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California Questionnaire: Vera Mulyani

The entrepreneur has sunk her roots in the Golden State as she works toward making life on Mars possible

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Vera Mulyani is an award-winning architect and filmmaker as well as founder and CEO of Mars City Design, an international collaboration that is designing and developing sustainable facilities and cities for life on Mars. The Indonesia-born, France-raised entrepreneur has been called a “Marschitect.”

Although her work has an extraterrestrial component, Mulyani believes the geography of California is crucial to mankind’s future and will be constructing habitat prototypes in the Mojave Desert through 3D printing. “It is not enough to just travel to Mars and survive, now we must develop a way in which we can sustainably live and love on Mars,” she says. “It is essential that we call on a new generation of thinkers and innovators to make this a reality.”

We asked Mulyani to share some of her favorite aspects of this planet—specifically in California—and she gladly obliged.

Where do you live? I live in Marina Del Rey, which is south of Santa Monica and Venice Beach.

Why there? The area is known as “Silicon Beach” because there are lots of innovative start-ups, which have established a new, flourishing tech hub outside of Silicon Valley. It attracts quite a unique and diverse crowd who are very arty and creative. I love being part of that energy. I also love being close to the ocean and enjoying the sun.

Who or what is your greatest California love? California is a geyser of innovation and futuristic technology is one of the things that I love most about it. Elon Musk is one of my inspirations—he is living innovation! I also love the diverse colors of California, what I call the “art of life,” everything from the yellow deserts, blue ocean, red sunsets, and green Topanga in the mountains.

What’s your favorite Golden State splurge? My splurge would be flying a private jet. I have already completed over 20 hours of pilot flying time and simulation training. I dream of taking to the skies, eventually to space, and truly seeing California from Earth’s orbit.

Time for a road trip. Where are you going? I would start off in Malibu for breakfast by the water at Malibu Pier, then travel up the Pacific Coast Highway, driving a Tesla Model S, taking in the amazing ocean views. I’d continue to Santa Barbara, stopping off at small organic vineyards on the way for wine tasting. I’d continue to drive to Los Olivos for lunch and visit local Californian gift shops. At Los Olivos, I’d stroll around town, admire the bougainvillea blossoms, and the smell of wild hibiscus. Then I’d head East, to the Mojave Desert, to arrive in time for sunset. I’d admire the early evening colors on the horizon, which light up the desert with a rainbow hue. I’d find the perfect spot to have a picnic in the dark, look up the night sky and see Mars—along with millions of stars. I’d look out for tiny satellites and comets crossing the Milky Way. If I’m really lucky, I’d be doing this to the sound of coyotes, owls, and crickets in the background.

If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? Kale-fornia! California’s Salinas Valley is known as the “salad bowl of the world,” because most of our vegetables are grown there. But kale is my favorite—it’s full of fiber, is very versatile, and has a unique taste. In California, you can get kale smoothies, kale chips, kale martinis, even kale nail polish!

Best California song? I could say “Life on Mars” by David Bowie but that became Californian only recently when SpaceX played the song for the Falcon 9 launch of Starman on Elon Musk's Roadster! To be honest, my California soundtrack is the sound of the Malibu waves drumming on the shore.

How would your California dream day unfold? My dream day would go something like this: I’d get up and make French coffee, then sit and do my one-hour “NamMyohoRengeKyo” chanting meditation session. Then I’d make breakfast, a fusion of Indonesian/French/Californian flavors, and take it to the beach. After breakfast, I’d swim for a few miles, and if this was a pure fantasy day I’d hitch a ride with the dolphins to Catalina Island, which lies southwest of Los Angeles. The island is known for its wonderful wildlife and diving. I’d get an adrenaline rush by riding the Zip Line Eco Tour, zooming at 45 miles per hour at 300 feet above the canyon floor for almost a mile! Then I’d go on a hike to spot wildlife like bison, bald eagles, and island foxes. I’d end the day with a piña colada on an outside terrace with a lovely view of the ocean.

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