Mars One Monday - April 6

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

These surface ridges are mineral veins exposed as wind eroded the surrounding rock. They provide more evidence of Mars' watery past. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

News from Mars One

No further announcements from Mars One last week. At some point this month Mars One is supposed to release results of Paragon Space Development's conceptual design work. The company was tasked with creating a baseline architecture - based on existing technologies - for the Mars habitat's life support systems and spacesuits. Some positive news for a change?

News from Mars

The Planetary Society organized the “Humans Orbiting Mars” workshop. Intended to advance a third path for exploring Mars, the invitation-only workshop reviewed a mission that takes astronauts to Martian orbit but does not land them on the surface. Instead the astronauts would control robots on the Martian surface from their orbiting vehicle. The Planetary Society believe this approach could work within Nasa's existing $18 billion budget, but only by ending the International Space Station program in 2024. In his review of the news, Motherboard contributing editor Ben Richmond wrote that “ISS funding might be one of those political hurdles that stands in the way of a Mars mission.

The Living on Mars Convention launched the website for its November 2015 event. Although not a formal part of Mars One, the Netherlands-based convention is run by former applicants. It caps off a year of Mars conferences, following the Humans to Mars Summit in May and the International Mars Society Convention in August.

This image of the craters and dunes within the basin of Kaiser Crater is part of the HiRise April Data Release. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

In news from the red planet, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter abruptly switched to a backup computer. This has happened several times in the spacecraft's time at Mars, but Nasa suspended operations while engineers troubleshoot the event. Meanwhile the MRO’s HiRise team issued its April data release with more than 250 high resolution images of Mars. The Curiosity Rover team reported on mineral veins that formed during a wetter period of Mars’ history.

The latest MRO Marci Weather Report from Malin Space Science Systems reviewed the dust storms forming as the seasons transition. None of the dust storms affected the rover sites. Arizona State University’s Red Planet Report has links to rover status reports as well as images from the ASU-managed Themis camera on Mars Odyssey.

Mars One in the News

The Morning Ireland radio show spoke with Dr. Joseph Roche about his public withdrawal from the project. Roche explained that the selection process “comes up short” and criticizes the Mars One leadership for their “reluctance to embrace the scientific community”. Most of the segment, however, contained an exchange with Mars One Chief Medical Officer Dr. Norbert Kraft. After once again dismissing the MIT researchers - inaccurately - as undergraduates, Kraft explained that Roche was dismissed from the program because he broke a confidentiality agreement. Publicly revealing Mars One’s request for 75% of any interview payments, Kraft argued, shows Roche can’t be trusted to Mars One technology providers’ “secret technologies”. 

Ohio public radio station WVXU interviewed the university students whose experiment Mars One selected to include on its robotic lander mission. Their experiment will carry thale cress seeds to the red planet. Once at the surface the seeds will be exposed to water and - hopefully - begin growing in a pressurized greenhouse.

The Space Review published “The Ides of Mars One”. Space historian Dwayne Day reviewed the failed attempts to create space-themed reality TV shows. The producer of Survivor tried to create one with Netherlands-based MirCorp at the turn of the century. Since then a dozen attempts failed to make it into production. Day acknowledges the potential for drama and cool visuals, but dismisses the reality TV format as a workable way to create astronauts.

Former Nasa astronaut James F. Reilly called Mars One’s plans “half-baked”, Britain’s Sunday Express reports. Speaking at a dinner function, Reilly cited the potential harm to other (presumably Nasa-led) plans for exploring Mars.

America’s Test Kitchen Radio continues it culinary coverage of Mars One (registration required). Last week it spoke with Chris Patil about his reasons for joining the program. This week they talk with the MIT researchers who evaluated the Mars One architecture - and then make scrambled eggs.

Manila Times columnist Ben Kritz looked for “Signs of Hope in an Embarrassing Flop”. He finds merit in the business model even if Mars One’s application was “naive” to set such aggressive goals.

Mars One Candidates in the News

El Pais surveyed the criticism of Mars One, but unlike most such articles actually spoke with Mars One candidates. Spanish candidate Angel Jane defended Mars One’s request as an “economic collaboration.”  Danish candidate Christian Knudsen compared the money he gave Mars One to donations he would make to other causes. A former candidate, the Spanish physicist Jose Vicente Diaz, has growing doubts inspired by recent allegations from Joseph Roche, but he told El Pais that he wants to reapply.

Zach Gallegos spoke with Alibi about going to Mars. While addressing the accusations made by Dr. Roche and Elmo Keep, Gallegos accused Roche of deliberately trying to sabotage Mars One. Gallegos was also featured in a video report by the University of New Mexico’s Daily Lobo

The New York Daily News spoke with Laurel Kaye who believes critics are missing the point. “Whether it succeeds or fails,” Kaye said, “there is so much we stand to learn from doing something like this.” The Gothamist wrote a snark-filled commentary about the Daily News article.

Other candidates in the news:

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