x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

52 people from UAE among 200,000 to sign up for Mars One space programme and chance to live on another planet.

More than a 1,000 people from the Middle East have signed up for a chance to spend the rest of their lives on Mars.
More than a 1,000 people from the Middle East have signed up for a chance to spend the rest of their lives on Mars.
DUBAI // It is a barren, lifeless planet about 400 million kilometres from Earth, with average temperatures of minus 60°C.
But this has not stopped more than 1,000 people from the Middle East from signing up for a chance to spend the rest of their lives on Mars.
They are among more than 200,000 people worldwide who have signed up to take part in the Mars One space programme.
Over the next seven years, the programme will whittle that number down to just four, who will blast off in 2023 on an eight-month voyage to establish the first-ever human colony on the red planet.
But any Middle East-based applicants who believe living in the desert will give them an advantage will be disappointed, according to a spokesman for Mars One.
"To us it does not matter if a candidate is from a desert environment or not. We are looking for candidates who have a specific psychological profile," he said.
In terms of regional applicants, most of them, 477, are from Saudi Arabia. Bahrain is next with 421, followed by Kuwait with 142 and Qatar with 122.
There are just 52 from the UAE and even fewer from Oman, which has 45 applicants.
One of the UAE's budding space explorers is a Scottish accountant, Sarah Johnson, 30, who lives in Abu Dhabi. She submitted her application on a whim and admitted she would need to consider it further if she was short-listed.
"At that point in time I'd need to give serious thought to the implications of a one-way ticket," she said. "At this stage it's fairly informal and something that looks like a bit of fun.."
Ms Johnson said she was not a "space geek" but felt she was suitable for the programme.
"I enjoy travelling, meeting new people, visiting new places out of my comfort zone and all that sort of stuff," she said.
With 200 square metres of shared living space between the four volunteers, as well as the lack of many forms of entertainment, Ms Johnson said she would take her iPod to keep herself amused.
"It would be on a bit of a repeat playlist," she said. "I'd play mostly early 1990s dance classics just to keep everyone upbeat and motivated."
Nico Marquardt, a scientific adviser from Germany who has worked with the Mars One team on public relations events in the past, said there was a link between dissatisfaction on Earth and a person's desire to live on Mars.
"It's because they want escape from Earth," he said. "We know pretty much everything about the environment where we live, and it would be something pretty special to live on another planet."
The gravity on Mars is a third that of Earth, so living there for more than a year would result in massive muscle atrophy.
As a result, those selected to colonise Mars would not be able to come home because the gravity stresses upon returning could cause organ collapse.
However, the lack of gravity could also prompt increased longevity, perhaps up to 50 or 100 years beyond human averages.
Hasan Al Hariri, the director of Dubai Astronomy Group, said people would be mad to even consider it.
"It's just like suicide," he said. "In fact, it is suicide. Going there is a death sentence.
"Nothing on Mars is similar to Earth. We have so many things that we take for granted here, when you go to Mars those things won't be guaranteed or even available.
"It's just an ego thing, just people wanting to show off. It's absolutely not realistic."
mcroucher@thenational.ae