Mars One Monday - 2014/11/31

This image from the HiRise camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows how winds have carved channels and formed dunes in the equatorial Medusae Fossae region at the border between the northern lowlands and southern highlands. (Click on the image to see it full size or follow the link for the original HiRise image) Source: Nasa/JPL/University of Arizona

Mars One Monday rounds up the past week’s reports on the project to send people on a one-way journey to Mars.

Pros on Mars

Nasa tapped Jim Wetzin to be the space agency's chief Mars explorer. Wetzin founded the Planetary Exploration Program at the Goddard Space Flight Center where he directed development of Maven as well as instruments on Curiosity. In his new role he will oversee Nasa's current fleet of orbiters and rovers, guide the upcoming Insight and Mars 2020 missions through development, and continue cooperation with other space agencies as with Esa's ExoMars mission.

Malin Space Systems issued its latest Martian weather report for November 10-16. Images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that the previous weeks' dust storms have settled with clear skies over Opportunity and Curiosity rover sites. Curiosity reports temperatures in the upper 60's and lower 70's... below zero... Celsius.

Carbon dioxide frost on the cratered floor of the Hellas Basin, itself a gigantic impact basin over 2,300 kilometers across. (Click on the image to see it full size or follow the link for Esa's detailed explanation.) Source: Esa/DLR/FU University

In mission news, Nasa worked through early glitches in the Maven mission - nothing unusual, just the normal growing pains for a young space explorer. Clearing skies let Esa release new images from Mars Express showing frost on the floor of Hellas Basin, a 2,300 kilometer wide and 7 kilometer deep impact crater.

In media coverage of Mars, The Weather Channel interviewed University of Western Ontario researchers using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRise camera to study surface features including impact craters in Valles Marineris. University Today ran articles about Comet Siding Spring's effect on Mars and the odometer on Opportunity passing 41 kilometers.

The latest panorama from Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity taken on Sol 3856. (Click to make bigger or follow the link for original data) Source: Nasa/JPL-Caltech, Image Processing: Chris Casper

News From Mars One

There were no formal announcements last week, but Mars One candidates around the world are preparing for their interviews. I wrote this quick recap of national participation in Round 2 based on data released by Mars One.

Preliminary sketches of the Mars One settlement. Source: Mars One

Preliminary sketches of the Mars One settlement. Source: Mars One

Danish designer Kristian von Bengston, formerly of the non-profit rocket maker Copenhagen Suborbital, is now Mars One’s Outpost and Capsule Project Manager. von Bengston answered questions on the Mars One Mars Exchange blog, discussing several aspects of the human factors, technical, and aesthetic considerations that go into building a settlement on Mars.

British news magazine The Week interviewed Bas Lansdorp. He explains that their approach has “plenty of opportunities for delays” to iron out technical problems - especially the concerns raised by MIT’s study.

The director of communications at Mars One elaborated on the 7-year training program in a story by South Africa’s SABC News. Mars One will choose 28-40 people from the pool of 633 remaining candidates. SABC also spoke with local candidate Adriana Marais. As it happens, she just completed her PhD thesis in quantum biology so she can focus full time on preparing for the interview. 

Commentary on Mars One

Australia’s Radio National spoke with journalist Elmo Keep whose article in Medium cast doubt on Mars One’s ambitious program. The drum beat of media criticism continues in Hawaii, France, China, and Denmark.

Casper's Commentary: 

The media criticism of Mars One has a cookie-cutter feel to it - recap the architecture, find some negative quotes from the web, add a little snark, rinse and repeat. But what else do they have to cover? Mars One should give the media what they want: something new to talk about with plenty of pretty pictures and video.

So why not do something like launch a campaign to test materials in the stratosphere? Conditions at an altitude of 30 kilometers let space agencies test Mars technology suspended from high altitude balloons. It doesn't even have to be very expensive - the British non-profit MarsBalloon sent over 120 student experiments into the stratosphere this year alone while America's volunteer space company JP Aerospace carried over 1,700 PongSats on a single mission

Images from near space are close enough to give the media what they need. Conducting research in the stratosphere produces science that future missions will need - without a lot of cost. So how about it Mars One? 

Mars One Candidates in the News

Despite the criticism, local media do give “their” candidates the benefit of the doubt. Mars One's recent announcement of the next selection round prompted more reports about local candidates.

RT hosted Anastasia Stepanova’s documentary about her candidacy. Although in Russian, the video includes English subtitles.

News site Florida Weekly interviewed 4 of the 19 Florida candidates: Lennart Lopin, Lisa Lynn Vanderperre-Hirsch, Esmail Ahmed Elbassal, Catherine Anne Psarakis, and Holly Abernethy. The article includes the requisite sceptics for balance, but treats the candidates’ reactions with respect. 

For a different take on the benefits of Mars One, check out the vegan-oriented website Vegactu (in French). It wrote about Lejaille Gabriel, a Mars One candidate who believes his vegan diet is ideally suited for Mars.

For the more traditional, lightweight reports on local candidates:

  • KMSP broadcast a 2-minute story about Minnesotan Jackson Kisling.
  • King5 TV interviewed Washington chemist Taylor Nations.
  • The Herald Extra interviewed Utah hair stylist Kitty Kane.
  • The Star Phoenix briefly mentions Saskatchewan, Canada, candidates Andrew Cooper and Justin Semenoff