Mars One Monthly - April

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. 

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Mars One Candidates in the News

Oscar Mathews has joined Nasa’s Human Exploration Research Analog mission (Hera) at the Johnson Space Center. The facility lets Nasa scientists observe human behavior during simulated deep space missions.

Josh Richards was busy. March was Australia month for his Cosmic Nomad comedy tour including an appearance at the World Science Festival in Brisbane (and talking storytelling at Embiggen Books). The Plus Ones' review said “Josh’s style is casual larrikin with hints of nerd” that will “reinvigorate your thirst for adventure and catalyse your interest in science and technology.” Media appearances included Tasmania Talks

Ryan MacDonald spoke to the EFR Businessweek conference about the Mars One concept, joined the Unseen Podcast’s discussion of returning to the Moon. This past weekend MacDonald joined the Edinburgh International Science Festival for the Big Bang Bash and a panel discussion about terraforming Mars.

Adrianna Marais has been chosen to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, an annual meeting that brings young physicists together with elite scientists. (More background at the Lindau site) Marais also appeared on the ExpressoShow and was interviewed by South Africa’s business magazine Leadership. In her spare time she ran a 56 kilometer ultramarathon.

The Society of Professional Journalists named Central Florida Future, a weekly student magazine at the University of Central Florida, the “Best All-Round Non-Daily Student Newspaper” in the southeastern US. A cover story featuring UCF’s Mars One candidates George Hatcher and Taranjeet Singh Bhatia was a finalist for feature writing.

Other news from Mars One candidates:

Artists Inspired by Mars One

Not exactly art but… the Most Interesting Man in the world will become the Most Interesting Man on Mars. Ad Age broke the news that beer company Dos Equis will replace Jonathan Goldsmith, the now 77-year old actor who has been the center of its advertising campaign for the past decade. In his last appearance he will board a rocket on a one-way journey to Mars. The Ad Age report focused on the industry side of the story. CNET’s Technically Incorrect had a more snarky take, although it was aimed at the ad industry rather than Mars One. In an interview with Fortune, Goldsmith explained that he will use his fame to support charities like the Global Teaching Project.

Florida-based space garage punk band UFO Sex Scene released its new album “Mars One Dad”. The Odyssey’s Casey Jeanite attended the release concert and said the trio “fully rewarded those who succumbed to their extraterrestrial sounds.

The Simpsons aired its Mars One inspired episode “The Marge-ian Chronicles” last month. Spacedotcom wrote a perfunctory summary, but AV Club wrote a full review. The article criticized the lack of daring and humor as well as the “lazy gender stereotyping”. Even though the episode portrays Exploration Inc as a marketing vehicle devoid of the technical expertise needed to get to Mars, Bas Lansdorp spun the story as a justification for a one-way program of Mars settlement.

Theatrical company Dara premiered “Mars Joan” at Barcelona’s Tantarantana Theatre. The comedy follows Joan (John in Catalan) as he explains to family and friends why he wants to leave Earth forever. Mars One candidates Núria Tapias and Àngel Jané spoke with members of Dara during the show’s development. Àngel tells that Joan Mars captures the conflicting aspects of being a Mars One candidate. Núria told La Vanguardia that the play may help people understand that Mars One candidates “are normal people”. Performances of Mars Joan continue through April.

Mars One in the News

The Washington Post wrote about research at Wageningen University into plant-growth in simulated Martian soil. The article briefly mentions Wieger Wamelink’s writing for the Mars One Exchange, but focuses on the applications his research could have here on Earth. The scientists have turned to crowdfunding to continue their research.

The World Science Festival chose Brisbane as its first venue outside New York to “showcase local scientists and performers from around the Asia Pacific region”. During a presentation at the Queensland Museum the first Australian-born astronaut Andy Thomas said he was unimpressed with a “morally indefensible” project like Mars One.

Mars One: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure hit book sellers. It has only received eleven reviews on Amazon so far, three from “top reviewers” who received advanced copies in exchange for a review. Mars One candidate Etsuko Shimabukuro wrote a thoughtful Amazon review that explains how the book focuses on the human, rather than the technological, aspects of Mars One’s mission. Concordia University posted an excerpt written by Concordia professor Raye Kass. Space journalist Jeff Foust reviewed the book for The Space Review, saying that it “demonstrates that those advising Mars One have given careful thought to some of the key issues associated with such missions.” But only half of Foust’s review addresses the book. The other half critiques Mars One’s lack of technology and funding which makes the careful thinking “of little use”.

Bas Lansdorp spoke at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. The first of two articles at iDigitalTimes reported on the boilerplate presentation Lansdorp has delivered since day one. The second article reports Lansdorp’s comments about the grueling aspects of the astronaut training program. Bloggers from IBM’s developerWorks produced a video recap of Lansdorp’s presentation.

An editorial in El Periodico Extremadura says that, succeed or fail, Mars One is “journalistic and sociological paydirt”. It also says that as the Jules Verne of the new century, Mars One should earn Lansdorp the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Eco Laundry Company decided Mars One was a good riff for their April Fools Day press release. The company announced that it would be the first laundry and dry cleaning company beyond Earth. "Doing the Laundry is stressful enough on the pale blue dot, but it's really going to be stressful on the red planet….”

Russian astronomer Vladimir Sudin dismissed Mars One as “media hype”, the Rambler News Service reports. Sudin, a professor at Moscow State University, said that the technology needed to send humans to Mars exists. Yet he believes that the Moon is “an order of magnitude easier, cheaper, and more accessible”.

News from Mars

This perspective view derived from the European Space Agency's Mars Express Orbiter imagery shows frost in the low-lying Hellas Basin. Credit: Esa/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Some hills are too big to climb - if you’re a six-wheeled rover. The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity’s driving team had to give up on their attempt to climb Knudsen Ridge when the hill became too steep. Their final attempt to travel the 20 meters to the target outcrop only netted about 9 centimeters. Fortunately there’s an easier target a little further down Marathon Valley.

Data from three Nasa orbiters helped scientists create the highest resolution map of Mars’ gravity. The new map will help mission planners design more accurate orbital insertions and landings and will give planetary scientists better ways to piece together the geological evolution of the red planet.

Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter completed its first decade at Mars. It has sent more than 264 terabits of data back to Earth. This includes data from its scientific instruments as well as data relayed from the landers and rovers on the Martian surface.

Nasa will keep the Insight mission alive. A leak in the vacuum chamber of Insight’s seismic instruments forced the space agency to cancel this year’s launch. The next try will be in 2018.

The comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) disrupted the Martian magnetic field and blew away part of the Martian atmosphere when it skimmed by. Instruments on Nasa’s Maven orbiter saw the planet’s weak magnetic field “flap like a curtain in the wind”.

The European Space Agency and Roscosmos successfully launched the ExoMars 2016 mission on its way to the red planet. The Trace Gas Orbiter will search the planet’s atmosphere for methane and other compounds to help patch together Mars’ geological history. Meanwhile the Schiaparelli lander will demonstrate technologies for the ExoMars 2018 mission.

Mars Society founder Bob Zubrin’s company Pioneer Energy adapted Nasa-funded technology to help microbreweries recycle carbon dioxide. That same technology could recycle habitat atmospheres on future Mars missions.

In the realm of science fiction, Deadline reported that SpikeTV placed production of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars on hold after showrunner Peter Noah quit over creative differences. Andy Weir, author of The Martian, joined Mythbuster Adam Savage and planetary scientists Chris McKay for a panel discussion at Silicon Valley ComicCon. Outer Places reported that Weir and McKay believe lunar exploration should be the first step in branching out from Earth.

Other news from Mars: