On the shortlist for Mars
THE mystique of planet Mars has always sparked the curiosity of us Earthlings.
And for Saeed Ghandhari the dream of visiting the red planet is inching closer to reality.
The St Heliers man has made the shortlist of 100 people to make a proposed one-way trip to Mars.
It may sound like a movie plot but the Mars One project is a Dutch non-profit organisation’s plan to send only a handful of people to our planetary neighbour to see if it is possible for humans to colonise it.
The organisation also proposes to film the mission’s progress for a reality television series.
‘‘When I was a child everyone asked me what I wanted to be, and I’d tell them I wanted to be an astronaut,’’ Ghandhari says.
The 34-year-old was one of more than 200,000 people who applied in 2013 for a place on the $8 billion Mars One mission.
The only money Ghandhari had to come up with was the $15 application fee.
‘‘It will cost about $4 billion to send the first four people,’’ he says. ‘‘So I’m potentially worth $1 billion.
‘‘It’s unbelievable when I’m thinking about it.’’
Ghandhari moved to New Zealand from Iran in 2011 with his wife, Emma, and two sons, Sina and Ali, who are now 13 and 4.
It hasn’t been an easy road and there are many more hoops to jump through. But Ghandhari believes he’s got the skills required.
‘‘When I was notified about the Mars One project in 2013, my curiosity pushed me forward to apply because I knew that with attention to my personal attitudes like creativity and trust, I would be one of the best people who can bring great value and contribution to the team.
‘‘Basically I’m like a multiscrewdriver with so many different experiences.’’
These include his farming, DIY and hunting skills, as well as his two masters degrees in international relations and his bachelor in applied physics – which pushed him to research black holes in space.
Ghandhari now works for the Ministry of Social Development as well as running his business, the Cheap Meat and Halal Butchery and Takeaway in Panmure.
Working two jobs is stressful, but so is convincing his family about his Mars dream. ‘‘[My wife] is not happy. ‘‘She says she doesn’t understand it as an emotional decision. But from the science decision she says: ‘I can see you’re doing it for humankind’.’’
Since making the shortlist, Ghandhari has become somewhat famous in Panmure.
‘‘I was cleaning the shop one day when two people were at the door,’’ he says.
‘‘The lady said: ‘ My son just wanted to take a photo with you’.
‘‘But I was just cleaning clothes!’’
There is one more round to go which will cut the 100 applicants down to 24 potential astronauts.
It will be at least eight years of training before the mission can begin.
‘‘It’s just like a science fiction movie but we have to make it happen.
‘‘Can we send a live creature there?
‘‘In 10 years’ time I think we’ll have very advanced technology.’’
Ghandhari says the final vetting process will involve a group challenge, possibly in Antarctica, later this year.
Go to aucklandcityharbour news.co.nz and click on Latest Edition to watch Saeed’s audition video.
Mr Universe: Saeed Ghandhari might be shifting his focus from meat to Mars.