A Univ student has been shortlisted to take part in a one-way mission to establish a human settlement on Mars. If successful, Ryan MacDonald – a third-year physicist – will be among the first 40 settlers of the Red Planet, as part of a mission sponsored by the Dutch not-for-profit foundation Mars One.
The mission aims to found a permanent human colony on Mars, with the first settlers landing in 2025 and the first unmanned mission launching in 2018. After the initial arrival of humanity, it’s hoped that more crews will set off to populate the planet every two years.
MacDonald has already defied the odds, as one of 1,058 selected from a pool of 200,000 to take part in the mission. He now has a 3.8% chance of making the final team. Speaking about the possibility of joining this pioneering team, he said: “For me personally, this is a chance to do something truly amazing with my life; to see things that no one has seen, to answer deep questions about our place in the universe, to witness the birth of a new branch of human civilisation.”
“I can’t imagine anything more enticing than that,” he added.
One third-year Univ student told The Oxford Student how pleased he was for MacDonald.
“I know this has been a dream of Ryan’s for a long time. He really is the face of Physics at Univ. Not in a funny way, but I can’t think of anyone who is better equipped for life on Mars.”
MacDonald stated that the trip was likely to be a “one way ticket” as the technology for a return journey doesn’t currently exist. “Other students on my course have been supportive and the research I’ve done helps with my studies. My sister Bronte, who is 18, doesn’t want me to go,” he said.
He admitted, however, that “the first years will be tough – no-one has attempted such a daring initiative before”.
Mars One estimates the cost of putting the first four people on the moon at $6 billion, while each subsequent mission will cost $4 billion. The UK’s space industry is believed to be worth £9.1bn, and is growing at 7.5% per year, representing a five hundred per cent return on investment.
Whilst it will take the first mission over seven months to reach the planet, MacDonald seems undaunted. “We have relatives in Australia so we are used to long distance family relations. Mars would not be that much of a step up.”
When asked what the impact of a Mars mission would be, he stated,
“It’s difficult to quantify such a thing, but the sheer volume of young people who would be inspired by such a mission is one of the main driving factors for me in applying”.