Zareen Cheema, who has returned from a research expedition from the continent, is now shooting for the planet

“In Antarctica, the sun shines 24 hours allowing explorers to work as long as they want. We conducted our experiments from 6 am till 1 am surrounded by beautiful penguins, super-big albatrosses and amazing wildlife,” says Zareen Cheema (19), the only Indian among 70 youngsters selected for the trip by ‘Students on Ice’, a Canada-based research expedition.The journey, which took off from Argentinian city Ushuaia – the southern most on earth – on December 26, ended on January 8, during which the students did the rounds of Antarctic peninsular region travelling together with a team of 30 renowned scientists, historians, artists and polar experts. Zareen’s trip, which required $14,500, was funded by people from across the world with one third of it coming from her college.A second-year engineering student at Cummins College of Engineering, Pune, she said, “On January 1, I was at Deception Island. Then we moved to Pleneau Island, the coldest place in the whole trip.”The weather in Antarctica, even in summertime (November to March) dips to 10 degrees below zero. The ice fields are riddled with crevasses and very dry environment often poses fire hazards. But Zareen, the daughter of a bureaucrat, loves extreme challenges. She is now eyeing to settle on Mars. She is among 705 people who have made it to Round 2 of the one-way mission to Mars – Mars One – which would send four humans to settle on the red planet in 2025.”The very prospect of being able to go into space and witness the cosmic wonder is so exciting,” says Zareen, who won NASA’s space settlement design contest in 2013 and was part of European Space Agency’s programme at Norway last year.”Since five, she has been enthralled by stories her father told her about space,” said Roopa, Zareen’s mother.Asked if she is worried about her daughter’s choice to go on a one-way trip to Mars, Roopa, a fourth-stage cancer patient, said, “It is very tough for a mother but I leave everything on destiny.”

See original article here¬†–¬†

For Pune girl, Antarctica at 19, Mars at 29