Mars One Monday - June 1

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

The Mars One settlement's solar farm. Credit Bryan Versteeg, Mars One

News from Mars One

Mars One launched Inside 360, a series of articles by Mars One executives, advisors, and fellow travelers. CEO Bas Lansdorp explained in the press release that Inside 360 will share “our developments as well as the studies completed by our suppliers. This way, the aerospace community can share their feedback and we can implement suggestions that improve our mission design.” The first article in the series, written by Mars One Chief Medical Officer Norbert Kraft, explains “The Science of Screening Astronauts.” Kraft outlines the criteria at each stage of the selection process as well as the number of candidates that passed. A follow-up article will explain the criteria for the next selection round as the 99 remaining candidates visit the simulation site. Future articles will provide more details about the mission design, budgets, and specific technologies for settling Mars.

Commentary: Inside 360 won’t stop the criticism from space pundits and mainstream media, but it should prevent Mars One’s self-inflicted wounds from festering. Had Kraft’s explanation of the selection process been written after Elmo Keep’s original “All dressed up for Mars and nowhere to go” in late 2014, for example, Joseph Roche’s later withdrawal from the program would have been a non-event. Lansdorp acknowledged in the press release that Mars One bears responsibility for “part of the confusion” regarding its assessment of the technological readiness for Mars missions, another point of contention with the space pundits. Lansdorp also seems to be more forthcoming in recent interviews (read below in Mars One in the News), an indication that Inside 360 is part of a new policy of transparency by the Mars One organization.

Mars One’s alter-ego, Mars Polar, reached out to the press last week. Most of the coverage (here, aqui, and here) simply rehashes content from the group’s website which provides a more detailed list of bullet points about the timeline for reaching the red planet. The AstroWatch article “New project aims to establish a human colony on Mars” includes statements from Mars Polar communications director Roman Juranek who insists his group isn’t a Mars One copycat but instead has a less expensive plan for reaching Mars.

Montreal’s Concordia University is hosting a series of lectures on New Dimensions in Space Exploration this week. Mars One advisor, and former Concordia student, Dr. James Kass will speak about his work designing astronaut training programs. His sister, Concordia professor Dr. Raye Kass, will speak about her experience as principal investigator of the Capsul Mars analogue project. Most of the week’s events are restricted to the participating students, but Dr. James Kass’ lecture is open to the public on Wednesday, June 3.

Steep slopes in this portion of Asimov Crater show signs of recurring slope lineae, seasonal phenomena that form in the summer and then disappear. Mysteriously recurring slope lineae only appear in certain locations. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Mars One in the News

Can Mars One colonise the red planet” is the mainstream media’s most serious treatment of the project in several years. The Guardian’s Andrew Smith followed the typical structure of Mars One coverage: summarize the mission, quote Lansdorp, quote a candidate, review the MIT/Roche critiques, quote industry sceptics. The resulting article, however, came out much less sceptical than most recent press coverage. Landsdorp’s more open assessments of the risks and challenges may have contributed. Although still as optimistic as ever, Lansdorp doesn’t gloss over the challenges as he has in the past. He even reveals his belief that the first 100 candidates may all drop out before the final selection. Mars100 candidates Clare Weedon, Alison Rigby, and Alexandra Doyle talk about their motivations, their experience throughout the selection process, and why they believe settling Mars is so important. In response to Earth-first criticism, Rigby says she can “change mankind by going to Mars.”

The emirati press seems to like Mars One. The National published a piece about the UAE’s new investments in astronomy research. The Persian Gulf nation plans to build the Arab world’s first major observatory in more than five decades. The article closes with Bas Lansdorp congratulating the UAE. The feeling isn’t necessarily mutual, however. The UAE Space Agency’s director-general, Dr. Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, refused to comment on Mars One, telling Arabian Business instead that “Any initiative that raises public awareness about the importance of space is good.”

Business Insider ran a brief Skype interview with Norbert Kraft about the next selection round. He said that the tougher evaluation criteria could eliminate all of the original 100 candidates.

Fast Company’s CoExist pitched Mars One as a way to learn how to survive on Earth “as our environment gets more and more dangerous.” Lansdorp disagreed with CoExist’s apocalyptic scenario but that didn’t get in the way of the story. Mars One’s advisor, and former Nasa chief technologist, Mason Peck explains some of the technological and cultural lessons that we could adapt here on Earth.

Luxemburger Wort interviewed Bas Lansdorp at the ICT Spring technology conference. (A more detailed version appears on Luxemburger Wort’s Portuguese site)  He explained that a plumber who can respond to a situation quickly is a more valuable candidate than an academically-minded physicist since the ten year training program is enough time to get an engineering degree.

Mars One Candidates in the News

Josh Richards was named one of the “75 Best & Brightest People in Western Australia” by PerthNow’s Sunday Times Magazine, citing his varied background as a soldier, miner, comedian, and now Mars100 candidate. (Fortunately, nobody told them he moved to Melbourne.) You can see Josh’s ability to connect with audiences in this clip from Australia’s National Young Leaders Day conference:

ITWorld’s interview (in Russian) with journalist Anastasya Stepanova doesn’t follow the typical formula for Mars one interviews. Most of Stepanova’s comments focus on the science of Mars and the technology of Martian exploration. She is especially excited about the way entrepreneurial efforts can revive Russia’s space industry - and the inspirational role Mars One can play in getting youth to dream bigger dreams. (Note: Google Translate doesn’t handle Russian very well. For example, when Stepanova says that the presence of life on Mars hasn’t been proven, Google translates it as “it is proved that on Mars there are living organisms.")

Other Mars One candidates in the news:

News from Mars

The Menu for Mars Supper Club is a Mars analogue kitchen that will demonstrate the techniques for sustainable eating on the red planet. The project’s organizers, Heidi Neilson and Douglas Paulson, spent a year talking with experts on astronaut nutrition. Among them, geology professor Sian Proctor was the education outreach director for the Hi-Seas Mars analogue mission in 2013. A one-month series of public workshops and tastings will take place at The Boiler in Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn Magazine spoke with Neilson and Paulson about their project. They imagined the limited options astronauts would face from their freeze-dried, shelf-stabilize pantry and wanted to explore the cultural aspect of eating within the context of a Mars mission. At the program’s end, they will send their results Nasa’s human spaceflight experts. The Menu for Mars Supper Club runs now through the 21st of June. Go for the cricket-enhanced macaroni and cheese, stay for the pervasive hydrogen peroxide busting Astronaut Reviver cocktails.

On the heels of research indicating cosmic rays would cause lasting brain damage in mice during deep space missions, new research provides more evidence that it’s tough to be a mousestronaut, The Telegraph reports. The research published in npj Microgravity (open access doi:10.1038/npjmgrav.2015.2) found that the skin of mice living on the International Space Station became 15% thinner after three months. 

The great thing about being a Lockheed Martin engineer? Mood lighting. Based on a platform developed for the successful Pheonix mission, Nasa's Insight mission will explore the interior of Mars. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin

Over the next seven months Lockheed Martin will run Nasa’s Insight lander through a simulation of its journey to Mars. Vibration testing will simulate the extreme forces of launch while a series of thermal vacuum tests will ensure the robot will survive the extreme conditions of deep space and the martian surface. 

Other news from Mars explorers: