Mikolaj Zielinski Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: A Dubai resident who is among the candidates for the Mars One project, which aims to send the first humans to Mars, inspired students to dream big at the What Works event in Dubai on Monday.

Mikolaj Zielinski, from Poland, told a gathering at What Works that the UAE’s projects for Mars is laying important groundwork for the planned colonisation of Mars.

What Works is an initiative of the Knowledge and Human development Authority (KHDA) that promotes the exchange of best practices between schools. Its latest edition on Monday was themed after ‘Area 2071’, the UAE’s new “innovation concept which focuses on fostering innovators passionate to solve important human challenges”, the KHDA said.

“Space exploration always fascinates young children and this journey to Mars is bound to inspire and encourage learners to engage with the subject deeply,” said Zielinski, 41, who is a software engineer.

He drew attention to the Mars Probe project of the UAE, slated for 2020, to study the Martian atmosphere deeper than ever before. Zielinski also highlighted the Mars Scientific City project, to be built in Dubai, to simulate life on Mars. The UAE aims to build a city on Mars by 2117.

“The UAE government is the actually the first entity which announced that we’re going to build a city on Mars; it’s a serious commitment. The Mars city on Earth will be important to test the technology. The more we learn, the more successful we will be when we try to go to Mars,” Zielinski said.

Landing on Mars is important for scientific advancement, he added, but also significant from an emotive perspective. Showing a picture of a tiny Earth as seen from Mars, Zielinski said “looking at Earth from such distance, you don’t see borders, you don’t see wars”.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Zielinski told Gulf News he is awaiting the third round of selection that will reduce the 100 shortlisted candidates for Mars One, to 40 people. More rounds of selection will result in 24 people — divided in six teams of four people per team — that will undergo training for around 10 years. The winning team will travel seven months in a spaceship to Mars by 2031.

It will be a one-way journey as there is no planned return trip for the first humans on Mars.

“For me, it is very exciting to be part of the Mars programme because there is no going back. I will stay there till the end of my life and contribute to the scientific advancement of human race,” Zielinski said.

Speaking on the sidelines of What Works, Zielinski said he was also looking forward to the interplanetary trip because “I’m quite an adventurous person and this is going to be the greatest adventure in human history”.

Also speaking at What Works was Dr Abdulla Al Karam, KHDA’s director-general, who said: “The future of education cannot be predicted but influencing educators can play a big role in inspiring change. This ongoing dialogue inspires all of us to go beyond the ordinary and look at exciting innovations that will shape the future of learning.”