Aussie Mars hopeful heads into HAB to promote The Martian

AUSTRALIAN ‘Mars One’ candidate Josh Richards has entered a solitary, purpose-built ‘HAB’ at Sydney’s Circular Quay.

He has been selected as one of only 100 astronaut candidates who will potentially leave earth forever and travel to Mars in 2025 to colonise the planet.

A physicist, explosives engineer and a soldier, when a major film distributor in Australia went looking for someone to be part of a marketing initiative, they could not have found a better and more legitimate participant than Mr Richards.

Mr Richards isn’t just some actor who has been dumped into a Mars-like HAB (habitat) for five days in the hope of flogging DVDs of the Matt Damon starring movie, The Martian.

Quite possibly, he will also be Australia’s first legitimate ‘Martian’ as he is already on the short list of names that is being put through paces. Soon enough he may be part of the very serious and ambitious $6 billion Mars One mission.

The mission hopes to send a group of men and women to Mars by 2025.

While some people still think it is pie-in-the-sky stuff, Mr Richards is absolutely confident human life will eventually exist on Mars.

“I wouldn’t have put my hand up if I didn’t think it wasn’t going to work,” a confident Mr Richards told

“I have learnt, among many things, that we can GET people to Mars but we just can’t get them back at this stage.”

Mr Richards says there are many challenges to make the Mars One project work, from political and technological but the biggest one is physiology.

“The biggest issue is about coming back,’’ he says.

“Bones break down due to the reduced gravity environment, as you have zero ‘g’s’ when travelling through space so your body is adapting to reduced gravity. Once it is coming back it is going through upwards of 9gs of gravity, so you just wouldn’t survive it.

“With going one way, you have the chance to land and stay on land on the planet and research and discover new things and you never have to worry about experiencing the risk of what could be coming back.”

Hence, any of the team eventually chosen in the next 12 months and who commit to going to Mars have to reconcile the fact that Mars, potentially in 10 years’ time, will be their home. Forever.

“It’s really been an extension of where I was already going,’’ says the Perth-born former military man.

“I know what it is like to live with a backpack and rather than focusing on owning a home and having that kind of very traditional 1950s image of what success in life is, I have become a nomad and just keep moving and go where I need to be.

“My hope is you’ll be able to go outside in 10 years’ time and point out to kids outside that ‘look up there, there are people now living there, on Mars’.”

The public ‘HAB’ he has entered is very similar to what Matt Damon’s character ‘lived’ in, in the movie, The Martian.

“It is very clean and quite similar to what is in the film and what is going on inside will be very similar,’’ he says.

Mr Reynolds is taking part in a five-day public challenge that will require him to use his ingenuity, tenacity and skill to survive in a simulated Martian base.

He will be required to undertake up to three survival challenges a day, set by a team of experts and scientists.

The challenges have been designed to emulate those faced by Mark Watney (Matt Damon) in the Oscar-nominated movie, The Martian.

“I’m not fussed about people watching into the HAB over the next few days as you basically have to forget that the cameras are on and that people are staring,’’ he laughs.

But hang on, if he was to suddenly meet someone who he fell madly in love with, how would the 10-years-on-earth timeline go.

“I have faced those challenges already,” says Josh.

“I was with someone when I found out about all of this and I sat down with my partner and had an in-depth discussion. I realised that I want to eventually change the way all humans live and if this happens, this will definitely be part of that.”

“It’s difficult and very challenging and it means I don’t have those kind of relationships that most people do as I am committed to going to Mars.”

At this point, there are 100 candidates worldwide for the Mars One mission and there are seven Aussies in the mix.

“The next phase is September when they get us all together somewhere in the world and will put us through more testing and we would eventually become full time employees hoping on a launch date of 2026 with a landing date of March 2027.

“The cost of all of this is the cost of a major stadium or it is three times of what Australian would spend on beer in a year.”

* The public can observe Josh 24-hrs a day, directly through the glass exterior or via a live camera feed at

The Martian is out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD on February 10

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Bluesmart: the clever carry-on suitcase with digi connectivity. Cool.

Introducing Bluesmart: the world’s first carry on suitcase that connects to your Smartphone, exclusively available at Strandbags.

Bluesmart is a high quality cabin suitcase with revolutionary technology to improve your travel experience.

