Fast forward a decade, and picture yourself landing on Mars, as a tourist. The first thing that strikes you is the fellow Indian running the kirana store. Another owns the only motel on the Red Planet while a third supplies all the IT services, and a fourth is the richest man on Mars, having bought the rights for exploration of mineral deposits. The fifth, of course, runs an Indian restaurant. It is not all fantasy. Mars One is the project to build a permanent human settlement on Mars by 2024 and 44 Indians from a pool of 705, have been shortlisted in the latest round of the astronaut selection process. Intriguingly, a number of the shortlisted Indians are from cities like Bareilly, Palakkad and Naigaon. The Mars One flight is a one-way ticket. Those who are finally selected will be pioneers. By that yardstick, like early immigrants to North America, Africa and UK, Indians started off as low-paid farm labourers, then taxi-drivers and corner-store owners or Indian-restaurant managers, before entering the skilled workforce as doctors, academics, lawyers, and IT professionals, finally ending up as entrepreneurs.
Mars will be a challenge. Living conditions will be tough initially and it will take people with courage and fortitude to survive. The Mars One mission plan consists of cargo flights and unmanned preparation of a habitable settlement, followed by human landings. In the coming years, several cargo missions will be sent to Mars to set up the outpost where the human crew will live and work. Mars One's concept includes launching four applicants in a Mars-bound spaceflight in 2024, to become the first residents of Mars, reaching 20 people in two years time. If even two are Indians, the toss up will be between the kirana store or the IT guy.