I originally contacted Josh Richards, a Perth based Mars One candidate, quite a few months ago. A candidate that is still in the running I might add. First I must apologise to Josh for taking so long in publishing this post. Life, being a dad and a nerd, got in the way. But I am back now and look forward to publishing many more daddy and nerdy blog posts for you all. I asked Josh to answer a few questions us, which he kindly finished months ago, again, sorry about that.
Josh has accomplished an extraordinary amount in his time on this planet, from degrees to military service and even stand up comedy. He has his own blog and I will post links to his blog and places you can follow Josh at the bottom of this post.
My Contribution to Mars One
Here are Josh’s answers:
What made you decide to apply when Mars One asked for applications?
Strangely enough, I was researching a comedy show about sending people one-way to Mars! I’d been living & working in the UK as a professional stand-up comic for several years, had just moved to Brighton after the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and started researching a ranty science-comedy show about how humans hadn’t left low-earth orbit in over 40 years & how much easier it would be to explore Mars if we made it a one-way trip.
I’d written a show on the science & religion of doomsday theories for the 2011 Ed fringe (“Apocalypse Meow”), and had planned to write a sequel about space exploration & escaping Earth for 2012. I got sidetracked with “Keith Looks Back In Anger” – featuring me in a koala suit as “Keith The Anger Management Koala”, playing ukulele songs & telling stories from my time in the Aussie Army & British Commandos that were still too raw to share without using the character as a shield.
But immediately after performing Keith at Ed Fringe 2012, I sat down in a Brighton coffee shop to start researching a show about how disappointed I was that we hadn’t explored space further, and how we could jump start it by setting up a colony on Mars by sending people one-way… within 5 minutes of opening my laptop I’d found Mars One’s website, and just about dropped my coffee cup in shock. Here I was complaining that we as a species weren’t being bold enough to explore the solar system, and suddenly I’d found an organisation offering all of us a chance to do exactly that. The rest is history – it was a pretty easy decision in retrospect
In interviews, some of the remaining 705 Mars One candidates seem skeptical about whether Mars One will actually make the trip to Mars. What are your thoughts?
The only thing stopping Mars One making the trip is human will. In 8 years the U.S went from their first suborbital flight to putting men on the Moon, and on July 20th 2014 it was 45 years since THAT happened. We’ve had the science & life support technology to colonise Mars since the 80′s – what we don’t have is the tested technology to bring them back again. As much as I love what NASA has done in the past, they have a lot to answer for in perpetuating the myth that Mars will always be “15-20 years away”. Their current timeline is to send astronauts in 2035 – 20 years time. Yet I watched a documentary a few weeks that was produced in 2000, where NASA was THEN saying they expected to have people on Mars between 2015 and 2020…
Unfortunately, because NASA are the only folks who HAVE sent people to another heavenly body, a lot of people still believe they are the only ones who CAN. It will be challenging, but Mars One CAN send people to Mars by 2025. The real question is will humans move passed the petty nationalism that has driven space exploration in the past, and start exploring the cosmos not as “Americans”, “Russians” or “Australians”, but as “Humans”. If we can do that, there is nothing stopping Mars One or anyone else from colonising Mars & beyond.
What do you think your chances are at making it into the top 40?
I genuinely have no idea. With a degree in physics & psychology, serving with the Australian Army as a Combat Engineer & the with the British Royal Narine Commandos, along with working across the spectrum of contemporary & performance arts & comedy… I’ve got a fairly diverse background that hopefully ticks a lot of boxes. But that’s not necessarily what Mars One will chose the top 40 on – they’re more interested in how you interact with others, how you respond & adapt to tough situations, and having the right attitude.
I hope my background reflects the attributes they’re looking for in their colonists, but ultimately I’m just glad I have the opportunity to be part of something so monumental. I’ve said it before with the fullness of my heart – I would be happy to be the guy who sweeps the floors at Mars One’s offices if that’s were the best way I could contribute to what they are trying to achieve.
Do you have any idea when the interviews for the final selection phase of the Mars One candidates will be?
The question we ALL want answered! Mars One are playing this very close to their chests – at this stage all the candidates know is “later in the year”. Immediately after National Science Week I’m heading to Europe to speak at science festivals & primary schools throughout September, and I only hope I don’t have to cancel the trip to get back to Australia for the interviews!
Your Mars One profile states that you are a Physicist and Engineer, can you elaborate on that for us?
I studied Applied Physics at Curtin University, graduating in 2006 along with a minor in Psychology. Since then I did a short stint as a lab manager in a radiation lab, and for the last two years I’ve been working as science communicator speaking in schools about space science & human space exploration, as well as running a multitude of events for National Science Week in August.
On the engineering side, I worked as a combat engineer with the Aussie Army – essentially building bridges & roads, then blowing them up (the unofficial corp motto is “We build it, we break it). I focussed mostly in the “blowing up” side of things, so after I left the Army I worked as an explosives engineer in the mining & construction industries: primarily working with electronic detonation systems blasting at sensitive sites, like next to railways at Cape Lambert or blasting access holes for tunnelling machines near houses in Alkimos. I did a short stint in the Navy training as a Clearance Diver before heading to the UK to serve with the British Commandos and show them a few tricks with explosives too.
