SCHOOLCHILDREN are to receive a once in a lifetime talk from an astronaut who hopes to travel to Mars.

Martian colonist Ryan MacDonald will visit Heathfield School to talk about life on Mars and how the children can pursue a career in science.

Mr MacDonald, 24, is a Theoretical Astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge and one of the 100 international astronaut candidates for a proposed mission to Mars in 2031. The astronaut said his main message to the children will be: “Latch onto your passion in life, stick at it whatever anyone says and you will achieve big things.”

He continued: “I want to show the children that science is like magic and if you pursue a career in science there is no problem that cannot be explored through questioning and that anything is possible.

“Radio 4 had a Mars week and interviewed various experts on the planet, of which I was one, and someone at the school must’ve heard me speaking.

“In my training to take part in the mission to Mars we are tested not only on out intelligence but also on how we function as part of a team and this is another message I want to convey.

“My long-term research goal is to find life away from earth, while at the same time I am working on being an astronaut for the mission in 2031.”

The mission to the Red Planet is called Mars One and initially received over 200,000 applications which have now been whittled down to 100.

The $6bn Mars One project intends to send four people on a mission to Mars in 2031. Unlike other proposed missions, the astronauts will live and work on Mars for the rest of their lives.

The aim will be to become the first settlers on another planet with the missions to start with a series of robotic excursions, the first of which is planned for a 2022 departure.

Rushi Millns, Head of Careers at Heathfield School, said: “We were thrilled to hear Ryan had accepted our invite. “The talk promotes STEM subjects and will encourage our girls to think about these subjects for study and as a potential career.

“The idea of leaving Earth for Mars and never returning has really captured the imagination of so many of our students.

“Anything that fires up this level of interest in our girls and makes them want to come and speak to someone who plans to be part of this programme, is wonderful to behold.”