Mars One Monday - July 6

An artist's concept of a Mars habitat's farm. Credit: Bryan Versteed/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.

News from Mars One

Mars One released its life support system study (press release). Paragon Space Development Corporation conducted the conceptual design to evaluate a Mars One habitat’s Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS). Paragon’s CEO Grant Anderson described his company’s work as “completely independent” and human missions to Mars as “completely attainable.” Paragon’s Chief Engineer Barry Finger said in the press release that despite the significant challenges the goal is achievable with the tools and technologies that exist today.” The press release links directly to the full 52-page report. Mars One candidates Josh Richards, Ryan MacDonald, and Oscar Mathews wrote an executive summary for the Mars One blog.

The press release does not indicate Mars One’s next steps. Paragon did identify several areas where further development work will be needed.

  • Design Uncertainty - Paragon worked with Mars One’s assumptions of mass budget, volume budget, launch frequency and other variables, but none of those are based on existing launch vehicles. Paragon recommended that Mars One lock the details of its concept of operations (“CONOPS”) as early as possible. It also recommended robotic missions to test critical technologies in the Mars environment to reduce the amount of guess-work.
  • Mass and Volume - at seven metric tons, the ECLSS conceptual design is too massive for the assumed lander. The air and water storage tank designs also ended up too large for the assumed lander. 
  • Unattended Operation - the Mars One mission profile requires the life support system to operate for at least two years unattended before the first settlers arrive. The report calls this requirement “higher than any previously developed habitat ECLSS”.
  • Operation, Repair, and Maintenance - The design must consume as little of the Earth-Mars transport system’s mass and volume budget. This increases the complexity and cost. But increased complexity makes the system more difficult to repair with the crew’s limited supply of tools and spare parts. Paragon ranks developing techniques for repairing large leaks as one of the top priorities for Mars One. It also recommends developing additive manufacturing technologies that would let the crew 3D print all ECLSS parts.
  • Mitigating the Martian Environment - The life support system depends on processing resources from the atmosphere and regolith, but abrasive Martian dust and rock-hard frozen water can destroy moving parts. The chemical content of water extracted from the regolith may also require additional purification.
  • Energy Requirements - In situ processing will consume most of the habitat’s solar energy production. But that production will vary considerably over the course of the Martian year - the conceptual ECLSS would run out of power on the shortest day.

CNNNBCThe Daily MailThe Space ReporterSABCmeltyDiscovery (French), and other media outlets summarize and quote from the press release, but nobody has published an expert evaluation of the study.

Mars One in the News

The Mars Society will host a Mars One debate at its annual convention. Bas Lansdorp will defend his project against the engineering analysis of MIT’s Sydney Do and Andrew Owens.

Mars Polar launched a $100,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. Arteum Goncharov, CEO of the alternative one-way journey to Mars, tried to distance Mars Polar from Mars One in an interview with AstroWatch . Mars Polar claims the crowdfunded money will establish the group's Dubai headquarters, support the European Rover Challenge, and develop a Mars mission based on the winner's design. One week into the 46-day campaign, Mars Polar has raised an inauspicious $430. Not surprising considering the track record of Mars-related crowdfunding campaigns:

Artists continue to use Mars One as a source of inspiration. New York’s Musical Theater Factory will present the first act of a new musical in development. Broadway World reports that “ONE WAY is a new musical about a musical about a group of people applying to go on a one-way trip to Mars.” It only runs the night of July 6 to test the production in front of a live audience. British artists Ella and Nicki continued their Decade With Mars project with a near space balloon flight above Midsomer Norton, reported the Somerset Guardian. The two artists recapped their Year of Launching on their blog. British singer-songwriter and electronic artist Gene Serene released her new album “The Polaris Experience” based on the Mars One concept, Clashmusic reports.

Mars One Candidates in the News

Latvian Pauls Irbin is set to begin a long-duration simulation of a Mars mission, TVNet reports (in Latvian). This August he and five others will enter an 80m3 chamber and spend the next seven months isolated from the outside world. Scientists will study the group dynamics and individual psychological effects.

Other candidates in the news:

  • Josh Richards gave a history of technology talk about Sally Ride (@TheLaborastory)
  • Swiss personal trainer Steve Schild (Landbote)
  • George Hatcher spoke with Dr. Lara Honos-Webb on the psychology of going to Mars (Audioboom)

News from Mars

Pictures like this help scientists build the case for ancient river deltas on Mars. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

The University of Arizona’s HiRise team released their latest set of images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. One of the images demonstrates how scientists are using evidence of clinoforms - steep sedimentary slopes - to build the case for the existence of ancient river deltas.

Nasa wants help picking Mars landing sites. An October meeting will let the planetary science community suggest potential landing sites for future human missions to Mars. The space agency will take those suggestions and start collecting images of the proposed sites - an urgent task given its aging fleet of orbiters.

Former Nasa Flight Dynamics Officer Daniel Adamo says Nasa budgets won’t support human missions to the Martian surface. His op-ed in Space News argues in favor of low-latency telepresence from orbit. Remote controlling rovers avoids the “most expensive and hazardous legs” of human travel to the Martian surface and back.

The darker sandstone overlays lighter mudstone in this image from Curiosity's Mast Cam. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity resumed operations and began studying a region where two forms of bedrock meet. Scientists will seek clues to Martian history in the transition from mudstone to sandstone.

Other news from Mars: