post

Personal – Motivation Letter

Hey folks,
You’ve probably noticed things have been a little quiet around here lately, and the fact is I’m basically burned out from an absolutely mental year… well, really a mental TWO years, and an emotionally bruising year before that too. Living out of a backpack is incredibly liberating, but it’s also meant being “on” non-stop for the last two years – constantly planning where I need to be next, how I’ll get there and where I’ll sleep each night. If I was just walking and camping things wouldn’t be particularly stressful, but the constant schedule juggling to try and visit schools, speak at events and do ALL the things from an office you carry in a bag has been pretty draining.
I’ve realised increasingly this year that what I really want to be doing is writing books and articles for Patreon/my website, with the occasional trip to speak or present somewhere before returning to a semi-stable environment. I want to spend more time writing about space exploration’s impact on humanity from my perspective of someone preparing to leave Earth behind, and a lot less time talking about it.
With that in mind, I’ve applied for a 2 year Master’s programme in the “Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society” at the University of Twente (UT) in the Netherlands. It’s the only masters in the world looking at the relationship between technology and society from a philosophical perspective, and UT is also Mars One’s education partner. I’ve applied to start in February 2018, but it makes a lot more sense if I wait till the new academic year starts in September 2018 – not only will I get to apply for a mountain of scholarships that aren’t available in February, but I’ll also be able to use the time between now and then to write my next book (Cosmic Nomad) for the 2018 National Science Week before flying out to the Netherlands. Ofcourse Mars One making a major announcement in the next few weeks (as I suspect they will) could change ALL of this, but I’m keen to not put my Master’s off any longer and I’m particularly excited about what is being offered by this programme at UT, so I’ve applied and will see what the next few months bring.
Besides sending the usual CV and academic transcripts, part of the application process was to write a “Letter of Motivation” on why I felt compelled to apply. If I need to reapply for the September 2018 intake then I’ll be removing two of the penultimate paragraphs and probably adding a bit about publishing Cosmic Nomad, but this is what I sent to the University of Twente’s admissions office – enjoy.
——————————————————–
To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Josh Richards and I would like to formally submit this letter of motivation for my application to the University of Twente’s Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society (PSTS) two-year Master’s programme. I believe this programme is uniquely relevant to my current professional experience as an interdisciplinary artist and science communicator with an extensive background in the ethical and technological challenges of humanity’s development into a multi-planetary species.
As one of 100 shortlisted global candidates to Mars One’s one-way Mars colonisation mission in 2031, I’ve used my experience as a physicist and professional stand-up comedian to advocate for the critical role the humanities and social sciences must play as we race towards a permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit. University of Twente’s tagline High tech, human touch resonates strongly with my efforts over the last 5 years to use comedy and deeply personal storytelling to communicate the ethical, scientific, engineering and emotional challenges of humanity’s next “giant leap”. Through three internationally-toured science-comedy stage shows and writing my book Becoming Martian (ISBN:9780648135609) on how humanity will change physically, psychologically and culturally by colonising Mars, it has become increasingly clear that my deepest interest is in the philosophy of using technology to expand the human experience and to ask what kind of relationship our species wants to have with the Universe.
Given the PSTS is the only Master’s programme in the world with a genuinely philosophical approach to the role of technology in society, that Mars One’s CEO Bas Lansdorp is a University of Twente alumni who strongly encouraged me to study in Enchede, and that I’ve previously lectured at the University of Twente as part of the 2013 Living On Mars conference, it’s natural that I would choose this Master’s programme to develop my passion for the philosophy of science and technology’s role in society. The University of Twente’s international orientation, contact-intensive instruction and group project focus mirrors my three years experience as both an alumni and staff member of the International Space University (ISU). Founded on providing an interdisciplinary, intercultural and international educational experience; ISU provided the opportunity for space industry professionals from across the globe with an extraordinary range of professional experiences to collaborate through a shared passion for space exploration – an incredibly challenging yet rewarding experience that I believe the PSTS Master’s will improve on through a shared passion for the philosophy of technology and its role in society.
As a staff member for ISU I was fortunate enough to lead research teams of over 30 in the development of guidance documents for the United Nations and national space agencies for both the use of space technology to provide food/water security; and the ethical, scientific and engineering challenges of human Mars exploration. Given my small-team leadership experience through the Australian Army and British Royal Marine Commandos, ISU also invited me to lecture and run workshops on small-team dynamics at their 2016 summer programs in Adelaide (Australia) and Haifa (Israel). I believe my experience in the management and optimisation of small groups would be a significant asset to the PSTS Master’s programme given its contact-intensive and small group focus, and I would relish the opportunity to utilise a skillset I’ve spent a decade developing.
Given my experience as science and engineering advisor to British contemporary artist Damien Hirst, my ongoing professional interest in using art to engage people with space science and technology, and my writing attempting to tackle the question of how our species will evolve by becoming multi-planetary; I’m especially drawn to the PSTS’s Technology and the Human Being specialisation. As we utilise technology to sustain life in hostile off-Earth environments such as open space, the Moon or Mars; the changes in gravity alone will shift our experience of reality and shape our daily lives differently to those living on Earth. It is my hope that by studying philosophical anthropology and how humans and technology simultaneously influence each other through the Technology and the Human Being specialisation, I will be able to better understand how art, technology and culture may evolve as humanity becomes a multi-planetary species and apply this toward a PhD dissertation in the future.
While I understand that it’s recommended to start the PSTS Master’s in September, given my broad and relevant experience I hope that an allowance to start in February will be granted. I have been eager to enroll in the PSTS Master’s for the last 5 years, but had committed to stay in Australia as a media ambassador to Inspiring Australia and advocate for the formation of an Australian space agency. With the recent announcement at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide for a national space agency however that commitment is complete, and so I’m now eager to further my academic career at the earliest opportunity.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter explaining my motivations for applying to the University of Twente’s Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society Master’s programme. I sincerely hope that I’ve effectively conveyed my deep-seated conviction that I have both the passion and experience to excel in this programme, and that I have the opportunity to contribute significantly to the ongoing philosophical discussion on technology’s role in human society through the University of Twente.
Yours sincerely,
Josh Richards
***UPDATE***
I’ve just been accepted for the course! If everything goes according to plan I’ll be starting the Masters in September!!!

News – First Draft, First 3000 Words [Becoming Martian]

They say the hardest thing is just to begin… but I’m pretty sure that’s utter crap because I “began” writing a book nearly 3 years ago, wrote the first draft in 26 days, and barely touched it again until recently. These days I’m certain the hardest thing is just getting things DONE: don’t pour constantly over it trying to make it perfect, putting off working on it till you feel “inspired”, or waiting for someone else to come along and finish it for you. Just. Get. It. Done.

So with that in mind, I’ve spent the last week housesitting, watching Netflix, playing ukulele, running and generally finding anyway I could to procrastinate in every way possible to avoid editing and finishing my damn book.

There is some truth to the “hardest thing is to begin” thing though, because as soon as I ran out of things to watch and actually opened up the old book draft documents I started to immediately pick it apart and edit – change a phrase here, update with new research there, cut a section because it doesn’t fit with the overall message, ect. There’s also the added bonus of knowing that you’ve fallen way behind on all your Patreon commitments this month, but there is an absolute mountain of content already written in your book drafts that you can share.

So with that in mind I give you the first draft of the first 3000 words of “Becoming Martian” – my long overdue book about how colonising Mars humans will change physiologically (body), psychologically (mind), and culturally (spirit). Don’t get too attached to any of this – it’s just a draft. And for Patreon-supporters, you can expect to be inundated with more drafts for the rest of the book over the next 3 weeks of my housesit while I write, re-write, edit, tear out my hair, wonder how I could have written something so stupid, consult a thesaurus to find a 4th way to say “crap in a plastic bag”, scribble inane pictures because I can’t find creative common images of what I’m describing, and generally have the same nervous breakdown each writer has trying to publish their first book.

Enjoy.


Sitting on the edge of the couch, mouth agape, I was staring at the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She smiled gently back, floating ceaselessly in front of me like a flame-haired goddess. Suddenly another passenger appeared from the right of the screen, seemingly on a collision course this perfect being, but with just the slightest push of her finger she sent him sending him spinning away again into the distance. This floating ginger Diana turned back to me, smiled that most glorious of smiles, then effortlessly sailed away out of frame like a dream. Abruptly the scene jumped to a shot of strangers in blue jumpsuits bouncing weightlessly around inside a padded aircraft, with the sounds of angels singing in my head slowly fading back to the overly enthusiastic American narrator describing parabolic flight training… and she was gone.

For weeks I’d been tirelessly working my way through a documentary series on the challenges of sending humans to Mars, and to be honest the eye-candy was generally dismal. No disrespect to the likes of Professor Paul Delaney or Dr Robert Zubrin, but after literally hours of watching aging white men talk to the camera about the finely-tuned personality dynamics required for deep space exploration, I was yet to see much evidence of this “mixed gender crew” everyone was so keen to send to Mars. My initial primal “Who are you and will you bear my children?” response to the floating redhead subsided however, and as I picked myself up from the puddle I’d formed on the floor there was a horrible, dawning realisation: If I were ever to actually meet this majestic space unicorn, it’d probably be while I was stuck to the floor of an aircraft during a 2g climb, hurling up breakfast into one of those sarcastically labelled “Motion Sickness Discomfort Bags”, impotently waving my arms around like a sea turtle stranded on it’s back and while she told she didn’t date other gingers because of the in-flight fire hazard.

