Mars One Monday - September 28

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

Mars One Candidates in the News

British astrophysicist Ryan MacDonald spoke with the Nottingham Post about Martian water ahead of Nasa’s big announcement. [The Chrome browser issues a malware alert on this site so I have not included a link.] 

10 year old Sara Wills’ birthday present was a conversation with American political consultant and Mars One candidate Sonia Van Meter, the Plano Star Courier reports. After their initial conversation, Van Meter will hold a video conference with Sara’s fifth grade class.

Mars One in the News

Mars could have its own terroir. Mars One collaborator Wieger Wamelink helped Popular Science answer the question “Could foods taste better on other planets than they do on Earth?”  Wamelink explained how food flavor changes depending on where the plants are grown. But he emphasized that the demands of survival in harsh conditions means the first Martians’ diet will emphasize nutrition over luxury.    

News from Mars

This exaggerated false-color image shows the dark streaks of recurring slope lineae on the walls of Hale Crater. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona 

Scientists found more indirect evidence that liquid water flows briefly on the Martian surface. (Georgia Tech press release, Nasa press release) Five years ago undergraduate student Lujendra Ojha spotted streaks in the walls of Martian craters that only appeared during the summer. Now a PhD candidate, Ojha is lead author of the latest research paper about these recurring slope lineae or RSL's. Scientists have known for decades that water exists on the red planet, mostly locked up in mineral deposits or as subterranean ice. (Last month I reported on the frozen aquifer larger than Germany that lies beneath Arcadia Planitia) Ojha's research adds more indirect evidence that liquid water forms briefly near the surface. Data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows signs of hydrated perchlorate salts within the RSL’s. Much like salt in a salt shaker, perchlorates may absorb water from the Martian atmosphere to form a briny ice. Those ices would have a lower melting point than pure water ice. Spring and summer temperatures rise to a balmy -23 degrees Celsius causing the ice to melt. The muddy surface slumps to form the linear features seen in satellite images. "Spectral evidence for hydrated salts in recurring slope lineae on Mars" appears in the journal Nature Geosciences (free access doi:10.1038/ngeo2546). 

Hinners Point above the floor of Marathon Valley Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ

The Opportunity rover will have a working winter. As the red planet’s tilt reduces the sunlight reaching the surface, the rover’s solar panels cannot produce enough energy for full-scale operations. This winter Opportunity will stay on the south slope of Marathon Valley, leaving it tilted towards the Sun. That will give the rover enough power to conduct its usual explorations.

Other news from Mars: