Mission to Mars: Mars100 candidate visits Qatar

 24 May 2017 - 10:11

Mission to Mars: Mars100 candidate visits Qatar

The Peninsula

April 27, 2017 was an incredibly exciting day for students at Pearling Season International (PSI) School with a special visit from Mikolaj Zielinski, a Mars100 candidate, who flew in all the way from Dubai just to talk to PSI students.

The Mars One Project is designed to send astronaut explorers to Mars on a one-way trip to discover, live and thrive on the only known planet that can potentially support life.

Part of Mars One’s mission is to successfully see through its Astronaut Selection Program, which started in 2013. It currently has whittled nearly 200,000 applicants from around the world to the top 100 candidates, of which Zielinski is proud to have made the ranks.

The shortlisted applicants will then be taken through two more selection rounds, the first of which starts at the end of 2017. The final selection will list 24 individuals, grouped into teams of 4, who will then be converted into Mars One employees and begin their 10-year-long intensive training. The end goal is to send the first team of four, comprised of two men and two women, to Mars in the year 2031.

Zielinski, who has a double Masters in Computer Science and Mathematics, is an incredibly passionate believer that humans will become a multi-planetary species before the end of this century.

When asked what inspired him to sign up for a one-way trip to Mars, he responds: “I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t a space enthusiast. My Polish background limited my ability to access national and regional space programmes around the world because Poland does not have a space programme. However, the Mars One Project is one that transcends national boundaries and racial, social and academic backgrounds. It is one that allows me to strive my hardest towards entering an astronaut programme.”

 

“Mikolaj is truly an inspirational person,” says PSI School’s Year 6 Teacher, Malcolm Price, who shares an enthusiasm for all things space. “It is incredible to imagine that someone is willing to become a modern-day pioneer, preparing to travel millions of miles across space to push the boundaries of our frontiers to set up a Mars colony. This is both daring and brave. All our students have truly been wowed and challenged by our would-be Mars One astronaut.”

Zielinski made an entire day’s visit out of inspiring the students of PSI School, delivering three presentations for three Key Stage groups. He fascinated Key Stage 1 students with facts about Mars, explaining to them how Mars is a very cold planet, it has seasons and sunrise and sunset like Earth, how one can jump three times higher on Mars’ surface and how Mars could have water underground. He shared an album of photos of rockets and life in space and on Mars.

Zielinski enlightened Key Stage 2 students on why Mars was the best candidate for human inhabitation, and illustrated the process of how the Mission to Mars will take place. It will involve sending several missions to Mars, with robots like rovers to set up inflatable habitats for future human visitors.

Rovers will be used to gather data and analysis over a period of time before it will be deemed safe for astronauts. Once ready, the first team of four astronauts will take seven months to travel to Mars, after which the first arrivals will ready the habitat further for more astronauts in the following years.

With older Key Stage 3 and 4 students, Zielinski shared more technical aspects of the Mars One Project. Zielinski explained the importance of teamwork, and how he will be training with three other members for 10 years to build their team rapport.

(From left: Head Teacher Thompson, Mars One Candidate
Mikolaj Zielinski and PTA Contact Sabika Shaban
 

One of the selection criteria is the ability of the candidate to absorb large amounts of information in a short period of time. In the 10 years, candidates will have to master theory and practical application in many fields, including engineering, medicine, biology, chemistry, physics and more, as they will be unsupported and remote on Mars.

He explained how the reduced gravity on Mars will have a weakening effect on human bone and muscle, which means astronauts will have to exercise minimum 2 hours a day for maintenance. Higher radiation and the lack of a magnetic force on Mars will mean humans will only be able to venture outside for up to 3 hours maximum.

“As a Mars One candidate,” relates Mikolaj, “I have an interesting story to tell that children apparently like very much. Therefore, I take every opportunity to meet them and share my fascination for space. I want to develop their interest in science and inspire them to consider the future of humanity as multi-planetary civilisation.”

Thus far, Mikolaj has delivered nearly 30 public presentations on his mission to Mars. PSI School’s Key Stage 1 students were one of the youngest audiences he has engaged with yet, he admits, but was impressed how well-informed they were and the caliber of their questions they asked when the floor was opened to them.

“I am glad I could show them some connections between their school projects and projects like Mars One. It is this very generation that will be taking our missions forward in a few decades’ time,” he said.

“I was very glad that Sabika Shaban, a PTA parent here at PSI School, reached out to me and invited me to come to Doha to speak with such well-informed and interested groups of students.”

Declan Kearns, Math Teacher for Key Stages 3 and 4, aptly states: “Mikolaj’s presentation simply blew me away. He is literally hoping to be involved in setting up the first human colony on Mars. This is a massive undertaking and sacrifice.

It is also a huge milestone for humanity as a whole, to extend life to another planet beyond our own. Who would have thought it possible? I know from talking to our students they have been inspired greatly. Who knows, maybe some time in the future one of them will follow.”