Mars One Monthly - September

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. 

It's just like Beggars Canyon back home. OK, it's Murray's Butte on Mars. The layered sandstone was created by windblown dust deposits. Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A quick apology: Sorry for being a little late with this month's update. I had planned to use last week's Labor Day holiday to compile everything. On short notice, however, I received an invitation to view Nasa's Osiris-Rex launch at the Kennedy Space Center. (woo-hoo!) That threw my schedule off by a week, but it was worth it.

While the speakers at the event focused on asteroids and the Osiris-Rex mission, Nasa did not waste an opportunity to talk about its Journey to Mars. They showed us the work in progress at KSC to prepare for the Space Launch System. We also heard from the KSC Swampworks team working on in-situ resource utilization - everything from mining regolith to growing crops in Martian soil. I will post a trip report later this week.

Mars One Candidates in the News

British astrophysics graduate student Hannah Earnshaw spoke with Premier Christian Radio about how her faith will remain central to her life regardless of which planet she happens to call home. The interview was part of the radio station’s Space Week which included guests from science and pop culture.

South African software developer Divashan Govender and former game ranger Edwin LeGrange spoke with SABC TV.

George Hatcher joined the Are We There Yet podcast.

South African quantum biologist Adriana Marais attended several media and outreach events. The Cape Argus conducted an extended interview with Marais who explained why the search for life motivates her participation in Mars One. News24 reported from her speech to the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business. Marais joined Basetsana Kumalo on radio show Cape Talk Live.

British astrophysics PhD candidate Ryan MacDonald joined Ireland’s iRadio to talk about Mars exploration.

Australian sustainability consultant Dianne McGrath addressed the Geography Teachers Association of Victoria’s annual conference.

Canadian data analyst Andreea Radulescu hopes to become one of the Canadian Space Agency’s next astronauts, the CBC reported. Nearly 4,000 people completed the application process for the CSA’s two open astronaut positions. An initial cadre of astronaut candidates will participate in a year-long selection process to identify the two people who will attend Nasa’s Astronaut Candidate Program.

Australian physicist/comedian/educator Josh Richards joined the Humans of Twitter podcast. He also joined the “Time for Kids” webcast. Run by the Slooh robotic telescope service, the webcast used telescopes in the Canary Islands to show kids how to find five planets in the night sky. Richards explained the Mars One Project and why he wants to go to the red planet forever. As part of his on-going support of the International Space University, Richards hopes to attend the 2016 International Astronautical Congress in Mexico where ISU alumni will present their papers. He launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for his travel expenses.

French aerospace medicine specialist Jermey Saget granted a rare interview to Sud Oest. Saget explains that within days of becoming a Mars One candidate he stopped talking to the press because they asked the same insulting questions over and over again.

Artists Inspired by Mars One

German amateur astronomer Michael Plichta makes globes of a Mars that never was, Atlas Obscura reports. Plichta bases his globes on sketches Percival Lowell made from his Arizona observatory. Lowell thought he saw signs of a Martian civilization desperately moving water across the arid landscape through a network of canals. Plichta sells his hand-crafted creations through his company PlanetenKugel Manufaktur.

Dani Solomon’s one-woman show “One Way Red” will premier at the Philly Fringe Festival in September. In an interview with Phindie, Solomon said that she hopes her work poses some interesting questions around “loneliness, legacy, and narcissism”.

The Menu for Mars Kitchen brought a taste of colonist life to Brooklyn last year. Artists Heidi Neilson and Douglas Paulson met with experts in space nutrition, food sustainability, and recycling to create an Mars analog kitchen. Visitors could create their own meals which were then vacuum sealed and integrated into the exhibit. The Washington Post just wrote about Neilson and Paulson’s February exhibition at the Washington Project for the Arts. The smaller-scale Mars kitchen was hugely popular - especially with Nasa’s employees.

British science fiction writer DJ Cockburn’s short story “Mars One” shows how important toast etiquette may be for the first settlers of Mars.

