If you stumbled across an online application to become an astronaut and journey to Mars – where you would live out the rest of your life – would you fill it out? This is not the opening of the latest science-fiction movie or an Internet scam.
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This is how Mars One began a selection process in April 2013 to choose 24 crew members to embark on the first-ever human voyage to the Red Planet in 2024.
Nadav Neuman is one of the 1,058 applications that Mars One accepted into the second round.
Neuman is a 26-year-old Israeli student majoring in literature and philosophy at the Open University in Ra’anana.
He was chosen out of an initial pool of over 200,000 applicants, including 11 other Israelis.
If he clears the whole selection process he will undergo training and become part of the crew earmarked for a oneway trip to Mars to establish the first human colony there.
The nonprofit Mars One, brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bars Lansdorp, intends to document the crew’s selection, training and journey, and to broadcast it worldwide as a nonstop reality show aimed at funding most of the project.
Neuman can’t recall where on the Internet he initially encountered Mars One’s application, which required only that he submit a video, a motivational letter and a resume. He also acknowledges that “when you read something like this, it sounds like a joke.”
With a webcam, he filmed a minute-long video he admits was a “parody.” (It can be found on the Mars One application website.) In it he states that he speaks “fluent Martian” and is confident he can “conquer” aliens because he can disguise himself as one.
He also lampoons history – as well as Israel – and states that he should be picked because “Mars is the birthplace of the human race.” Interspersed throughout the video are flashes of him making faces and using a hand puppet.
Neuman describes his attitude as having been: “What the heck – if they choose me, cool; if not, too bad.”
Then, on December 30, months after he posted his application, he received an e-mail with a Mars One letterhead informing him that “you and only 1,057 other aspiring astronauts around the globe have been pre-selected as potential candidates to launch the dawn of a new era – human life on Mars.
"Congratulations… Now, catch your breath.”
Neuman is almost certain he will go through with traveling to Mars if he is offered the opportunity.
“I keep thinking about it,” he told The Jerusalem Post this week. “Even when it was a bit of a joke, I thought, ‘If I can do it, I’ll do it.’ Who wouldn’t want to go to a place a human foot has never stepped on?” In order to remain in the selection pool, Mars One required him to have his health cleared by a physician.
He has already e-mailed the forms to Mars One’s chief medical officer, Dr. Norbert Kraft, a specialist in aerospace medicine and a former researcher at NASA.
If he is medically cleared, he will move on to the next round and be interviewed by one of 300 regional selection committees.
Neuman is confident of his chances even though he lacks the resumé of a typical astronaut, asserting that his outlook strengthens his chances more than any credentials.
“I think I have a broader spectrum of a broader [out] look on life and on reality,” he told the Post. “I always like to think of things in a different way than [other] people.”
Perhaps with his ability to “speak” the Martian tongue he’s got a good chance of being chosen owing to the reality show aspect, although he would not demonstrate his knowledge, preferring to keep it under wraps.
“I can tell you it’s a process of learning for many, many years here on Earth, he says. “It wasn’t easy. But, I can speak fluent Martian.”
Neuman denies he’s in it for the limelight.
“I really hate reality TV shows actually,” he says. “I think it burns your brain cells. It’s a side effect of [Mars One]. It’s much greater than a [f******] TV show.”
However, there’s a philosophical element in his humor. When explaining his ability to speak Martian, he says: “When I encounter Martians we’ll be friends.... This is the goal, to be friends with whomever we meet there.”
Neuman also says he’s excited about his opportunity.
“I think we should take every single thing out there that is not regular and mediocre and everyday, and do things that make people think,” he says. “It’s good for humanity to think about these things all the time and not be... mediocre....”
He also wants to receive official support from Israel, saying he has reached out to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space. A ministry spokeswoman denied having received an email and affirmed it was policy to respond to all emails, even if the answer is “no.”
He must also swallow the harsh reality that the journey to Mars will be one-way.
Mars One has emphasized that “the technology for a return mission does not exist. Even if a return mission were available, it would be uneconomical, dangerous and unnecessary.”
For now, Neuman has accepted that he could end his life millions of miles away from his family and girlfriend.
One thought that keeps him going is “about humanity after people landed on the moon. How it inspired everything from science to arts to everything on Earth was deeply influenced by it. I think about what landing on Mars will do to life here.”
That, and dreams of blasting David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” on the surface of the Red Planet.