Mars One... Tuesday - September 8

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. 

Mars One Candidates in the News

Citizen Mars, a five episode series of mini-documentaries, explores five people who want to go to Mars forever. All five episodes are on Engadget's site but the only metrics are on Engadget's YouTube uploads.

The release of Citizen Mars generated most of the candidate news as AOL’s marketing machine shifted into gear. Engadget, the official sponsor of Citizen Mars, said that while doubts remain about Mars One itself, “there’s more than meets the eye” when it comes to the candidates. Engadget fed video interviews - like this one of South Africa’s Adriana Marais - to the media. The Huffington Post interviewed three of the five featured candidates along with Mars One’s Robert Kraft and MIT researcher Sydney Do. Select click-worthy quotes from the interviews were turned into separate HuffPo posts. Candidate Sue Ann Pien began her series of HuffPo essays by explaining how a near death experience changed the course of her life. AOL/Engadget/HuffPo landed Honda’s sponsorship of Citizen Mars that ties into the car company's European marketing campaign has a space theme.

[I’m curious how involved the Mars One organization was in Citizen Mars. Stateless Media, the production company that filmed the documentary series, has worked with Mars One in the past. Citizen Mars is a scaled-down version of the documentary series Bas Lansdorp plans to finance the settlement of Mars. I don’t know how AOL will measure success - there’s no independent box office or ratings metric - or whether Mars One will get to use those numbers. But if Citizen Mars achieves some measure of success it would strengthen Lansdorp’s hand as he negotiates with investors.]

Meanwhile Laurel Kaye spoke about her experience in the selection process. Kaye told Tech Times that her outreach activities showed how she can inspire generations of kids. In the accompanying article Tech Times asked Kaye about Elmo Keep’s claims that Mars One picked the candidates who gave it the most money: Kaye only paid the application fee.

[Maybe it’s just me but Tech Times was a little heavy-handed with the symbolism. As Kaye talks about how going to Mars means not having a family, it cuts to faded childhood pictures on the mantlepiece before cutting to a scene of Kaye walking past an empty playground.]

As Denmark's first astronaut, Andreas Mogensen arrived at the International Space Station last week. Ekstra Bladet spoke with Christian Knudsen about being a Mars One candidate. Knudsen demonstrated how he grows plants in simulated Martian soil.

Other candidates in the news:

Mars One in the News

Mars One’s astronaut training program will cost $50 million. The organization’s CEO Bas Lansdorp was in Lithuania to address the Vilnius Innovation Forum. In an interview with Delfi, Lansdorp explained that the money would cover staff salaries and the construction and operation of the Mars analog station where the training program will take place.

Aldrin's program already has a much better shot of building a colony than Mars One,” Tech Insider’s Kelly Dickerson wrote in an article about the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute. The second astronaut on the Moon has a detailed plan, backed by engineering research, for exploring the red planet. His institute is based at the University of Central Florida and will sponsor research to address the technological challenges of space travel. Dickerson finds Bas Lansdorp’s plans wanting compared to Aldrin’s. But then she concludes that neither of them stand a chance once Elon Musk unveils his Mars plans. Tony Stark can do anything.

News from Mars

Examining the carbon content in Martian rocks from orbit let researchers estimate the Martian surface’s carbon content. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/JHUAPL

The ancient Martian environment may have been colder than scientists thought. Data from Nasa’s Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft let researchers investigate how the Martian atmosphere disappeared by measuring the amount of carbon in the planet's surface. Early in the planet’s history, the atmosphere was thick enough for water to carve valleys and other surface features. Today the atmospheric pressure on Mars would be called a medium vacuum here on Earth. The new data indicates that Mars lost its atmospheric carbon dioxide to space rather than through sequestration into mineral deposits. Rather than rain and lakes, the water of ancient Mars may have existed as snow and glaciers. “You just have to nudge [surface temperatures] above the freezing point to get water to thaw and flow occasionally,” USGS scientist Christopher Edwards said, “and that doesn't require very much atmosphere."

Buzz Aldrin and former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich discussed exploring Mars on CBS’ Face the Nation. Gingrich claimed that the established Nasa infrastructure - and the pork barrel politics it fosters - impedes America’s ability to explore space. Aldrin blamed public apathy and said that American astronauts could reach Mars - if the government quadrupled the space budget.

Planetary scientists met last month to plan the Mars sample return mission led by Caltech geochemistry professor Ken Farley. Caltech interviewed Farley how the scientists proposed eight potential landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover. One of the mission’s goals is to search for signs of ancient Martian life. Sedimentary layers in river deltas could preserve fossils as they have here on Earth. Hydrothermal sites might have teemed with life much like similar sites beneath Earth’s oceans. Planetary scientists will spend the next two years studying the eight sites so they can present Nasa with their final recommendations.

Other news from Mars: