Martian colonist Ryan MacDonald visits Heathfield School to talk about Life on Mars

24th May 2017

Staff and students at Heathfield School are in for a treat this Wednesday when Oxford educated 24 year old Ryan MacDonald, a Theoretical Astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge, Science Communicator and one of the one hundred international Astronaut Candidates for Mars One’s proposed 2031 mission to the Red Planet, pops in to talk to them about his forthcoming voyage.  Ryan is one of 200,000 people who applied for a place on the $6bn mission, which the Dutch non-profit organisers plan to film for a documentary series.

In his talk, Ryan will explore the greatest adventure of the 21st century: our journey to becoming a multi-planetary species.

Humans will go to Mars one day. But unlike the mission to the Moon, the question being posed is: could we skip the ‘plant-a-flag stage’ and establish a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet?

The Mars One project intends to send 4 people on a mission to Mars in 2031. Unlike other proposed missions, the astronauts will live and work on Mars for the rest of their lives. They will become the first settlers on another world. The missions will start with a series of robotic excursions, the first one of which is planned for a 2022 departure.

What challenges will need to be overcome to make a Mars settlement a reality, and how can they be dealt with? What technologies will be needed for a small community to survive (and ultimately thrive) on the red planet?

Ryan has spoken about the mission at international conferences, schools, colleges and Universities around the world, seeing it as an excellent opportunity to promote the potential of STEM education and careers. He has appeared on both national and international TV and Radio, discussing the unique challenges of human spaceflight and life on Mars.

Ryan believes passionately in the inspirational potential of human spaceflight, and seeks to demonstrate first-hand how far science can take a person. More than anything, he strives to show young people that if they dare to believe in their dreams, then even the stars themselves are within their reach.

Commenting on the talk, Rushi Millns, Head of Careers, Heathfield School, said, “We were thrilled to hear that Ryan had accepted our invite.  The talk promotes STEM subjects and will encourage our girls to think about these subjects for study and as a potential career.

“The idea of leaving Earth for Mars and never returning has really captured the imagination of so many of our students. On a daily basis, I have girls coming up to speak to me about everything from the logistics of travelling there, setting up the colony and surviving in the environment, to coping with such a small group of people, the moral dilemma of leaving everyone behind – even wanting children!  Anything that fires up this level of interest in our girls and makes them want to come and speak to someone who plans to be part of this programme, is wonderful to behold. It makes them think about wider implications and encourages their curiosity.”