Khalid Al Jaaidi had his life planned out for him: graduate by 21, marry three years later and gift his parents with a few grandchildren to spoil.
This was before he became one of the 1,058 selected from 200,000 hopefuls around the world, to vie for a new home at the first human settlement on planet Mars.
“Marriage, now, couldn’t be further from my mind. How can I, when the relationship could very well come with its own expiry date?” asks the Emirati national, during a chat with Emirates 24|7.
He adds: “This is a tricky one. A part of me says no, because then I will have more things to leave on Earth, and a part of me says you can do it. I haven’t yet decided on this.”
With stars in his eyes, young Al Jaaidi is now a man with a mission, one that has paved the way for new hopes and dreams, and a possibility that is simply out of this world.
Mission to Mars
In his own words, he recounts: “I first heard about the Mars One mission back in April 2013, a few weeks before they first opened up the applications. And I instantly knew I wanted to be a part of this.”
Mars One is a not-for-profit Dutch-based foundation that aims to establish a permanent human settlement on the red planet by 2025.
The mission plan consists of cargo missions and unmanned preparation of a habitable settlement, followed by human landings.
Al Jaaidi claims that he did not want to live with a lifetime of regret by not applying for the mission, adding: “I feel like I was meant for it, inside out. And I believe I fit the profile of what they’re looking for in candidates.”
Having graduated with a Visual Communications degree in December 2012, the Emirati national stated saying goodbye to his family and friends wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly.
He confessed: “I read about Mars, the Mars One mission, about various opinions of different experts, sceptics, you name it.
“It was weighed down by the psychological challenge of not walking Earth again.”
Hard to say goodbye
Al Jaaidi admitted his parents have taken the news badly, having only broken the news last weekend over the family WhatsApp group.
“I simply posted the email I received from the Mars One guys onto the family chat group. At first, they all thought it was a joke,” he said.
Being the middle son in a family of six brothers and two sisters, he stated: “My family, it hasn’t really sunk in for them. It’s quite crazy coming home telling them you might be going to Mars.
“Overall they’re very supportive but my mom is not fully happy with her son going on a one-way trip to Mars though. She says, I didn’t spend years trying to raise you only to see you abandon us in life. And what about our grandchildren?
“My dad told me it’s a great and bold decision, and that in the end it comes down to you.
“Either way, only what Allah decides to happen, will happen.”
His friends have rallied around him in support, while some have tried to ‘bribe’ Al Jaaidi into staying back.
He said: “One of my close friends from high school tries every day to talk me out of it, and even offered to buy me all the Mars and Galaxy chocolates if I stayed.
“My colleagues have been a great support as well, and my boss even offered me time in the afternoons to get back to my gym.”
Out of this world
For this young hopeful and the remaining 1,057 around the globe, the next item on the list is submitting a medical assessment checklist, which will be sent to the Mars One team.
Those who pass the assessment round will be contacted by April 2014 and will proceed to round three, which will be a reality event aired on TV and probably online, that will see candidates compete in challenges before one person will be picked by the people from the region.
The final round will comprise a group challenge, an international event, which will seal the fate of the final 24 selected candidates who will start their eight-year training as a full-time job and paid Mars One astronauts.
The road ahead may seem daunting for most, but this young Emirati takes strength from his dreams to achieve bigger and better dreams.
He revealed: “I take Dubai as an inspiration, that nothing is impossible. Determination is key and I wish the new generations to continue the trend set by the UAE and Dubai, to aim higher and higher than ever.”
Fine words from someone so young, but in a telling moment, Al Jaaidi also doesn’t deny that he will miss some precious moments that he wishes to store away in the recesses of his mind should he pack those bags one day for a new planet.
“I am a Bedouin at heart, at my most peace out there in the desert, camping under the stars. These moments I spend there with my friends and family will forever be cherished,” he stated.
Quiz him if there is anything he would want to carry on with him to the red planet and the doting son replies: “A copy of the Holy Quran to allow me to never forget my roots and a supply of my mom’s cream caramel dessert.”