Why I want to go to Mars by aspiring Martian and Oxford undergrad Ryan MacDonald

Ryan MacDonald, writing exclusively for the Tab, has just been named on an international shortlist to take part in a one-way mission to Mars.

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I’m a third year physicist at University College Oxford and I want to go to Mars.

How many people can say they’ve done something that no one has done before? To see valleys so wide the other side is beyond the horizon, to stand at the foot of a volcano 22 km high, to witness the birth of a new civilisation… Mars is where it’s all happening, and I for one can’t wait.

"Aspiring Martian" and current undergrad Ryan MacDonald

“Aspiring Martian” and current undergrad Ryan MacDonald

Straddling the boundary between darkness and light, the caldera rim of Pavonis Mons divides the brilliant red sky from the gaping 5 km chasm below. As the plunging sun descends below the rim, the world is set on fire in a dazzling display of blue, reminding me of the distant planet I once called home.

Ryan's possible future bedroom

Ryan’s possible future bedroom

Welcome to the second most habitable planet in the solar system, Mars, we hope you enjoy your stay. After a 7 month journey, you will be pleased to learn that a generous 1000 m^3 of living space will be provided for you and your three other crew members. Your diet will consist of a variety of homemade hydroponic vegetables and a selection of the finest insects rich in protein. In return, we ask only that you dedicate your life to scientific research and smile for the cameras to please our investors back on Earth.  More people will join you in 2 years, have a nice day!

living pod

The full lay-out of a house on Mars

Last year, the Mars One foundation put out the call for volunteers for a one way trip to Mars. Leaping at the chance, I submitted my application along with over 200,000 other aspiring Martians. Last month, the selection committee narrowed in their sights on a shortlist of 1058 applicants – and I am proud to say I am one of them. Only 40 will be selected for full-time astronaut training, with the first 4 blasting off to Mars in 2024, so things are about to get really intense.

surface of mars

The settlement will be established by unmanned rovers and powered by solar panels

If all goes according to plan, I will land on Mars in April 2025 to set up a pressurised settlement (pre-assembled by rovers before departure). The first years will be tough, no one has attempted such a daring initiative before, with the immediate priority being securing the life support systems and basic construction and development of the habitat modules. The store of canned goods brought from Earth will not last forever, so an inflatable greenhouse module will have to be installed as soon as possible to ensure a stable food source. Not to mention the power supply, as dust storms (some can last for days) will require the solar panels to be swept frequently. All of this is planned to be filmed in HD and relayed to Earth by a geostationary communications satellite.

Hydroponics will be used to grow the community's food

Hydroponics will be used to grow the community’s food

Once things settle down, the science programme will begin in earnest. I think David Bowie has waited long enough to have his question answered, don’t you? Doubtless there will be many things that I would miss (I like being able to breathe air without dying), but I would gladly give up our Earthly comforts for this chance to really make a difference in the eyes of history.

I didn’t sign up for this mission to die on Mars: I signed up to live on Mars.


Want to be involved in the mission to Mars? The first unmanned demonstration mission in 2018 is currently raising funds via an indiegogo campaign offering people selfies from Mars, mission backstage passes and more: You can visit the website here.