One-way trip: ‘Aspiring Martian’ from Pakistan

Published: October 6, 2013

Screengrab from a video available on www.mars-one.com.

KARACHI: 

NASA’s Mars rover Discovery has discovered water in the dirt of the red planet. Much before that this most intriguing planet of the solar system has been the subject of sci-fi novels and movies.

This is because we, the Earth-dwellers, believe the red planet hosts life. The lure of Mars is such that a Dutch venture, Mars One Applicants Community, started mobilising enthusiasts to sign up for at least 54 million-kilometre space travel – which is literally impossible.

So far, 200,000 people have applied. Ziaur Rahman, a 30-year-old business graduate, is one of the six Pakistanis among these ‘aspiring Martians’. The trip is scheduled for 2023.

Rahman’s application was accepted at a time when the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) began World Space Week celebrations on Friday. This year’s theme is coincidentally ‘Exploring Mars’.

One-way ticket

The Mars One project will cost around $6 billion and will take four persons to the red planet in 2023. Just the journey from Earth to Mars will take seven months.

“It reminds me of Total Recall and other sci-fi films,” says Rahman. “I head the supply chain and HSE (health, safety and environment) at a chemical company. I’m a team leader, and quite adventurous – I jumped off a plane from 13,000 feet. I often go for deep-sea fishing. I’m ready for this.”

Rahman, who found out about this mission through Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan’s Facebook page, is not the only one who is ready and eager to go to Mars. Hundreds of thousands other have applied for this one-way trip. By the end of the selection process, which consists of four rounds, 24 people will become employees of Mars One, and only four lucky ones will be the first settlers.

Pakistani astrophysicist Shahid Qureshi has rubbished the whole idea.

“It seems to be a public stunt. There has been no experiment on Mars and the human travel to the planet is just a speculation,” he says. “No human can survive on food capsules, even for a few weeks. The suitable technology is not available.”

Not an easy decision

Those applying for the journey have to consider the inevitability of staying away from their loved ones for ever, if their application is accepted.

“Reality hit when I was asked about how it would feel to leave my family never to return,” recalls the father of two who is happily married. “It was a difficult decision and my wife still thinks I am kidding. However, I am serious. If the first batch succeeds in sustaining life on Mars, others will follow suit. I will surely call my family once I reach Mars.”

And yet, there are other risks: the proposed journey could be a suicide mission, as well. “Everyone has to leave the world someday. I don’t know when I will die, so I might as well do something for humanity and make my country proud,” says Rahman who realises that moving to Mars is dangerous. The landing will be risky, food will have to be grown there, water will have to be extracted from the soil, and oxygen generated by splitting water into its gaseous elements.

And yet, he says, just applying for the space adventure has changed his life.

“I now realise how brief life is. I understand the importance of having a family. If, and when, I get to Mars, I will bow down my head in prayer,” he says. “I am happy that I have volunteered. My country should be proud that at least I tried.”

The remaining five

The five applicants other than Rahman aspire to similar greatness, according to information available on the project’s website.

In his online video, posted on the Mars One website, 20-year-old Hadi Khalil said he doesn’t want to be just one of the seven billion people on earth. “I want to be one of the four,” he exclaimed.

Retd Major Reginald, a former military pilot, desires to help mankind settle down on Mars for a better tomorrow. “I am a 58-year-old young man, I have the physical endurance to live in any environment,” he says assertively.

Muhammad Dagiya, who has studied Mechatronics engineering at Canada’s University of Waterloo, believes his skills can be of great benefit during the mission.

Homeopathic and herbal practitioner, Illahi Bux, 53, is looking for motivation through work. The bespectacled man, a former officer at the health ministry, feels that it is high time to search for wholesome life.

For Zamir Haider, life starts at forty. “I have given forty years to this world,” he states. “Now it’s time to go to a different world.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2013. 

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Reader Comments (22)

  • Indian
    Oct 6, 2013 - 10:42AM

    hahahah pakis ready to go to mars just because they want to escape from pakistan.

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  • ironMan!
    Oct 6, 2013 - 10:58AM

    Whoa!! Goodluck guys! Very adventurous….

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  • ModikiMKaa
    Oct 6, 2013 - 11:06AM

    its not going to happen. And even if it did, (odds are incalculable), you need to be in much better shape.

    “I jumped off a plane from 13,000 feet. I often go for deep-sea fishing. I’m ready for this.”

    How about a trek right through the amazon, by yourself., a few triathlons, and then you’re bringing a bit more to the table. But again, it isnt going to happen. lol

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  • Ali S
    Oct 6, 2013 - 11:18AM

    The astrophysicist need not ‘rubbish’ this idea. This whole ‘live on Mars’ things is a strictly hypothetical project. They’re basically asking ‘if it was possible, would you go and live there’. Anyway, all the best to Zia with this. We need more Pakistanis who think outside the box.

