They are all happy people, beaming with enthusiasm and the spirit of exploration. Not sad, not suicidal, as many think the applicants to the ONE-WAY trip to Mars would be. The proposed expedition, organised by an international space research organisation, Mars One, invited entries from across the world, and among the 1,65,000 hopefuls were thousands of Indians. We circled in on three bravehearts from Delhi to know what made them jump in.
Vinod Kotiya, 31
His wife thought it’s a joke and his one-year-old daughter Jeannie has no clue daddy may go, but he applied on the very first day the registrations opened. Vinod Kotiya, was, of course, following the project very closely since its inception. “I wanted to be an astrounaut ever since my childhood ... I’d always been fascinated about the scalability and secrets of the universe,” says the manager with a power firm in Delhi, explaining the reason behind the first “go” in his head. He had no second thoughts. “My family is well settled; I’m not shirking my responsibilities. And it’s not a suicidal mission. The first step, the first sprout in the hydroponic garden, the first breath of air ... no matter how trivial, I’ll be one of the first people to have done it on another planet. Every task there will be an achievement.”
Kundan Kumar, 20
Kundan and Amulya are buddies and classmates, so they’re glad they’ll be marooned on Mars with each other, if nothing else! “The no-return aspect of this mission may scare some but not me. There’s always video chat to talk to your folks,” he says, sharing that he hadn’t told his parents before he applied, and after some initial resistance, they are fully supportive of his participation. His reason for playing guinea pig to the experiment: “This way, I can do something for my world, my people and my family,” he adds. Of course, there are things he will miss about the Earth. “If I get selected, I will miss my father, the natural beauty of the earth, and Dilli ke golgappe!”
Amulya nidhi rastogi, 20
The Gurgaon guy, a student of mechanical engineering, has written a poem in tribute to Neil Armstrong, explaining why he wants to go. “I am on Earth, I feel divided ... in a madhouse of religion and greed, watching a world at war with itself ...,” it goes. He reiterates: “I have no regrets. This is serious business.” Hasn’t his family freaked out? “My family still has qualms about the success of the project. But they are very confident and supportive about my candidacy.”
Off to never come back!
Mars One recently closed the first round of public entries for its astronaut selection programme for a one-way trip to colonise Mars with humans in 2023. The one-time registration fee was $7 (R470) for Indians. The selected candidates will be trained for many years before they hit space. While the mission aims to crowd-fund the trip from a televised, audience-voted selection process, American space research organisation NASA has raised doubts over it. Incidentally, space-tourism to moon is currently priced at $100mn a ticket.