the team


The first off-world communities living on the Moon, Mars and beyond will rely heavily on the knowledge and resources of teams on Earth. The Off-World Project constitutes a diverse and wide range of collaborators, from technology partners, to advisors, to team members selected for the Off-World communities. The Off-world experiments are not just simulations, but real communities that will showcase the human spirit and resilience required to build self-sustaining settlements in some of the Earth’s harshest and most isolated environments, through collaboration.

The Proudly Human team is made up of people from around the world taking part in the leaps of imagination, science and technology required for the realisation of the off-world settlement of the near future, as well as sustainability on Earth. Through our collective expertise, curiosity and passion, we will contribute to the most profound achievement humanity has ever aspired to: expanding our society beyond Earth, towards future of which we can be proud, in harmony with each other and the environment, whatever planet we are on.

Do you have the skills to contribute? Apply to join our #ProudlyHuman Research and Technology Partner Network. Email


dr. adriana marais


Dr Adriana Marais is a theoretical physicist, international speaker and the Founder of Proudly Human, pioneering new frontiers in research and technology for a resilient future on Earth, Mars and beyond. She is Director at the Foundation for Space Development, a member of the South African 4th Industrial Revolution Ministerial Task Team, Faculty at the Singularity University and Duke Corporate Education, and an astronaut candidate with Mars One. Previously, Adriana was Head of Innovation at SAP Africa. She holds an MSc in quantum cryptography and a PhD in quantum biology. Her postdoctoral research focused on the origins of life. She is pursuing a second PhD in team dynamics in extreme environments at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business.

Akshay nayak

head of engineering

Akshay Nayak is a mechanical engineer with a masters in technology management and is currently Technology and Customer Relations Manager at Securonix. With his expertise in areas from engineering design to cybersecurity, he will drive and oversee the Off-World Tech Hub and its relationship with a range of technology partners, and manage the range of technologies in Antarctica for ARC’s sustainability, from life support to communication.


carla sharpe


Carla Sharpe has an executive MBA from the International Space University in France and is currently working on her PhD in Economics and Space Studies at the University of Cape Town. She is passionate about space and her motivation is to positively impact lives in Africa through space technology. She is a founder of the South African Space Association and the Foundation for Space Development 

and currently serves on the Management team of both, as well as Women in Aerospace Africa. Carla is the African Programme Manager for the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory, that is driving Africa’s largest Science undertaking, the Square Kilometre Array Telescope (

Abigail Alling

Founder & President - Biosphere Foundation

For the past 3 decades, ‘Gaie’ has been actively engaged in marine conservation and environmental projects. She received a Masters of Science degree from Yale University and was the former Director of Marine Ecological Systems for the ‘Biosphere 2’ project and Assistant Director of Research. Find out more about the Biosphere Foundation here.

Mark “Laser” Van Thillo

Chief Operations Officer & Captain of sailing vessel Mir - Biosphere Foundation

During the past two decades ‘Laser’ has managed all logistic and technical aspects of BF’s projects. He was the former co-Captain and Manager of Technical Systems for the ‘Biosphere 2’ project. Find out more about the Biosphere Foundation here.

Sally Silverstone

Chief Financial Officer & Director of Agriculture & Forestry - Biosphere Foundation

Sally has worked in the field of conservation research and education for 36 years. She currently lives in NW Bali where she is also the Coordinator for our Biosphere Stewardship Education Programs. She was the former co-Captain and Manager of Agriculture & Food Systems for the ‘Biosphere 2 project.’ Find out more about the Biosphere Foundation here.

Patrick Woodhead

CEO of White Desert Antarctica

Having been part of the youngest and fastest team to ever reach the South Pole in 2002, Patrick went on to lead the first ever East to West traverse of Antarctica, covering 1850km in a total of 75 days.

Outside of the Polar World, he has been on many successful expeditions, summiting unclimbed mountains in Tibet and Kyrgyzstan, kayaking down uncharted rivers in the Amazon and being part of the team to set the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. In 2015 he broke the record for the fastest traverse of Greenland.

Find out more about White Desert here.

