Science & Tech

Meet the British student who is no longer going to Mars

Houston, we have a problem…

A British student who said she wanted to have an "alien baby" has abandoned her dream of giving birth to the first Martian baby by taking a one-way trip to the Red Planet. Maggie Lieu has said she will be staying on planet Earth for the foreseeable future.

Was a jaunt to the Red Planet ever actually an option?

Surprising as it may seem, yes. Ms Lieu, 24, had made the short list of applicants selected to make the 140-million-mile journey as part of the Mars One mission, which aims to send people to live (and die) there.

Who on Earth would want to do that?

Hundreds of thousands of people, as it happens. The astrophysics PhD student was one of five Britons selected from more than 200,000 hopefuls eager to take part in the £3.5bn mission. The short list of 100 prospective astronauts will be whittled down to just 40 people, who organisers hope will bid farewell to Earth in 2024.

There'll be one less person on that short list now, then?

Ms Lieu, who studies at the University of Birmingham, announced her withdrawal from the mission via Twitter, saying she "didn't want to be tied to a contract". Ms Lieu said: "You should probably know that I have made the difficult decision to withdraw from the Mars One programme. Still, I wish them the best of luck."

What's keeping her on terra firma?

Ms Lieu said she felt "truly honoured" to have been selected but she wanted to continue her PhD: "I wish the project every success in achieving what will be a remarkable feat for mankind."

Who are the other Brits involved in the mission?

Hannah Earnshaw, 23, Ryan MacDonald, 21, Alison Rigby, 35, and Clare Weedon, 27, are all still in the running. Groups of four are scheduled to leave Earth every two years from 2024 when they will attempt to make Mars their permanent home.

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