Astronaut Wanted, No Experience Necessary - Leeds International Festival
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Astronaut Wanted, No Experience Necessary

Leeds International Festival 18 5 May 2018

Taking a close look at space travel past, present and future, the “Astronauts Wanted, No Experience Necessary” event posed big questions about space travel, and our quest for extra-stellar knowledge, with some of the biggest names in interstellar travel.

The first Briton in space, Helen Sharman CMG OBE, sat in discussion with Bas Landorp, CEO and Co-Founder of the MarsONE mission (with its aim to permanently settle people on Mars within twenty years), and Dallas Campbell, BBC presenter and author of Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet. With their broad knowledge base, they were perfectly positioned to pose the how, why and when questions of future space missions.

Helen Sharman wasn’t meant to be an astronaut. Helen was a food chemist from Sheffield, who happened to apply to a job advertisement she heard on the radio. This job offer consisted of the following message: “Astronaut wanted, no experience necessary.” Enthusiastic and fascinated, she applied, as did 13,000 other enthusiastic applicants, who fancied the Russian project to train up a complete novice, and send them to outer space.

Helen pipped all the others to the post due to her aptitude for foreign languages, her scientific background, and her physical fitness, as well as undergoing psychological testing. She was selected above all these others, as one of only two applicants who would then undertake full-time astronaut training in Moscow and was propelled into space on May 18th, 1991

Credit: Cosmonaut Helen Sharman, OBE
Cosmonaut Helen Sharman, OBE

Looking to the future of space travel was Bas Lansdorp. The Dutch entrepreneur always had a passion for big projects, so it’s hardly surprising that he ended up tackling this behemoth, possibly the biggest of our lifetime; a one-way trip to Mars, to instigate a permanent colony of human life on the red planet. Manning a mission to settle the first human colony on Mars by 2032 is MarsONE’s ultimate aim.

Credit: Dallas Campbell at Leeds International Festival 18
Dallas Campbell at Leeds International Festival 18

Helen Sharman and Bas Lansdorp spent “Astronaut wanted, no experience necessary” discussing the how and why of space exploration and Mars settlement, broaching the big topics and the complexities of finding a set of people ready to leave all of their friends, family, and ultimately, Planet Earth, behind them.