Dr. Bruce Damer

Multidisciplinary scientist in the field of Astrobiology

Dr. Bruce Damer is a multidisciplinary scientist in the field of Astrobiology with an emphasis on the question of the origin of life and where life might arise in the universe. At UC Santa Cruz he holds a post in the Department of Biomolecular Engineering. Since 2011 he has collaborated with Prof. David Deamer to develop and test a revolutionary new hypothesis that life started on Earth four billion years ago in fluctuating hot spring pools. Dr. Damer has spent two decades of work with NASA on mission simulation and design including leading efforts in 2007 to focus the agency on crewed missions to an asteroid. 
In 2014 he collaborated with SETI astronomer Peter Jenniskens and balloon designer Julian Nott to create SHEPHERD, an asteroid mobilization and resource extraction spacecraft utilizing a gas-filled enclosure. In addition, Dr. Damer has served in teams guiding NASA and others on Mars missions including landing site selection for the Mars2020 rover and architectures for Mars sample return. Drawing from the hot spring hypothesis for life’s origins and field work with the rock record of the oldest evidence for life on Earth, Dr. Damer has promoted evidence-based approaches for robotic and human missions to search for evidence for life on Mars, past or present. 
Dr. Damer will advise Proudly Human on both mission architectures for sustainable and safe human exploration of Mars and high value targets for science on the Red Planet.

Dr. Jonathan Starke

Psychiatrist and mindfulness meditation teacher

Dr. Jonathan Starke is a psychiatrist and mindfulness meditation teacher with a master’s degree looking at the effects of stress on health, and a special interest in the clinical applications of mindfulness in mental healthcare, health professional wellness and burnout-prevention.

Before becoming a psychiatrist, he worked in emergency, remote site and expedition medicine. From 2004 – 2006 he was the over-wintering team leader and doctor for the 44th South African National Antarctic Expedition, and later provided medical support to research teams on the SA Agulhas vessel, Marion Island and Gough Island until 2009. He has also worked for MSF in Pakistan, as well as surviving for 30 days on an uninhabited island in the Andaman sea with only what he could fit in a 5-litre dry bag. He has an ongoing interest in supporting teams working in extreme settings.

Gunter Pauli


Gunter Pauli (1956) is an entrepreneur, pedagogue and author. He pioneers innovations and creates new (disruptive) business models. Gunter accompanied over 200 projects over the past quarter of a century, translating ideas with solid science into a vision implemented through entrepreneurship. 

These initiatives have evolved in three unicorns and dozens of demonstrations on how to transform society. Gunter adheres to a philosophy summarized in his book “The Blue Economy” (2010) translated in nearly 50 languages. He proposes to avoid dividing opinions centered around “for or against”. Rather he continuously focuses on finding better solutions, much better indeed! He embraces radical change, shifting from the obsession to ever higher levels of efficiency, globalization and ever lower prices, to resilience and the capacity of a better response to the basic needs of all, by generating value with what is locally available. He dedicates half of his time to inspire children with fables that empowers them to create a SuperWorld their parents could never have imagined. His latest book “The Economy of Happiness” is based on the successful implementation of game changing businesses, and outlines underlying principles that establish the successful pursuit of health and happiness..

Vittoria Zipoli Caiani 


Originally from Italy and global citizen for the last 20 years, Vittoria’ focus is on personal development, inner alignment, mindfulness, leadership, cultural awareness & change. Her mission is to empower people to be catalysts for the change they want to see for themselves and for the world. 

Vittoria is a proud partner of Women On a Mission with 4 expeditions accomplished in remote lands in Nepal, Iran, Ethiopia and Indonesia. Passionate about social leadership, Vittoria is always in the quest for extreme challenges with the aim to support women and communities affected by trauma, violence and neglect around the world through education and empowerment. With a degree cum laude in Logic and Philosophy, Vittoria is always expanding her discoveries in the areas of psychology, neuroscience, self-development and leadership, in order to keep expanding the human potential.


Transformational Leadership Practitioner,Senior FacilitatoR, Coach & Trainer

Yene is a seasoned Transformational Leadership practitioner with over 20 years’ experience as a professional facilitator, coach and trainer with an extensive background in talent development. Specialising in leadership, transformation and change management, Yene has a talent for working with a wide range of individuals.

She is widely recognized for her capacity to hold space for senior management teams to have delicate and necessary conversations and achieve breakthroughs for the overall organizational wellbeing. Her ability to genuinely relate to people creates a safe environment, enabling sustainable transformation and effective learning at all levels of management. She has a natural understanding of the global mindset, including cross-cultural dynamics in leadership development, change management and team building, in an increasingly diverse and ever more VUCA environment.


Yene has delivered well over 5,000 hours of coaching to date. Her most recent work in leadership training, coaching and facilitation has been with organisations such as: UNICEF, UNSSC, EU, UNAIDS, UNDP, DHL, 3M, Castel Breweries, NATO, African Union, GIZ, Société Générale, British Council, CNV (Dutch Trade Union Federation), and a number of civil society organizations in Africa and Asia.


