Mars One Monday - May 4

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

A view of the crater "Spirit of St. Louis" which Opportunity explored before heading towards Marathon Valley. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech

News from Mars One

No new releases from Mars One. They originally promised to release the results of their life support system study by the end of March and then before the end of April. It’s now May and there’s no sign of the report. Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp has said that they must redact proprietary information and ensure they comply with US export controls, but how many months do they need? When journalists with The Drum sent a call to its followers on Twitter and Reddit for questions to ask in their interview with Lansdorp, several responses (including some from Mars One candidates) wanted to know the status of the report.

Bas Lansdorp presented the keynote address at the 2015 CIO Summit conference in the Netherlands. CIO Magazine’s Dutch website has video of the keynote as well as an interview (both in Dutch). Journalists have commented on Lansdorp’s stiff speaking style. I’ve always assumed (based on personal experience) that this was just a techgeek’s natural reaction to being on camera. That’s no doubt part of the truth, but these videos show Lansdorp much more at ease and projecting a greater sense of confidence when presenting in his native language. 

Australian banking group ANZ’s Your World rebranding campaign features brief interviews with people who are pushing physical, scientific, and artistic boundaries. The campaign features interviews with Lansdorp as well as with candidate Dianne McGrath.

Stateless Media, producer of the documentary short “If I die on Mars”, will produce a Mars One documentary series for AOL Originals. “Citizen Mars” will follow five members of the Mars100. Producers have been to Cape Town, Cairo, Los Angeles, and India to film the series’ subjects, including California programmer Sue Ann Pien.

News from Mars

Cosmic rays may affect astronauts’ mental capabilities, a Nasa-funded study found. A cosmic ray - the nucleus of a heavy atom created in a supernova - generates secondary particles as it smashed through the brain, creating a cylinder of destruction one centimeter in diameter. The brain can repair damage to individual neurons, but cosmic rays cause so much damage that the effects are permanent. The study concludes that the “unexpected and unique susceptibility of the central nervous system to space radiation exposure” has implications for any plans to send humans beyond Earth’s magnetic field.

The study’s principal investigator, Charles Limoni, is a professor of radiation oncology at the University of California who researches the effect of chemo- and radiation therapy on patients’ long-term cognition. He said in the UCI press release:

Performance decrements, memory deficits, and loss of awareness and focus during spaceflight may affect mission-critical activities, and exposure to these particles may have long-term adverse consequences to cognition throughout life.

The full paper is free to read at Science Advances (DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400256). The (very readable) introduction summarizes why Nasa is concerned about cosmic rays. With a little concentration, the rest of the paper describes the effect simulated cosmic rays had on lab mice and what that could mean for people.

The Guardian interviewed Limoni and linked the study’s results back to Mars One. The Mars Society’s Robert Zubrin downplayed the study in comments to NBC News. He is more concerned with the effects of gravity than radiation. 

Business Insider wrote about the “10 things we are doing right now to reach Mars.” Not all of those things are Nasa projects. Private projects like Bigelow Aerospace’s inflatable space stations, SpaceX’s resuable rocket, and the Mars Society’s analogue research stations are chipping away at the challenges the space agency doesn’t have the resources to work on. Mars One makes the list with a level of scepticism that troubled Nasa programs like the Asteroid Redirect Mission or the Space Launch System avoid.

The Associated Press dsitributed reports about the Mars Society’s analogue research site in Utah. The extended report follows a team of Belgian university students as they test Mars exploration technologies and procedures at the Mars Desert Research StationAmong the media that ran the extended report, the National Post included all of the photos and videos. The AP’s briefer piece reviewed the environmental hazards on Mars. CTV News, the Chicago Tribune, and others outlets ran the shorter piece. An interesting fact from the report: the Mars Society has spent $1,000,000 running its simulation outpost over the past 14 years.

Maven’s science team described the mission and its early results. The TLDW for the hour-long video:

  • A dust cloud surrounds Mars but nobody knows where it comes from
  • Maven observed aurorae in the northern hemisphere
  • Maven has been mapping the bowshock formed by the interaction between Mars and the solar wind
  • Observations being made now will help answer the question of how Mars lost its atmosphere
  • 5 months into the 1 year mission, Maven will ask for an extended mission

This image of the Aram Chaos taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRise camera is part of an on-going campaign to monitor recurring slope lineae. The small landslides may be caused by the presence of sub-surface water. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Other news from the professional Mars explorers:


Mars One in the News

University of North Carolina astronomy professor Steve Danford gives Mars One a 10%-15% chance of getting to Mars on time and on budget in North Carolina’s WFMY ran a story about Mars One. [So you’re saying there’s a chance.]

Scientific American’s editor Lee Billings reviewed Chris Impey’s latest book for the New York Times. A University of Arizona Distinguished Professor, Impey wrote “Beyond: Our Future in Space” to convey the fundamental trends that will inevitably send humanity into space. Billings calls the book “expansive and enlightening” and only mildly criticizes Impey’s  lack of specifics bridging the present state of space exploration to his grand vision of the future. He calls Impey out for his “problematic” portrayal of Mars One given the program’s “half-baked” plans.

Polit, a Russian news site, compared Mars One's selection process to Russia's cosmonaut application project. While potential cosmonauts must have relevant work experience, the article explains, the initial medical screening can be obtained in any clinic.

Astrophysicist and science popularizer Neil deGrasse Tyson is sceptical about Mars One’s ambitions but refused to criticise them in his conversation with the AARP Bulletin, saying “somebody has got to dream it.”

Mars One Candidates in the News

Russian particle physicist Tatiana Medvedeva spoke with France’s Society Magazine. (In French) Medvedeva, who works for CERN at the Large Hadron Collider, believes that the government-sponsored approach to space exploration is obsolete. She counters the criticisms of Mars One by making the case for humanity to become a multi-planet species.

Round2 candidate Barbara Keith is the subject of a short documentary, Surrey Now reports. Mars Barb will be shown at Vancouver's DOXA Documentary Film Festival.

Other candidates in the news