No fears over no return

TOM HUNT
Last updated 05:00 17/06/2014
Merlijn Fuhrhop

ONE WAY: If selected as a Mars One candidate, 19-year-old Merlijn Fuhrhop will make a seven-month space voyage to the red planet. No return trip to Earth is planned.

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It will be boring, cramped and he will never see family and friends again, but Merlijn Fuhrhop is excited that he may be among the first humans on Mars.

The 19-year-old Victoria University student has made it through to the second round of the Mars One project, a Netherlands-based programme aiming to establish a permanent human settlement on the red planet by 2025.

The first unmanned mission is expected to head there in 2018, and the first group of four people to leave Earth in 2024, with new groups of four leaving every two years.

Fuhrhop hopes to make it on the first, history-making, mission. From 200,000 applicants who first applied, 1058 applicants made it through the first cut.

This has now been cut down to 635 - 287 women and 418 men, one of whom is Fuhrhop.

"It would be very boring and cramped. I'm not scared, a little apprehensive as I'm not sure what to expect, but mostly I'm excited.

"The Mars One project is the next big step for mankind and I think it would be great if I could be part of that. It would be life fulfilling."

Between the ages of 10 and 13, Fuhrhop and his family sailed from The Netherlands to New Zealand on a yacht, which he said made him familiar with confinement - an issue he would have to deal with on the seven-month journey to Mars. No return journey is planned - meaning he will never see his parents again if he makes the final cut.

"They weren't happy about the idea, but they could kind of see why I would want to do it. You're giving up life on Earth, but you get a life on Mars. You'll still be alive, eat food, play games.

"It's not going to change who you are, it's just living somewhere else, forever. That's how I see it. Life just goes on."

If he makes the final cut, he will have to undergo eight years of training, which includes isolation training. He would also have to face the dangers of space travel, followed by the rigours of building a new colony on an inhospitable planet, then living in a confined environment.

"It's a bit hard to imagine what life would be like on Mars. That is the whole reason I am doing it - to experience the unknown."

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- The Dominion Post

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