You see weightlessness isn’t all champagne, floating red hair and Strauss’s Blue Danube. You might gape slack-jawed at the wondrous freedom of micro-gravity from the comfort of your lounge room, but modern humans have also spent the last 2.3 million years eating, shuffling and shagging in the consistent pull of Earth’s gravity. So while your mind is buzzing at the idea of zero-g backflips, the rest of your body should immediately start screaming “AHHHHHHHH!!! WHY?! Hang on, is that… wait, I think I’ve got… NOPE – MOTHER OF MONKEY ZEUS, WHAT EVEN IS THIS? WHY CAN I TASTE PURPLE RIGHT NOW? AHHHHHHHHH!!!”

At the start of the 1950’s Gemini program, NASA wanted it’s future astronauts to have a tiny taster of what micro-gravity is like. The idea was so they could get a sense of how to move themselves and equipment around without the binding embrace of gravity, while also observing how their bodies reacted to the changing forces. So they ripped all the seats out of a C131 Samaritan military cargo plane, covered the cabin with white cushions so it looked like a padded white cell with a curved roof, then started flying this winged roller-coaster through the sky on what was benignly referred to as “parabolic flights”.

Just seconds from filling their helmets with carrots & peas [Credit: NASA]

Each parabola is broken into two parts that are filled with wildly different levels of joy & despair. For the first 90 seconds the aircraft climbs at a rather aggressive 45 degrees, where you’ll be stuck to the floor with nearly twice the force of gravity trying to force your stomach out through your back. But as the aircraft reaches ~35,000ft, the pilot gently arcs the plane out of the climb and straight into a 45 degree dive, so that for about 25 to 30 seconds your body is still going up while the plane arcs downwards. Done at the right speed, you and your fellow passengers will be weightless. Which is great, because now instead of your stomach trying to come out your back it’s lurching forward trying to float in front of you. Delicious. Then you go back into a 45 degree climb to do it all again – over a standard 2 to 3 hour NASA training flight, the aircraft will do 40 to 60 of these parabolas. Which is why 60 years later astronauts still call it the “Vomit Comet”.

Motion sickness in a deliciously nifty diagram [Credit NASA]

In the mid 70’s NASA replaced the original aircraft with two KC-135 Stratotankers that stayed in service till 2004. And like everything that survived the 80’s, NASA even tried slapping on some shoulder pads and skin-tight lycra by renaming them the “Weightless Wonders”, but to no effect. The “Vomit Comet” nickname has lived on like the Dread Pirate Roberts of motion sickness. There was even an attempt later to call the aircraft “Dream Machines” during the 90’s as part of another sexy re-branding, but unless your idea of a sexy dream resembles a David Lynch-esque nightmare where re-tasting the pasta linguine you had a few hours earlier forms an important part of a bizarre erotic fantasy involving the Log Lady… chances are you’re still going to have a bad time no matter what the aircraft is called.

Not that sexy re-branding is a bad thing when it might genuinely reduce passenger fears. According to John Yaniec – lead test director for 15 years to NASA’s Reduced Gravity Program – anxiety is the biggest contributor to airsickness among passengers, and the chances of re-visiting lunch seem to follow a rule of thirds: “one third violently ill, the next third moderately ill, and the final third not at all”. Which also matches up pretty closely to how Ron Howard and the stars of Apollo 13 fared filming the movie’s weightless scenes. Over 10 days, 612 parabolas and 4 hours of cumulative weightlessness, the scorecard finished with Gary Sinise and Kevin Bacon regularly filling their vomit bags, and Tom Hanks and Ron Howard feeling green but managing to keep it all down. But Bill Paxton? He was zooming around grinning without a care on every parabola, and I can only hope he was also having flashbacks to playing Private Hudson in Aliens and occasionally screaming “WE’RE ON AN EXPRESS ELEVATOR TO HELL, GOING DOWN! WOOOO HOOOO!”.

You are really not helping the situation here Bill… [Credit: 20th Century Fox]

So it’s not all airborne despair. Nor do you have to be a trainee astronaut or a Hollywood star to experience weightlessness on a parabolic flight. For every day civilians wanting to get a tiny taste of space, a 90-100 minute flight aboard Zero-G Corporation’s “G-Force One” might be as close to the full physiological nightmare of weightlessness as you might want. Founded in 2004 by Peter Diamandis, astronaut Byron Lichtenberg and NASA engineer Ray Cronise, the Zero-G corporation offers regular parabolic flights all over the US for a cool $5000US per person. And thankfully, they also do it with a surprisingly low vomit ratio. It seems most people are okay for about the first 15 parabolas, but then start to go green at around 20, and the cascade hurling is usually in full force by the 25th. So instead of subjecting paying customers to a 3-4 hour flight involving 40-60 parabolas like NASA does to it’s astronauts, Zero-G avoids the dry-cleaning by only performing 12-15 parabolas over a flight. It might only equate to about 5-6 minutes of weightlessness, but a slew of ex-girlfriends will attest this is plenty of time for someone like me to have fun and make an idiot of out myself in front of dozens of people we don’t know. Unfortunately I’m yet to experience a parabolic flight myself though, because if I had I probably wouldn’t be writing a book about going to Mars, I’d be sitting on a back porch playing banjo and enjoying domestic bliss with my curly-haired ginger wife and our half dozen soulless ginger children.

Medically speaking the nausea of motion sickness stems from a mis-match between what we’re seeing, and what the tiny loops of fluid in our inner ear – the vestibular system – are telling the brain. If your inner ear is saying you’re spinning & bouncing around but your eyes say you’re not moving (like when you’re inside a parabolic aircraft), then your brain thinks you’ve been poisoned and gets your hurling reflex cranking. Likewise if your inner ear says you’re standing perfectly still but your eyes believe the world has been flipped upside down you’re also probably going to be tasting lunch twice too.

There’s one of these in each of your ears telling you which was is up [Credit: NASA]

The quickest and easiest way to ease the nausea and re-establish some sense to your world is to simply find a window and look out to the horizon. Not only does this give your visual system a fixed frame of reference that will partially subdue the vertigo, it also provides a psychological “horizon” that you can pin your hopes and dreams on. But as an ex-girlfriend once told me there’s no “horizon” when one of you is going to spend 7 months hurtling through the darkness of interplanetary space on a one-way trip to Mars. With nowhere to look to but the yawning abyss to subdue your motion sickness and relationship issues, the best option is legitimately curl up in a ball to cry yourself to sleep. The actual tears themselves do very little, but closing your eyes stops the visual element from confusing your brain’s balance system, and if you do actually manage to sleep you’ll get a few hours bliss to forget about motion sickness and instead dream of giant hammocks, bouncy castles and emotional security.

Also like an emotional, wailing infant you’ll find chewing on things can ease the nausea too. Obviously you don’t really want to eat anything substantial out of fear of adding to the washing machine that has replaced your stomach, but light snacks and chewing gum appear to help at least distract nausea sufferers. There’s also evidence that ginger can help: chewing ginger root or drinking ginger-infused tea won’t stop the raw sensation of nausea, but it’s been proven to be an effective herbal remedy to reduce vomiting. Chewing on an actual ginger person however will likely result in physical violence by making them “rangry”.

Even if you’re Bill Paxton you’ll still want to take some sort of medication to ease the trauma of bouncing around inside an airborne roller-coaster though. After a few days filming inside the vomit comet for Apollo 13, Tom Hanks got a little too confident one morning and decided to skip his daily dose of Dramamine to see what it would be like un-medicated – this was not a mistake he would repeat. While there’s plenty of remedies that claim to treat motion sickness that are “all natural with no drugs, artificial additives or stimulants” and contain “only the freshest, highest quality Chamomile, Lavender and Frankincense oils”, most space agencies like to give their trainee astronauts medication that actually works, instead of simply leaving them smelling like vomit and potpourri. Same goes with those band things that put pressure on your forearm’s “Nei-Kuan” point: by all means give it a go, but the scientific consensus is that pharmacology & psychology are more likely to win the nausea battle.

By far the most commonly prescribed motion sickness medication is Dimenhydrinate, more commonly known as Dramamine. Combining a nausea-quelling antihistamine with a stimulant not dissimilar to caffeine, Dramamine WILL help reduce the nausea associated with motion sickness… but it might also knock you out in the process. While other medications such as Meclizine may not put you in the land of nod quite as quickly, all current motion sickness medications make people at least a little bit drowsy because they work by telling your central nervous system to calm down instead of freaking out and bringing up breakfast. Which is why most aviation authorities worldwide prohibit pilots in command from using motion sickness medication at all, and why the boxes recommend not to take it and operate heavy machinery. Warnings that I’m guessing probably also apply to flying a multi-billion dollar spaceship to Mars…

There’s also the minor issue that when these drugs start to mess with your central nervous system they can also make you trip harder than Ringo Star writing Yellow Submarine. In sufficient doses Dramamine acts as a deliriant, with recreational users talking about “Dramatizing” or “going dime a dozen”, and giving the drug a whole series of different street names like “dime”, “D-Q” and “drams”… all of which I just pulled straight off Wikipedia because I have no experience with Dramamine-induced delirium what so ever. But my Mum does! A few years ago my parents went on a scuba diving trip out to the the Rowley Shoals: a series of atolls about 260km out from Broome on the Australian north-west coast. While Dad has always prided himself on his cast-iron stomach, the 8 hour boat trip to the shoals took it’s toll on Mum. Luckily though there were some friendly Germans on the boat too, and rather than indulging in their national past time of Schadenfreude by laughing at her suffering, they gave her a couple of tablets that they assured would help the nausea… and it worked! Mum didn’t feel an ounce of nausea while she chased non-existent “molecules” around the deck of the boat for the next few hours, trying to scoop them up gently in her hands and showing them to everyone on board. So the Germans had their Schadenfreude after all, only with less “projectile vomiting” and more “Australian mother of two hilariously tripping her face off while hundreds of kilometers into the Indian Ocean during in heavy seas”.