This all came in handy when I later worked as a Science & Engineering advisor to British artist Damien Hirst: the first job I did working for him was coordinating the pyrotechnics for a video that played behind U2 when they opened their set at the Glastonbury Festival in 2011. And my second project was engineering the heating & humidity control for a Hirst artwork that included 500 live tropical butterflies flying around a room in London’s Tate Museum, then hand-rearing the butterflies for the artwork!
How do you think the social structure in the Mars colony will play out?
Ultimately the social structure will be the direct result of the people we send, and who we choose to send will be a reflection of who we are as a species. Mars One is talking about potentially sending teams of 4, with each crew representing 4 different continents – representing all of us. I expect it to be very much a colony of equals, with little or no hierarchy. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and the challenge for Mars One’s selectors is to match exceptional people with the perfect balance those attributes.
There’s a precedent set in selecting crews for the International Space Station: they are matched for personality & technical capabilities, then tested & worked into a cohesive team over 3 years. Mars One’s colonists will be scrutinised with an even stronger emphasis on personality balances, and tested continuously over the 10 years of training.
What are your thoughts on men and women pairing up on Mars?
There’s strong evidence that a stable, long-term relationship significantly improves the psychological well-being of those in challenging & isolated environments, like over-wintering in an Antarctic research station. Mars One have said they will not be selecting couples, however Inspiration Mars are specifically seeking a married couple to conduct a 580-day fly-by of Mars in 2021 because of the psychological strength provided by having a loving partner with you.
Provided relationships don’t interfere with the colonists being able to perform their roles professionally and no children are produced as a result (besides the significant risk of embryos being deformed by the reduced gravity, the colony is the WRONG place to be raising a kid) then colonists pairing off can significantly boost their mental health in an environment like this.
On the same note – why just men & women? I might be very comfortably heterosexual, but Mars One is representing our ENTIRE species. They’re sending folks who are role-models for overcoming our minor differences in nationality, race, gender or sexuality in order to explore our universe – there should be NO barrier to relationships.
Elon Musk’s company SpaceX is a possible supplier of the landing pods for Mars-One, but it seems he also plans to get people to Mars and has also stated that he plans to die on Mars. Do you think he will get there before Mars One or at all?
If anyone is going to get to Mars, it’s Elon Musk. The man has the global perspective to make life on this planet far better than it was before he came along, and he has the vision & drive to make our first real steps out of this cradle of humanity a reality. That said, I’m definitely intrigued by the amount of cross-over between SpaceX’s plans & Mars One’s – the same equipment, similar timeline of 10-15 years. If there was any formal agreement I’m sure we would have heard about it by now, and I don’t know any more than what is in the public eye… but I suspect there’s more going on behind the scenes between both organisations than we’re all privy too.
Finally, what do you envision life on Mars to be like?
For the first crews, very much like life at a small & isolated Antarctic research station. The largest proportion of the day will be service & maintenance of the life support systems & trying to grow our own crops. But there will be PLENTY to research too: humans have never spent extended periods in 38% gravity before, so the space physiology research will be incredible. We’ve also never sent humans so far away, let alone doing it permanently – the opportunity for isolation psychology to take it’s own “giant leap” is significant to say the least. How do plants grows on Mars? What can we learn from studying the Martian geology (Areology)? Is there life? There are so many questions to answer. But simply surviving long-term in such a hostile environment will always be the first priority.
Is there anything other thoughts you would like to add?
Simply that Mars One represents not just an opportunity to put the first humans on Mars, but to inspire countless generations to explore & learn more about our universe. 45 years after the first Moon landings, we all still flock to meet & listen to Buzz Aldrin, and commemorate the loss of Neil Armstrong. Now I and Mars One candidates all over the world have the chance to tell kids everywhere that they’re growing up in the 2nd golden space age, and one day could join us living on another planet. My Dad was 13 years old when he watched Armstrong set foot on the moon. I was 7 when I heard Dr Andy Thomas had been selected to become Australia’s first astronaut. I look back and think about how radically it would have changed my life to have had Andy Thomas visit my primary school – now I get to do exactly that. I get to visit these incredible kids and tell them there’s nothing stopping them from doing what I’m doing, and for them to then go even further.
I’m just eternally grateful I can be someone who can give these incredible kids permission to dream, and encourage their parents & teachers to do the same.
The thoughts of a man willing to take a one way trip to Mars! Tweet that.
You can find Josh’s blog at www.themightyginge.com or you can follow him on twitter
What do you think? Would you take a trip such as this? What would like to ask Josh if you had the chance? Leave your questions in the comments and perhaps we can ask Josh next time.
You can also help fund Mars One by purchasing some Mars One merchandise, just like me, at Mars-one.com