DUBAI // Mikolaj Zielinski takes the idea of space travel so seriously that he has volunteered to spend the rest of his life on Mars.
And Mr Zielinski, 37, wants to share his enthusiasm for the Red Planet with others.
The software engineer and aspiring astronaut is planning to host a one-day conference in September on the virtues of setting up a colony on the fourth planet from the Sun.
Mr Zielinski, from Poland, is one of three UAE residents who made it through to the second round of selections for Mars One, a reality TV show that aims to send a small group of people on a one-way trip to Mars by 2025.
He is hoping to drive interest in the initiative from students and attract funding from local businessmen.
Bas Lansdorp, founder of Mars One, has said he would be willing to give naming rights for the first human colony to whoever donates money to bring the project to completion.
“There is a lot of interest in space travel in the UAE,” said Mr Zielinski. “Sending people to Mars isn’t science fiction any more, it’s really going to happen.
“I wanted to educate young people here about what stage we are at now, as well as the implications for the future.”
He said he needed at very least about Dh40,000 in corporate sponsorship to stage the conference in Dubai and pay for speakers to fly in from Europe and the US.
Apart from top officials at Mars One, Mr Zielinksi is aiming to attract Mars expert Robert Zubrin and the first Arab astronaut, Sultan bin Salman Al Saud, to give lectures at the event.
Between April and August last year, about 200,000 people submitted videos explaining why they wanted to be among the first four astronauts to spend the rest of their lives in a colony on Mars.
They were whittled down to 1,058 people, including three from the UAE: Emirati Khalid Al Jaaidi; Indian national Ritika Singh; and Mr Zielinski.
Round two of selection involved applicants undergoing a robust medical exam – a series of blood tests and eye exams. That reduced the number to 705 people.
The next stage will be a series of in-depth interviews and psychological profiles, which will reduce the number even further. A date has yet to be announced for this.
The third round will be televised in a reality-style show in which 20 to 40 people from each region are given extensive physical and mental tests.
The examinations will determine their capacity to adapt to life in low gravity and their ability to live with only three people in a small confined space for the rest of their lives.
“It takes a very specific psychological profile to be able to handle those conditions, and that’s what they’re looking for, more than physical fitness,” said Mr Zielinski.
He said he had always been interested in exploration, but in our modern world, very little remained to be discovered.
Mr Zielinski has spent the past six months reading vast amounts of scientific literature on Mars and life in space.
But he has not extended his research to watching the Hollywood space drama Gravity just yet.
Mr Zielinski is unmarried and has no children. He said it would make it difficult if he started a family some time in the next 10 years before leaving Earth.
“I would like one day to leave a child on Earth,” he said. “But I don’t think it would stop me from going to Mars. Anyway, that’s not something I need to worry about until I qualify for the fourth round.”