She has a PhD in Transformation and Change in Human Systems, is a Master Certified Coach (MCC), a level achieved by top 3% of coaches worldwide and is accredited to deliver MBTI, NLP, LEA 360, and Personal Motivation Drivers Assessment (PD-IDI). Yene is proficient in Integral Theory/Approach, Spiral Dynamic and Systems Thinking. She is a motivational speaker and a published author with three books and numerous articles. Yene serves on the Global Board of the International Coaching Foundation (ICFF).


Next milestone in Yene dreams is launching her Leadership Foundation course designed for girls 16-21. The program will be online. There are a few gifts embedded in this program. First, is the gift of learning to engage in an intentional life journey. Second is to meet, work with and build sisterhood with girls from all corners of the world. Third is building a life-long community of sisterhood that will support, nurture and bring joy in each of our lives. The dream is to reach a minimum of 5000 girls in the first 3 years and after impact analysis, take it to bringing a 100,000 girls together in ten years.

Dr Geci Karuri-Sebina


Dr Geci Karuri-Sebina is an architect / planner / technologist whose expertise is in human settlement development, socio-technical systems, and the future. She is an Associate with South African Cities Network, a Visiting Research Fellow at the Wits School of Governance, national organiser of the Civic Tech Innovation Network, and a Singularity University global faculty member on the future of cities and governance. She holds a PhD in planning and innovation systems, Masters’ degrees in Architecture and in Urban Planning, and undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Sociology.



Francesco Petruccione was born in 1961 in Genova (Italy). He studied Physics at the University of Freiburg i. Br. and received his PhD in 1988. He was conferred the “Habilitation” degree (Dr. rer. nat. habil.) from the same University in 1994. In 2004 he was appointed Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), in Durban (South Africa). In 2005 he was awarded an Innovation Fund grant to set up a Centre for Quantum Technology. In 2007 he was granted the South African Research Chair for Quantum Information Processing and Communication. At present, he is the interim Director of the National Institute for Theoretical and Computational Science, Pro Vice-Chancellor Big Data and Informatics of UKZN, and Adjunct Professor in the School of Electrical Engineering of the Korean Advanced Institute for Science and Technology (KAIST).

Prof Petruccione is an elected member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa, a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa and a Fellow of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He has published about 250 papers in refereed scientific journals. He is the co-author of a monograph on “The Theory of Open Quantum Systems ” (more than 7000 citations according to Google Scholar), that was published in 2002, reprinted as paperback in 2007, and translated in Russian. Recently, he published a monograph (with Maria Schuld) on “Supervised Learning with Quantum Computers”. He is the editor of several proceedings volumes and of special editions of scientific journals. Prof Petruccione is a member of the Editorial Board of the journals “Open Systems and Information Dynamics”, “Scientific Reports”, and “Quantum Machine Intelligence”.




Ben Saunders is one of the world’s leading polar explorers, and a record-breaking long-distance skier who has covered more than 7,000km (4,350 miles) on foot in the Polar Regions since 2001.

His accomplishments include leading The Scott Expedition, the longest human-powered polar journey in history, and the first completion of the expedition that defeated Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton, a 105-day round-trip from Ross Island on the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back again. Ben is the third person in history to ski solo to the North and South poles, and holds the record for the longest solo Arctic journey by a Briton.

He is a global brand ambassador for Land Rover and Canada Goose, an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust, a patron and fellow of British Exploring, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and an acclaimed keynote speaker, described by TED (where he has spoken three times) as ‘A master storyteller’.

In print, Ben is the author of Shackleton (A Ladybird Expert Book) and he has featured in ReWork by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried, The Rise by Sarah Lewis, and TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson.


Ruvimbo Samanga

POLicy analyst, research fellow

Ruvimbo Samanga is a Policy Analyst at Space in Africa, and a Research Fellow at the Open Lunar Foundation. She holds a Masters In International Trade & Investment Law and has specialised in the African space industry and development. She currently represents Zimbabwe in the Space Generation Advisory Council and the Women in Aerospace Africa Chapter. She is also the founder of AgriSpace, an early stage Agri-tech startup developed in collaboration with the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens. She has also been recognised as one of the top 10 Under 30 in the African space industry. A keen space enthusiast, she is involved in various capacity building and policy developing initiatives in
the global space sector.