Mars One Monday - September 21

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.

Martian mesas probably formed as wind eroded the surrounding softer material. This is a detail from a larger infrared image captured by Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Mars One Candidates in the News

The promotional campaign for Citizen Mars continued as the five candidates joined Engadget for a Facebook Q&A. Pietro Aliprandi posted an article to the documentary’s Huffington Post blog explaining why the candidates’ love of Earth drives their Martian ambitions. Adriana Marais adapted her TED Talk for Huffington Post

South African quantum biologist Adriana Marais explains her desire to be the “most improbable human I can be” in her talk at TEDxCapeTown. She introduces the audience to the quantum origins of photosynthesis upon which most life directly or indirectly depends, zooms out to explain how life on Earth may have originated elsewhere in the Galaxy, and ties that into the search for life on Mars. In the end, Marais wants to go to Mars where life “will be a precious and fragile resource” because it will change the way we view life here on Earth.

British astrophysicist Ryan MacDonald took time from his New Zealand holiday to speak with The Press. He related a conversation he had with Mars One’s Norbert Kraft about the training program. Compared to the rigors the candidates will be subjected to here on Earth, Kraft told MacDonald that “life on Mars will be a paradise.”

Artists Inspired by Mars One

How to Live on Earth” opened in New York last week to mixed reviews. The New York Times criticized the performance, but said there was a “poignancy to the situation” as the candidates left behind come to terms with how to live on Earth. Theater Mania said the production “just feels small” rather than being “deeply personal and resonant.” Theater Scene, on the other hand, called the play a “refreshing and meaningful gift” and praised the cast for “going beyond the surface of their emotions to uncover new levels of vulnerability”. Theater in the Now joined other reviewers who thought the play “a wonderful concept on paper” but found the double-casting confusing. Time Out New York gave the “mawkish tale” a two-star review for its thinly drawn characters and clanking exposition.

Game studio Fishlabs released Stranded: Mars One for iOS devices. The 2D sideways scroller updates the old school console format to modern mobile gaming. An astronaut has crashed on Mars and you must guide the accidental Martian off the planet. Mac Life called the game “charming and addictive”.

Mars One in the News

No updates from the Mars One organization this week.

News from Mars

A dust devil tracks across the surface of Mars in this image from Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The reality of dust storms on Mars are not as dramatic as in the movies, but have dangers of their own. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Less than two weeks before The Martian hits theaters (woo-hoo!) Nasa continues to compare the fiction to the fact. Last Friday the space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center explained how Martian dust storms really work. The low wind speeds and thin atmosphere on Mars can’t produce the hurricane-like conditions portrayed in the movies. Yet the risk is real. Electrostatic forces make dust particles “stick to the surfaces they contact like Styrofoam packing peanuts.” Solar panels become less efficient, gears and bearings get gummed up, and electrical systems can short circuit.

Mother Nature Network wrote about Mars-analog research in the Canadian Arctic. The bleak environment of Devon Island became an Earthly alternative to the red planet thanks in part to the 14-mile wide Haughton crater, the result of an asteroid impact 39 million years ago. The Mars Society abandoned its Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station, built in 2000, due to the high cost and challenge of operating such in a remote environment. It restored the habitat in advance of a planned simulation of a one-year mission to Mars.

A new antenna design will help future Mars missions, University of California researchers explained in The Conversation. Their proposed array of 256 small antennas would provide a compact, low power way to connect future Mars rovers to Earth directly.

The European Space Agency delayed the ExoMars mission. The mission’s Trace Gas Orbiter will spend at least five years studying the Martian atmosphere. Hitching a ride is the Schiaparelli lander which will separate from the orbiter to test entry, descent, and landing technologies. Engineers must replace faulty pressure sensors in the lander’s propulsion system, forcing a two-month delay to March 2016. ExoMars will arrive at the red planet in October as planned.

An artist's concept of the crewed SpaceX Dragon capsule on the Martian surface. Nasa researchers believe a modified robotic version could recover samples collected by the Mars2020 rover. Credit: SpaceX

Nasa researchers updated their Red Dragon mission concept, Spacedotcom reported. The space agency’s Mars2020 rover mission will collect samples of the Martian surface, but Nasa has yet to figure out how to bring the samples back to Earth. Scientists with Nasa’s Ames Research Center believe SpaceX’s Dragon capsule could reach the surface of Mars with only slight modifications. A recording of the presentation and the original slides are available on the Future in Space Operations Working Group website. 

Nasa’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute is conducting a 13 part webinar series on the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos. They hope the planetary science community’s participation will “identify major outstanding questions and scientific and exploration goals for robotic and human exploration of Phobos and Deimos”. Dan Britt, a geologist with the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory kicked the series off last week with an introduction to Phobos and Deimos. The public has full access to the webinar archives at the SSERVI website.

Other news from Mars: