Building peace in the minds of men and women

“The Allure of the Unknown: One-way Mars mission”

11 February 2019

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© UNESCO/Bruno Zanobia

On 11 February, on the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, UNESCO invited Dr Adriana Marais for a session of Gender Views, who gave a presentation entitled “The Allure of the Unknown: One-way Mars mission”.

Ms Saniye Gülser Corat, UNESCO Director for Gender Equality, welcomed the participants and gave a brief introduction about the guest speaker, who is a Theoretical Physicist, the Director of the Foundation for Space Development of South Africa and the Head of Innovation at SAP Africa. Dr Marais is also an International Rising Talent of the Programme L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science 2015. A candidate to participate in the first human settlement on Mars as part of a global initiative called Mars One mission, Dr Marais explained the reasons why she applied to this global initiative aimed at sending 24 humans to live on Mars in the next decade:

Billions of years of evolution of life on Earth have culminated in the possibility of us calling another planet home for the very first time. I applied to go and live on Mars because the allure of the unknown to me has always felt far more powerful than the comfort of the known.”

During her presentation, Dr Marais also highlighted the improvements that science has made in finding answers to fundamental questions for humanity such as “where do we come from?” and “where are we going?”. From her studies in quantum biology, she has always been interested in some of these timeless questions, from the origin of life on Earth to the beginning of a new life for humans on another planet like Mars.

Dr Marais noted that it is thanks to the technologies that were developed for the human landing on the Moon that internet and other scientific discoveries have been developed and made available across the world. Similarly, she hopes that a mission to Mars would push humanity to overcome many of the existing limitations through science and technology. She also hopes that this could inspire a profound shift in the way people manage resources on Earth to fight the consequences of climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution.

Dr Marais’ presentation was followed by a lively Q&A session with the public on different topics including those related to gender equality and science. Dr Marais recognized that the mission to Mars would also be the occasion to embed gender equality in a new society, a society where the initial settlers – 12 women and 12 men – would have to live in harmony and respect if they want to survive.