While Dramamine might be the solution for parabolic flights and regular car/seasickness, the best option for astronauts seems to be the far stronger and longer lasting Scopolamine. Usually coming in the form of a VERY sexy* trans-dermal patch that gets stuck behind your ear like a leech (*not sexy at all), Scopolamine patches slowly administer the drug over several days and provide astronauts nausea relief during their initial adapting to life in space. Just make sure you wash your hands if you touch the patch though, as it’ll cause blurred vision if you manage to get it in your eyes. Scopolamine still causes drowsiness though, so the military found a solution for their fighter pilots: “Scop-Dex”, or Scopolamine mixed with dextroamphetamines. That’s right: the air force took heavy-duty motion sickness medication, and mixed it with the pills your friends used to buy/steal from the ADHD kid in high school before dancing to Moby. Scientists didn’t believe it was even possible to dance to Moby, but the kids you went to school with proved it, while the ADHD kid just bounced awkwardly in the corner as the un-medicated control sample.

Space agencies are obviously keen to avoid having astronauts a) vomit on expensive control panels, b) doze off at the flight panel, or c) throw out all the supplies to make room for an all-night space rave. As a result, a huge amount of research is continuing into how nausea from motion sickness can be minimised in space without medication. One of the most promising technologies currently being investigated by NASA is the use of strobe lighting and LCD shutter glasses that flicker at a sufficiently high frequency to not interfere with your vision. Initial experiments with participants on the ground and during parabolic flights have now shown that a short duration flash 4 to 8 times per second significantly reduces the symptoms of motion sickness. So while I might not be drowsy or vomiting into a paper bag when I finally meet that ginger sky unicorn on a parabolic flight, but I’ll probably be suffering the indignity of having to wear NASA-designed shutter shades and feeling like I’ve helped Kanye West get into space.

Atleast Daft Punk have moved on from the full-size helmets [Credit: New Scientist]

Speaking of indignities, if you were hypothetically to type “zero g corporation redhead” into google image search, Jake Gyllanhal is the 8th picture you’d see. Probably. When you eventually found your ginger space unicorn on the 14th page of results, it’d also be instantly obvious she’s not really a red-head, and all your ginger militia-founding hopes instantly disintegrate right there. In retrospect though if I’m falling in love with a women based on about 8 seconds of footage from a documentary series made in the late 90’s, I’m probably not in the right place emotionally to be contributing to the gene pool anyway.

But for all the wonder and inspiration of space, all the spiritual awakening that astronauts report seeing our beautiful, fragile planet from a perspective that doesn’t see borders, racial or religious differences, just one Earth… chances are you’re STILL going to be tasting your own stomach acid. Your life-altering spiritual experience is being tainted by a little thing space medicine experts casually refer to as “S.A.S.” or Space Adaptation Syndrome. And we can’t talk about Space Adaptation Syndrome without talking about Senator Jake Garn…


End of Draft.

Personal – Mars One School Visit Q&A

I wanted to share something that happens when you regularly visit schools and talk about something awesome like exploring Mars: the job isn’t just answering questions for kids at the school on the day, it also usually means answering questions for kids (and adults) who couldn’t make it or didn’t have time to ask their question on the day too!

After my run of school visits recently one of the teachers at a school I spoke at was bombarded by their 9-10 year olds who didn’t get a chance to ask everything they were curious about, so when I made my usual offer to answer via email they took me up on it. For those of you curious about what sorts of questions I usually get from students and the answers I give them, read on!


Is part of your job to look for any precious stones on Mars? We won’t be looking specifically for precious stones on Mars, but we will definitely spend a LOT of time looking at the rocks on Mars! Studying the rocks on Mars can tell us more about Mars what it might have been like in the past and where the water is. We’ll also have to study the rocks on Mars if we ever want to try to find alien life there, because if we’re going to find fossils or even living alien microbes or bacteria, they’ll be living in or on the rocks!

How do you eat with your helmet on? Inside the habitat you don’t need a spacesuit, so you can just wear normal clothes and eat/drink normally. When you go out onto the surface however you need to wear the bulky spacesuit with the helmet for up to 7 hours at a time. There’s a bag of water inside the spacesuit with a straw next to the astronaut’s head they can sip from, and there’s is a pouch below their chin they can reach down with their teeth to pull up a fruit & cereal bar to eat if they get hungry. The water is pretty easy, but the fruit & cereal bar is really awkward, plus they have to eat all of it straight away so that they don’t have crumbs floating around inside their helmet! Eating with a spacesuit on is really difficult, so most astronauts eat before they put the spacesuit on to go outside.

What does the impact feel like when you land the space craft? Depending on the spacecraft it can be either really gentle like a passenger plane landing, or it can be incredibly jarring and potentially break your back! The space shuttles landed just like a plane, and even though they were going much faster than a jet when they touched down, they could still be very gentle. A Soyuz capsule however fires a single rocket blast a few meters above the ground to make an impact that could kill you a tiny bit gentler! The spacecraft that will land us on Mars will almost certainly use rockets for a lot longer to land much gentler than the Soyuz, but not as gentle as landing like a plane with a space shuttle.

Soyuz landing with retrorockets firing (middle) and impact (right)

What happens if you stay on the surface of Mars longer than one hour? There’s no problem staying on the surface of Mars longer than an hour, and we’ll regularly need to go outside for a lot longer than an hour to make repairs and explore. At the moment though our spacesuits don’t provide any extra protection from the radiation on the surface of Mars, so if we went outside for more than an hour every day then we’d be exposed to too much radiation. We might go outside for 7 hours one day, but then we might stay inside for the rest of the week! It’s all about making sure you don’t go out on the surface more than an hour per day on average, because if we do we’ll increase our risk of cancer and other radiation illnesses beyond the approved limit.

How will you grow fruit and veggies with all the gases in the Mars environment? A friend of mine has been researching exactly what mix of gas would be best for growing fruit and veggies on Mars! The atmosphere on Mars is too thin to grow things outside of a sealed habitat, but she found that if we took the atmosphere on Mars and pressurised it, then added a little bit more oxygen (made by extracting water from the soil then splitting it into hydrogen and oxygen) then you would have the perfect mix of gas for growing plants! Humans couldn’t breathe it because there would be way too much carbon dioxide, but plants would flourish.

What type of plants grow on Mars? No plants yet, but once we start landing greenhouses and habitats there we’ll be able to start! So far Mars One has tested growing radishes, peas, rye and tomatoes and shown that they are completely safe to eat when grown in soil with the same soil with a mix of minerals and heavy metals as we’ve detected on Mars. There are 6 other crops that we know will grow in that same type of soil, but they haven’t finished testing to see if the heavy metals have been absorbed by the plants yet.

The first harvested tomatoes from Mars soil simulant.

Have you discovered any space junk on Mars yet? Depending on who you ask, there’s a few things on Mars some people might call junk that others call “historical sites”! We know the Beagle 2 probe landed on Mars safely in 2003, but it never deployed all it’s panels so it eventually ran out of power and is sitting dead on the surface of Mars. There are rovers like Sojourner and Spirit that have now failed too. Plus there’s stuff on Mars that really is junk – the heat shield that protected the Curiosity rover as it traveled through Mars’s atmosphere was dumped mid-air so that the skycrane could deliver the rover to the surface, plus the skycrane itself crash landed somewhere on Mars afterwards too! There’s a few bits of human junk on Mars, but not a lot – it’s pretty tough to get things there, so we want everything we send to Mars to be as useful as possible.

How can you live without your family? Lots of people in history have had to say goodbye to their friends and family in order to explore places that people have never been before. Most explorers plan to come back again, but millions of people said goodbye to their families forever when they immigrated from places like England to Australia, or from Ireland to the USA. Those families would know that they were starting a new life somewhere else, and while they would miss them they knew that life itself is a one-way mission.

How do you wash your clothes on Mars? We’ll have to be very careful to conserve water on Mars, plus the reduced gravity on Mars means we won’t sweat into our clothes as much as we do on Earth so we probably won’t need to wash our clothes as regularly. There’s still some gravity though, so we’ll either wash by hand in a tub of water or if we’re really lucky someone might design a washing machine that works in the reduced gravity on Mars.

How do you play sport on Mars? We might not be able to play lots of team sports on Mars, and if we do it’ll be really difficult in our spacesuits outside! People have done it though – in 1971 Alan Shepherd played golf on the Moon after sneaking a golf club and some balls onto Apollo 14 before the launch! Mostly we’ll stay fit and healthy by using equipment like you’d see in a gym, but designed to work on Mars.

How do you get materials to Mars to grow crops? The soil on Mars (called “regolith”) has almost everything you need to grow plants, except it doesn’t have any living bacteria or microbes to support the plants. So one option shown in the movie “The Martian” is to use the regolith along with waste from the toilet (after it’s been treated) to make soil that plants will grow in!

What type of safety equipment would you use most of? We’ll use a lot of different safety equipment in all sorts of different ways on Mars, but one of the most important is something as simple as a cable to hook your spacesuit onto! In space it’s VERY important to tether yourself during a spacewalk because you could float away if you aren’t hooked on to the spacecraft, but on Mars hooking yourself onto a cable between you habitat and a rover could mean the difference between finding the habitat in the dark after a long spacewalk, and getting lost in the dark!

Are you hoping to find aliens on Mars? I think we’ll find aliens on Mars, but they won’t be little green men or Marvin the Martian – they’ll be bacteria, microbes, and maybe something like a tardigrade. Tardigrades are these tiny little creatures smaller than a pinhead that are incredibly tough: surviving radiation, freezing cold, blistering heat, and even the vacuum of space! We know that Mars had water and was more habitable than Earth a few billion years ago, so it’s even possible that life started on Mars, hitched a ride to Earth on a meteorite, and we’re actually all descended from Martians!

Tardigrade (Approx. 1mm long)

How do you drink fluid on Mars? You can drink on Mars just the same as on Earth, except water will pour out nearly 3 times slower than it does on Earth. It means that for things like showers, you might get really big droplets instead of the ones you’re used to from your shower at home, but drinking will be just the same.

