Credit: Originally published by | March 19, 2019.

RMB Solutionist Thinking is a podcast series hosted by Bruce Whitfield which focusses on great South African minds thinking differently and going against the norm. In this episode, Whitfield interviews South African theoretical physicist, aspiring extraterrestrial and Head of Innovation at SAP Africa, Dr Adriana Marais.

As a little girl, Adriana Marais dreamed of jumping into a spacecraft and, rocketing into history as one of the very first humans on Mars.

Armed with a notepad and a pencil, she’d strap into her rocket, gazing through the little window in the hopes of getting a glimpse of passing planets on her way to her new home, Mars.

Some would call it a wild imagination but for Adriana, it was a life-long dream.

Little surprise then, when she saw a newspaper headline calling for volunteers for a one-way trip to Mars in 2013, Adriana jumped at the chance to be among the select few to colonise the Red Planet.

But, while we’ve had a presence as Humanity on Mars… it wasn’t exactly pleasant – it was harsh, unforgiving and many of the vehicles that we’ve sent there haven’t made it onto the surface of the planet.

So, why volunteer to become one of the first people to shoot off on a one-way trip to Mars – for a future that none of us can even begin to contemplate?

Unwavering ambition… and, the realisation that humans need to learn how to better manage resources in order to save the population.

We’re lucky enough to be living in the ERA with this revitalisation of space exploration on many fronts – from China to UAE to US, also private sort of players coming in to partner with government and this is it, I believe for humanity.

Dr Adriana Marais, Head of Innovation – SAP Africa

For a short while, it seemed that Adriana’s dream was becoming a reality when she was selected as one of six Africans to make it onto the short list for Mars One – a space expedition aimed at establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars. That is, until the project was stuttered and, the business underpinning Mars One declared bankruptcy.

We’ve been living under the illusion of infinite resources for quite a long time.

Dr Adriana Marais, Head of Innovation – SAP Africa

Does Humanity’s future depend on us leaving planet Earth?

In her limited lifetime as a human – Adriana believes that her contribution as a researcher creating knowledge from a new world would be vastly exponential than if she were to be limited to planet Earth.

Living on Earth, I can contribute to this knowledge but living on Mars I can contribute to it exponentially more because the level of unknown factors that we will face living on Mars will mean that I can create knowledge at a rate that would not be possible in the known environment… the known busy crowded environment that is Earth.

Dr Adriana Marais, Head of Innovation – SAP Africa