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  • Alann
    Oct 6, 2013 - 11:46AM

    Looks like that organisation is looking for guinea pigs. Humans cannot even survive in Mars’ atmosphere; its way too cold and the gravitational pull of Mars is way different than that of Earth. Moreover, they are planning a “one-way trip to settle humans in Mars by 2023″ – that idea itself looks ridiculous. There is no evidence of water on Mars, although scientists say Mars might have been similar to Earth long time ago. No water, no air to breathe, 8 months travel and cannot ever return again. Even if these ‘brave’ humans somehow managed to survive with artificial gravity, how long is their food supply going to last? Once it ends, then what? There are only gases on Mars, no sign of living organisms of any kind, no ‘breathable’ oxygen.
    Besides there’s too many risks in it; biggest one is of reaching Mars ‘safely’. Then there’s chances of getting exposed to radiation causing various health hazards as well as psychological problems. But then I guess, if you were to go to a place of no return, then such problems shouldn’t matter much, as you won’t survive for long anyway.
    If they really had to do something for the ‘advancement of human civilization’, instead of sending humans to settle there at such an early stage, they should’ve instead tried selling robots built so as to plant seedlings and trees in Mars’ environment. Maybe even send some doses of bacterias in there – now that would be a right thing to do to make Mars ‘livable’.

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  • sana
    Oct 6, 2013 - 12:02PM

    My brother ladies & gentlemen! Lolz!

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  • pak
    Oct 6, 2013 - 12:59PM

    Manuy indians have applied so are they sick of india? @indian

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  • Gingo
    Oct 6, 2013 - 2:33PM

    Been a member of the Mars One facebook page. Found it through National Geographic rather than A.Q Khan fanpage. That’s the dilemma of Pakistans.
    Had it not been for the page being endorsed on A.Q Khan’s page, this gentleman probably wouldn’t have made effort to know about its existence on his own.
    Anyways, bon voyage to this gentleman.
    A word of wise. Leave your religion, ethnicity and nationality here on earth, rather than taking it along to a new world.

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  • javed
    Oct 6, 2013 - 3:08PM

    all the best to all the pakistanis. go make us proud

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  • Jay Kay
    Oct 6, 2013 - 3:14PM

    sure…….indian will be there before the four…………roaming Mars surface in joggers and three piece suits…………

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  • Mudassir
    Oct 6, 2013 - 4:06PM

    Just ask Malik Riaz to launch a Bahria Town project on Mars…. and whole Pakistan will apply.

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  • insider
    Oct 6, 2013 - 5:00PM

    Chaddi going to Mars!!!! finally some good news :)

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  • hmm
    Oct 6, 2013 - 5:04PM

    @Indian:
    while you’ll be building toilets for your 1.2 billion people :)

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  • Someone
    Oct 6, 2013 - 6:53PM

    @Indian: After couple of centuries, or perhaps even decades, the earth will be no more. Pakistanis will use all available opportunities, if that includes human settlement in Mars. Meanwhile Indians can stay behind in this earth with Modi and Shiv Sena and all meet a natural yet deserved ending :)

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  • Mohammad Ilyas Khan
    Oct 6, 2013 - 7:18PM

    I am proud of 6 Pakistanis who has been selected & one of them lion hearted Zia-Ur-Rehman is my close relative. I salute for his eagerness to visit Mars in 2023.

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  • Gratgy
    Oct 6, 2013 - 7:32PM

    Once you get there, you will start demanding Shariat on Mars too

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  • Gratgy
    Oct 6, 2013 - 9:29PM

    @Someone

    Modi will not survive for a couple of centuries, neither will Pakistan

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  • Benjamin Butt
    Oct 6, 2013 - 10:21PM

    The rover that found water in Martian soil is called Curiosity, not discovery. Also, we don’t “believe” that Mars hosts life, we want to find out if it does. Did anyone fact-check this story at all?

    And please find an astrophysicist who knows a little more about human spaceflight than people living off “food capsules.”

    Did six people signing up online in an open call for applications really merit a front-page story? They haven’t been selected for anything, they’re random people, like tens of thousands from all around the world, who simply signed up on a website for a mission that is not even confirmed.

    If you can’t write properly about science, don’t write about it at all.

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  • Mohammad Ilyas Khan
    Oct 7, 2013 - 12:13AM

    Insha Allah Muslims shall preach Islam, others may practice their religion.

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  • Maxim(Mars Ambassador to Earth)
    Oct 7, 2013 - 5:07AM

    no muslims on mars please

    thanks

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  • Someone
    Oct 7, 2013 - 9:31AM

    @Gratgy: In a country like India, there will always be a Modi.

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  • Khurram Saif
    Oct 7, 2013 - 10:01AM

    Awesome! I am proud of you Zia…..Just as i read this news, one thing runs in my mind “Allah has not created a single livingthing without any reason”…………………I salute you. Take care.

    I know Zia since 1998 and i believe he will perform this job withgreat passion and zeal.

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