Will you have a car on Mars? The first people on Mars won’t have a car, but when they first land on Mars they might sit on a rover and have it take them from where they landed to the habitat that the rovers have setup for them. Sending a car or truck for Mars means lots of weigh, and we are only sending just what we need when we first go. In the future though we will definitely want someone to bring a car or big rover we can live inside so we can explore much further from the habitat than we can just walking or sitting on a normal rover.

How high can you jump on Mars? Mars has 38% of Earth’s gravity, so you provided your legs muscles are still as strong on Mars as they were on Earth, you’d be able to jump nearly 3 times higher!

Will you get sick of eating the same food all the time? We have to be really careful about making sure there is lots of variety in our food, because people DO get sick of eating the same thing all the time and it’s important for people’s mood. The very first mission NASA carried out at their Mars simulation mission in Hawaii was to see how they could add variety to the meals while people were living in a white dome with only limited food selections. For 4 months the people inside needed to work out how to use the same few ingredients they had to make all sorts of new dishes. So learning to be creative and take what you have and turn it into something new and different is one of the most important skills a Mars colonist will need to have.

Hi-SEAS in Hawaii

post

Personal – Mars One Preparation List

 

Recently I’ve had a lot of folks asking if I’m “doing any training to prepare” ahead of Mars One’s next selection phase, and I tell them that every single thing I’ve done since I heard about Mars One in early September 2012 has been about preparing for life on Mars. What they really mean though is “Are you trying to get as physically fit as possible?”. The truth is I’m not even remotely as fit as I was in my mid-20’s training with the Royal Marine Commandos, and right now I don’t want to be.

I’ll say this as gently as I can: the commandos need physically fit and tough folks to carry heavy things and follow orders – there wasn’t a huge demand for higher level reasoning, problem solving, or creativity. So while I was preparing in Australia my writing and comedy both quickly tapered off, and once I started training in the UK they disappeared entirely. It’s not a bad thing – it’s just what often happens when you’re doing something incredibly physically & emotionally demanding that doesn’t require the same from you mentally or creatively.

Finding some balance didn’t even start till more than a year after I’d left the military. In late 2011, just after I’d written my first comedy show, I stumbled across James Altucher’s blog and read an article with the very click-bait-ey title “How to be THE LUCKIEST GUY ON THE PLANET in 4 Easy Steps”. While I’ve continued to read and share some of his other articles in the years since, what has always stuck with me most is the 4-part Daily Practice that James describes: doing something each day that’s Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual.

No matter what is going on in my life, provided I work on each of these 4 areas a little each day things have always gotten better. So with that in mind I’ve broken my preparation for Mars One selection down the same way!

Physical

When I was preparing for the Commandos using a 12 Week Program designed to prepare people for the US Navy SEALs, I was spending about an hour in the pool and another 2 hours in the gym/running 6 days a week – I’ve never been as fit in my life. But while I’m a big believer in the “Healthy Body, Healthy Mind” creedo, right now I really don’t need to be running 50+km a week, swimming 20+km a week, or punching out hundreds of push-ups & chin-ups a day like I used to. It’s not just physically exhausting, it’s also creatively exhausting and time consuming.

Now I do one hour on the rowing and weight machines each afternoon, and that’s mainly for clearing the mental cobwebs after a morning of writing so I can get the creative juices flowing again for new article ideas. When Mars One’s selection is 3-4 months away I’ll step things up, putting Stew Smith’s “12 Weeks To BUD/S” program to good use again so I can exceed the following physical goals before selection starts:

  • Run 2.4km in <10minsAchieved, aiming <9:30, Personal Best 8:48
  • Run 5km in <25minsAchieved, aiming <22:30, Personal Best 21:03
  • 100 Situps in <2mins: Currently ~80, aiming 120+, Personal Best 125
  • 15 Pullups in <2mins: Currently ~13, aiming 20+, Personal Best 17
  • 25m Underwater in <30secAchieved, aiming 50m in <50sec, Personal Best 75m in <55sec
  • 500m sidestroke in <10mins: Uncertain – not recently tested, aiming for <9:30, Personal Best 8:15

Being fit is great, but for now I’m better served by focusing more on eating and drinking healthier than I have been.

One of the downsides of having been intensely active in the past was seeing food purely as fuel, eating absolutely whatever I wanted, and the huge temptation to over-eat rich foods when I’m not currently burning as much. Over the last few years I’ve been been experimenting with different eating habits, and now with the help of fellow Mars One candidate & body-hacker Dianne McGrath I’m looking seriously at trialing a ketogenic diet. I’ve always tended to avoid bread and sugar where I could anyway, this just means being much more disciplined about it. I’m still enjoying plenty of meats and eggs too before we have to go mostly vegan on Mars – I love my family, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I think I’ll miss bacon more. 

Changing the type of coffee I drink has been one of the most interesting shifts though. I grew up convinced everyone drank terrible instant coffee with milk and two sugars: we even called it “Standard NATO” in the Army. With the introduction of a coffee machine at my parents a few years back, an ill-advised soy latte experiment in 2015 when I moved to Melbourne, and developing a taste for Long Black/Americano in Israel last year (mostly because we couldn’t get milk) – it’s safe to say my “writer’s fuel” will become permanently keto-friendly in the next few weeks.

Mental

In late 2013 I went to the Netherlands for a Mars One conference, staying for 5 weeks with the girlfriend I’d met in September 2012 literally days before I first discovered Mars One. It’s safe to say I put that frankly amazing woman through emotional hell, for the simple fact I’d promised to leave her for a cold and unloving planet over 56 million kilometers away within weeks of meeting her… and I made it even worse during the 2013 trip by unexpectedly disappearing every hour or so . When she would eventually find me, I’d be squirreled away in some corner reading on my tablet: completely lost to the world with a paper about Martian crustal magnetism or a textbook on space engineering design.

Folks ask me now how I’m so comfortable answering technical questions in interviews – much of that is practice doing interviews, but most don’t realise the shear amount of reading I’ve done over the last 4 years. That ex-girlfriend endured the absolute worst of it because at the time I felt so out of my depth whenever I was asked a question about something I had publicly dedicated my life to. I barely stopping reading for that first year, and I still spend a huge amount of time every day pouring through books and papers to stay up to date.

These days my efforts are a lot more focused though. While there’s new research being released all the time related to both Mars and human spaceflight, that obsessive amount of reading in the first year has now made it fairly easy to glean the important details from papers quickly. It’s also made it easy to recognise and avoid a lot of the sensational nonsense you hear that often sounds like a huge breakthrough in human spaceflight, but usually isn’t even remotely relevant to colonising Mars the way it might be reported.

Mars One have provided the remaining 100 candidates with an official study list that includes the Paragon ECLSS design study; 3 parts of the “Food For Mars” series, and extracts from the Mars One book on technology, space medicine, politics, and improvisation. Obviously studying the Astronaut Requirements, as well as Dr Kraft’s articles on Screening from 100 to 24 and his Astronaut Selection Process Q&A are critical too.

I’ve also put together my own list of books, papers and articles to read, and there’s several online courses I’ve been checking in with too. What I’m finding most useful however is taking all that I’ve learnt over the last few years and distilling the most interesting and relevant parts into my book. “Becoming Martian” is all about the human side of colonising Mars – not the technology, but how we will be changed by the journey to and settlement of Mars – and collating, editing and rephrasing everything I’ve learnt into that human story is turning into the best mental “study” for the next Mars One selection I could have dreamed of… I just need to edit and publish the damn thing so other people can finally read it!

Emotional

The absolute best thing about signing up for Mars One has been how every step of the way it’s forced me to be more me. Truly coming to terms with leaving Earth behind forever in your mid 40’s means assessing what you’re doing every day and asking yourself some really tough questions. In the past I might have been inclined to work a job I wasn’t happy in, or stayed in a relationship that was unhealthy, or collected things that were nice but didn’t have a deeper purpose to me. Not any more – there’s not enough room for emotional uncertainty in those areas when you’re facing something like this.

So I ask myself questions that many people never actually ask, or ever have to answer with any conviction:

  • Do I want to own a house and car if I’m leaving the planet? No. Would I want a house and car if I wasn’t selected for Mars One? Probably not – I’d much rather travel around on adventures, seeing more of this planet while I find another way to get to Mars. Maybe I could buy a campervan and travel around, but if I’m just wandering the Earth then I’d actually rather walk. What do I really need If I’m travelling all the time? Not much apparently, because everything I own fits in a carry-on size backpack and a ukulele bag.
  • Do I want a regular job if I’m leaving the planet? No – I’m too busy travelling around speaking to kids about space exploration. Would I want a regular job if I wasn’t selected for Mars One? Still no, because I’d still be trying to find another way to Mars, and I’ve never had a “regular” job anyway! Maybe I could work for someone else who’s trying to get to Mars, or start my own space industry business and buy a ticket to Mars instead of a house.
  • Do I want to start a family if I’m leaving the planet? No. Would I want a family if I wasn’t selected for Mars One? Still nope. What if I fall in love with someone who wants kids? I can love them and still not be interested in raising kids, plus colonising Mars is going to help benefit humanity more than any relationship would. What if you donated sperm and didn’t have to raise the offspring kid? Sure, knock yourself out! I signed up to be a sperm donor because while I don’t want kids there are people who desperately do want them and can’t, so I’m happy to help provided I don’t have to stick around on Earth to look after them!

Since 2011, writing comedy shows has been the best way for me to process what’s going on emotionally. However last year’s “Cosmic Nomad” – about how signing up for a one-way mission to Mars has already changed the way I see life on Earth – felt like it truly processed everything that had built up over the last 4 years. Cosmic Nomad “closed the circle” on a lot of things, while still leaving the door open to perform the show again (obviously with updates and tweaks) if the opportunity and desire to perform is there… rather than starting from scratch to write another new show.