First Pole on Mars” will premiere at the 32nd Warsaw Film Festival. The short film follows retiree Kazimierz Błaszczak as he competes for a spot on Mars One’s first journey to the red planet.

Mars One in the News

How We Get To Next interviewed Mars One chief medical officer Norbert Kraft about the astronaut selection process. Journalistic objectivity required one paragraph that mentions criticism of Mars One, but overall science writer Stephanie McPherson played it straight since Mars One is the “only group actively recruiting Martian colonist candidates.” 

Seti Institute researcher John Rummel concluded his discussion of planetary protection on the Mars Exchange. He explained how any human landing sites would need to be in cold, dry locations to avoid contaminating the Martian environment. He recommended a robotic observation campaign ahead of any human voyages and the use of closed-loop life support systems.

Technology journalist Joelle Renstrom, writing in The Space Review, believes how we settle Mars is more important than when. Colonizing space to ensure humanity’s survival, Renstrom argues, does not make sense if we keep the very behaviors that threaten our species in the first place. Just as advocates of space settlement draw parallels to the accomplishments of European colonization, Renstrom draws parallels to the unsustainable and exploitative practices they brought with them. She focuses on Mars One in the second half of her piece. She worries about the “flippant” attitude towards the settlers’ mental health. Although Renstrom accepts the logic behind Mars One’s funding model, but considers “worrisome” the potential broadcast of bad things happening.  “Mars One’s reality-TV scheme may be one of the most persuasive arguments for a government-led mission”

News from Mars

A perspective view of the landing site for the European Space Agency's Schiaparelli lander. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

The European Space Agency wrote about the ExoMars2016 mission’s landing site in Meridiani Planum. The Schiaparelli lander will target the same relatively smooth and flat region near the Martian equator that Nasa's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has explored for the past twelve years.

The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation project (Hi-Seas) completed its fourth Mars analog mission. The project isolates a crew of volunteers in a habitat perched atop Mauna Kea to study individual psychology and small group dynamics. Hi-Seas tries to create a realistic simulation of a Mars mission. All communication experiences a “light speed” delay and anytime a volunteer leaves the habitat they must don a spacesuit. The end of the mission generated widespread media coverage. Among the best reports: 

A new report justifying missions to Mars has been circulating among the financial community, Business Insider reports. As capital surpluses depress global productivity, the financial industry needs ways to boost its return on investment. Analysts at Macquarie Investments suggest that a global effort to colonize Mars would soak up liquidity sloshing through world financial markets.

The founders of Mars exploration advocacy group ExploreMars wrote an op-ed for The Hill’s Congress Blog. Chris Carberry and Rick Zucker explain that, while everyone seems to agree that Mars should be humanity’s next destination in space, Presidential politics stands in the way. [CC: of course there could be other reasons...]

Digital Trends wrote about Mars City Designs’ plans to build prototypes of a Mars colony in the Mojave Desert. Architect Vera Mulyani created Mars City Design to get people thinking about how to build colonies on the red planet. A global competition identified twenty-five teams who will arrive in California this month for a two-week workshop at the University of California. Space scientists and engineers will advise the teams on the Martian geology and atmosphere.

Professors at Canada’s Monash University will conduct an online course on Mars exploration. Astrophysicist Jasmina Lazendic-Galloway explained in the press release that Mars “is the only planet in the solar system where humans could possibly live, which is why it's so fascinating.” The online course “How to Survive on Mars: the Science Behind the Human Exploration of Mars” will run for four weeks beginning October 24. CTV reports that several thousand people have signed up for the online course.

Physicist Rob Lillis explained the “devils” the Maven science team face as they trace the history of the Martian atmosphere.

The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity will emerge from Marathon Valley into the bowl of Endeavour Crater.

All Nasa-funded research must be published openly. Nasa’s open access archive collects this research in a central hub. Some of the recent Mars-related research includes:

Future in Space Operations, an informal talking shop for Nasa-affiliated space researchers, posted several Mars-related presentations last month.

Other news from Mars: