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What Would You Do With A One Way Ticket To Mars?

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By Anjali Nambissan

Dusty red mountains for landscape, an almost negligible atmosphere with 95 per cent carbon dioxide for ambience, and an average temperature of minus 50 degrees Celsius. Your companions are just three other people in spacesuits and your home is a sealed, inflatable living unit.

Conceptualisation of the MarsOne human outpost on Mars. Image Courtesy MarsOne
Conceptualisation of the MarsOne human outpost on Mars. Image Courtesy: MarsOne

I’m not talking of a scene from a sci-fi flick. I am talking about what could be our not-so-distant future. Would you consider leaving the verdant goodness and oxygen of the Earth to live on Mars forever? Well, 202,586 people from around the world certainly would.

Our obsession with the fourth rock from the sun began with the invention of suitable telescopes in the 1600s. As of 2014, there are two unmanned rovers – Opportunity and Curiosity – crisscrossing the surface of Mars, and five orbiters (including our very own Mangalyaan, in orbit since September 2014) doing their rounds in space around it. The only ever return mission attempted from Mars’ moon, Phobos, had failed. Yet today, we are looking to establish a fully functional colony on Mars, with a crew of settlers leaving Earth to permanently reside on our neighbouring planet.

In 2011, Dutch businessman Bans Lansdorp got together with partners such as hardware suppliers Lockheed Martin and Paragon, to establish man’s first planetary resettlement mission, MarsOne. The partly-crowdfunded mission’s goal is to “establish a human settlement on Mars”, which not-for-profit organisation Mars One believes, is “the next giant leap for mankind”. Starting with a rover mission to select a suitable spot on Mars in 2020, six cargo missions will transport all necessary hardware and technology over the following couple of years to pave the way for the first four person crew to establish man’s pioneer settlement on another planet in 2024.

Image Courtesy MarsOne
Image Courtesy MarsOne

Earlier this week, a hundred people, out of over 2,00,000 applicants, were shortlisted for the Mars One mission. “The large cut in candidates is an important step towards finding out who has the right stuff to go to Mars,” Bas Lansdorp said in a press statement. “These aspiring martians provide the world with a glimpse into who the modern day explorers will be.” These hundred candidates were selected from a longlist of 660 after personal interviews with Chief Medical Officer, Dr Norbert Kraft, M.D. “Being one of the best individual candidates does not automatically make you the greatest team player, so I look forward to seeing how the candidates progress and work together in the upcoming challenges,” Dr Kraft told the press. The Mars 100 consist of 50 men and 50 women from around the world. Three Indians have made it to this list. 29-year-old Dr. Taranjeet Bhatia who lives in Orlando, 19-year-old Shradha Prasad from Palakkad, Kerala and 29-year-old Delhi girl, Ritika Singh.

YKA gets Ritika Singh, an engineer and MBA graduate working in Dubai, to answer our quirky queries. Read about how the self-proclaimed adventure junkie cannot wait to take on the space aliens she might meet along the way.

Q. What prompted you to apply for the mission?

A. I was fascinated by the idea of going to Mars, from the first time I heard about the mission. Just the thought of exploring a new planet gives me goose bumps!

Q. If you make it, how will you prepare yourself for the one-way journey to a whole new planet?

A. After they shortlist the final 24, we will be trained, physically and mentally, for 8 years. We will do the Mars environment simulation on earth so we should be fit to go by 2024.

Q. What will you miss about Earth?

A. Of course, my family and friends. I will miss nature on earth, for sure.

Q. What won’t you miss about Earth?

The struggle to make and save money for the future.

Q. How will your family react if you get that one-way ticket? How will you convince them if they don’t let you go?

A. Initially, my family objected to my decision because they thought I was crazy, but I have managed to bring them on board and now they are more excited than I am.

Q. What if you fall in love right before you leave?

A. Well, if you are making a commitment to a one-way mission to Mars, you have to make sure that you stick to your vision. I will try to not fall in love, but there is a provision to back out at a later stage too.

Q. Do you ever think of what you might see on your journey and on Mars? What if you encounter aliens?

A. Right now, I am just looking forward to meeting my fellow Mars One candidates. If I encounter an alien, I will say ‘bring it on’!

Q. What will you take with you?

A. Pictures of my family and friends (tonnes of them!), music, some recipes (as we have to prepare our own food), gym gear (I cannot survive without working out), and lot of memories from Earth

A new application round begins in 2015. So if being the Indiana Jones of the Universe is something you aspire to, this just might be your chance!

You must be to comment.
  1. Prashant

    I suppose a few more missions there would get around 50 to 60 people in Mars, and among them, if there are professionals, then we could expect people to start returning to the Earth before 2100. Also, Mars might gradually get terraformed. Within a century and a half, Mars would be another habitable planet, and there could be frequent transport and communication between the two planets.

  2. anku

    Well as of now we should call them guinea pigs only. Some one has to make sacrifices. It is unavoidable. Let us hope what ever materializes for the future in Mars is positively successful.

  3. Avinesh Saini

    Here is hoping that all the ambitious pricks leave for Mars. Will have a balst here once they are gone.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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