The core messages that built “Cosmic Nomad” inform how I experience life emotionally, and I’m striving to practice each of them each day not just for Mars One selection but for life generally:

  • It always gets better if you’re honest Honesty applies to what you say to yourself and what you say to others. Always do your best, and act with integrity. I’m not deliberately an asshole (I used to be), but if I’m only going to be on this planet for a short while also I don’t have the time or energy to bullshit people to protect their feelings. Say what you mean, and ask for help if you need it.
  • Don’t do shit you don’t want to do This feeds into the point about being honest, but I definitely don’t have time to do things I don’t want to do. My goal is making humanity a dual-planet species. I’m not interested in spending time and energy doing things that don’t support that goal just because other people might expect me to. Fuck your expectations – I’m doing this for the species.
  • Don’t hang around friends who aren’t interested in what you’re doing I use a rule of thirds when it comes to telling people I’ve just met about Mars One: 1/3 are overwhelmingly excited & interested in it, 1/3 don’t really care, and 1/3 absolutely hate it. I’m happy to talk to anyone about what Mars One is trying to achieve and why it’s vital to our species… but I don’t have the time or energy to convince a friend what I’m doing is interesting. I’m too busy doing that for the general public already.
  • Don’t date people who don’t love what you’re doing The same as the point above, but the stakes are much higher. There’s a great quote from Anna Kendrick’s book Scrappy Little Nobody about relationships: “Something amazing happened to me when I hit my mid 20s’ – I stopped liking guys who didn’t like me back”. Putting humanity on Mars is what I live and breathe everyday: if that’s not what you love about me, I’m going to figure that out pretty quick and walk away. I’ve had more practice at this in the last 4 years than I really wanted, but I’ve also never regretted leaving anyone for Mars.
  • You can’t own what you can’t carry If you can’t pack a carry-on bag and live out of it indefinitely while travelling around the world, how are you going to survive living on Mars for the rest of your life with a lunchbox of personal items? Because that’s all the astronauts heading to the space station can take – a lunchbox that weighs less that 1kg. Ask yourself what you actually need day-to-day, test that by travelling, and constantly try to reduce what you carry while finding smaller & lighter solutions to everything. For example, I haven’t worn underwear in well over a decade – you’re welcome.
  • Never go back to the carpet store If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, spend 3 minutes making your life better. I’m all for second chances, but don’t keep going back to people and situations that you left for a reason. Walk away from shitty people/situations, take the risk of leaving the known and accepting whatever happens next, and don’t go back to people/situations you left assuming they’ve changed just because you have. Carrying everything you own makes walking away a lot easier, while keeping a journal helps you learn from your mistakes and serves as a reminder not to go back to the carpet store.

Spiritual

There’s a huge amount of cross-over between all four of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual segments: running falls under “Physical”, but it also helps me think of new ideas (Mental), allows time to process things that might have upset me (Emotional), and I’ll often have a perspective changing realisation during my cool-down when I’m processing what popped into my head during the run. That last bit is what I categorise under “Spiritual”: the philosophy underlying everything else you’re doing. There’s obviously a lot of cross over with the “Emotional” side of things, but that’s because my emotions are now informed by my philosophy that humanity becoming a dual-planet species is bigger than anything else in my life, my family or friend’s lives, my country or even my global region – it’s something for ALL of humanity.

That’s why it’s really hard for me to give a shit about who won the cricket world cup, when I think “national identity” itself is a fairly pointless exercise.

I’m always looking at how to cultivate my spiritual philosophy further though. I’ve had a steady interest in Zen Buddhism since my teens, mostly because it’s absolutely no-nonsense and it cuts through all the ritual of other philosophies to cultivate pure awareness. Likewise with Stoicism, it’s all about seeing things as they truly are by flipping a problem as well as your perspective. Things aren’t good or bad – they just are, and the better you understand the world you’re in the better you’ll handle whatever “problems” life throws at you.

In keeping with that I’ve put together a reading list that reinforces that philosophy, while also helping cultivate it further through practice:

  • The Little Zen Companion by David Schiller – As of yesterday, this and my battered copy of “101 Things To Do Before You Die” are now the only physical books I own, because I posted away my copy of “The Way of F**k It – Small Book, Big Wisdom” to a friend, and everything else is on my e-reader. I’ve had this book over 12 years now, but it’s short and simple collection of zen sayings and koans is timeless. It’s perfect for just opening up randomly when you first wake, reading whatever pops out at you, and then jumping out of bed to meditate on it.
  • Shackleton’s Way by Margot Morrell – I study this book as much for it’s direct leadership lessons as I do to understand Shackleton’s philosophy. Early 1900’s Antarctic exploration is probably one of the best psychological parallels we have to a Human Mars mission, and as my philosophy becomes more and more about doing rather than discussing or contemplating I’m realising Shackleton’s leadership came from a strong crew-focused philosophy, and through practice that philosophy eventually informed every element of his life.
  • The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday – This book has been my introduction to Stocism as a formal philosophy, and I’ve immediately appreciated it’s practicality. The tone is pretty harsh at times, but I get why the author has taken that approach – plenty of folks need a hard shove to break out of their existing lifestyle and perspective. After reading this I’ve also put “Letters From a Stoic” by Seneca and “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius on my reading list – looking forward to the wisdom they both share.
  • How to be perfectly unhappy and “It’s going to be okay” by the Oatmeal – The Oatmeal is more commonly known making comics about cats and bears, but two of his more recent comics have really hit home for me and I find myself re-reading them regularly. “How to be perfectly unhappy” is the rejection of the idea of seeking “happiness” and replacing it with a deep-seated drive to be interested in the universe – it’s the perfect kick in the ass when I’m feeling “unhappy” about something.
    “It’s going to be okay” shares the story of Gene Roddenberry co-piloting a plane that crashed into the Syrian desert, before he went on to become the creator of Star Trek. I’ve never been a huge fan of Star Trek (the new films are great, but the ear worm scene in Wrath of Khan scarred me as a 9 year old) but I see a lot of similarities between Gene Roddenberry’s diverse and eventful life and my own. This story is an example of Gene’s best qualities shining through in a horrendous situation, and reading it reminds me when things have gone horribly wrong for me in the past my best qualities have shone too.

As I mentioned earlier the four different physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects overlap all the time, and what I’m realising is that the more I integrate these aspects together the more fully integrated I am as a person generally.

While Mars One lists the personality traits they’re seeking in astronaut candidates as Resilience, Adaptability, Curiosity, Ability to Trust, and Creativity/Resourcefulness, the one aspect that over-arches all of that is a candidate’s capability for self-reflection. The better you are at looking at and understanding your own behaviours, attitudes, strengths and weaknesses; the better you’ll understand yourself as an integrated human being. The best self-reflectors fully understand and can articulate why colonising Mars is so important, and why each we’re willing to dedicate and risk our lives to the goal of making humanity a dual-planet species.

I’m incredibly grateful that my experience self-reflecting on my diverse life experiences – then distilling them into comedy – has helped me work out why this is so important… and in the process I’ve become 1 of the 100 people shortlisted for the first human mission to Mars. Getting onto that next shortlist of just 24 candidates to start training will take a whole new level of commitment and preparation though, so I’m excited for the challenges the rest of 2017 will bring.

Finally for my Patron supporters, you can see how I remind myself every day about ALL of this with just one handy journal printout by following this link.

Personal – Meeting Current Heroes & Cultivating Future Ones [WOMADelaide]

 

Some times there are months that seem to drag out relentlessly without the slightest movement. No matter what you do, opportunities seem scarce, unnecessarily tough to exploit, and the effort you put in doesn’t seem to balance with what you get in return. The days draw out and you wonder if it’s worth it , if you’re making an impact and improving the world by being in it.
And then there are times like this…
I flew into Perth after nearly 2 weeks in Kuala Lumpur – trying to break the emotional slog of being in Perth for 4 months while reconnecting with an old girlfriend living there. As I’d jokingly predicted earlier, reconnecting with the ex went horribly & hilariously wrong – an important reminder to never go back to the carpet store.
The time away certainly broke the slog from the previous few months though: there’s been an incredible surge of opportunities being thrown at me from everywhere, so I’ve been balancing all them with alongside getting myself to Adelaide for the long awaited WOMADelaide festival!
From landing to leaving, I had less than 48 hours in Perth to try and pack up as much of my childhood room as possible, load what I needed for the next month into a bag and a ukulele case, see an old friend, and fly out to Adelaide. Oh yeah, and casually try to submit 7 different abstracts to the 2017 International Astronautical Congress before the May 8th deadline. Generally people attending the conference submit 1 or 2 abstracts at most, and spend the rest of their time networking… but apparently I didn’t get the memo. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to be there yet because IAC2017 may clash with Mars One’s final selection phase, but if I am there I’ll apparently be sharing my nonsense with 7 of the 9 different outreach and education categories – only those at the undergraduate & postgraduate education seminars will be spared.

Me after submitting 7 IAC abstracts in less than 24 hours…

After landing I settled into my hotel the folks from WOMAD had organised, had dinner, and was on my way to speak on a fellow comedian’s podcast when I bumped into yet another ex-girlfriend on the street… at 11pm on a Wednesday night… in a city neither of us live in. The podcast was cancelled to boot, because apparently my life is some lame sitcom now, and to top it all off another friend got in touch the next morning (after a month of total radio silence) to say we shouldn’t talk anymore.
Things shifted gears the following evening though, when the University of South Australia (UniSA) hosted an event where Hi-SEAS IV Commander Carmel Johnston and I spoke to Angela Catterns about life on Mars. Carmel and I have emailed for the last few months, but hadn’t met until just before we took to the stage to speak in front of 800+ people together! We became fast friends, and had a perfectly balanced dynamic on-stage. It’s clear why she was selected to command NASA’s year-long Mars simulation in Hawaii: she’s incredibly personable and empathetic; cool-headed, firm in her convictions, and clear in her personal boundaries; and above all practical in her actions. Exactly the kind of personality you’d want commanding a human mission to Mars.

