Mars One Monday - August 31

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’s technical and financial prospects remain controversial. Yet the candidates themselves are the most visible example of a global trend - the public’s increasing participation in space exploration. 

The August data release from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRise camera includes this image US Geological Survey scientists use to monitor sand dunes on the red planet. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Mars One Candidates in the News

Nuclear engineer, aerospace engineer, and naval officer Oscar Mathews wrote about the Mars One feasibility debate from an engineering perspective. My over-simplified TL;DR: 

  • The folks at MIT did not follow formal Nasa procedures for modeling and simulations

  • They haven’t published their source code to allow independent review
  • Their position, originally hoping their study was the first step in an evolving design process, has ossified into a dismissive stand that “Mars One is not feasible” 

South African quantum biologist Adriana Marais spoke to students at Langa High School who raised an interesting question: 

[Commentary: This is a fascinating question. Science fiction has a long tradition of exploring this idea. Frank Herbert wove Arabic into the desert cultures of Dune. Firefly hinted at the allied US-Chinese settlement of space by lacing Chinese words and phrases into the dialog. English may be the lingua franca of space settlement, but language evolves. -CC]

In case you missed it: Leila Zucker, Sonia Van Meter, and Oscar Mathews discuss their participation in Mars One at the International Mars Society Convention.

Other candidates in the news:

  • Sue Ann Pien discussed how Mars One has changed her life (The Daily Mail)
  • Josh Richards at National Science Week (Twitter)
  • Dianne McGrath addressed students at Braemar College (Twitter)
  • Divashen Govender supported the Astronomical Society of South Africa at a hobby show (Twitter)

Artists Inspired by Mars One

Fashion house Björn Borg unveiled its new line of sportsware inspired by Mars One. “Björn Borg has created a collection that pays homage the past, and offers a perfect fit for the ultimate challenge: training for Mars.” Does this mean the Mars One finalists will be wearing these as they train?

The West Australian called The Mars Project “among the most ambitious and impressive new works to arrive on the Perth stage this year.” Director Will O’Mahoney and students at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts created the original production over the course of two years. The play follows a young girl who pursues a spot on the Mars One while dealing with her autistic brother. “Maybe Wren – and the other Mars One volunteers – are after what a lot of us are looking for: significance, meaning, the desire to be taken seriously,” O’Mahoney said in the WAAPA’s press release.

Mars One in the News

Nine Canadian astronauts have split opinions about Mars One and its candidates. While Julie Payette told Macleans the organization “is a fraud” and Roberta Bondar called the project “unethical”, Jeremy Hanson and Robert Thirsk sympathized with the candidates’ desire to go.

News from Mars

Visual and radar data from Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter combine in this perspective view of Badger Crater Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/American Geophysical Union

A 40-meter thick layer of water ice larger than California and Texas lies beneath the Arcadia Plantia region of Mars. Researchers at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory published their discovery last week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters (Paywalled article DOI: 10.1002/2015GL064884). The scientists used imaging and radar data from Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to study terraced craters. Lead author Ali Bramson, and LPL graduate student, explained how layers beneath the surface produce these “crazy-looking” craters. ”If you have a weaker material in one layer, the shock wave can push out that material more easily, and the result is terracing at the interface between the weaker and stronger materials." The scientists’ analysis indicates that a 40-meter thick layer of nearly pure water ice stretches across Arcadia Planitia - a volume of nearly 100,000 square kilometers

Buzz Aldrin and the Florida Institute of Technology joined forces last week to launch the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute. The academic center will conduct research in support of Aldrin’s space exploration vision. (Florida Today provides more insight into the Institute and Aldrin’s role than the Florida Tech press release.) Aldrin’s Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars splits the difference between Nasa’s traditional approach to Mars exploration and Mars One’s one-way model by having the astronauts stay on Mars for multi-year tours. Australian astronomer Alan Duffy told News.com that making it happen is a question of “whether we have the will to put the resources into it.” He called Aldrin’s proposal “much more detailed and much more realistic” than the Mars One proposal.

Hi-Seas began its year-long simulation of a mission to Mars. The University of Hawai’i conducts the Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation experiments to study small group dynamics and the psychological aspects of long-duration space missions. Six volunteers have sealed themselves in a habitat perched on the summit of a dormant volcano. They can only consume the food and water brought with them. Even fresh air isn’t an option. They must don sealed spacesuits any time they go outside. A variety of sensors will monitor the crew for signs of tension and stress.

Other news from Mars: