Mars One Monday - August 17

Recurring slope lineae appear every spring on the steep walls of Valles Marineris. They may be caused by subsurface water. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's decade of high-resolution observations have given scientists a chance to study small-scale dynamic changes like this. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Mars One Monday rounds up the past week’s reports about the people who want to go on a one-way journey to Mars.

Mars One Candidates in the News

American political consultant Sonia Van Meter spoke with SheKnows about becoming a role model for young girls. "Part of me thinks I'm in a unique position to demonstrate that there is no such thing as a dream that is too big to be chased.” She and her husband John Stanford appeared on The Bill Press Show.

South African quantum biologist Adriana Marais was named a Wonder Woman of Science. The University of Kwazulu-Natal selected the scientist “for her work in Quantum Biology and her efforts to inspire future scientists.” Marais also spoke at TEDxCapetown.

American geology student Corey Reeder spoke with Utah’s Herald Journal about his candidacy. Unfortunately he repeated the misinformation promulgated by Mars One’s leadership about Sydney Do and his fellow researchers at MIT, calling their work an undergraduate “class project”.

American engineer and pilot Laura Smith-Velazquez spoke with about 40 girls at a California summer science education program. Her employer, aerospace giant Rockwell Collins, organized her visit where she explained how her skills as an engineer will play an essential role in settling the red planet.

Several candidates attended last week’s International Mars Society Conference. Van Meter, ER surgeon Dr. Leila Zucker, and aerospace engineer Oscar Mathews took part in a panel discussion about being Mars One candidates. Dwayne Day, writing in the Space Review, gives the candidates a lot of credit, saying Van Meter, Zucker, and Mathews “were quite articulate and passionate” and “in some ways better spokespersons than Lansdorp.” 

Other candidates in the news:

Artists Inspired by Mars One

San Diego City Beat reporter Ryan Bradford wrote about his supporting role in “Scenes From Mars One: Now With 68% Less Gravity! A One-Act Play With Thirteen Intermissions.” The play won the Best Comedy award at San Diego’s Fringe Festival. Read the comment from local film and theater critic Beth Accomondo.

Swedish fashion brand Björn Borg will base its spring clothing line on the Mars One concept. The brand’s head designer James Lee explained in the Mars One press release that at the next Swedish Fashion Week “we are making a tribute to the courage and the faith that these people show by going out to the unknown for the evolution of mankind.”

Mars One in the News

Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp and Paragon Space Development Corporation Chief Engineer Barry Finger debated the feasibility of the Mars One concept with MIT scientists Sydney Do and Andrew Owens. I doubt whether the debate led anyone to change their minds. Sceptics will remain sceptical while Mars One's supporters will continue to back the organization.

What little media coverage of the debate there was falls firmly in the sceptical category: 

Space journalist Dwayne Day, writing for The Space Review, said “if somebody was scoring this debate… then Mars One lost hands down.” Although there is no doubt where Day stands on Mars One, his article provides a thorough summary of the debate. Day also compares Mars One favorably to the Mars Society itself which no longer generates much attention from the press.

Gizmodo was much more blunt: “Mars One is Still Completely Full of Shit.” Comparing Do and Owen’s quantitative critique to Lansdorp’s vague assurances, Gizmodo said that “one side has crunched the numbers, and the other is full of shit, knows it's full of shit, and is playing off our hopes anyway.”

In other news, Mars One advisor Brian Enke described lessons Mars One supporters can take from Andrew Weir’s “The Martian.” This is the first of a two-part article by Enke, a space research analyst at the Southwest Research Institute.

News from Mars

The International Mars Society Convention itself did not generate much media coverage beyond the handful of Mars One pieces. Granted, it ran through the weekend so articles may be in the pipeline, but the poor showing aligns with the questions Dwayne Day raised in his Space Review article. The Mars Society is not what it once was. According to its Form 990 filings with the Internal Revenue Service (available from ProPublica and CitizenAudit) the Mars Society has been running in the red for several years as contributions and membership fees declined from $247,041 in 2008 to $72,134 in 2012. It reversed those trends in its 2013 fiscal year (the most recent available) as it raised $121,804 in contributions and membership fees. Perhaps it is a victim of its own success. Robert Zubrin founded the Mars Society to shift space policy towards leaner Mars missions rather than the expensive Apollo-style return-to-the-Moon plans. Now that a consensus within the space community (but not the public) has coalesced around Mars as a "horizon goal", how does the Mars Society stay relevant?

An artist's concept of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter over the red planet. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech

Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reached its 10th year in space last week. The MRO launched from Earth August 12, 2005. A decade later the spacecraft has sent more than 250 terabits of science data back to Earth. Its HiRise camera continues to take high-resolution images, allowing scientists to study the dynamic changes of the Martian surface.

Other news from Mars: