By Parastou Booyash
Today, he is living amongst you and more than 50,000 others at Roskilde Festival. But soon, he could be living on Mars, as part of a groundbreaking mission. “When the sun expands and engulfs the Earth, we will need a new place to be. Some scientists believe that we are living on borrowed time,” says Christian Ohlendorff Knudsen.
Christian Ohlendorff Knudsen looks out over the camping area, where people have formed a colony not unlike the one he may be part of forming on Mars – in a less populous but more permanent version.
I will be forced to live with the consequences of my choices, including the choice never to return to Earth again
There he is, among more than 50,000 people at Roskilde Festival. But in 10 years he may be on Mars with only three other people. While he looks across the temporary Roskilde colony, he admits that his decision is a kind of sacrifice for humanity. But it is worth the risk.
“If everything goes as it should, I will have a long and meaningful life on Mars”, says 35-year-old Christian Ohlendorff Knudsen.
“At the same time, I contribute to science, and prove that it is possible to accomplish what you set out to do. Thus I give young people something other than reality stars to look up to. I get as much back as I give up”, he explains.
Humans on Mars
For the last four years, Christian Ohlendorff Knudsen has been part of the team at Roskilde that ensures that the credit card terminals in the stands have access to internet. But this year may be the last time.
He is one of 100 candidates, of whom four will have the pleasure of colonising Mars in 2027. And he is well underway with the preparations.
Christian Ohlendorff Knudsen has a window box on his balcony at home, with soil from a Hawaiian volcano. Volcanic soil is what is most comparable to soil on Mars. He has planted tomatoes, cucumbers, kale and frisée, which are some of the things they will grow and live of on Mars. But what it is that makes him give up life on Earth?
He is a determined, curious, brave and visionary man who wants to be sent to Mars to ensure that humanity has a place to escape if everything goes wrong on Earth.
And, according to him, there is a high probability that we will need to live on Mars.
“We must think further than our own lifespan, for when the sun expands and swallows the Earth we will need a new place to be. Some scientists believe we are living on borrowed time, and the Mars mission is part of our human development,” he says.
Never back to Earth
If Christian Ohlendorff Knudsen ends up living on Mars, he will only get a new set of people every second year, when four new people will arrive at the planet. And he can never return to Earth, because the mission would be too expensive.
That suits him just fine.
Being at the festival can drain him of energy, because there are so many people. He is not the most extroverted guy, and has enough with seeing his parents, siblings and good friends once a month, or maybe every couple of months.
That will not be very different from Mars, from which he would have contact with Earth. However, it would be exclusively over internet, and with up to 26 minutes delay.
“I give up the close physical contact with people, so I will miss the immediate closeness to others. My freedom will also be restricted; I can’t just go for a walk or something else common on Earth. But we will be trained in being isolated before the launch, so we will be mentally prepared,” Christian Ohlendorff Knudsen explains.
Sacrifices himself for the rest of us
Trying to get to Mars is not harmless business, but Christian Ohlendorff Knudsen rationalises the fear that sometimes shows up, and has discovered that the fear comes because he is scared of dying.
“But I’m willing to risk my life for science and for the good of humanity,” he says.
He can undo his decision as late as when he is sitting in the spaceship. But as soon as he is in space, there is no way back.
“I will be forced to live with the consequences of my choices, including the choice never to return to Earth again. That thought normally paralyses people, but of course, you also live with the consequences of your choices here on Earth,” he explains.