x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Dubai resident shortlisted for Mars One mission

More than 200,000 people applied for the chance to be part of Earth’s first colony on Mars and only 1,058 were picked. Khalid Al Jaaidi who was born and bred in Dubai was one of them.

Khalid Al Jaaidi, a 21-year-old designer, has been shortlisted along with 1,058 applicants for the Mars One mission. Courtesy Khalid Al Jaaidi
Khalid Al Jaaidi, a 21-year-old designer, has been shortlisted along with 1,058 applicants for the Mars One mission. Courtesy Khalid Al Jaaidi

DUBAI// The race is on to become the first person to go to Mars – and Khalid Al Jaaidi is well and truly on the starting line.

The 21-year-old designer has been shortlisted along with 1,058 applicants for the Mars One mission. More than 200,000 people applied for the chance to be part of Earth’s first colony on another planet, and Khalid feels he was picked for his natural ability to adapt to different situations.

“I want to be part of this because it is the most interesting thing to happen to humankind since the moon landing,” said Khalid, who was born and brought up in Dubai. “It’s going to be very challenging and exciting.

“Many people don’t think it’s possible, but I think the programme has a very strong committee board and a good plan. I’ve put my trust in them.”

Khalid has a degree in visual communications, but he says the most important thing is having the right mindset.

“It is all about how resilient, creative, and determined you are. There are going to be good times and hard times, and you have to be ready to deal with the hard times.”

Since applying to the programme, Khalid has been trying to absorb as much information as he can about his potential future home.

“One of the most interesting things I learnt is that Canada was colder than Mars this winter.”

Khalid says the whole adventure has really changed the way he sees things.

“I have in the back of my mind the thought of how drastic the change will be. I’m not taking anything for granted any more. We will have to work hard to make it livable there, we have to grow our own food. No more biryanis.”

Khalid, the youngest of seven, didn’t tell his family about the project until after he learnt he had been shortlisted.

“They were happy at first until I told them it was a one-way trip. My father is supportive but he thinks it’s a programme for prisoners. My mum doesn’t believe it is possible and my siblings don’t take me very seriously. I don’t think it has sunk in yet.”

He said his friends had posted on social media calling the mission a “real camping trip”.

“One of my best friends doesn’t want me to go, every day he tells me don’t go to Mars and I’ll buy you all the Mars bars you want,” said Khalid.

He had planned his life differently before applying to the Mars One programme.

“My parents still ask me what about our grandchildren,” he said.

Should he make it to the final selection the first team are scheduled to blast off in 2023, but Khalid says getting married between now and then is out of the question.

“Who wants a husband with an expiration date?”

He admits the whole idea does scare him a little. “I am nervous, I’d be crazy if I wasn’t. But in a way you know when you’re about to go, so you can say your goodbyes.”

Khalid is now planning to get into physical shape. The next step is passing the medical test, and then a number of interviews with the committee, before the numbers are cut further.

malkhan@thenational.ae