Mars One Monthly - February 6

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: promoting Mars exploration, publishing scientific research, and advancing careers as explorers on Earth - and in space. 
  • Artists Inspired by Mars One: Kid Koala's new album, Ella and Nicki's decadal project, Mars Joan on stage, and Seat 25 on screen.
  • Mars One in the News: Exploring Middle Eastern training sites and polar explorers on Mars settlement.
  • News from Mars: What should Trump do, Mars analog sites, and news from the world's robotic exploration of Mars.

Mars One Candidates in the News

Former Mars One candidate, astrophysicist Andrew Rader may become Canada’s next astronaut. The Canadian Space Agency selected Rader for the next round in its astronaut selection process. More than 3,700 people applied for the chance to conduct science on the International Space Station, but only 72 people made it into the next round.

South African quantum biologist Adriana Marais will serve as SAP Africa's Head of Innovation. Marais described her responsibilities which will cover “the IoT Lab, Co-Innovation Lab initiatives, & other innovation streams”. She also appeared on CNBC Africa’s MoneyMakers where she discussed the settlement of Mars with host Bruce Whitfield. Essentials Magazine featured Marais in its January issue.

The German-language ZoominTV interviewed Russian journalist Anastasia Stepanova about her Mars One candidacy and her participation in the Mars Society’s Mars160 analog research project. Switzerland’s Blick and Germany’s Computerbild were among the media to carry the story.

Hannah Earnshaw’s latest research paper has been accepted for publication in MRAS (free preprint arXiv: 1702.00313). She and fellow Durham University astrophysicist Timothy Roberts used data from the XMM-Newton and Chandra space telescopes to study sources of light in the X-ray spectrum, likely stellar-mass black holes. Most researchers study much more intense sources, in part because those sources are easier for the space telescopes to observe. Earnshaw and Roberts look at less intense sources which they call “less well-studied and a largely untapped resource”. Their work could lay the groundwork for future, more sensitive X-ray space telescopes like the European Space Agency’s planned Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics.

American writer Heidi Hecht published an astronomy article on UpportunityU. It reviewed recent research about Gliese 710, an orange dwarf star that will pass through the Solar System’s Oort Cloud in a little more than a million years.

Kenya Armbrister joined the Karen Hunter Show on SiriusXM Urban View for a discussion of Mars One and the settlement of the red planet.

British astronomer Ryan MacDonald joined YouTubers CamAndSeb for their series about space explorers (the video has not posted yet). He also spoke with Irish radio show TheCrackedI and was interviewed by SouthWrit Large. MacDonald’s monthly video podcast Mars Mission Update covered the year ahead for SpaceX, Nasa’s contest to 3D print Mars habitats, and news from Mars One.

American actor Sue Ann Pien is in the running to become National Geographic’s next Assignment Explorer, a digital correspondent position. She also joined Pete Bailey’s Wonder Junkie podcast for a conversation about preparing for Mars.

Steve Schild’s science fiction novel is available for pre-orders

Artists Inspired by Mars One

The Montreal Gazette wrote about DJ Kid Koala's Mars One-inspired album. The electronic music work Music To Draw To: Satellite includes performances by Icelandic singer Emiliana Torrini who first introduced the musician to the one-way concept.

British artists Ella and Nicki concluded the 2016 phase of their project A Decade With Mars One. Over the past year they focused on the link between space exploration and sustainability by helping communities plant ceremonial trees while facilitating discussions about the future.

Mars Joan returned to the Barcelona stage, La Vanguardia reported. The comedy, first performed at last year’s El Cicló festival, has new staging and script for the new production. 

Esa Space Operations Engineer Vinita Marwaha Madill interviewed actor Madeleine Cooke about her role in indie scifi film Seat 25. It follows the story of a young woman who volunteers for a one-way trip to Mars and then must deal with the impact on friends and family when she is accepted. In January the London Film Awards named Seat 25 the Best British Film of 2016.

Mars One in the News

Middle Eastern countries are prime candidates to host the Mars One astronaut training program. There may be several reasons for this. The harsh desert environment could serve as an analogue for the Martian landscape. Placing the training program in a predominately Islamic country could alleviate concerns of religious scholars who placed a fatwa prohibiting Muslims from joining Mars One. And then there are the number of potential investors who flock to places like the United Arab Emirates. When the Arabian Radio Network asked why Mars One has considered Dubai as a site for the astronaut training program, Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp replied that “Dubai is all about crazy, ambitious projects that are made into reality.” Lansdorp also visited Jordan where he discussed placing the training program near Wadi Rum.

Belgium’s De Morgen spoke with Dutch “doctor-adventurer” Floris van den Berg after his return from Antarctica. He oversaw a year-long experiment conducted by the European Space Agency to understand the social dynamics and psychology of deep space missions. The extreme isolation led to memory loss and interpersonal conflict. When asked to extend the lessons from this experiment to the concept of settlement, the Volksssterrenvacht MIRA’s Philippe Mottet said that psychologists “will be essential” to the survival of the crew.

