Interview with Mark - April 14
Questions by Catherine Routsi, (Ta Nea, Greece), and Geoffrey Lindop, freelancer with Gemini News Service
If it were possible to live in space forever, would you?
We all do! Just on a very large spaceship... Earth. But yes, if it were possible to travel easily among the stars I certainly would... I think the universe holds many wonderful surprises for us, and we are just starting to scratch the surface of those possibilities. In this century I believe we will push the frontiers of space back far further than we might expect today.
Question: Is this mission supported by the South African Government’s Council for Space Affairs, or is it solely your initiative?
The mission is entirely privately funded and driven. We've had wonderful support, encouragement and cooperation from some the government organizations that work in the relevant fields - such as the Medical Research Council, the government Departments of Education, Communications, and Science & Technology. I think they see the potential benefits of the project for their work, and they've helped us gather support from the academic community as well as target the educational component of the project in the areas they feel are important.
Question: Apparently Russian experiment will be monitoring thunder storms over Africa. Will Mark be doing visual observations of lightning discharges at this time? In a post-flight interview Michael Foale said that lightning seems to occur in pairs, each element of the pair being separated by tens or hundreds of kilometres. Do you know anything of this phenomenon?
Answer: I'm not familiar with that, no, but I'll ask Mike what to look for while I'm up there!
Question:What is it that most holds you to Earth?
Answer: Gravity, mostly! But it's not as though I'm anxious to leave Earth. The basic lessons and challenges of life are the same wherever we find ourselves... travelling through space wouldn't change the need to get along with the people we travel with. So I don't see any benefit in leaving Earth for any length of time other than a sense of adventure in the journey.
What do you love most and what you dislike most about our planet?
Answer: I love the fact that so much is possible... that change can come so quickly to people and to countries. That makes life full of opportunity and hope for the future. I dislike the fact that we seem incapable of looking after one another, and our planet. It's astonishing to me that we allow the gap between wealthy and poor countries to widen, and that wealthy countries are unable to apply to others the principles that they hold dear for themselves.
Question: Do you believe that aliens exist?
Answer: I do. There is too much space out there for it all to be of our benefit. Humans always tend to think they're at the center of the universe, and it's never turned out that way.
Question: What do you believe they would think about us?
Answer: Life is life... I doubt they think any more of us than you think about your neighbours.
And what is the message that you will send from space?
Answer: 'Hi Mom'. It's not my place to send messages from space! I hope that this project will make people excited about technology and science in South Africa, but it's up to them to make up their own minds.
Question: Do you beleive that after some years, it will be impossible to live on Earth and that people will go to other planets?
Answer: That depends on how we act over the next few years. At the moment, we don't seem to care too much about the health of the planet. People forget that things don't progress in a straight line... we can push and push the environment to a point, and then systems start to collapse or behave unpredictably. We don't know where that point is, but we do know that we have already wreaked more havoc in a short time than any other event bar a total catastrophe.
Question: And do you think that in the future such travels will be done just like we fly from New York to Singapore?
Answer: Possibly faster ;-)
Would you ever buy land on a planet? Maybe on Mars where they believe life existed or can exist in the future?
Do you have a dream that you think can never be realized? And why?
Answer: No! But I do have a few that are highly unlikely ;-)
If it were possible. who would you choose to take with you in space? And why?
Answer: Everybody who wants to come! Perhaps we will see the world in a different light once we've seen the world.
What is your favorite food, movie, song, actor or actress?And what will you miss the most up there in space?
Answer: My favourite food is the kind cooked by someone else... The 5th Element. Asimbonanga. Fresh air and greenery.
Question: Did you watch Star Trek or X-files?
Answer: Some Star Trek, not much X-Files.
Question: How do you feel that for some days you will be living in such a small place, you won't be able to go for a walk for example.
Answer: Glad I'm not claustrophobic!
What are your feelings in anticipation of the forthcoming spaceflight
Answer: A mixture of excitement, nervous anticipation, sadness that the training is over, and disbelief that the time is nearly at hand to fly.