By Marie-Pier Deschênes
At the beginning of the 20th century, going to the Moon seemed like an impossible dream. But on July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong set foot on it. Conquering Mars? Don’t even think about it! But a mission to Mars represents “the next logical step that we have to take as a species,” says Iheb Mejri, a biomedical mechanical engineering student at the University of Ottawa.
The 19-year-old has long been interested in new technologies. He took advantage of the unique opportunity to apply to be part of a team that will take off for Mars in 2024.
The Netherlands-based Mars One project, launched in 2011, aims to send its first astronauts to the Red Planet in 10 years. For Mejri, the mission is a golden opportunity to achieve his many personal and career goals. What does he want? To make an impact on humanity!
Following a very rigorous selection process involving 260,000 applicants, Mejri, a third year student, is one of 705 remaining applicants who will advance to the interview stage, in order to determine their psychological profile. At that point, they’ll know if they’re really ready to experience an adventure that will take them a bit off their home turf, to say the least!
What do his family and friends think? Because if Mejri is selected for the mission, it’s a one-way trip! He tries not to worry about this “small detail” and understands that it will be a difficult adjustment for his loved ones.
“If I’m not going to do it, somebody else is going to do it. So why not me?” said Mejri.
For Mejri, the strengths that he can bring to the Mars One team include excellent mental health, ambition to spare and plenty of altruism. Moreover, he hopes to make the most of his “engineering mentality” to find the simplest way to carry out all those complex projects germinating in his mind.
Nevertheless, Mejri remains clear-headed. He knows that it will take the utmost effort for the project to become a reality, particularly to obtain funding from the American government. He also knows that he won’t be around to see the results of all his work. But he hopes to establish a solid foundation on which to build projects for generations to come. Mars One initiatives include creating liveable complexes and developing a self-sufficient environment through new natural resources and inventions that can be shared with the inhabitants of Earth.
Despite what you might think, Mars doesn’t represent an easy way for humans to start from scratch, according to Mejri.
“We have to start learning how to take care of a planet, the planet that we settle on, because we can’t just keep going hopping from planets, wrecking everything and acting like parasites,” he said.
And even if he doesn’t make it to Mars, he won’t be drifting in zero gravity. He’d like to finish his bachelor’s and enrol in the Faculty of Medicine, to research brain-controlled robotic implants to help amputees. Who said that the young generation has no ambition?