Angela Catterns (left) interviewing Carmel Johnston (right) and yours truly

The fun didn’t stop after the event though – that’s when the questions really started! UniSA had organised a VIP Meet & Greet with food for us afterwards, but we were so overwhelmed with questions that neither Carmel or I had much of an opportunity to eat. Several schools had been invited to see us speak, so naturally their students were eager to throw a million questions at both of us while we glanced over their shoulders at the disappearing food trays. The folks from UniSA managed to save us a little something to eat once the crowd started to thin-out, but after an hour-long onstage chat immediately followed by 2 hours of Q&A both of us were wrecked by the time we got to eat and head back to the hotel!
The next morning it was time to kick off the “Make Me A Martian” webcast schools event through Australia’s Science Channel! I worked with the folks from Australia’s Science Channel last year when I premiered “Cosmic Nomad” at the Royal Institute of Australia, so it was an absolute pleasure to be back to “compete” with Carmel in a game show designed to test our Mars knowledge while students all over Australia watched via the live webcast. If you missed it, you can watch Carmel thrash me in the habitat design challenge here.
The wonderful folks from Australia’s Science Channel took Carmel and I out to lunch, but my work definitely wasn’t done yet. I’ve been chatting to a production company in the US for the last year about a project involving space and science communication – I can’t talk about it much yet, and it may never go anywhere, but it was certainly exciting to slip back into the studio and film some pieces to camera for what could be an amazing project in the future.
With the side projects complete, it was finally time to get into the WOMADelaide festival itself! Carmel and I headed to Adelaide’s Botanical Gardens for the official opening ceremony for the festival, enjoying the opportunity to meet some of the incredible people involved in the seclusion of the Artist’s area. The personal highlight was briefly meeting Antarctic explorer, Shackleton Epic Leader and personal hero Tim Jarvis:

Tim Jarvis (left) with Barry Grey (right) during their attempt to recreate Shackleton’s epic journey to reach civilisation and rescue the crew of the Endurance

It’s no secret I’m a fan of Earnest Shackleton and of applying the leadership lessons of the Endurance expedition to a human Mars mission, so it was a genuine honour to meet and chat to a man who had painstakingly recreated that fateful escape from the Antarctic pack ice to safety. The fact that Tim did all of it alongside a ginger Royal Marine commando isn’t lost on me either!
Finally the event I was in Adelaide for had finally come: the WOMADelaide Planet Talks. Carmel and I had an absolutely amazing time speaking to a sold-out audience about “Human Life On Mars”, and it was an absolute honor to meet and have the event hosted by science communication and radio broadcasting legend Robyn Williams.
There was a little surprise organised after the event however which was a great personal reminder of why I love what I do. In late February I’d seen a post through the Facebook page for Australia’s Science Channel, sharing the story of a 9 year old boy who had written to the Australian Academy of Science asking if it were possible to buy Buzz Aldrin’s signature for his Dad for Christmas…

Click for full size

The Academy unfortunately hadn’t been able to get hold of Buzz, so they’d managed to get Professor Brian Schmidt to sign a poster instead. Now it just so happens that as Chancellor of the International Space University, Buzz Aldrin signs every certificate ISU issues. Which means I – the material good-shunning space hobo that I am – had a signature from Buzz Aldrin on a piece of paper hanging on my wall. Since I’m dedicated to reducing my footprint on Earth down a backpack and a ukulele, it was a pretty easy decision to send the Academy a Facebook message and say that I’d like to donate my copy of Buzz’s signature to the family. 
So after we’d finished the Planet Talk, Robyn Williams and I invited Robert up on stage to accept the signature and give it to his Dad. It was pretty wonderful to have the Robert’s family attend the talk, and to be able to donate something which means so much to a family that would have otherwise just hung on my wall at my parents place underappreciated.
All in all it’s been a pretty wild few weeks, but things are really just getting started! I’ve been in Melbourne for the last few days starting the final stage of very personal project that’s been on hold for nearly a year and a half (I’ll share in the next few days what’s going on in a separate post for Patrons-only), and I’m about to jump on a plane to Sydney for a day of filming and TV interviews, zipping out to Canberra for the weekend, and then back to Melbourne for school visits as well as a trip to Perth to visit even more schools. 
Absolutely no idea what I’m doing in April (or with much of the year generally for that matter) but there’s certainly no shortage of exciting opportunities and potential – I’ll keep you posted!
post

Personal – Why I Don’t Get Invited To Writers Festivals Anymore…

In October 2014 I was at the National Young Writer’s Festival in Newcastle, standing awkwardly by the snacks at the opening Meet and Greet event and trying to decide who looked friendly enough to fulfill the “Meet” component of this little soiree. By blocking the corn chips just long enough I accidentally made eye-contact with someone after a nacho cheese fix, introduced myself, then asked what she was doing at the festival: “I’m a poet. I’m running two workshops and doing a late night reading. What about you?” I told her, to which she replied “You’re not an astronaut – that is THE WORST pickup line I’ve ever heard”, then stalked off with corn chip dust all over her fingers and nose.

Sorry, I should probably introduce myself to you too. Hi! My name is Josh: I’m a 31-year-old physicist and comedian. I served as an explosives specialist with the Australian Army and British Royal Marine Commandos, then left the military to work in the UK as a stand-up comic and radio presenter. In 2012 I was writing a comedy show about sending people one-way to Mars when I discovered an international organisation planning to actually do it. So now I’m one of 100 people short-listed from over 200,000 applications worldwide to become the first colonists on Mars in 2031 and never come back. Right now though that mostly means I perform science comedy and speak in schools about how I’m willing to go to Mars one-way because it will change who we are as a species.

It also means I write articles about space exploration, and I’m currently editing my book on how becoming a dual planet species will change us in body, mind and soul. Which is why I was at a writers’ festival. It’s also why I was standing next to the Doritos, feeling out of place.

Most of the time I don’t immediately tell people I’m an astronaut candidate – ‘comedian’ is far less threatening. One-way missions to Mars are great for hooking people’s attention when you’re performing or writing, but it tends to shut down casual conversation pretty quickly. It always depends on who you’re speaking to though: when you’re at a writers’ festival to talk about colonising Mars ‘astronaut candidate’ is what you lead with. When you’re explaining to Peter Hellier what a Hohmann transfer is by comparing Courtney Love to a black hole, you’re a ‘comedian’ and ‘maniac’. And when you’re visiting a primary school because a science teacher saw you on TV talking to Hellier, you become a ‘science communicator’ who uses a merry-go-round metaphor to explain orbital mechanics, instead of Courtney Love.

Every time I visit a school though, some kid is guaranteed to ask me how you shit in space. EVERY. TIME. Of course they don’t say it that way, it’s “How do you go to the toilet in space?” But a quick Google image search – which I know they’ve already done – proves there’s a variety of zero-g hose systems for both male and female astronauts to urinate into. So what these kids are really asking is “How do you shit in space?” In the 60s the Apollo astronauts crapped into plastic bags then kneaded the bag (by hand) to work a bacteria-eating powder through it, because if they didn’t knead it properly the bag would fill with gas and explode. The space shuttle actually had something to sit on, but since things don’t flush in zero-g, the ‘toilet’ was basically a seat over a blender that used air-jets to push solid waste downwards. Yes, it would break. Yes, turds would escape the bowl and float around the spaceship.

How could you NOT tell kids this though? Kids ask because they don’t know, because how we shit is something kids (and a lot of adults) laugh about, and they want to hear stories about it. Space toilets are insanely complicated pieces of engineering, but kids don’t care – they want a story about shitting in space. Adults want to know too but are usually too polite to ask, so I’ve written a book they can read on the train and look intelligent reading because it has Mars on the cover. It sounds cheap, but if it takes toilet humour to explain a complex topic like space science, then I’m happy to share stories about exploding turd bags with people of any age.

The brilliant yet terrifying thing about public speaking and live comedy is immediately sensing if the audience is interested or amused, so you learn to adapt your performance and material as you perform it. Stand-up was how I learnt to turn things that interest me into things that are funny. At its core the challenge with writing is no different though: work out who your audience is, what they want and are familiar with, then connect your topic to that and make the audience feel something. Laughter, anger, disgust – whatever. Writing also gives you the luxury of time to twist yourself up over every syllable, in exchange for unloving silence when you write a great joke.

By the way, I genuinely wasn’t trying to pick up Dorito-fingers at the writers festival, but I DID describe our awkward exchange an hour later as I was chatting up someone I was actually interested in. Because if I’m going to leave Earth for good in 2031 then there’s no way I’m missing the chance to use “I’m a candidate for the first human mission to Mars” to get geek girls interested, make people of all ages people learn and laugh, and at least try to get laid occasionally.

Hopefully everyone will believe me when I say I’m just doing it for the species.

Personal – Badgers, Bender & Ink

A few weeks back a close friend of mine was shocked to discover I have multiple tattoos. In her defense she’s didn’t get to see Cosmic Nomad when I was touring it last year, so she’s never had to witness my awful pasty ginger ass from a performance stage like the rest of my fee-paying audiences in 2016 did. But I also realised many who haven’t seen that show are probably unaware of them too, and since they say a lot about how I see myself I thought I’d share what a space industry colleague described as “childish” and my mother describes as “looking like a criminal”.

