Mars One Monday - November 2

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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Artists Inspired by Mars One

Chaos Town is a Danish theatrical production based on a one-way journey to Mars. The play explores what it means to settle Mars, bringing all of the human weaknesses to a place with none of Earth’s laws or societal norms. (That’s based on my reading of the google translation) Production company Cantible 2’s “Human Specific” approach encourages audience participation - but they aren’t revealing what will happen. The play opens this week in Vordingorg before a planned January run in Copenhagen.

NEA Fellow Jennifer Ghivan’s poem inspired by Mars One candidate Alison Rigby appeared on The Awl.

Mars One in the News

Reunion's Plaines des Sables looks kinda like Mars. Except for the roads. And the plants. Credit: Dval20 via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Mars One may place its training facility on the island of Reunion, l’Info reports. Located east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, the island’s Plaines des Sables has similarities to the Martian landscape. The barren volcanic plain was the backdrop for the documentary L'Ascension de la Planète Rouge (Ascent of the Red Planet) which recreated a hypothetical climb of Olympus Mons.

In an interview with Czech business site Ekonom, Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp said he is negotiating with “a senior man at Nasa who is in charge of a Mars mission”. (Google translation from the original Czech) 

Andy Weir told The Daily Beast that “Mars One doesn’t have enough money to colonize Nebraska, let alone Mars…. I don’t understand why anyone takes Mars One seriously.”

Helen Sherman, Britain’s first astronaut, called the one-way concept “morally reprehensible”. Despite her scepticism, she told the Evening Standard that humans will journey to Mars once the many risks have been addressed.

Italian biologist and science fiction writer Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli believes the one-way concept is good in theory but “from the practical point of view there are problems”. (Google translation from the original Italian.)  She goes on to tell Toms Hardware that Lansdorp’s good intentions have turned into something unmanageable due to his technical miscalculations.

Ukrainian business site Delovaya Stolitsa believes the debate over Mars One could impact space entrepreneurs. It cites Golden Spike and Planetary Resources as space startups that could suffer should Mars One fail as critics predict.

News from Mars

Nasa gathered planetary scientists and mission planners at the Johnson Space Center for a workshop about human exploration of Mars. This was an attempt by the space agency to open conversations between the scientific community and the engineers who will develop Nasa’s plans. Space News’ Jeff Foust explained how planning for human missions may influence future robotic missions. Given the space agency’s shoestring budget and misplaced priorities Ars Technica’s Eric Berger questioned the workshop’s usefulness. A Brown University scientist who helped select Apollo landing sites made the case for Deuteronilus Mensae. “Deuteronilus really represents the alpha and the omega,” Jim Head explained. The region’s geology may have easily accessible features that span four billion years of Martian history. It also may have sub-surface glaciers that astronauts could tap for supplies. 

One of these things is not like the other.... maybe because of drag. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Scientists may have explained why Mars is so much smaller than Earth. Current theories about the Solar System’s formation yield a red planet about the size of our own planet. Scientists at the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) ran simulations based on an alternate theory called viscously stirred pebble accretion (VSBA). In this theory aerodynamic drag in the early Solar System (asteroids passing through clouds of dust rather than airplanes passing through air) was weaker beyond Earth’s orbit. This slowed the rate that larger bodies accreted dust and pebbles and ultimately kept Mars small.

The Soil Society of America pointed out some weaknesses in The Martian’s potato farming. Martian regolith lacks the web of microbes that let plants extract nutrients from soil. “In reality, the Mars ‘soil mixture’ he made doesn’t have the complex food web of microbes that we have on Earth,” soil microbiologist Mary Stromberger explains. Planetary scientist Jim Bell will discuss the role of soils in the habitability of Mars at the Synergy in Science conference.

Astro Teller, head of Google Research, and his wife physician Danielle Teller say “It’s completely ridiculous to think that humans could live on Mars”. Beyond the severe environmental conditions, they argue that human nature is completely incompatible with the confined conditions that settlers must endure. The investment would be better spend ensuring “the spaceship we already have” can survive the mounting environmental catastrophe humanity has created.

Other news from Mars: