Mars One Merges With Mobile Payment Company In Odd Restructuring

An artist's illustration of a Mars settlement. Image: Bryan Versteeg/MarsOne

“Pssst. Hey you! Want to go to Mars? No, you won’t be able to come back, you’ll die there. No, we don’t have a ship. No, we don’t have any plans for life support, or for growing food to eat while you there. But we do have our own mobile payment app!”

So goes the sales pitch from Mars One, the oddball of the space exploration world.

In a move that can charitably be described as “puzzling”, Mars One is merging with Swiss mobile payment company InFin Innovative Finance AG. InFin is a small player in a mobile payment field dominated by huge entities like Google, Apple, and Samsung. So, other than ensuring that Mars One astronauts will be able to complete their online shopping without hassle, what is behind this merger?

Money.

In case you don’t know, Mars One is the Netherlands-based company proposing to send astronauts to Mars and set up a human colony there. There would be no returning to Earth, and the “lucky” people chosen by Mars One to be the first to go, would die there. Mars One has been roundly criticized by the aerospace community at large for its lack of detail and its lack of technical capability.

This latest move is unlikely to quell any of the criticism.

Artist's concept of a Martian astronaut standing outside the Mars One habitat. Credit: Bryan Versteeg/Mars One
Artist’s concept of a Martian astronaut standing outside the Mars One habitat. Credit: Bryan Versteeg/Mars One

Mars One has had no problem attracting a huge number of applicants to become astronauts and colonists. Over 200,000 people applied, and that number has been whittled down to 100. They’ve been able to attract applicants, and a lot of attention, but one thing they haven’t been able to attract is money.

Mars One say they need $6 billion to establish their colony on Mars, but they’ve only raised about $1 million so far, mostly from donations, astronaut application fees, and from t-shirt sales and other merchandise. Yes, t-shirts.

“Mars One is very pleased to have been acquired by InFin. This step provides the opportunity to raise capital through the listing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.” – Bas Lansdorp

Clearly, Mars One needs cash, and this merger gives Mars One access to capital. You see, InFin is traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, and once the two entities have merged, Mars One will be publicly traded. It’s difficult to see how any institutional investors would ever go anywhere near Mars One stock, but it may be an investment for novelty-seekers, space enthusiasts, or true believers. Who knows?

In a press release, Mars One CEO and co-founder Bas Lansdorp said “This listing also supports our aim to attract international support to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars: our global followers will have the opportunity to be part of this adventure and to literally own a piece of this historic venture.”

A cynic might say that Mars One was just created by Lansdorp as a way to generate some cash from the interest surrounding human travel to Mars. This latest move just adds to the cynicism, since there’s no apparent synergy between a space travel company and a mobile payment company.

If the fact that they sell t-shirts to raise money for their Mars colony doesn’t make you question how capable and serious Mars One is, then this latest move surely will.

Or, maybe we’re being too hard on Mars One. It’s not like NASA or the ESA has ever inspired a line of clothing, or an opera.

Maybe Mars One is an innovator, and is thinking outside the box. Just because space exploration has always been done one way, doesn’t mean it can’t be done in another. Maybe in the final analysis, Mars One will be a successful endeavour, and will show others how unorthodox approaches can work. Only the future knows, and we’re still waiting for the future to tell us.

In the meantime, want to buy a t-shirt?

These are the 40 Who Might Die on Mars

Mars. A great place to die. Image: NASA, J. Bell (Cornell U.) and M. Wolff (SSI)

If there were an Olympics for ambition, the Dutch-based non-profit organization Mars One would surely be on the podium.

If you haven’t heard of them, (and we expect you have,) they are the group that plans to send colonists to Mars on a one-way trip, starting in the year 2026. Only 24 colonists will be selected for the dubious distinction of dying on Mars, but that hasn’t stopped 200,000 people from 140 countries from signing up and going through the selection process.

There are 100 people who have made it through the selection process so far. Another five day testing phase will knock that number down to 40, out of which 24 will be chosen as the lucky ones. The latest testing will start soon. According to Mars One, most of their testing is the same as the testing that NASA does on their astronauts.

At least some of the candidates have serious backgrounds. One, Zachary Gallegos, is a geologist and field chemist who works with the Mars Science Laboratory. Here’s what he has to say:

All of this testing and narrowing down is partially funded by a reality show, which adds to the sort of carnival atmosphere around the whole thing, and makes it hard to take it seriously.

But, some people are serious about it.

In a statement, Mars One commented on the upcoming testing:

“Over the course of five days, candidates will face various challenges. It will be the first time all candidates will meet in person and demonstrate their capabilities as a team.”

“In this round the candidates will play an active role in decision making/group formation. Mars One has asked the candidates to group themselves into teams with the people they believe they can work well with.”

A human presence on Mars is a great idea, of course. But it seems fatalistic, and pointless, to choose to die there. And rest assured, these colonists are meant to die there.

Mars One addresses this kind of thinking on their website:

“For anyone not interested to go to Mars, moving permanently to Mars would be the worst kind of punishment. Most people would give an arm and a leg to be allowed to stay on Earth so it is often difficult for them to understand why anyone would want to go.”

“Yet many people apply for Mars One’s mission and these are the people who dream about someday living on Mars. They would give up anything for the opportunity and it is often difficult for them to understand why anyone would not want to go.”

Fair enough. Maybe these are the types of people who really contribute in driving humanity forward.

