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Womad's Planet Talks to discuss life on Mars


The crew commander of a Mars simulation mission and a leader of the international “right to repair” movement will be among key speakers at WOMADelaide’s Planet Talks in 2017.

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The full program for Planet Talks – conversations focussed around issues related to the environment and sustainability – was released today.

One of the most intriguing sessions, Human Life on Mars, will be hosted by ABC broadcaster Robyn Williams and tackle the question: Is colonising Mars the next giant leap for humanity or is it a waste of time and money?

It will feature American “astronaut” Carmel Johnston, who recently served as commander of Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (Hi-SEAS 4), living with five other people in isolation for a year to simulate a Mars mission. The teamed stayed in a solar-powered dome on top of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa for the mission, which studied crew member cohesion and performance.

Johnston will be joined at the Planet Talks session by Australian Josh Richards, one of 100 candidates shortlisted for a one-way trip to Mars in 2027 on the Mars One mission.

Kyle Wiens, co-founder iFixit, a website which offers a “free repair guide for everything, written by everyone”, will take part in a panel discussing whether tech companies are taking away people’s right to repair products and if the current throw-away economy can be turned around.

Another session – What’s God Got to Do with It? – will be hosted by now-retired larrikin priest Father Bob Maguire (co-host of Sunday Night Safran on Triple J) and feature a rabbi, an Australian Muslim leader and a scientist with Catholic Earthcare Australia discussing religion and climate change.

WOMADelaide director Ian Scobie said the Planet Talks forum symbolised the inclusiveness and breadth of the festival, and would focus on some of the “seminal issues facing humanity today and into the future”.

Also announced as part of the program is a conversation between ABC radio’s Richard Fidler and former music producer and archeologist Sir Tim Smit, founder of UK eco-tourism destination The Eden Project in Cornwall, and discussions about preserving indigenous knowledge and language.

Mr iFixit Kyle Wiens.

Mr iFixit Kyle Wiens.

The 2017 WOMADelaide Festival will take place in Botanic Park from March 10-13, with the artists announced so far including English ska legends The Specials, experimental music group The Philip Glass Ensemble, Brazilian bossa nova singer Bebel Gilberto, Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica and his 11-piece Balkans band the No Smoking Orchestra, New Orleans street band The Hot 8 Brass Band, Australian folk trio The Waifs and Indigenous singer Archie Roach.

The full music line-up will be announced in the new year.

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