An image from the Curiosity trip to Mars by NASA and Mars itself. Photos: AP
A Gothenburg resident has been shortlisted for a one-way trip to Mars. He tells The Local about the mission, his love for space, and what he'd miss most from Earth.
Mars One, a non-profit organization founded in the Netherlands, aims to have four humans living on Mars in ten years' time. The project, which is expected to cost $6 billion, will send a further four people every two years in order to build the first human colony on the red planet.
And after the call-out for volunteers yielded over 200,000 applications, organizers whittled down the list of hopefuls to 1,058 people, one of whom was 28-year-old Oliver Barrera, a Colombian native who has called Gothenburg home for four years.
But why on earth (or Mars) would someone want to take the seven-month journey through space in the first place?
"I've always been interested in space," Barrera tells The Local. "When I saw the application, I didn't need to think long before I applied. I think it's a really interesting project and I truly believe it's possible."
He says that while there have been many similar projects before, he has confidence in the organizers and their business model this time around.
"With unlimited funds the mission would be successful," he adds.
The project aims to fund the expedition through crowdsourcing, with current donations being put towards financing conceptual design research.
The company aims to train the winners to build a living space measuring 50 by 10 metres, where they will spend their lives working on the colony and enjoying the fruits of a 1,000-metre cubed total living space. They'll have internet access, enough room to grow plants and trees, and will even be able to text friends on earth (albeit with a six-minute delay).
However, one catch is that the journey will be one way, which isn't a concern for the Gothenburger.
"A lot of people make a big deal about it being a one-way trip... but I don't see any other way to go to Mars. A round trip is a waste of time and money, and why would you want to go all the way to Mars for just a short stay?" Barrera says.
Barrera, an electronic engineer who is currently undertaking a PhD at Chalmers University in Gothenburg, hopes to advance through the next round of medical and psychological tests before he puts too much thought into what could be his last days on earth.
"For something like this, you have to dedicate your whole life. I can learn and give back to humanity in general. If it's successful, our trip will give a lot for the people who will end up living on Mars but also hopefully will change life on earth."
And what about all that he leaves behind on Earth?
"I'd miss family and friends, of course, and I'd spend a lot of time with them before leaving the planet. I'll miss the diversity, animals, plants, food... most of all the fruit, probably," he says.
His family, however, who were initially supportive of his interest in the project, are becoming less and less impressed as Barrera's astronaut dreams become more likely.
"My girlfriend was more excited than I was when I got the email saying I'd got through. But then she said 'now this is serious'. Same with my brother and mother, they see this as if it's going to happen - they don't want me to go. Of course I care, but it's a long discussion," he tells The Local.
"But in ten years, I think I can convince them that life on Mars is not really as strange as it sounds."