One-way trip to Mars: an SA boytjie’s dream

Kobus Vermeulen is a 30 year-old South African who loves the Springboks, has no love for E-tolls, and has a dry sense of humour.

He also dreams of going to Mars and never coming home.

Vermeulen is one of 39 South Africans that applied to Mars One, a non-profit foundation which aims to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars by 2025.

According to Mars One, it received over 200,000 applications from people that want to crew its one-way missions, which it has culled down to 1,038.

“I volunteer as tribute!”

Of the 39 South Africans that applied, 25 made it through to the second round of selections, making South Africa the country with the ninth highest number of candidates in the running.

“This round consists of confirming your willingness to participate, medical checkups, and increasing awareness of the mission,” Vermeulen told MyBroadband. “The world is then divided into regions and each region gets its own reality TV show where the applicants compete for a spot in the final round.”

Broadcasting rights for the TV shows are still being negotiated, with details of the 2014 selection phases pending the outcome of the discussions, Mars One said in a press release dated 30 December 2013.

At the end of the final round of selections, Vermeulen said that 24–40 people become permanent employees of Mars One and undergo extensive training from 2015 until 2024, when Mars One’s first manned mission launches.

“I will be 40 by the time of the launch in 2024,” Vermeulen said.

From 2024, crews of 4 will then depart for Mars every two years, according to the Mars One website.

It is anticipated that Mars One will hold more application rounds to replenish the pool as candidates drop out, Vermeulen said, and those who missed out this time can apply again in the future.


Asked about his motivation, Vermeulen said that he has had a fascination with space and Mars since childhood.

He also believes that South Africans have an adventurous side, Vermeulen said.

“We are a varied bunch and the pull of the unknown, our own curiosity, steers me in this direction,” Vermeulen said. “How then can I, given the opportunity, not apply?”

Vermeulen said that humanity also needs to get off Earth to secure its future as it is currently vulnerable to a single, large disaster.

“The question then becomes, ‘why not?’ Why did we climb Everest, go to the Moon, sail across the ocean, or dive to the bottom of the sea?” Vermeulen asked.

“The spirit of exploration, the advancement of technology, ‘because we can’ is why.”

Also, there are no E-tolls on Mars, Vermeulen said.

Kobus Vermeulen - Mars One
Kobus Vermeulen

What about family, friends?

Vermeulen said that he would obviously miss his family, friends, and things on Earth, but adds that he has thought things through carefully and I still wants to go.

As one might expect, his mother is horrified at the idea, while his friends are extremely supportive.

“I think some of them would go along if they could,” Vermeulen said.

“Mars One will provide 24/7 communication with the Earth via a satellite to be launched in 2018,” Vermeulen said. “Everything will be delayed, naturally, but you’ll be able to WhatsApp, leave video messages, send e-mail, and even request that the latest Springbok rugby match be sent to you.”

What if something goes horribly wrong?

If some calamity befalls the mission, Vermeulen said then he would have at least died on his way to Mars.

“Which is much more interesting than spending my time slowly dying in traffic for the next 35 years,” Vermeulen said.

“Some very clever and capable people are working on this venture behind the scenes. Lockheed Martin is involved in the concept studies, Nobel laureates and ex-NASA employees serve as advisers. At some point you have to trust in their expertise,” Vermeulen said.

“Of course, it’s a very long process still before I even get to worry about that!”

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Disclosure statement: To the best of the author’s knowledge, he is not related in any way to the subject of this interview.

Headline image credit: Bryan Versteeg for

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One-way trip to Mars: an SA boytjie’s dream