Features include:
– Digital locking system
– Proximity sensors
– Location tracking
– Trip tracking information – Built in digital scale
– Built in battery

The Bluesmart case is powered by 3G connectivity with Bluetooth technology which enables a remote locking system, allowing users to lock and unlock the suitcase from their smartphone. The location-tracking feature on Bluesmart will automatically lock the case when it’s separated from its user. Trip tracking information means that users can track their miles travelled and also receive smart trip notifications when they arrive at their destination. The built in scale communicates the exact weight of the suitcase to the companion app, helping users avoid paying extra baggage fees or being forced to check for extra weight. Finally, the built in battery, which allows users to re-charge their smartphone or other device up to 6 times over.

Designed to make life easier for those constantly on the go, the innovative technology behind Bluesmart represents a quantum leap for the luggage industry.

Available exclusively at Strandbags Stores (distribution limited to 70 stores) & Price $599

Stairway to snow heaven: Aspen is everything you would expect it to be. . .

Have spent the last few days on a fantastic ‘media famil’ – basically a totally organised trip hosted, usually by an airline and the destination tourism company, to where you are invited. In this case, Australian airline Qantas and the crew from Aspen Snowmass got together a small gang of travel writers and commentators and have taken us on the most extraordinary culinary and snow journey at possibly the best time of the year – there is snow, I’m getting my ski legs, we are eating like demons and all up, having the most brilliant time.
Hearing about the history of the town of Aspen was interesting – it made its fortune from silver mining – and has certainly had his financial ups and downs over the last over few hundred years. Yes, it’s glamorous, full of the monied and not so monied and yes, it can be expensive, but within all of that, it hasn’t lost a very calm and village-like atmosphere.

You don’t feel like you NEED to get dressed up to the nines every time you walk out the door. Which is a GREAT thing!

After one Night in Los Angeles staying at the London hotel – seriously this is THE place to go – we arrived in Aspen & stayed at a great hotel called The Limelight, very affordable and in a great end of Aspen and right opposite a brilliant park that even has rugby union poles. Work that out!

We’ve been to the ski slope called Buttermilk, there is Highlands there is Aspen mountain and there is Snowmass. There is a veritable feast of snow Mountains and brilliant ski slopes. But the piece to resistance, so far, is staying at what I perceived as the best ski hotel in the world – The Little Nell. If there is such thing as a seven star hotel this is it. It’s attention to detail, just the way you walk in and every single staff member Is just genuinely nice to you makes experience just extraordinary.

With our room looking over the pool, hot tub and the Silver Queen gondola which takes skiiers up Aspen mountain, we are loving every minute.

I have my son with me who at 14 is lapping up his ski experiences – and nailing it!

Anyway here are a few pics. Hope you enjoy it and I’ll keep you posted!

*Melissa is a guest of Qantas and Aspen Snowmass for the first few amazing days of her trip before she takes some ‘real’ holiday time! Oh, & she has paid for her son holiday.

Mad Max guru George Miller to be honoured at G'Day LA event

LOS ANGELES, CA Thursday December 17, 2015: G’Day USA, the annual program that fosters deeper economic ties and promotes Australian capabilities in the United States, today announced its full 2016 program and details of the honorees for its highly-anticipated annual G’Day USA Gala in Los Angeles presented by Qantas, which will take place on Thursday January 28, 2016 at Vibiana in Downtown Los Angeles.


At the launch in Sydney, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs said the 2016 program showcases Australia as an innovative, high growth and sophisticated economy.

“The 2016 program will continue to promote and highlight bilateral cooperation across foreign policy, defence, innovation, the arts, and pursue a strong economic diplomacy agenda by promoting Australia as an important trade and investment partner,” Ms Bishop said.

The G’Day USA Gala will honour Dr George Miller with a G’Day USA Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of the screenwriter, director and producer’s outstanding contribution to Australian creative arts sector and acclaimed global success, including through the Mad Max franchise. Joel Edgerton will also be honoured with the G’Day USA Excellence in Film Award in recognition of his critical success as a writer, actor and director, including most recently with his film “the Gift”.

Mr Alan Joyce, Group CEO Qantas Airways added: “G’DAY USA is a great platform to champion the best of Australia in the United States, so as the national carrier we’re proud to continue our long running support at a time when our own presence in the United States is stronger than ever.”

“Australian artists, companies and tourism operators are making a huge mark in America, but we think the most exciting opportunities for the relationship are still ahead,” Mr Joyce said.

Red Carpet arrivals and a cocktail reception at 7pm will be followed by the awards show and dinner, featuring premium Australian food and wine curated by Australian chef Neil Perry and American chef Neal Fraser.

Ms Chelsey Martin, Australian Consul-General in Los Angeles and G’Day USA Chair said, “With the support of our invaluable partners and sponsors, the G’Day USA program for 2016 includes 17 events in 7 cities across the US, with more to be scheduled throughout the year. The 2016 program will showcase the best of Australia – from Australian film, food and wine, music, fashion and technological innovation, to our defence industries, and expertise in water and drought management.”

