Mars One Monthly - May

You can never find a garage when you need one. The Martian terrain continues to damage wheels on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity. Fortunately the wheels should last long enough for the rover's ascent of Aeolis Mons. Credit: Nasa-JPL/Caltech

You can never find a garage when you need one. The Martian terrain continues to damage wheels on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity. Fortunately the wheels should last long enough for the rover's ascent of Aeolis Mons. Credit: Nasa-JPL/Caltech

Mars One Monthly rounds up the past month’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: The Mars 100 appeared in media interviews, conducted outreach presentations, trained to be astronauts, and joined a Nasa analog mission.
  • Artists Inspired by Mars One: Plays, novels, and operas use the one-way journey to Mars as a springboard to creativity. Plus the Decade With Mars project tours analog research facilities.
  • Mars One in the News: Mars One executives and advisors in the media, Mars One's $1,000-a-head VIP event, and critiques from the space industry.
  • News from Mars: Rovers and orbiters keep doing science, Nasa's funding for human space exploration in jeopardy, Bernie's thoughts on Nasa, and... what else? ...I know there was something else... Oh wait! That's right, Elon Musk will land a Dragon on Mars.

Mars One Candidates in the News

Aerospace engineering doctoral candidate Lt. Cmdr. Oscar Mathews has embarked on Nasa's tenth Hera mission. The Human Exploration Research Analog program uses mockups of space habitats to test equipment and procedures that could be part of future deep space mission. Hera X simulates a mission to 1620 Geographos, a Mars-crossing asteroid. As Andy Self, Flight Analog Project operations lead, explained in a feature on the Johnson Space Center website, "When we set up an analog research investigation, we try to mimic as many of the spaceflight conditions as we can. We mimic confinement and the stress that goes along with it." That also means no Internet access. The mission's twitter feed provides updates, but no conversations while the analog astronauts cruise through the deep.

After news broke about Elon Musk’s plans to land a Dragon on Mars, Il Matino wondered if Italian doctor Pietro Aliprandi might actually get to the red planet after all.

Astrophysics doctoral student Hannah Earnshaw garnered a lot of press coverage in advance of her address to the Rotary Club of Barnard Castle. Area newspapers The Northern Echo and The Teesdale Mercury carried the announcement while Radio Teesdale interviewed Earnshaw before the event.

When Channel 24 covered World Space Day, it wondered whether Sergei Yakimov would extend the Ukrainian diaspora to Mars.

Australian sustainability consultant Dianne McGrath had audio appearances with the Breakfasters, the Breakfast Spread, the Daily Edition, and on the Adventure Fit Travel podcast . She addressed the Victorian Chamber and conducted a chat about Mars for Science Works on Yuri’s Night.

Australian science comedian Josh Richards continued his Cosmic Nomad tour through Africa and Europe before heading to the US for appearances in May along the East and West Coasts.

 

Florida candidate Hampton Black took part in Project Possum’s astronaut training program. The organization plans to conduct upper atmospheric research once XCor Aerospace completes development of its suborbital rocket plane. Its “citizen astronauts” will operate the instruments while the pilot flies the plane.

South African quantum biologist Adriana Marais joined the Samira Stalks podcast, was interviewed for Kulula Airlines’ in-flight magazine, and spoke at mining company Anglo-American.

Other candidates in the news:

Artists Inspired by Mars One

British artists Ella Good and Nicki Kent launched A Decade With Mars last year with a series of high altitude balloon missions. They are planning the project’s 2017 phase, The People’s Space Program, in which they will build a Mars habitat in the UK. Under a grant from Arts Council England Ella and Nicki traveled to the American southwest to help a Mars Society work crew process the Mars Desert Research Station for its next expeditionary crew. They also had the chance to visit BioSphere 2, the closed loop habitat that nearly killed its original scientists.

The Mars Project returns to Perth stages for a second season, Community News reports. The original 17-person student play has been restructured to a 5-person production.  The Mars Project will run through May 7 at the Blue Room Theatre.

Science fiction author Jonathan Maberry’s upcoming Young Adult novel is called Mars One. Scheduled for publication in early 2017, it is about a teenager whose family joins the first human colony on Mars. 

The Spanish novel “Sin Returno” (“No Return”) won the Exemplary Novels award from the University of Castilla-La Mancha’s Faculty of Arts. The story of a young journalist applying for a one-way journey to Mars mirrors the struggles Spanish journalists face in the modern economy.

Teatr Wielki presented a single performance of “Space Opera”. The Poznan Grand Theatre premiered the contemporary production last year. It follows husband-and-wife astronauts (and a fruit fly) who become the first people to set foot on Mars. Although it is a round trip mission, the two explorers are chosen from a group of one hundred volunteers. The opera examines the role of women in society, the ethics of animal experimentation, and the voyeurism of reality TV. Kultura u Podstaw’s review of the premiere called it “an important achievement not only in the Polish contemporary opera but also in Europe”. 

