One-way ticket to Mars
Take a trip to Mars – and stay there forever. “Mars One”, the research project of a Dutch foundation, has 24 one-way tickets to Mars to give away. Starting in 2026, twelve women and twelve men are to become the first humans to settle on the Red Planet. Robert P. Schröder is among the one hundred applicants to have been short-listed.
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Robert P. Schröder studies electrical engineering at Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences and can think of nothing better than to live forever on Mars: “Travelling into space has been my great dream for as long as I can remember. It began with Star Wars when I was a child. I was fascinated by this other world. Mars is fairly similar to the Earth. It is conceivable that there was life on Mars – or that there will be. It is this latter point in particular that interests me a lot: the idea of building something new on Mars, establishing a settlement and showing people on Earth that Mars can be a safe and alternative place to live”, he explains.
An astronomical chance
However, when he started finding out more about the possibilities of a career in space travel, he discovered that the selection processes at space agencies such as NASA are extremely complex and lengthy. He therefore decided to train initially as a physics laboratory assistant, after which he began studying electrical engineering at Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences. In early 2013, Schröder then saw a clip about “Mars One”. The idea is for twelve women and twelve men to be given a one-way ticket to Mars so that they can start establishing a settlement there from 2026 and researching the planet. “Anyone could apply, and I did not want to miss this chance. 200,000 people in all were interested, of which 1,058 made it to the next round – myself included. In the next phases of the application process we attended interviews and underwent medical check-ups. Now just 100 candidates are left – and I am one of them.”
Tough selection procedure
The final round will begin in September 2016: in groups, the Darmstadt student will take part in various competitions, at the end of which only 40 candidates will remain. They will spend nine days in an isolation chamber, after which 30 of them will proceed to the next round. Then four-hour interviews will be conducted. Finally, just 24 candidates will have made it through, and then the serious part will begin: they will undergo a training programme until 2026, at the end of which the first manned crew – comprising two women and two men – will fly to Mars. Bit by bit, the rest of the 24 candidates will join them and settle on the Red Planet.
Remaining true to research
“The mission involves a strongly symbolic statement that I really support: very different people from various cultural backgrounds come together and have to solve problems jointly.” And what if he does not make it to the final round? “Then I plan to reapply. But in any case I still have my training and my degree. It makes no difference whether I am on Mars or on the Earth: I intend to remain true to research and development.” Together with eight other students from Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences and TU Darmstadt, Schröder has initiated a research project. “We are searching for the best method of cultivating various microorganisms which produce oxygen. Since there is water on Mars but no oxygen, such microorganisms could prove very helpful. In other words, I will remain closely tied to Mars whatever happens.”