Mars One Monday - October 19

Mars One Monday rounds up the past week’s reports about Mars and the people who want to go on a one-way journey to the red planet. Mars One’s technical and financial prospects remain controversial. Yet the candidates themselves are the most visible example of a global trend - the public’s increasing participation in space exploration. 

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Mars One in the News

Wieger Wamelink conducted a Q&A session after a screening of The Martian. As an ecologist Wamelink appreciated the role potatoes, pee, and poop played in keeping Mark Watney alive. But Wamelink did call out the movie for ignoring basic aspects of the Martian environment - especially radiation. 

Kampanje spoke with Norwegian television executives about Mars One's plans to televise the settlement of Mars. TV2 development manager Rolf Wenell explained that his network produced an astronaut training reality show in 2001. Even though none of the contestants completed the training, Wenell does not rule out a Mars-based series. The potential interest in a broadcast from Mars would make the series “a sort of mega Big Brother.” Andreas Bakka Hjertø, programming director at TV3, was more sceptical of a reality TV format but believes a documentary focus would be more ethical.

Futura Sciences asked planetary scientist Charles Frankel whether Mars One is credible. (in French)

News from Mars

The water-carved channels of Mangales Valle from Esa's Mars Express orbiter. This false-color topographic image shows blue low-lying regions and red highlands. Credit: Esa/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Catastrophic floods carved the Mangales Valle, explains the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission. 3.5 billion years ago volcanic eruptions melted sub-surface ice. Images from the orbiter show how the raging floods eroded craters and other features.

The cheapest way to Mars may be via the Moon. A doctoral candidate at the MIT Strategic Engineering group evaluated the use of lunar water to reduce the number of launches from Earth for Mars missions. Using lunar resources to produce rocket fuel and breathable oxygen would reduce the mass launched from Earth by 68%.  “The optimization suggests that the moon could play a major role in getting us to Mars repeatedly and sustainably,” Olivier de Weck said in the MIT press release. “People have hinted at that before, but we think this is the first definitive paper that shows mathematically why that’s the right answer.” Takuto Ishimatsu’s paper based on his doctoral dissertation has been accepted by the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets. There is one caveat: the study assumes an existing lunar mining infrastructure and orbiting fuel depot. The number of launches needed to create that infrastructure would dwarf those required for a direct-to-Mars mission.

The Planetary Society reports that Nasa eliminated the budget for the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. This is part of the annual budgeting shell game where Nasa “cancels” aging but high profile missions, forcing Congress to “find” the money. Casey Drier raises the concern that Washington’s political gridlock, the debt ceiling debate, and looming sequestration deadline could leave the long-running rover with nobody to talk to on Earth.

Łukasz Wilczyński wrote about the European Rover Challenge on the Planetary Society blog. Building on Poland’s success at the Mars Society’s University Rover Challenge - and taking advantage of the United States’ ridiculously strict visa process - Rzeszow University of Technology hosted their own contest last month. With an easy to access site, the competition attracted more than 30,000 spectators. Canadian teams took gold and bronze while a hometown Polish team took silver.

Other news from Mars:

Nasa engineers and contractors did a Reddit AMA to promote the Space Launch System as part of the Journey to Mars. (h/t Australian Broadcasting Company)

Check out Arizona State University’s Red Planet Report and Malin Space Science Systems’ MRO Marci Weather Report for insider news from Mars.