AN ASTROPHYSICIST WITH the Science Gallery in Dublin is the only Irish man on a shortlist of 1,000 people hoping to become the first humans to live on Mars.
Private space exploration company Mars One hopes to land a colony of four astronauts on the red planet by 2025.
The only catch? The astronauts chosen for the mission can never return to Earth.
Over 200,000 people applied to begin life again on Mars – this number was whittled down to 1,058 last week.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning, Dr Joseph Roche said applying for the project was an easy decision to make:
I grew up in Kildare on a small farm and spent my nights looking at the stars. I went to Trinity College in Dublin and studied science, took a stint in the States working for NASA and came back to Trinity to do my PhD in astrophysics. The idea of going to Mars is something I would have dreamed about all these years – it’s just a no-brainer for me.
The Mars One project was founded and financed by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, who hopes to fund the mission by turning it into a reality TV show.
Dr Roche’s story was first broken last Saturday on Newstalk by Jonathan McCrea.
He says we should take the project seriously:
It does sound like a crazy idea, but any new idea in this area is going to seem ridiculous at first. We don’t have the capabilities to bring people to a planet and then launch from the planet, to get them back. Mars One is going to cut the cost of the return trip, and that’s why it’s a feasible mission. They’re pairing up with [aerospace company] Lockheed Martin, who have a track record with landing things on Mars.
If Dr Roche does become one of the four astronauts to land on Mars, his return is “not even open to debate”. It’s also likely that his life expectancy would be dramatically reduced from exposure to radiation and “conditions no human has ever experienced before”.
However, he says that this isn’t an issue for him:
The way I look at it, even if I have a shorter life on Mars, every day that I live there I’d be taking a leap forward in terms of the scientific endeavours of humankind. And for me that’s a dream come true.
Most people are concerned with what his family thinks of the mission, but he says are very supportive of everything he does:
My poor parents found out at a public talk [on space exploration]…One of the first questions from the audience asked me was “What would your parents think?” and I said “Well here’s my mum and dad, they can answer that one for you.”