In Czech Life, we talk to 25-year-old Lucie Ferstová, the only Czech applicant remaining in a field of one hundred (the list was originally 200,000 names) hoping to be picked for the Mars One project – a private effort to land humans on the Red Planet in a mere ten years’ time.
“Well, I was nervous but when I learned the result I felt very determined all of a sudden. It also made me thoughtful and a little afraid not to disappoint those who support me. But it also made me curious about what will come next. Hopefully I will be able to prepare properly. But the news… I definitely had a smile on my face for the next three hours.”
It must have been nerve-racking before you found out…
“It was. But the expectation also becomes a driving force in your own, day-to-day life. Above all, you dread the moment they might take this driving force away. So it was quite intense to wait for the results.”
How will the next stage be different from what has come so far?
“First of all, we will actually get to meet the other candidates. That didn’t happen before. From what we know now, Round Three will involve a two-week residential stay together where we will meet with everyone and the head of selection and psychologists. The selection team will set up tests and challenges and monitor how quickly we learn, how harmoniously we work within our team and also how we deal with personal and also collective failure. It will be taped as well.”
Is that an additional reason to be nervous, the fact that you will be on camera?
“Yes. I will try and ignore that because that is not an important aspect. I will just try and do the best with my team and to face the challenges. The camera is not important.”
You write in your profile that you are always trying to improve in your own life; obviously, you set the bar very high for yourself – where is that most apparent day-to-day?
“I think it is most obvious in my daily workouts and how I restrain myself in terms of food. I love to eat but there are many things I cannot allow myself. I try and keep a fairly strict routine. If you spent a day with me I think my discipline would come through.”
How much time do you spend working out?
“I do a combination of all sorts of exercise ranging from yoga and Pilates to running, cycling, swimming, boxing classes, it is a big mix. I try to keep things as varied as possible, to target all the areas of my body. Not just muscle groups but to improve abilities. Also it is more interesting that way. I do about three hours a day on work days and take the weekends to recover.”
How do you prepare in terms of knowledge and mental strength?
“I focus on a number of areas, medicine, physiology, engineering, electronic devices – I am a bit behind on circuitry. I also am trying to learn more about human psychology and also trying to learn how to learn better. There will be a great strain there. They will give us a limited time to master new information and skills and I am trying to improve how I learn so that I can solidify the knowledge. They can test us the very next day.”
I guess a vibrant imagination is also useful, when I think about the limited enclosed space that a Mars colony by necessity would be…
“Definitely. I think it will be, not only to phase out mentally when we need to relax but imagination gives you vision. That is needed to build a colony, to figure out ways to develop. The idea is to go there to build up a self-sustainable colony. There won’t be much there in the Martian environment so we will have to use mostly what we have and we have to be ready when we are there. Although the planet may yield some opportunities...”
There are many,inclduing aerospace industry professionals, who are sceptical about Mars One, namely that such a project could be successfully undertaken by the private sector: safety, enormous engineering and logistics problems, budgeting, the timetable and so on. How do you see the situation?
“Well scepticism has its place in any endeavour: you need critical thinking to evaluate risks and difficulties so that you can resolve problems when they arrive. Nobody says this will be easy and the Mars One team knows this. So far I trust them: they have never let me down, they always provided the information when we need it, they haven’t lied about anything, everything looks solid.
“As for the technical aspects and funding, I think it is a work in process. Their intentions are solid, they have experienced business people, they have people from the aerospace industry, they are talking with professionals, so I think all the basic building blocks are there. Now I think it has to all be put together. I am sure there will be many problems, but you have to trust or your endeavour will never happen. You have to take risks and sometimes a leap of faith.”
When you imagine Mars, what is it that you most look forward to?
“The difference in gravity, one-third of Earth’s. WE can’t imagine that here. It would be different from the weightlessness of space flight.”
Unlike the journey to the Moon, this is a colony to be pre-established, a one-way journey. Most people would never consider it because there is no…coming…back. That is probably enough for most. How have you yourself approached that? Is it abstract, have you thought about it?
“Neither, I am afraid (laughs). I fully realise that this is a colonisation effort. This means that is a one-way endeavour. Colonisation is one-way. I accepted that right from the start. You let go of old things and embrace the new. You build a new home and you work and innovate and build a new world from the ground up. Colonisation is a way forward. And I don’t like to go back. I don’t think I would like to go back, that would feel like going back. I want to keep moving forward.”
With the population of the Earth expanding and resources dwindling scientists often talk about the human race having no choice but to expand to other worlds if we are to survive. Do you see yourself in that – a small part in giving humanity a chance to expand beyond the Earth?
“I would, definitely. I also don’t think I am the only person who could do that. I don’t think I am anybody that special. There are many others potentially who could and I think one day there will be many, unless we fail.”
Between now and the final selection, if you were chosen, are you worried something much change over ten years? That is roughly when Mars One wants to send the first teams, but what if something happens, you fall in love?
“Falling in love can be controlled. It’s a matter of discipline. If I train for the next nine years, I will be training for the mission. That means establishing a routine and a new kind of discipline which will keep me focussed on the mission and I can adopt an appropriate approach towards things, all focussing on the task at hand.
“So, unless something bad happens, an accident, which would disqualify me, otherwise I am sure I can keep my focus on the mission and keep me on track, whatever happens.”