Left Shoulder

This is actually two tattoos spaced 4 months apart, with the largest amount of work being a single epic 10 hour session done in early 2016 – the day before I flew out of Melbourne to start the global Cosmic Nomad tour. On the right there’s Carl Sagan with a lightsaber riding a velocirapter:

Now don’t get me wrong – this is an utterly ludicrous thing to have permanently scraped into the back of your left arm. But in many ways it also symbolises my past. The velocirapter is representative of my nature with the military: ruthless, vicious, and bordering on predatory. Always trying to be smarter, faster and more vicious than those around me to “protect” myself from them. At the same time Carl Sagan is there because I looked to science as a way of making sense of the world and loved the sense of awe that it brought… but I was still very scared of the world and armed Carl with a red lightsaber.

On the far more positive side however, there’s Rick Sanchez riding a honey badger:

Like Carl Sagan and the velocirapter, this is an entirely ridiculous thing to have covering half your upper arm… but this is definitely where I’m at these days. If you’re unfamiliar with Rick Sanchez from “Rick and Morty”, then you should watch this:

If you are familiar with Rick Sanchez and didn’t watch the video above because you don’t like Ricky and Morty, then we really can’t be friends anymore. Rick Sanchez is Carl Sagan, except he’s now quit trying to explain the universe to people and now just does the things that need to be done. If you look hard enough he’s ultimately always acting in the highest and best interests of the universe, but he doesn’t even pretend to care if you can keep up or if your personal moral compass agrees.

Now I’m not as jaded as Rick, but I’ve definitely stopped accommodating other people’s opinions the way I used to. These days I’m always honest with people, I know I’m good at doing things that are helping make the world a better place, and I’m always getting better at doing those things… so I really don’t give a shit if you agree with what I’m doing with my life, I’m doing it anyway.

Now you might naturally assume that Rick is riding a honey badger for exactly the same reason, and that I’ve probably watched “The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger” by Randall way too many times… and you’d be partly correct on both counts. Honey badgers are generally pretty badass, but for me the honey badger is really about punching well above your weight, being able to take an absolute battering while keeping a stupid grin on your face, and being able to work things out so you can create absolute chaos.

Case in point: Stoffel the Honey Badger

I’d like to point out that the video above starts with the narrator saying “After Stoffel’s severe mauling by the lions…” because Stoffel decided to start a fight with a bunch of lions and survived. Once he recovered he started causing problems and was locked up… so he figured out how to escape and cause chaos. When he was locked up somewhere more secure, he figured out how to escape and then caused chaos. When he got mauled by lions, he recovered and then went back for more. When everyone was convinced he couldn’t possibly escape his enclosure, he did.

You might stop a honey badger… but not for long, and they’re going to be pissed when they get moving again.

Together Carl Sagan on a velocirapter and Rick Sanchez on a honey badger form a kind of Coat-Of-Arms, all centered around my very first tattoo: a seven-leaf clover framed by a laurel wreath.

There’s a surprising number of layers and quite a story to getting my first tattoo at all. For a few months in 2006 I was reading Sam De Brito’s blog “All Men Are Liars” fairly regularly, and while my interest in his blog was only minimal and I never actually read his book, the title “No Tattoos Before You’re Thirty” always resonated with me. Tattoos were incredibly commonplace among the Royal Marines, and one of my 101 Things To Do Before You Die entries was to get a tattoo… but even at 24 I knew it wouldn’t happen before I was 30. I had in my head that if I were going to get something done, it needed to be something that meant a lot to me, and it would have been planned a long way ahead.

I also wasn’t sure I’d ever make it to 30 – without going into detail, after everything that has happened through the years I’m well aware of how lucky I am to still be here. I’m also well aware that the closest calls I’ve ever had and the hardest I’ve ever been pushed was always with the Royal Marines, and I still very much believe in their ethos: Courage, Determination, Unselfishness, and Cheerfulness in the face of adversity. The RM brought out both the best and the worst in me, but above all it taught me the military isn’t where I was supposed to be. I dropped out of training having learnt that I’m supposed to help people and make them laugh, and a few months later after a lot of soul-searching and an ample dose of Futurama I figured out I’m supposed to help our species become a dual planet one.

I’d known for years what I would get done if I made it to 30, so it was easy when I walked into a tattoo parlour in Carlton a few days after my birthday. To recognise what I’ve done and what I know I’m capable of, I had a laurel wreath done in the same place on my left arm that a Royal Marine might wear the Kings Badge. But to also recognise both how lucky I’ve been & how I’ve moved on from the military, instead of the RM’s “GR” in the middle of that wreath I replaced it the 7-leaf clover from Futurama’s “Luck of the Fryrish” episode.

If you haven’t seen the episode (or even if you have) I highly recommend looking it up, but the short story is *spoilers* Fry’s nephew ends up with the lucky 7-leaf clover and becomes the first man on Mars. *end spoilers*

Right Ass Cheek

And because I’m a ridiculous human being, at the same time I was getting my first tattoo with the wreath & clover, I also decided to get Bender smoking a cigar on my right ass cheek too

If you’re not a fan of Futurama, then just like Rick and Morty we pretty much can’t be friends anymore. It’s far and away my most ridiculous tattoo (which is saying a lot), but in many ways this one is the most important. I knew at the time I needed to do it, but wasn’t really sure why it was so important and laughed that it was simply because it was a ridiculous thing to do and because I have a lot in common with Fry…

I had no idea how things would turn out, how important this tattoo would become, or how it would make so much more sense nearly a year after it was done. But in one of those startling twists of fate, in a single beautiful moment I realised I’m not Fry.

I’m Lars – Fry’s shaven headed, bearded, and ultimately doomed clone from an alternate timeline. Fry doesn’t have the tattoo of Bender on his ass – Lars does. If you’ve seen it, you don’t need me to explain the rest. If you haven’t then I won’t ruin it by explaining – either way, you should go and watch it. And when you get back we’ll listen to 30 Century Man together, laugh and smile with tears in our eyes.

It’s funny how so much your perspective on everything can change, but I’m glad that I have these emotional turning points physically on me. I’ve been told that tattoos are addictive and I can certainly see why, so I’m glad I’ve carefully chosen things that carry enormous meaning for me & my relationship to them evolves as times goes on… even if they might seem ridiculous to others at first glance.

I suspect I’ll be making a final visit to Killer Bees Tattoos in Melbourne, chatting to the incredible Dan Danckert – who’s done all of these tattoos and I who can’t recommend highly enough – about one last thing. But rather than tell you all what I’m thinking, I’ll save the surprise for when it’s done. *maniacal ginger unicorn laugh*

post

Personal – Dear Josh in 2020

Dear Josh in 2020,
Firstly congratulations if you’re still around to read this – given all the stupid shit you’ve done through the years it’s a genuine surprise you’re still here to write this in 2016 at all, let alone read it in 2020. That’s not to say you’ve stopped doing stupid shit, because in case you’ve forgotten, you still do. A lot. But atleast over the last 4 years since you first found out about Mars One you’ve been a hell of a lot more focused on why you take ridiculous risks than you ever were. There’s a reason to take risks now… even if that reason is so I can live on a cold and unforgiving planet 56 million kilometers away without hope of return. I also spend a lot less time screaming at audiences while wearing a koala suit & playing ukulele now too, which I’m sure most people will agree is a good thing.

A very good thing

The reason I’m writing to you though is because once again it’s a) the end of an incredibly eventful year (but every year in your life is ludicrously eventful, so whatever, no biggie) and b) the end of another journal. Now traditionally I’ll go back over each diary/journal as I finish it and think “Oh wow, that’s right – I forgot that happened?” which then quickly devolves into “Hey, ‘member when dat happened? ‘member Staaar Waaaars?” and I come out dumber for the experience.

This time around though I’ve reached the end of my journal and realised some pretty huge things have happened over the last 4 years, so I decided to look a little further back than usual and review all my journals since 2012 to put it everything into context. And while I have a little bit of time to reflect before the chaos of 2017 starts, I also wanted to write a letter to you – decrepit & gross 35-year-old Josh – how much everything has gotten better, about how awesome things are right now, and how I’m sure things are going to keep getting better regardless of Cheeto-Hitler now having the keys to the nuclear launch codes.

How about no? You elected it, you keep it.

You see gross 35-year-old Josh, the ‘member berries only work if you just try to remember without any evidence. If you actually go back and review what things were like “back in the good old days” you tend not to look at them quite so fondly. Everyone freaked out about Paul Feig remaking Ghostbusters this year with an all-female cast. Boo haa, women aren’t funny, cry cry Paul Feig is ruining our childhoods and whatnot. When I watched the reboot I definitely enjoyed it, but because I didn’t laugh hysterically like I did at the original I wondered if I’d become one of those assholes that didn’t think women were funny. I mean obviously the original all-male cast were heaps funnier… right? AMIRIGHT? 

What has Kate McKinnon ever done that’s funny? You know, besides the Upright Citizens Brigade, Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, Family Guy…

Then I actually re-watched the original Ghostbusters. And you know what? The 2016 version is better. There, I said it: the new Ghostbusters is funnier than the 1984 original. The confusion is just because I’m not growing up with the 2016 version. The original is still an awesome movie, but most of my memories of it being so amazing are tied to the fact I was growing up with it. The 2016 reboot isn’t for me – it’s for a new generation of kids who want to get excited about ghosts ruining shit. The old Ghostbusters hasn’t changed, but watching both with a clear eye it’s obvious I have.

Why the hell am I talking about Ghostbuster reboots? Because reviewing the last 4 years of my journals there’s been some real surprises realising how I actually felt about things at the time, and realising how hideously skewed (or even completely wrong) my perception of them became over time. Perfect example: an ex-girlfriend you were utterly smitten with, you were convinced had brought a whole new light into your life so strong it made you question your commitment to Mars One, and how you convinced yourself you’d lost the ability to feel that strongly about someone when you ended it after it became clear she didn’t love you anymore.

