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An Oxford physicist who can recall 90 digits of the mathematical entity pi is among five Britons to make the shortlist of would-be astronauts for a proposed one-way trip to Mars.
 
Ryan MacDonald, a 21-year-old masters student from Derby, has reached the final 100 candidates for the Mars One project which aims to set up a permanent human colony on the red planet in 2024.
 
The other British hopefuls are Maggie Lieu, 24, a PhD student in astrophysics at the University of Birmingham, Hannah Earnshaw, 23, a PhD student in astronomy at Durham University, Alison Rigby, 35, a science laboratory technician, from Beckenham, Kent, and Clare Weedon, 27, a systems integration manager for Virgin Media, from Addlestone, in Surrey. 
 
More than 200,000 people applied for a place on the $6bn mission which the Dutch non-profit organisers plan to film for a reality television series. The original applicants were whittled down to 660 last year, and to the final 50 men and 50 women this month through a series of filmed interviews.
 
Speaking to the Guardian before making the shortlist, MacDonald conceded that the Mars mission may never get off the ground, but described his motivations for wanting to live and die on the planet.
 
“The most important thing to do in life is to leave a legacy. A lot of people do that by having a child, having a family. For me this would be my legacy,” he said. “Hundreds of years down the line who is going to know who was the President of the United States? Everyone will remember who were the first four people who stepped onto Mars.”
 
Others have been shortlisted from around the world, including 39 from the Americas, 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, seven from Africa and seven from Oceania.
 
“Human space exploration has always interested me, so the opportunity to be one of the people involved was really appealing. The future of humanity is in space,” Earnshaw said.
 
“My family is pretty thrilled. They’re really happy for me. Obviously it’s going to be challenging, leaving Earth and not coming back. I’ve had support from my friends and family and we can still communicate via the internet.”
 
The shortlisted candidates will now be tested in groups to test their responses to stressful situations before finding out at the end of the year if they have made the list of 24 people chosen for the mission.
 
Before any humans are sent to Mars, the Dutch organisation has to find funds to send a robotic lander and communications satellite to the planet. If that goes well, the next step will be to send an “intelligent” rover to scope out a landing spot for habitation modules and life support systems which will be sent up on rockets before the first humans arrive.
 
Earnshaw said she was “not surprised” by the scepticism the project has drawn. Last year, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that any manned mission to Mars would result in the crew dying after 68 days, while critics have pointed out that the estimated cost of Mars One is a fraction of the amount proposed by Nasa.
 
“It’s a very ambitious mission and requires lots of things going right for humans to leave the planet. But this project is encouraging other people to talk about the wider implications.
 
“It’s definitely feasible. Space travel is risky but at the same time, there is a time scale in place,” Earnshaw said.
Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, co-founder of Mars One, said: “The large cut in candidates is an important step towards finding out who has the right stuff to go to Mars. These aspiring martians provide the world with a glimpse into who the modern day explorers will be.”
 
The shortlisted 100 now face a series of tests to assess how well they work in groups under pressure. Part of their training will take place within a simulated Martian environment. Candidates not selected will have a chance to reapply in a new application round that will open in 2015.

Radiation issues for manned Mars mission

sidebar radiation article

During the rover's cruise to Mars between December 2011 and July 2012, RAD showed that an astronaut would clock up the same radiation dose in a day that the average American receives in a year. If you exclude medical dosages, it would be 10 times more than the average American.

See original article from The Guardian here.

Materials that Halt Hazardous Space Radiation

Radiation has long been an issue when it comes to space travel. In fact, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity recently confirmed previous research on the hazards of space radiation, revealing that radiation levels on the way to the Red Planet are several hundred times higher than the those humans receive on Earth. Now, scientists may have found a way to shield astronauts from the hazards of this radiation.

See original article from Science World Report here.

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