Three Qatar residents are among hundreds of people worldwide who have made the latest shortlist for a much-publicized one-way trip to Mars.
According to Arabian Business, nine other Gulf residents, out of an initial 1,259 hopefuls, are also in the race to establish the first human settlement on Mars. Three are from Saudi Arabia, three from the UAE and one hails from Oman. No applicants in Bahrain or Kuwait made the cut.
Only 705 people of the over 200,000 people worldwide who applied have made it this far.
Applicants will now face the Mars One selection committee in regional interviews, where they will have to demonstrate their “knowledge, intelligence, adaptability, and personality,” Chief Medical Officer Norbert Kraft said in a statement on Monday.
Ultimately, six teams of four people will be selected to train from 2015 to 2024, leading up to the final four who will make the historic one-way trip to Mars.
Though the Mars One mission appeared to gain traction in the three years since its inception, interest in actually participating in the project now seems to be stalling.
Asked to provide a medical report and make their online Mars One profiles public by March 2014, over one-third of the 1,058 candidates chosen in the first phase dropped out.
Kraft cited “personal and medical reasons” for the withdrawals.
Though Mubashshir made the shortlist, even he said he’s having reservations. In an email to Doha News, the newlywed said:
“I am married now, it (has been) just two months…hence (I’m) going through the decision making process again after input from my family members.
Though I told my wife and our families that I would decline if it is just an one way trip, somewhere in the corner of my heart, it is still a BIG YES to give it a try…to not regret (it) later on.”
Meanwhile, the expedition continues to draw criticism from Muslim scholars. In the Gulf region, some have called the mission suicidal and said it goes against Islamic principles.
In February, for example, the Grand Mufti of Dubai, Dr. Ahmed Al Haddad, issued a fatwa urging Muslims to refuse the offer, should they be selected in the final rounds.
The fatwa upheld a previous decision by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment in the UAE against the mission. Speaking to the Khaleej Times, Al Haddad said:
“There is a possibility that an individual who travels to Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and shall be more liable to death…People are not permitted to risk their life even if expecting little harm, as forbidden in verse 195/2 of the Holy Quran that says ‘And do not throw (yourselves) with your (own) hands into destruction,’ and verse 29/4 ‘And do not kill yourselves (or one another). Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.’ “
Ethics aside, other questions have been raised about the feasibility of the Mars One business model, which aims to raise a whopping $6 billion via crowd-funding, sponsorships, partnerships, merchandising and selling rights to a Mars One reality TV show that would revolve around the lives of the first four inhabitants on Mars.
Mars One has launched a page on crowd funding website on Indiegogo to raise funds for a demonstration mission to Mars in 2018.
According to the website, the mission aims to “provide proof of concept for some of the technologies that are important for a human mission. (And, to launch) A Communication Satellite (that would) enable 24/7 communication between the two planets.”
So far, the project has raised $313,744 of the required $400,000.
Many selected applicants have taken to Twitter to express their enthusiasm over the continued Mars One process, with reactions ranging from comic to jubilant:
— Virtual Activist (@rationalspy) May 1, 2014
— Melissa Ede (@MelissaEde) May 2, 2014
— Chris Patil (@DoNotGoGently) April 30, 2014
Would you go to Mars if given the chance? Thoughts?