On the short­list for Mars

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JU­LIAN RAETHEL and MICHAEL FIELD

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.

in my

Go to auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bour news.co.nz and click on Lat­est Edi­tion to watch Saeed’s au­di­tion video.

Photo: JU­LIAN RAETHEL

Mr Uni­verse: Saeed Ghand­hari might be shift­ing his fo­cus from meat to Mars.

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