Many students jet off to exotic locations on their gap years or during the holidays, but these students are embarking on a journey that is truly out of this world, having been shortlisted for the first manned flight to Mars – without a return ticket.
Mars One, a project set up in 2011 by two Dutchmen with the aim of establishing permanent human life on Mars by 2025, saw over 200,000 people from around the world apply to be part of the first mission.
They drew up a shortlist of 1,058 people, which will be whittled down to just 24 aspiring Martian explorers.
Many were students shortlisted for their skills in their field of study. Here some UK students spoke to the Independent about their hopes of colonising the Red Planet.
Danielle Potter, 29, is a Phd student at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute
Ms Potter’s biggest worry is about leaving friends and family behind when she leaves Earth.
Although she is excited about being part of “the biggest thing in history”, she has a lot of scientific questions for the Mars One team.
“If you survive the journey and you survive the impact, what about radiation positioning?” she said. “I know the effects of radiation and radiation poisoning and I don’t particularly want to die that way. Say the crops fail, what are they going to put in place for me to be able to survive?”
She thinks the conditions on Mars are going to be “horrible.”
“To make it worse, I’ve travelled the world and I know how beautiful this planet is and what it’s got to offer.”
But having grown up in Manchester, she said “I know what it’s like to grow up in a hostile environment.”
Ryan MacDonald, 20, third-year physics student at University College in Oxford
“On Earth you’re one of 7 billion people,” said Mr MacDonald. “It’s very difficult to do something really big and important with your life that’s going to make a difference.
“[Going to Mars is] all about just trying to make the most of life and do whatever is the maximum amount of good you can do.”
He said people are generally supportive of his trip, though his 18-year-old sister doesn’t want him to go.
“As for never seeing your family and friends again - you’ll be in closer contact with your friends and family than the people who went to [colonial] Australia and had to wait six months to hear from their families,” he said.
Mr MacDonald expects to acquire “superhuman strength” for a few days on Mars while his muscles adapt to the lack of gravity.
He also thinks Mars would be a great place to grow old.
“Due to the lower gravity there’d be less health risks like bone damage, so in old age it would actually be a nice place to retire to,” he said.
Hannah Earnshaw, 22, is studying a Phd in astronomy at Durham University
Being an astronaut was 22-year-old was Ms Earnshaw’s childhood dream.
“This is the first mission that actually seems like it’s technically feasible in the present and the one that’s actually going to happen,” she said. “I wanted to really get behind it.”
It took her several months to decide whether to apply for the trip.
“One of the factors that I did spend a lot of time mulling over was the fact that I’d be leaving everyone behind.
“I’m a fairly independent person and I do a lot of communication over the Internet and I think that will be a fairly key thing in every-day life [on Mars].”
She is worried about the “inherent dangers” of space travel, but thinks the trip could actually be quite soothing for the soul.
“In a way [though] I’m prepared for it to be very simple,” she said. “I wouldn’t say monotonous necessarily, but you kind of hear the words ‘adventure’ and ‘excitement’ bandied around. I think day to day life will be quite steady, which is good really because I think that would certainly help in terms of emotional stability."