You know who I’m talking about: the second one you wrote a comedy show about because it’s cheaper than therapy…

But here’s the thing: none of that was real AND YOU KNEW IT AT THE TIME! Sure you were utterly smitten, but reading back over the journal from then you knew right at the start she was only a signpost: someone reflecting how awesome your life is, cheering you on in the right direction, but also not coming with your on the journey. You weren’t experiencing a whole new light in your life because of her, you were experiencing it because you were doing what you’re supposed to be doing eg. GETTING YOUR ASS TO MARS

Here’s Buzz Aldrin & Dave Grohl to remind you in 2020

Reading the actual journal entries (rather than just trying to ‘member) you can see it wasn’t till months later that you started to lose sight of what was really lighting up your life (being an astronaut candidate for the first human mission to Mars) and mixed up what was important: her, or trying to make humanity a dual-planet species… and that is when the ‘member berries started to whisper their juicy but sour lies. 

You can also see from the journals that I’ve been glancing over the fact this wasn’t the first time I’ve fallen into a very similar trap: there’s notes on at least two previous relationships in these journals where you faced almost identical challenges. While they weren’t all the same intensity they do all mirror each other on some details significantly: I practically dated a clone of that ex 12 months earlier, right down to looks & personality. The only significant difference between the two was the earlier girl wanted to live in Perth to raise a family, so I knew immediately it wouldn’t work long-term because the best/worst part of going to Mars is telling everyone in Perth you won’t be home for Christmas. Ever.

But here’s the good bit: at least each time things went wrong you learnt some of what you needed to avoid doing the exact same thing again. You might only be improving by 1%, but that is still better than the 0% improvement that most people make by sticking with their boring, unchanging “safe” lives. You’ve probably made a bundle of similar mistakes getting to 2020, and you’ll read this letter and say “Oh younger, much more attractive and virile 31 year old Josh – you’ll learn the lessons you need to when you are ready”. And I’ll tell you to shut your old beardy ginger face.

Wait – do you still have the beard? You’ve had it since you left the RM in 2010, so I’ll be devastated if you’ve gone corporate and shaved it off. I was (and still am) toying with the idea of living out of my backpack on an epic 3,000+ kilometer walk across Siberia or South America or something, keeping a journal of my thoughts and experiences along the way, and I was going to draw inspiration from Sean Conway and let my beard grow into something woolly and epic…

Seriously, my spirit animal is a honey badger with this man’s beard

Did you do it? Did find time to go on an epic 3000+km walk and use it as an excuse to grow a ginger hedge on your face? DO PEOPLE CALL YOU GANDALF THE RED NOW? I really hope so.

But whatever you do, remember that even small progress is still progress. You’re definitely sharper and more focused now than you have been at any point in the past. Things in the past were NOT as great as they are now, because in the past you hadn’t learnt as much as you have now. And that’s why I’m jealous of you, gross 35 year old Josh. Sure there are dips here and there, and it can be easy to look back and think you were happier in the past. But when you actually look at what things were like or what you felt in the past, you can see with crystal clarity that over time things have kept getting better and better.

I’m certain a lot of that has to do with writing to publish AND maintaining a journal. Publishing for an audience means I can share my experiences with others so they can learn too, but if I were just writing for an online audience I wouldn’t have a record to reflect honestly on how I feel about events and people. Although to be fair I currently have little trouble being honest with people about what I think about them, as my emails to some of the staff at an educational institution I used to work for will show (if you’ve forgotten what I’m talking about, search your gmail with the keywords “startling incompetence” – you’ll find it).

Hopefully in 2020 you’re still just as honest, but I equally hope that you’ve sharpened the tools you need to avoid it getting under your skin when people don’t do what they say they will. You’re always getting better at it, but the journals make it clear that while you’ll give some folks the benefit of the doubt over and over and over again, sometimes things still happen that cause it all to pour out in one hilarious & horrifying email or outburst.

Without a journal – however poorly maintained – I wouldn’t be able to look back at different points and see how much of a dickhead I used to be… as I’m sure in 2020 you’ll be looking back thinking how much of dickhead I am right now. I can also see how much my writing has improved, and most importantly I can see the ideas that have persisted through the years and the personal values that are obviously most important to me. No matter what crazy things have happened over the last few years, there are ideas and questions you’ve kept asking throughout all of it:

  • What can I do to help make humanity a dual-planet species?
  • What would you say to aliens if you could?
  • How can I slow myself down without stopping when I’m pushing too hard?
  • How can I be more like MacGyver but without the mullet?
  • Why do you recognise and end an ill-fitting career before you’ll do the same with a relationship?
  • How can I combine the ideas of Star Trek, Star Wars, Rick & Morty, Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, and Futurama into comedy to communicate science to others?
  • How do I shift my comedy further away from the dark & Freudian, and toward being more surreal and Jungian?
  • How can I find a way to help a billion people?
  • How can I have more philosophical & spiritual experiences by farting in the shower?
  • How do I maintain an orbital perspective on Earth?
  • What does it mean to be human?
  • How can I make the universe a little better in the limited time I have?

I hope in 2020 you look back at the end of 2016 and think “Yeah I was still a complete clown back then, but at least I was finally figuring out which basic parts of being a clown are most important to me so I could focus on them”. I hope you’ve spent the 4 years getting to 2020 by ignoring the confetti, not being sucked in by pointless conflict, and by focusing on doing the basics that are most important to you really really well.

Best Regards,
Josh in 2016

P.S. You’re 35 now, so has that psychic gypsy in New Orleans finally delivered the ginger she said you’d meet and fall in love with between 32 and 35? Not sure how that’s supposed to work with you going to Mars, but that’s your problem bro.

[Private Journal] End of Year Review

Hi everyone!
Many of you may not know, but for the last 5 years I’ve been keeping handwritten diaries & journals of my adventures – ranging from purely mundane “To Do” lists, right through to incredibly personal thoughts on life, the universe and everything. And over the last two weeks I’ve been reviewing all 7 books worth of journals I’ve kept since 2011: taking notes, photographing interesting entries and transcribing them ready to be published on Patreon.

It’s been pretty incredible reviewing just how much things have changed, realising things you thought you remembered one way actually happened in completely the reverse order, seeing foreshadowing of the end of relationships (even if I didn’t realise it when I was writing), and collating notes I’d written but forgotten that will certainly help in the years ahead. I’m just about to start reviewing my most recent journal (covering April 2016 to now) and while it’s obviously recent history I’m intrigued to see what ideas and gems of wisdom I came up with during the year but forgot in the rushed chaos this year brought.

As the journals are incredibly personal (and I have to spend a fair bit of time redacting people’s names before publishing them), I’ve restricted publishing so they’re only available to one of the higher level Patreon rewards. However as 2016 closes and I review all that’s happened these last 12 months, I wanted to share one small entry from the end of last year with all of you as a nice way of looking back. Reading it, the similarities between then and where I find myself now are pretty startling, but I’m excited because of two things:

  1. There is 1000x more clarity and less stress now at the end of 2016 than there was when this journal entry was written 12 months ago, and…
  2. After reviewing 5 years of journals, it’s pretty clear that even though things might get REALLY weird… as long as I keep writing, keep asking myself hard questions, and keep trying to act in the highest & best interests of all, things keep getting better and better 🙂

Enjoy the journal entry, and if you want more the consider becoming a Patron!

All the best in 2017,
Josh

P.S. I love that my scribbling of “Carl Sagan riding a velociraptor while Rick Sanchez rides a honey badger” that became my left shoulder tattoo has bled through the last page 😉

—————————–

Click image for full-size

Day 11, 092
19 December 2015

I wonder where I’ll be in a year. What I’ll be doing, who I’ll be with, and where I’m heading next. I wonder what I’ll have remembered of 2016 best. I wonder what I’ve thrown my energy into most, what has made the biggest difference in my life and in the world.

My best bet is to ask the same questions of myself for 2015 – what have been my favourite moments, what have been the highlights & lowlights. Who has influenced me the most, what have I learnt from each of them, and where have I grown most & least.

Probably best to put all this in the context of Altucher’s 4 steps: Health, Emotional, Mental & Spiritual. Some area have excelled, some have been refined, some feel like they’ve slipped & some haven’t moved. There’s a lot of shit in the air at the moment, so the end of the year clarity you’d expect is being obstructed by the chaff being thrown out into the air. Meditation is a clear and easy way to stop your mind racing – to free yourself from the mind’s bullshit, it’s frantic list making & stress. It’s useful for working through all you’ve set your heart on, but it’s also often excessive. Remember the Cult of Done – ideas that take more than a week to work on are unlikely to lead where you need to go. Form good habits and exploit opportunities, but let go of what feels like work. Some things you put off because you want to “get it right” or you think something is more important – either do it, or let it go. Don’t allow frivolous shit get in the way of your real priorities – focus on what is most important. Ask yourself if what you’re doing is more important than what you want to do. If you keep being pulled by something minor, ask why it feels so important. Is it just to “complete” something? What are you doing it for.

Right now you’re thinking about closing things out – finishing Demon Haunted World, finishing the pages in this book, using all the pages in your A4 book. To do those 3 things in the next 10 days will require concerted reading and writing – NOT typing. Not listening to more podcasts. The biggest one is writing Cosmic Nomad, which will require writing on the A4 book AND typing to Evernote. But you should be breaking this up with reading Demon Haunted World. Keep your other distractions to a minimum, develop those good mental habits; and the fitness, emotional & spiritual elements will follow.

Forget the emails – they can ALL wait till January 4th. Read the book & write the show. GO!

Personal – “Waiting”

 

Hey everyone,
Here’s my first “personal” post, about my experience waiting to hear about my application to the Hi-SEAS mars mission analog in Hawaii. This month is going to be pretty full on as I try to write 4 articles (2 months worth) to get things started here and on my Patreon page at the same time.

Enjoy, and let me know in the comments what your experience has been with waiting for big life-changing events!

Read More