Mars One in the News

Dr. John Rummel spoke about planetary protection on The Space Show. A senior scientist at the Seti Institute and a leading expert on planetary protection, Rummel serves as a Mars One Advisor. At the 51:40 minute mark he addressed the organization’s ambitious schedule. Along the way he praises the group’s ability to raise awareness and hopes for its success.

In an interview with iDigital Times, Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp explains how Dutch law forces Mars One to adopt a two-pronged organization structure. A non-profit foundation accepts charitable donations and will own the training facilities and other assets. A for profit company will own and license the intellectual and media properties to produce a return for investors. 

Wieger Wamelink wrote about his group’s Mars agriculture research in his latest Mars One Exchange post. They will expand on last year’s research to determine whether plants grown in simulated Martian regolith are safe to eat. His team’s crowdfunding campaign is almost halfway to its €25,000 goal.

Mars One will host a private event in June to review its progress with investors and advisors. Members of the Mars One community who have donated or spent the most money will get free invitations. Mars One is offering a limited number of tickets - at $1,000 a head - to other supporters. What remains unclear is whether the Mars 100 Candidates get a free invitation.

In an interview with Vice Netherlands, astronaut Lodewijk Van den Berg was asked for his thoughts on Mars One (in Dutch). Google Translate makes his response sound diplomatic. He pointed out that the year Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly spent living in the relatively comfortable conditions on the International Space Station will be very different from conditions during the journey to Mars.

Austrian space experts don't think anyone is going to Mars soon. The Austrian Science Ministry conducted a seminar about human spaceflight and space tourism. The panelists held pessimistic views of all Mars exploration timelines - but especially Mars One. “Aber Mars One wird eher Mars Zero” (“But Mars One is rather Mars Zero”) said Wolfgang Baumjohann, director of the Graz Institute for Space Research.

TED convened a panel to discuss Mars One, introducing it as “a splashy, PR-driven goal that even its (former) chief scientist is now backing away from.” The conversation starts with specific references to Mars One’s plans, but quickly devolves from there. By the end the panelists are ranting about “the unchecked expansion of neoliberal predatory capitalism into outer space” and “leading with the goal of… economic gain is the exact wrong way to proceed.”

Deutsche Welle’s Zulfikar Abbany hates private space companies, but not so much Mars One. The Breakthrough Initiative's announcement that it will invest in interstellar research sent Abbany on a diatribe about the private sector. He decries the wave of Silicon Valley billionaires who “want a slice of the space pie” without any form of accountability. The only organization he can say anything nice about is Mars One because it is not-for-profit. (Then he tells Stephen Hawking to shut up.)

News from Mars

Elon Musk gets the win for this month’s Mars news (or is it hype?) as SpaceX's single tweet set off an avalanche of media coverage. For a deeper dive than the mainstream media provides, check out Eric Berger’s reporting on Ars Technica. He looks at how landing SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stage landing tested crucial re-entry techniques while the Dragon capsule’s SuperDraco thrusters have been designed from the start to support the Red Dragon’s Mars landings.

Before founding SpaceX, Musk wanted to send a greenhouse to Mars as a way of prodding Nasa to dream bigger. That makes the timing of his Red Dragon announcement interesting. Nasa has cut it Mars entry/descent/landing research, Space News reports. The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator uses an inflatable heat shield to slow spacecraft entering the thin Martian atmosphere. Cuts to Nasa’s space technology research program forced the space agency to put the LDSD on the back burner, reinforcing charges that the Space Launch System is a “rocket to nowhere”.

Will the next American President make a difference? Maybe not. The lobbying arm of the US aerospace industry sent a questionnaire to the leading Republican and Democratic candidates. Only Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders responded (PDF). At a superficial level both Trump and Sanders want to focus on the economy and the federal budget before launching major new Nasa spending programs. Sanders provides extensive, thoughtful responses on the issues. He doesn't make firm promises (of course) but you get a sense for how he would approach science policy. Trump's responses were... superficial.

China has set an aggressive schedule to land a rover on Mars by 2020 (GB Times). It is part of a dramatic acceleration in the nation’s space exploration plans. The China National Space Administration’s head Xu Dazhe also revealed details about upcoming lunar missions and China’s super-heavy launch vehicle.

The New Zealand Herald wrote about the AUT University team that tracks the Dragon capsule during its return to Earth. As space capsules re-enter the atmosphere, friction heats the air to such extreme temperatures that the molecules ionize. The ionized plasma blocks radio signals from the spacecraft. New Zealand is the last place on Earth that can detect the Dragon’s broadcast before that happens which means AUT provides crucial tracking information for the SpaceX recovery team.

The Mars Society announced its Mars 160 analog mission. A seven-person multinational team (including Russian journalist and Mars One candidate Anastasiya Stepanova) will spend eighty days at each of the Mars Society’s analog research station. The Mars Desert Research Station sits in the deserts of the American southwest. The Flashline Mars Analog Research Station perches on the rim of an asteroid impact crater in the Canadian Arctic. Most of the candidates had applied for the Mars Society’s year-long mission simulation which is on hold due to a lack of funding.

Other news from Mars: