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Saturday 30 August 2014

Hopeful ‘Irish Ambassador’ to Mars hasn't told his son yet

Hopeful 'Marstronaut' speaks exclusively to Independent.ie

Clare Cullen

Published 09/01/2014 | 09:01

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"Ireland is my country. I want to be an Irish ambassador on Mars"

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Steve Menaa is a 45 year-old IT engineer, living in Cork. He is also one of three applicants from Ireland to make it to round two of the Mars One project, which means a one-way ticket to Mars.

Menaa, originally from France, wants to represent Ireland in space. “Ireland is my country. I feel more Irish than French. I want to be an ambassador for Ireland.”

Mars One will establish a settlement of four people on Mars, with four more joining the colony every two years. The journey to Mars takes "seven months” every two years when Mars and Earth are at their closest distance.

For the first round application, Menaa filled out an application form so detailed, it took him twelve hours. The two public Ireland candidates were then interviewed on video about their motivations for application by Filmbase Ireland as part of a seven-week documentary course. The video can be viewed above and was directed by Nathan Guimond.

When a journalist let slip via email that he had made it to round two, Menaa was “really delighted” to find that two others from Ireland, (applying privately) had also made the cut. “I was thinking why only me?”

Menaa is motivated by a deep interest in space and exploration. “I would like to go because the last big leap of mankind was landing on the moon... mankind will be inspired. If the trip is successful, it might inspire space agencies to make ships to come back.”

This simulation is what the inside of the living space is imagined to look like.
A computer generation of the colony.

The idea of a one-way ticket to Mars might scare some, but not the hopeful astronaut.  “A one-way trip makes perfect sense- we have to prepare the planet. “

“In every stage, it’s risky. Am I scared? Yes and no. To be scared and excited is quite close. I am nervous – but I could be hit by a car tomorrow.”

Menaa will leave behind his 14 year-old son, who he hasn’t yet told about the Mars One project. “I will miss my son... communication won’t be possible. That is the worst challenge to overcome.”

“He’s living in France with his mother. He’s coming in two weeks and I’ll tell him then. He will be very proud – we’re very close.”

Menaa expects a one-on-one interview and a simulation of life on Mars to be a part of the application process for the next stage. “It’s already a big achievement but I’ll never give up. I’ll do my best.”

The IT engineer was originally the only ‘public’ applicant from Ireland, but all applicants accepted to round two have now been instructed to take their profiles public following a physician medical assessment. More round two selection information will be released in April 2014.

Another Irish applicant Joseph Roche, an astrophysicist, went public with his profile following the instructions from Mars One. He is appearing on Morning Ireland this morning.

Mars One’s vision is that at some point in the future, the colony will be large and equipped enough to self- sustain. Sending the initial four chosen astronauts to Mars is expected to cost US $6bn. The chosen crew will be trained for "many years" before making the expedition and will be provided with "proven technology available from the best aerospace companies".

Mars One is currently not considering the idea of a return mission. "The technology for a return mission does not exist. Even if a return mission were available, it would be uneconomical, dangerous and unnecessary. There are true pioneers among us today who have the sense of purpose to lead the way in expanding human presence in the galaxy".

Mars was chosen because it is the second "most habitable planet in our solar system", after Earth. The astronauts will spend their time "exploring the Martian surface, doing experiments, construction work and farming".

Following a series of qualification rounds to weed out any person "unfit" for the mission, the final decision from the qualified candidates will be made by the general public. "The selected crew will be heroes for generations to come as envoys of all humanity. For this reason, Mars One feels the need to share the decision of selecting the individuals with everyone".

Bas Lansdorp, the CEO and co-founder of Mars One, was inspired to start the project by "Looking at images of the Mars surface by the Sojourner rover in 1997 as a young student". He sold part of his shares in his previous company to finance the startup of Mars One, which he has been working on full-time since March 2011.

Applicants are helping to raise funds for the project by tweeting fundraising links and attempting to raise awareness of the project. You can follow the conversation on Twitter with #Marstronaut.

We will be speaking to more of the Mars One candidates as the process continues, and we want your questions. Tweet your questions to @Independent_ie with the hashtag #IndoMars.

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