MEET Earth's representative on Mars - a school lab assistant who could be blasted into space to become one of the first humans to live on the red planet.

Christine Rigby has been shortlisted to be part of the Mars One project - a radical programme that aims to populate the planet by 2025.

It is the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, with TV rights and sponsorship planned to raise the estimated $6bn required to get it off the ground, sending 24 astronauts to set up a new home for humanity.

Ms Rigby, who works at Sedgehill School in Catford, said she had been encouraged to apply by her boyfriend.

But although she has made it to the final shortlist of 1,000 - from 202,586 worldwide entrants - he has not been successful.

Ms Rigby, who now faces a medical and more interviews to see if she makes the final cut, said: "There are people who are married and it's causing rifts in their marriage.

"In most cases it's the husband who wants to go and the wife isn't happy."

News Shopper: An artist's impression of the Mars One project

The 34-year-old science technician, who lives in Beckenham, said: "I'm a scientist, I love doing science, that's one of the reasons I work in a school. This would give me the opportunity to do cutting edge research.

"Being a technician I get to do a lot of types of science in any given day I could be doing chemistry, physics, biology and geology. This gives me a broad range of skills."

The mission will require seven years of training and a six-month trip to the planet, where one of the main tasks will be to keep the hydrophonic garden going with root vegetables and salad greens to accompany a likely protein-filled dirt of insects likes locusts and crickets.

Ms Rigby admitted to be being slightly nervous at swapping living in the blue borough for the red planet: "I'm a little bit concerned because nobody has ever done this before so I don't know what's going to happen."

The couple took an unusual approach to preparing for the epic trip - by shutting themselves away over Christmas.

News Shopper: Christine Rigby with a class (pic by Sedgehill student Courtney McMahon)

Ms Rigby explained: "We locked ourselves in for two weeks over Christmas, got in all the food we'd need and just locked the door

"We wanted to see how we'd cope with the isolation from the outside world. I

"It's interesting and not quite what you'd expect. I started to get cabin fever.

"But it didn't put me off. It made me more determined to do it."

Meanwhile, Sedgehill pupils have been blissfully unaware of Ms Rigby's forthcoming adventure, as she has kept the plans under wraps - until now.

She said: "I think I've been under the radar until now. I think this might change things."

Headteacher Ken Mackenzie said: "The fact Christine has been selected for this project shows what excellent, highly skilled staff we have in Sedgehill’s science department.

He added: "We believe science can build bright futures for our students here at Sedgehill and Christine is a fantastic example of a bright future for our students."

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