the team

proudly human


Initially, an off-world community would rely heavily on the knowledge and resources of teams on Earth. The Off-World Tech Hub and ARC will constitute a diverse and wide range of collaborators, from production partners, to advisors, to sponsors of technology and funding. Our team has the expertise, network and passion to make this collaborative project a success. The team leaders, who will also go to Antarctica, are Dr Adriana Marais (research), Akshay Nayak (engineering) and Julie Graham (communications). 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. Our team has the skills and expertise in research, engineering, management and communication along with access to a network of individuals and organisations around the world taking part in the leaps of imagination, science and technology required for the realisation of future off-world human settlement as well as sustainability on Earth. The Off-World Tech Hub and the ARC are initiatives of Proudly Human.


dr. adriana marais

team leader

Dr. Adriana Marais, award-winning theoretical physicist, Mars One astronaut candidate and founder of Proudly Human, will head the “Off-World” simulation experiment, bringing her research expertise to the project and guiding the crew through the nine-month journey.
Dr. Marais is an internationally renowned speaker on exploration-driven innovation, director at the Foundation for Space Development, faculty at Singularity University & Duke Corporate Education and a member of the South African government advisory task team on the 4th Industrial Revolution.

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.