Alex of Antarctica wows Mars convention

Whaley Bridge-born Antarctic adventurer Alex Kumar has been speaking by satellite video link to the Mars Society’s annual convention in California on the very day Nasa scientists, also in California,  were celebrating  the touchdown of  their information-gathering rover on the surface of Mars.

Doctor/scientist Alex, a former pupil at Whaley Bridge primary school and Stockport grammar school, has been in Antarctica since January.  Now in the middle of winter (three months of darkness so far), he is part of the 13-strong team at Concordia, the French-Italian research station run by the European Space Agency.

The year long project into men’s reaction to the toughest conditions on earth will give invaluable advice to potential astronauts if a manned mission to Mars ever takes place.

Alex, 29, spoke to scientist Ian, a fellow Brit, who has been in California for six years. Alex said he had been in Antarctica since January – ‘long enough to grow a 17 cm beard!’

Asked what he missed most, Alex said family and friends – he has missed the 70th birthday of his dad, who still lives in Whaley Bridge. He also missed his husky puppy, back in London, the smell of cut grass, daylight and even traffic jams.  Life in the darkness and extreme cold is ‘in black and white’ – you need to know yourself, he said.

Ian from the Mars convention thanked Alex for pictures transmitted on the satellite: “Folks ooh-ed and aw-ed at the photos.  When the one with you holding the Mars sign came up, everybody laughed. ”  The sign showed the distance to Mars, 225,000,000 kilometres.

Alex chatted about British successes on the Olympic super Saturday in London he had seen on the Internet.

Alex is due to return from Antarctica at the end of 2012.  But already, he has signed up for another adventure.  In 2014, he will join a team retracing Sir Ernest Shackleton’s planned, but uncompleted route, across the icy continent.

You can see the video here

Alex’s blog is here

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