British adventurer Adrian Hayes joined Mars One’s panel of advisors. The polar explorer said in the announcement that he would share “insights on the mental challenges and team dynamics that the candidates will encounter on their ground breaking mission.”

News from Mars

A mosaic of the Martian polar ice cap from the European Space Agency's orbiter Mars Express  Credit: Esa / DLR / FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Space policy played little role in Donald Trump’s election campaign. His transition offered few clues as to the changes the Trump Administration would make to Nasa’s strategy. Mars advocates did everything they could to get the red planet front-and-center in the media in hopes that someone - maybe even The Donald - would take up the banner of humans to Mars.

Journalist Rebecca Boyle wrote “Why Mars is the Best Planet” in The Atlantic. A wonderful long-form piece, it reviews Mars in history, in the popular imagination, and in the dreams of space explorers. Boyle’s ultimate answer to her opening her question is the best justification of space exploration. (No spoilers. Read it yourself)

Japan’s first female astronaut outlined her vision of the future in an interview with Nikkei. The International Space Station has established the technology needed to live in space, Naoko Yamazaki explained. But establishing a sustained human presence will require changes here on Earth:

  • Better cooperation with the private sector
  • Cooperation with China and India
  • Less “inward-looking” policies

As for going to Mars, Yamazaki believes it will happen at some point over the next one hundred years. The limiting factor, however, continues to be the excessive costs of reaching orbit.

Space industry consultant Mary Lynne Dittmar writes in the The Huffington Post that changing our own world is the best justification for going to Mars. But will her internationalist approach find a welcome home in Trump’s America First worldview?

There are opposing views of course. Writing in Aeon, Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel questioned the need for “Whitey on Mars”. They draw a parallel between the Apollo Program’s multi-billion dollar cost in the face of racial inequality and today’s racially-charged political environment. Enumerating all of the different benefits of spending Mars exploration dollars on more Earth-bound issues, they ask “how do we get our technology leaders to focus on real societal problems?”

The fifth mission of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation project (Hi-seas) began last month. Six crew members will spend the next eight months in Hi-seas, living in a volcano-top habitat where they will simulate a mission to Mars.

At the same time the Mars Society’s 173rd and 174th crews conducted analog missions at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. Crew 173 consisted of scientists and engineers from Europe, Israel, and Australia. Crew 174, whose mission is underway now, is the first all-Indian crew to conduct analog research at the site.

The New York Times wrote about how Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression serves as an analog for early Mars. One of the hottest places on Earth, the region’s salt lakes are home to extremophile bacteria that can survive in the hot, acidic saltwater pools. The harsh environment may be similar to conditions on ancient Mars before the planet lost its atmosphere. Similar conditions exist in America’s Mono Lake where Nasa scientists tested procedures for detecting life.

Nasa’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity began its 14th year on the red planet. The mission team is driving the rover southwards along the rim of Endeavour Crater to a gully that may have been formed by ancient water flows. It travelled more than 170 meters over the course of January.

Nasa’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity paused in its journey up Mount Sharpe (Aeolis Mons) to study a sandstone slab. Ridges in the sandstone may have been formed by cracks in drying mud. Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada said in the announcement that ”the ancient lakes varied in depth and extent over time, and sometimes disappeared. We're seeing more evidence of dry intervals between what had been mostly a record of long-lived lakes."

Nature’s Alexandra Witze wrote “The $2.4 billion plan to steal a rock from Mars” about Nasa’s Mars 2020 mission. The space agency hopes the mission will let it bring about 500 grams of the red planet back to Earth. A report from Nasa’s Office of the Inspector General, however, raised concerns about the project’s schedule. Leonard David, writing on Spacedotcom, cited Mars 2020's immature technology and “condensed development schedule” as reasons for concern. 

 

A new mosaic from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter reveals the spiral structure of the planet’s north polar ice cap. As carbon dioxide freezes out of the atmosphere each winter and then sublimates back each summer, it leaves behind water ice which the weak Martian winds have shaped over billions of years.

Omran Sharaf told attendees of the Project Space Forum that the UAE’s Mars orbiter Hope is on track for a 2020 launch. According to a Gulf News report, the project manager for the Emirates Mars Mission told the crowd, “We’ve completed the PDR — Preliminary Design Review — and hopefully we’ll hold the CDR [Critical Design Review] soon.”

The Future in Space Operations Working Group heard a presentation about fission power systems for Mars habitats. Delivered by Nasa’s Lee Mason, the discussion centered around the kilopower concept of small nuclear reactors. Historically the space agency had focused its research on extremely large reactors in the megawatt range. The new thinking is that multiple ten-kilowatt reactors would provide more flexibility and reliability.