Thursday, February 19, 2015

My Top Ten Mars One Candidates

I am fascinated by space travel.  I have this wonderful romantic vision of Earth's future, brought on in part perhaps by Gene Roddenberry's five year mission to boldly go.  When I first heard about Mars One's mission, I was firstly shocked I hadn't heard about it sooner, and secondly energized.  What an amazing time to be alive, when human beings are so confident they can make it to Mars!  Recently, Mars One narrowed the field of candidates to take this (one way!) trip to 100 people, and I'm sure the people in charge dread narrowing the field any further!  There are so many greatly qualified candidates.

At this stage, we aren't certain whether the final selections are destined for greater glory or doomed to die at some point along the way.  That's in the nature of exploration.  Many great explorers lost their lives in pursuit of the frontier of human knowledge.  One internet comment pointed out that if we cannot yet put a man at the bottom of the sea, how could we ever hope to reach Mars?  This is an excellent question.  I counter that question with another question.  How can we know whether we could do it or not if we do not try?  I think, in another life, one where I didn't love other people so much, where I had no strong roots to hold me here, and where I had been given a body more prone to athletics, this might have been my dream.  I might have wished for that rocket to another world as these 100 people do.

I've developed a list of the best ten candidates (in my opinion), and I will disclose that list to you here.  Before I do so, let me tell you a little bit about the process I went through to select these ten people.  First of all, any person who had a poorly produced video (bad sound, lots of background noise) was immediately disqualified from selection.  Secondly, if they were annoying or unfocused, I immediately lost interest.  The first people to set foot on Mars should be at least somewhat charismatic, if they're annoying I know I would not be able to suffer through watching video updates from them on Mars.  Thirdly, I tended to pick people who appeared to be somewhat young and healthy.  This is ageist and wrong in a job interview setting, but for the purpose of sending individuals to Mars, I felt it acceptable.  We're talking about a one way trip.  If the person is not in good health, they cannot come home.  The trip isn't scheduled for another ten years, so it's important that the candidate is still healthy ten years from now and has potential to work at the colony for a long time after that, which in my opinion should disqualify some of the candidates currently in their 50's.  My final selections tended to be resourceful people with multiple useful skill sets, particularly in physics, piloting, robotics, medicine, and agriculture.

I want the final Martians to be a diverse, hard working, intelligent group of people on whom a new society can be built.  In selecting these ten finalists (a list that would have to be further whittled down to six), I'm confronting some of the logistical challenges that I'm sure Mars One administrators are facing at this time.  Do not, however, mistake my choices here for purely scientific ones, because I can assure you, entertainment value was a factor in the final selection.

Here are my ten favorite candidates, five men and five women who I believe are ready to start the journey to Mars.

This gentleman makes the best argument for his usefulness on Mars of any candidate, and he does it while hanging upside down.  He has agricultural skills (including bee keeping!), he's in good shape, he is familiar with harvesting solar power.  He can work on the machinery.  He's got mining experience.  This guy is excellent,

This young woman is studying both physics and premed, which certainly makes her stand out.  She's a clear speaker, with heartfelt opinions on why the trip to Mars is necessary.

She's an electrical engineer and real life anime character with interests in physics, math, chemistry, and robotics.  When I saw her in her kendo outfit with her sword at the ready, I knew she was either a very serious martial arts enthusiast or someone from the con scene, and it turned out she was a cosplayer.  One of her pictures is of herself in a Roxas cosplay from Kingdom Hearts II.

Dr. Joseph Roche
He's an excellent communicator, which is necessary.  He's worked for NASA and teaches science.  He's charismatic and likable.

She's a PhD student in particle physics at Princeton University.  Her hobbies include mountain climbing and computer hardware.  With her cool Russian accent and her awesome anime hair, I would definitely watch her video updates.

He's accessible.  He's a masters physics student.  He seems deeply passionate about going on this trip.  This is the guy that inspired me to make this list.  If I had to pick the final team, he would definitely be on it, because of these people, he's the most able to rationally explain why he wants to go even knowing he won't be coming back.

American (Eastern Woodlands Cherokee)
She's a human factors engineer and pilot.  She's a motivated, social person interested in plants and botany.  She has several active hobbies including biking and scuba diving.  I have my doubts about sending her, though, because her video was filmed by another person who asked her questions.  I could tell by his voice that he cared about her very much.  She has attachments, and I worry that leaving them would be difficult, but then I imagine all of these people would be leaving someone behind.

He's a medical student.  He's got computer skills.  He's climbs mountains.

Maggie Lieu
She's a PhD student in Astrophysics, space science, and Astronomy.  She has teaching experience, which could be useful on the mission.

Taranjeet Singh Bhatia
Why Taranjeet:  He has skills in computers and robotics.  He's athletic.  He's charming.

That's my list of likely finalist candidates.  Let me know in the comments if I missed somebody you'd rather see on Mars, or if you think some of these people are the wrong fit.