environment and we will be given tasks, so I’m really excited.”

For Mr Zielinski, the attraction lies in an expedition that will have a huge impact on science.

“James Cameron went to the bottom of the ocean with Nasa scientists to see if there was life, or when Charles Darwin went around the world to create his evolution theory, there are projects like that today,” he said.

“This has always been my dream. It’s an unusual experience that can help explain certain things related to science, like the history, geology and life on Mars.”

cmalek@thenational.ae

Updated: February 16, 2015 04:00 AM

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