LIFE ON MARS

Ex­perts say the mission to MARS will end in TRAGEDY, but Ri­tika says, ‘We have to DIE one day, so do some­thing BRIL­LIANT be­fore’

Friday - - Front Page - Karen Pasquali Jones, Edi­tor kpasqual­i­jones@gulfnews.com

Why two ex­plor­ers are swap­ping Dubai for the red planet

The voice was crackly, the words dis­tort­ing slightly as they trav­elled through space. But they were clear enough and the whole world lis­tened: ‘That’s one small step for man, one gi­ant leap for mankind.’ Neil Arm­strong later in­sisted he said a man but the ar­ti­cle got lost in static. Ei­ther way, it was an in­cred­i­ble off-the-cuff speech as he be­came the first man to set foot on the moon back in 1969.

Ri­tika Singh has no doubt be­gun prac­tis­ing ex­actly what she will say when she lands on Mars in 2024. The seven-month jour­ney is rather dif­fer­ent from the Amer­i­can as­tro­naut’s though – it’s a one-way ticket to colonise the Red Planet and is al­ready said to be doomed to end in death or dis­as­ter.

But Ri­tika, a lo­gis­tics manager with the Al-Fut­taim Group in Fes­ti­val City, Dubai, is determined to be one of the four-strong team sent to set foot on Mars. She is one of two peo­ple from Dubai short­listed for the Dh15 bil­lion project – from an ini­tial 200,000 ap­pli­cants around the globe – and will un­dergo eight years of in­ten­sive train­ing to vie for that fi­nal place on board the rocket. Ex­perts have said nu­mer­ous things could go wrong, in­clud­ing the space­ship ex­plod­ing at take off, but Ri­tika, from Dubai In­vest­ment Park, sim­ply shrugs. ‘My view,’ she says, ‘is that you have to die one day, so do some­thing bril­liant be­fore.’

As an eter­nal op­ti­mist I’m con­vinced tech­nol­ogy will have ad­vanced so much by lift-off that the risks will be min­i­mal and a woman from the City of Gold will head off to start life on Mars. The things she will miss? Her fam­ily, of course, which is why I could never be that pi­o­neer­ing ad­ven­turer. Read all about Ri­tika’s mission to Mars on page 68 and let me know what you would take with you to the Red Planet. Un­til next week,

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