The G’Day USA 2016 program kicks-off in New York with two events delivered in partnership with the American Australian Association (AAA) on 22 January.  A lunchtime address by the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs focusing on Australia’s innovation and economic diplomacy agendas will be presented by the Commonwealth Bank at Citibank. This will be followed by the AAA Australia Day Black Tie Gala at Cipriani Wall Street, where Mr Gordon Elliott, CEO of Follow Productions, will be honoured with a G’Day USA Award for his contribution to US-Australia relations.

G’Day USA will partner with the University of Sydney’s US Studies Centre and the Center for New American Security (CNAS) to deliver the annual US-Australian Foreign Policy Dialogue in Washington DC on 26 January. This high-level forum focuses on areas of future cooperation, such as defense and security; trade and investment; natural resources and the environment; education; and innovation. It features expert panel discussions, a keynote address by the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and a networking lunch.

G’Day USA then heads west to Los Angeles with the high-profile annual G’Day USA Gala, presented by Qantas, on January 28. Two public policy programs with senior business, government and academic participants will follow on 29 January.  A Foreign Policy Roundtable with the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, jointly hosted by the US Studies Centre and RAND Corporation, will be followed by the US-Australian Dialogue on Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, presented by G’Day USA in partnership with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).

The US-Australian Dialogue on Water Management and Drought at the Milken Institute, Los Angeles (February 5) is being held in conjunction with the Governor of California’s office at Governor Brown’s request. This event will build on a series of water policy and technology forums held in California under the G’Day USA program in recent years, sharing the globally recognized innovative solutions to water conservation and drought management from Australian companies and policy makers.

An Emerging Innovators Awards in Los Angeles (March 22), presented by Northrop Grumman, will showcase Australian technologies and young innovators flourishing in the US market. This event at Northrop’s Space Park will include an awards ceremony recognizing breakthroughs in innovation.

2016 events in Houston include an Australia Day BBQ Celebration (January 24), The Australia Day Gala organized by the Houston American-Australian Chamber of Commerce (January 30) and the 8th Annual Australian American Chamber of Commerce Energy Conference, attended by energy companies from US and Australia (February 16). This is the leading conference on the Australian energy scene held outside Australia and the theme for this year is “Insight, Innovation and Evolution”.

Additional G’Day USA 2016 events confirmed to date include a “Dine G’Day” Dinner in Los Angeles (April), participation in the Newport Beach Film Festival (April) and the Palm Springs International Shortfest Film Festival (June), a U.S.- Australia Dialogue on Defense Industries in Washington D.C. (May), Australia Rocks the Pier in Santa Monica (August), and an Australian Fashion Showcase as part of Los Angeles Fashion Week (October).

In conjunction with the launch of the 2016 program, G’Day USA also announced a new partnership with Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) and the Australian Theatre Company (LA) supporting two new scholarship opportunities for young and emerging Australian artists.  ATYP Ambassadors Rebel Wilson and Rose Byrne are generously supporting the scholarships to nurture and promote the next generation of Australian theatre artists. As part of the program, the recipients will receive a year’s mentoring with ATYP in Sydney culminating in the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles, work on a project with the Australian Theatre Company, and be profiled at the G’Day USA Gala in January 2017.

How to live like a celebrity on a trip to Los Angeles

IT MAY have been just a few days but, boy, experiencing a handful of places in Los Angeles that give you that celebrity feel is worth every single moment. And every single cent.

In this certified capital of celebrity-watching, it literally is who you know in LA, not what you know, especially when it comes to testing out some the city’s serious hot spots.

The best of the best from eating to drinking, shopping, facials, spin classes and one mighty fine hotel, this is just a taste of LA’s finest.

We checked into the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood

This is the hotel that, for the past 50 years, has been the home away from home for actors, comedians, writers, artists, filmmakers, fashion designers, supermodels, restaurateurs, billionaire entrepreneurs and the newest breed of entertainer when the hotel opened its doors in 1963, rock stars.

What started out as a well-kept secret on a secluded residential street has matured into a world-class destination with fine dining, luxurious suites and villas, a recording studio where dozens of Grammy-winning songs have been recorded, tranquil gardens, and one of the most notorious bars anywhere. Yes, the kind of bar, where you bump into anyone, even Aussie actor Michael Caton and 60 Minutesreporter Michael Usher.

“Party like a rock star” is the hotel’s mantra but the great thing about this place is its proximity, its discretion and its simply fantastic rooms.

