Mars One Monthly - January 2016

Given the slow pace of news from Mars One, I will change my recaps from weekly to a monthly tempo. I debated whether to drop the recaps altogether. Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp and his team have done little over the past year to restore his organization’s credibility. Yet the candidates remain the highlight of the project. They use the fame their candidacy generates to raise awareness of space exploration among the public and inspire youth to study science. Sharing their stories is still worthwhile.

Having said that, the new year will be make-or-break for Lansdorp. He does not need to raise the $6 billion he (dubiously) claims will send the first mission to Mars. Lansdorp must, however, raise enough money to conduct the next selection round and begin the astronaut training program. As I wrote last year, the training program would let Mars One pivot to become an astronaut services company. Its final 24 candidates would form the world’s third largest astronaut program just as Boeing and SpaceX begin commercial human spaceflight.

That would give Mars One the industry credibility it so lacks today and make it the organization the candidates deserve.

Jump to:

  • Mars One Candidates: Mohammed Sallam named Egyptian influencer, Hannah Earnshaw publishes black hole research, and more.
  • Artists Inspired by Mars One: conceptual artist Bryan Versteeg, sculptor Wes Galusha, and the Paris Opera
  • Mars One in the News: 2014 crowdfunding perq ships, media critic's work picked for top science writing
  • News from Mars: Nasa cancels Insight, reports from Mars analog sites, and more.

Mars One Candidates in the News

Cairo Scene named Mohammed Sallam one of Egypt’s 15 Real Influencers of 2015. The article highlights Egyptians - entrepreneurs, activists, and artists - “designing the future of an Egypt that may not recognise its past façade.” Sallam’s candidacy in Mars One earned him a spot on the list. Even though he is “a normal guy”, Sallam inspires Egyptian schoolchildren to follow their dreams.

Hannah Earnshaw’s first peer-reviewed paper used data from four space telescopes and the Very Large Array radio observatory (the one seen in science fiction movie Contact) to study what may be a black hole within the spiral arms of galaxy M51.

Other candidates in the news:

Artists Inspired by Mars One

Credit: Bryan Versteeg/Mars One

Conceptual artist Bryan Versteeg explains how he created his images of the Mars One outpost. In the first of two articles on the Mars One Exchange site, Versteeg describes his approach to creating visions of space architecture as well as the constraints that informed his Mars One work.

Emmy Award-winning cinematographer Mark Dail is making a documentary about Nebraska artist Wes Galusha’s Mars One-inspired sculptures. Galusha created vessels that represented seven of the candidates who provided Galusha with a document “about their feelings on being a Mars candidate/explorer/colonist”. The Peru State College Gallery displayed his work last October.

Forum Opera wrote a more nuanced take on the Paris Opera’s interpretation of Le Damnation de Faust. While many of the production’s sillier details deserve criticism, Forum Opera believes the parallels between Faust search for knowledge and astrophysics’ search for the God particle “seems quite legitimate”.  Even the use of Mars One can be justified in their view although “unintentionally ironic” due to the project’s lack of funds.

Mars One in the News

Contributors to Mars One’s 2014 crowdfunding campaign have started receiving copies of Mars One: Humanity's Next Great Adventure: Inside the First Human Settlement on Mars. Edited by the Mars One’s astronaut selection panel, the book examines the selection process and the criteria used to evaluate the candidates’ suitability for living on Mars.

The Australian cited Elmo Keep’s Mars One reporting as an example of the objectivity needed in science journalism. Higher education reporter John Ross writes: “Too often — and I include myself in this criticism — science writers gild the lily, passing off incremental and often questionable advances as breakthroughs. Keep does the opposite, reminding us to keep our expectations in check.” Keep’s article “All dressed up for Mars and nowhere to go” was included in the annual collection of top Australian science writing.

News from Mars

Nasa suspended the Insight mission. One of the primary instruments, a French-built seismograph, could not maintain the vacuum it needs to operate. While repair attempts “were very close to succeeding,” CNES Toulouse Space Centre Director Marc Pircher explained, “it won’t be solved in time for a launch in 2016.” At some point this year Nasa will decide whether or not it will cancel the mission.

“Mapping Buried Impact Craters in the Chryse Basin to Understand the Distribution of Outflow Channel Sediment” is the only Mars-related paper being presented at this week’s American Astronomical Society Winter Meeting

City Lab spoke with photographer Cassandra Klos who documented her stay at the Mars Desert Research Station. Her stay is part of a larger project that follows the people who join analog missions. 

Sheyna Gifford is the crew physician on Hi-Seas, the year-long simulation of a Mars mission. Her post on Nautilus describes how crew dynamics let them avoid the stresses common to previous long duration analog projects.

The Mars Orbiter Mission has not detected methane, NDTV reports. The former director of the Indian space agency explained that the spacecraft still has 37 kilograms of fuel which should let the mission run for some time.

Other news from Mars: