Mars One Monday - February 23

Artist's concept of humanity's future home on Mars. Source: Mars One

Artist's concept of humanity's future home on Mars. Source: Mars One

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

In the wake of last week's selection of the Mars100, the candidates for Mars One's next selection round, media reports show that the organization's own partners have doubts about the plans to settle Mars on the cheap. 

Space News led with a report that Mars One had suspended its 2018 robotic lander mission. Spokespeople at Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Systems told Space News that they had completed their concept studies and that Mars One has not issued more contracts. Mars One shifted focus to life support issues identified by an MIT study, CEO Bas Lansdorp told Space News. NewScientist confirmed the report with its sources, but Surrey Satellite System’s spokesperson said gaps between contracts are normal. 

NewScientist also reported that Mars One had scrapped its deal with Endemol (and its documentary subsidiary Darlow Smithson Productions) in favor of a startup producer, citing Lansdorp as the source. The Daily Mail reported today that Mars One and Endemol have cancelled their partnership. Lansdorp told MailOnline:

We have ended our cooperation with Endemol because we could not reach agreement on the details of the contract.

Instead, Mars One will engage a startup production company to create the documentary series. The Daily Mail also spoke with science broadcaster Dr. Christopher Riley who cast doubt on the documentary's ability to raise more than a few million dollars much less the billions that Mars One claims it needs.

Meanwhile Mars One's own ambassador, Dutch Nobel laureate Gerard t'Hooft, says its plans will cost at least ten times as much as Mars One claims. He also believes that, even with the higher budget, the first humans won't land on Mars for another century.

Commentary on Mars One

A recent image from Mars. Nasa's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity took this picture last week. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech

The media commentary following Mars One’s announcement was overwhelmingly critical. Global media from Quartz to the Huffington Post rehashed the many technological and financial reasons why Mars One will never succeed. Local editorials from Oklahoma to Wales also called the one-way trip into question.

USA Today sampled comments about Mars One from its readers. If the handful of quotes reflects USA Today’s readership, then attitudes towards Mars One are generally optimistic - only one accused the project of committing “fraud”.

The Telegraph ran a fictional message from Maggie Lieu as imagined by Nick Curtis. “How will life on Earth compare to life for the Mars One pioneers”. Imagines a multinational/multicutural settlement that has helped solve many of the challenges facing a resource-constrained home planet.

Public relations consultant Mark Borkowski says Mars One is a “glorious fabrication” in an post to The Drum. He believes that modern journalism’s need for traffic over truth makes the Mars One story too good for the media to check. Borkowski cites research he did for a client that found a PR event on the Moon would cost hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars.

Boston’s public TV station WGBH interviewed medical ethicist Art Caplan. Even though the trip is medically infeasible, Caplan said, there’s nothing unethical about the Mars One candidates choosing a dangerous path.

The Guardian posted a poorly researched Mars100 top 10 candidates list. It based its ranking on the “supporter points” found on Mars One’s community site. These aren’t measures of the candidates’ performance in the selection interview. Supporter points measure how much merchandise people have bought on the Mars One site.

Mars One Candidates in the News

A cloudy day on Mars. Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had its view blocked by clouds in the Martian atmosphere. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona 

The Mars100 selection spawned a flurry of media reports that simply reworded the press release and quoted the candidates’ original application videos. But a few reports did add some extra value and insight into the candidates’ motivations.

Briton Hannah Earnshaw believes that truly exploring space requires a human presence. Earnshaw is pursuing a PhD in astrophysics so she has some basis for that conclusion. In The Conversation she describes her vision of the future and why that led her to join Mars One:

I have very high hopes for what we can achieve by colonising Mars. The mission is a difficult one, but I believe the plan is feasible and Mars One is capable of pulling it off.
Even if Mars One is not successful in raising the funds for its mission, we can still achieve the goals of getting the public interested in space flight and in inspiring a new generation of scientists and engineers. If the mission is successful, however, it will be the most important event in the history of our species.
There are millions of things that have to happen for this to be a success, and there are plenty of things that can and will go wrong along the way. But Mars is humanity’s inevitable destination.

American public TV’s PBS NewsHour spoke with physicist Michael McDonnell and social activist Kenya Armbrister about the sacrifices they are willing to make and their goals for Mars exploration. Armbrister also spoke with the Huffington Post about the real dangers - from radiation to low gravity - that Mars settlers will face.

PRI’s The World spoke with Britain’s Maggie Lieu. The astrophysics graduate student believes she has the science and technical skills to handle her martian future, but that the physical training will be the most challenging part of Mars One’s training program.

The Star spoke with four Canadian candidates: high school teacher and former journalist Karen Cumming, outdoors enthusiast and scout leader Susan Higashio Weinreich, quantum computing post-doc Ben Criger, teacher Joanna Hindle. The interviews focus on the usual questions regarding family and friends’ reactions.

The Times of India interviewed Shradha Prasad. She is the only Indian candidate who lives in India. The mechanical engineering student talks about her motivations and her experience with the selection process.

Two candidates, Agronomist Li Dapeng and amateur astronomer Lin Xiaoxia, are from China. Global post carried a Xinhua wire story about the Chinese candidates as well as American and British candidates of Chinese descent. China Radio International reported that Li Dapeng will drop out if his family objects.

Two of the Mars100 are members of the US armed services, reported the Military Times. Carmen Paul is a technical sergeant in the California Air National Guard who hopes to apply her leadership, discipline, and IT skills. Paul told UT San Diego that she balances optimism and scepticism when considering her future with Mars One. Oscar Mathews, a US Air Force Academy graduate, is a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy Reserve. He designed his career - with experience in aerospace and nuclear engineering - with the goal of entering Nasa’s Astronaut Candidate program.

Radio Praha spoke with Lucie Ferstova, the only Czech candidate in the Mars100. She describes her expectations and preparations for the next selection round which will see her joining other candidates for a two week simulated Mars mission.