Mars One Monday - April 20

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

Rabe Crater in the southern highlands has a broad, flat floor with shifting sand dunes. Scientists use the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRise camera to monitor landslides along the crater walls. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

News from Mars One

No announcements from Mars One this week, but Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates are positioning themselves to host the project’s “outpost simulation” where the final candidates will train:

The Cyprus-Mail ran an April Fool’s story about Mars One basing their outpost in Cyprus. As it turns out the Cyprus Space Exploration Organization had been facilitating discussions between Mars One and the Cypriot government. The Cyprus Mail’s latest story describes the discussions and the role space may play in the Cypriot economy.

The United Arab Emirates’ Defense Services Marketing Council thinks the deserts east of Dubai could host the outpost, reports The National. The small-but-oil-rich country recently created a space agency, announced ambitious plans to send a robotic spacecraft to Mars, and hopes to build a spaceport for suborbital operations by Virgin Galactic. Landing the Mars One outpost would fit within its strategy to make the UAE a Middle Eastern space hub.

News from Mars

The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity passed the 10-kilometer mark in its journey through Gale Crater. The rover passed through this sandy valley on its way to a higher position on the slopes of Mount Sharp. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech

The media widely misinterpreted work by scientists who calculated the Martian regolith’s potential to support liquid brines. The Nasa press release clearly states “We have not detected brines…” but the world’s press went for more click-worthy headlines:

What the scientists actually did was use weather data from Curiosity’s Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (Rems) to model the regolith’s moisture-absorbing ability. The results of the simulation indicate that it is possible that briny liquids might form under the right conditions - something no spacecraft or rover has detected. Even more telling is the second part of that quote: 

…but calculating the possibility that they might exist in Gale Crater during some nights testifies to the value of the round-the-clock and year-round measurements Rems is providing.

Nasa selected the Centro de Astrobiologia to build a follow-on to Rems for the Mars 2020 rover mission. Given the science funding crisis in Spain, is this a coincidence or just the politics of modern science?

Santa Barbara’s Noozhawk interviewed a participant in the Hi-Seas Mars analogue research station. Jocelyn Dunn, an industrial engineering PhD candidate at Purdue University, spoke about how Hi Seas attempts to recreate aspects of a human mission to Mars as well as the sense of isolation and solace when wearing a spacesuit.

The UAE established the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre to support its planned robotic mission to Mars. (Gulf Business) The UAE government also issued a call to Emirati citizens to help name the probe. (Gulf News)

Get an insider view at Arizona State University’s Red Planet Report which publishes updates from the rover and camera teams. Get the latest Mars weather report from Malin Space Science Systems.

Mars One in the News

Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden testified before the US Congress last week. Bolden’s formal testimony did not reference Mars One, but he did allude to the privately-financed project in response to questions. “No commercial company without the support of NASA and government is going to get to Mars.”

British artists Ella Good and Nicki Kent are creating the Decade with Mars project. Over the next ten years, the arts and education project will follow Mars One’s UK candidates. Throughout the project’s first year the artists are visiting towns across Britain to promote the project, talk about Mars, and launch high-altitude balloons with the communities they visit. The Gazette wrote about their Near Space launch from the South Gloucestershire town of Yate.

CTV spoke with Canadian advisors to Mars One. Raye Kass is a professor at Concordia University where she specializes in group theory - the social dynamics of small groups of people. Her brother James Kass spent the past 30 years working on space medicine and astronaut psychology. In the interview the siblings describe their role in selecting and training the final 24 Mars One candidates.

Mars One Candidates in the News

The Chinese citizens were discouraged from applying to the Mars One program. Although the government never took an official stand, the state media actively criticised Mars One and the people who “fell for” the “hoax”. Now ECNS reports that Chinese Mars100 candidate Li Dapeng has become a nationwide celebrity. Local authorities even invite Li to promote science and space at schools across the country.

The latest member of the Mars100 with an advanced degree is South African quantum biologist Adriana Marais. Dr. Marais explained her thesis research “A Quantum Protective Mechanism in Photosynthesis” in the University of Kwazulu Natal’s press release:

The relatively new field of quantum biology has revealed how this area of study may contribute to the development of the kind of renewable energy technologies essential for continued existence on this planet, and perhaps others, as well as raising fascinating questions about the origins and nature of life itself.

Political consultant Sonia Van Meter’s experience with the media has made her a prominent subject for interviews. She joined David Livingston’s The Space Show for an hour and forty-five minute discussion about Mars One. Check out the Space Show's outline of the discussion for more.

Van Meter also spoke with Dallas Morning News journalist Christy Hope. As with most candidate interviews - and Van Meter’s in particular - Hope focused on Van Meter’s decision to leave her family behind. Van Meter’s skills with the media kept the story from being just another cookie cutter candidate interview. She has honed her responses to criticisms to clearly explain the motivations she shares with the Mars100:

  • On dying on Mars: “I’m not going to Mars to die. None of us are. We’re going there to live. Where our bodies are laid to rest is a footnote.”
  • On leaving Earth behind: “It’s not what we’re walking away from, but what we’re going to.”

Dallas Morning News editorialist Rodger Jones penned a cynical response criticising Van Meter for abandoning her family in search of glory. He also accuses Mars One of deliberately splitting up couples so it could “toss a bunch of fertile, unattached humanoids into an enclosed space” for the sake of TV ratings.

Indian logistics manager Rikita Singh works in Dubai. She spoke with Friday Magazine about her motivations, her experience mountain climbing, and her assessment that 10 years of development will address the many risks. The article concludes with comments from another Mars100 candidate living in Dubai, Polish software developer Mikolaj Zielinski.

Canadian journalist and teacher Karen Cumming spoke with the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies about the role yoga and meditation can play in space exploration.

Ukrainian engineer Sergei Yakimov told Dialog: “Cosmonauts aren’t born. Each astronaut at first was simply a person, like me and the 99 other candidates.” 

If you like what you’ve read, why not send me feedback on the articles you’ve read or suggest amateur projects that deserve promotion? Every little bit helps - thanks!