The exclusive private members’ club Soho House

On the famed Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, Soho House is a serious social star. It is a members-only bar, restaurant and screening room. (There are a few Sohos dotted around the world, by the way.)

We had a brilliant dinner and after-dinner drinks and couldn’t help but crane our necks to see if any stars were trying to go under the radar. The best part of arriving at Soho House is the only way to get in is via a suburban-like underground carpark. It is secret society stuff but once you are in, your lips are sealed.

SoulCycle Spin Class

SoulCycle doesn’t just change bodies, it changes lives. With inspirational instructors, candlelight,

epic spaces and rocking music, after a big night out, this was just what the jet lag doctor ordered. Riders can let loose, clear their heads and empower themselves with strength that lasts beyond the studio walls. Getting the entire upper class into really good shape seems to be the mission of SoulCycle, which has diehard followers such as Victoria Beckham, Chelsea Clinton, J Crew’s Mickey Drexler, Katie Holmes and Lady Gaga, who took two $2200 custom-made bikes on her tour and threw her 26th-birthday party at their studio in West Hollywood.

Lunch at one of the hippiest foodie spots in LA, Gracias Madre

With the arrival of Gracias Madre in Los Angeles, Chef Chandra Gilbert found herself once again reliving her lifelong dream of opening a vegan Mexican restaurant featuring bold flavours and seasonally conscious ingredients. This is cool school, clean eating central.

Red Carpet Facials at Kinara Skin Care

Originally designed for those who need a glowing complexion on demand, Kinara’s famous

signature Red Carpet Facial is perfect for special occasions, or monthly maintenance. The secret is in the proprietary formula, which combines lactic and amino acids, creating a uniquely intelligent exfoliation system that literally steam cleans the pores, dissolving impurities and evening skin tone. We all came out of here totally glowing.

•Drinks and dinner at EP & LP

Perched on N La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, EP & LP is a two-floor Asian influenced restaurant with a rooftop bar and sweeping views of the Hollywood Hills. The venture is backed by Australian DJ Grant Smillie (also of Melbourne’s Pony Fish Island and Melbourne City Brewing Company), with business partners David Combes (ex Trunk), models Ashley Hart and Buck Palmer, as well as Axwell from Swedish House Mafia.

Sydney chef Louis Tikaram, formerly head chef at Longrain and Australian Young Chef of the Year 2014, is being brought over from Sydney in August to be the venue’s executive chef. The team from Projects of Imagination worked on the interior design.

Brunch at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel

This is an absolute must do. The Polo Lounge has been the favourite breakfast spot and watering hole for generations of stars and Hollywood deal-makers.

Guests enjoy indoor and outdoor seating for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and late-night suppers and adding to the atmosphere, The Polo Lounge offers live entertainment every day for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Taking a walk around the grounds and down to the guests-only pool features some of the best cabanas I have ever seen. It was pure, great fun.

Blow outs at My Blow Beverly Hills

In the US, a blow dry is called a blowout (just clearing that one up) and some of the most inexpensive and best are from the highly affordable My Blow LA in Beverly Hills. Coupled with a little trip to Blushington for make-up next door, you come out feeling red carpet fabulous without having spend a stupid about of money!

Bestia in Downtown LA

Wow. Executive chef Ori Menashe (former chef of Angelini Osteria) and pastry chef Genevieve Gergis are the husband and wife team that is Bestia, a multi-regional Italian restaurant in the Arts District of downtown Los Angeles. Going downtown isn’t something lots of LA visitors choose not to do, but this place is definitely worth a look.

Cool, industrial-looking and with fab food, it was the best precursor to a night when we really did hang out with bona fide celebrity, Rebel Wilson, at the LA fashion Week Aussie event.

In-N-Out Burger:

A trip to LA isn’t complete without a late-night stop into In-N-Out Burger. Seriously. When you are tired, you’ve partied hard, you need a burger just to, well, get you to sleep. This is the place for you. And you get all types, in all types of dress, every hour of the day — as you can see below.

After we spent two days in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, we zipped to the “City of Roses”, Pasadena. Nestled in the San Gabriel Valley and 15km northeast of Los Angeles, the city reeks of old-money with a whole lot of grand mansions, museums and gardens, many of which are underwritten by prominent local families.

We were shown around the exquisite Langham Hotel — and were hosted with a brilliant, cake-fuelled high tea before we ventured for manicures and a pedicure at Olive and Jones. If that wasn’t enough to do, we had our own mixologist mix up the best drinks, parred with amazing food at Bar 1886 at The Raymond. By then we were ready to jump onto that plane and recuperate before getting back into work mode.

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