NASA is planning to get humans to Mars in the 2030s, and Elon Musk says he’ll do it even earlier. But they plan to bring people back. If they can provide return trips, it seems a wasteful sacrifice to die on Mars when they don’t have to. Couldn’t successful colonists contribute a lot to humanity if they were to return to Earth after their successful missions?

Mars One seems to gloss over a lot of problems. Here’s some more from their website:

A new group of four astronauts will land on Mars every two years, steadily increasing the settlement’s size. Eventually, a living unit will be built from local materials, large enough to grow trees.

As more astronauts arrive, the creativity applied to settlement expansion will certainly give way to ideas and innovation that cannot be conceived now. But it can be expected that the human spirit will continue to persevere, and even thrive in this challenging environment.

“A living unit will be built from local materials, large enough to grow trees.” A simple sentence, which obscures so much complexity. Will they mine and refine iron ore? What do they have in mind?

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer about it. I love the spirit behind the whole thing. But it takes so much rigorous planning and execution to establish a colony on Mars. And money. How will it all work?

In the end, the whole thing is a long shot. Mars One says they have visited and talked to engineering and technological suppliers globally, and that their timeline and planning is based on this feedback. For example, they say they intend to use a Falcon Heavy rocket from SpaceX to launch their ship. But so much detail is left out. The Falcon Heavy doesn’t even exist yet, and Mars One has no control or input into the rocket’s development.

An artist's illustration of the Falcon Heavy.  Will it send Mars One colonists to Mars?Image: SpaceX
An artist’s illustration of the Falcon Heavy. Will it send Mars One colonists to Mars?Image: SpaceX

Take a look at the two sentences describing how they will communicate with Earth:

“The communications system will consist of two communications satellites and Earth ground stations. It will transmit data from Mars to Earth and back.”

Does this type of brevity inspire confidence?

For at least 200,000 people, the answer is “yes.”

Weekly Space Hangout – March 20, 2015: Lee Billings’ Five Billion Years of Solitude

Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain)
Special Guest: Author Lee Billings, discussing his book “Five Billion Years of Solitude”(@LeeBillings / leebillings.com/)
Guests:
Dr. Pamela Gay (cosmoquest.org / @starstryder)
Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg )
Brian Koberlein (@briankoberlein)
Continue reading “Weekly Space Hangout – March 20, 2015: Lee Billings’ Five Billion Years of Solitude”

How Can Mars Sometimes Be Warmer Than Earth?

Remember a few weeks ago when the weather on Mars was making the news? At the time, parts of the Red Planet was experiencing temperatures that were actually warmer than parts of the US. Naturally, there were quite a few skeptics. How could a planet with barely any atmosphere which is farther from the Sun actually be warmer than Earth?

Well, according to recent data obtained by the Curiosity rover, temperatures in the Gale Crater reached a daytime high of -8 °C (17.6 °F) while cities like Chicago and Buffalo were experiencing lows of -16 to -20 °C (2 to -4 °F). As it turns out, this is due to a number of interesting quirks that allow for significant temperature variability on Mars, which at times allow some regions to get warmer than places here on Earth.

It’s no secret that this past winter, we here in North America have been experiencing a bit of a record-breaking cold front. This was due to surges of cold air pushing in from Siberia and the North Pole into Canada, the Northern Plains and the Midwest. This resulted in many cities experiencing January-like weather conditions in November, and several cities hitting record-lows not seen in decades or longer.

Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Carbon dioxide ice on Mars, which experiences sublimation from solar warming to create  polygonal structures. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

For instance, the morning of November 18th, 2014, was the coldest since 1976, with a national average temperature of -7 °C (19.4 °F). That same day, Detroit tied a record it had set in 1880, with a record low of -12 °C (11 °F).

Five days earlier, the city of Denver, Colorado experienced temperatures as cold as -26 °C (-14 °F) while the city of Casper, Wyoming, hit a record low of -33 °C (-27 °F). And then on November 20th, the town of Jacksonville, Florida broke a previous record (which it set in 1873) with an uncharacteristic low of -4° C (25 °F).

Hard to believe isn’t it? Were it not for the constant need for bottled oxygen, more people might consider volunteering for Mars One‘s colonizing mission – which, btw, is still scheduled to depart in 2023, so there’s still plenty of time register! However, these comparative figures manage to conceal a few interesting facts about Mars.

For starters, Mars experiences an average surface temperature of about -55 °C (-67 °F), with temperatures at the pole reaching as low as a frigid -153 °C (-243.4 °F). Meanwhile, here on Earth the average surface temperature is 7.2 °C (45 °F), which is also due to a great deal of seasonal and geographic variability.

The eccentricity in Mars' orbit means that it is . Credit: NASA
The eccentricity in Mars’ orbit around the Sun means that it is 42.5 million km closer during certain times of the year. Credit: NASA

In the desert regions near the equator, temperature can get as high as 57.7 °C, with the hottest temperature ever recorded being 70.7 °C (158.36 °F) in the summertime in the desert region of Iran. At the south pole in Antarctica temperatures can reach as low as -89.2 °C (-128.6 °F). Pretty darn cold, but still balmy compared to Mars’ polar ice caps!

Also, since its arrival in 2012, the Curiosity Rover has been rolling around inside Gale Crater – which is located near the planet’s equator. Here, the planet’s temperature experiences the most variability, and can reach as high as 20 °C (68 °F) during midday.

And last, but not least, Mars has a greater eccentricity than all other planet’s in the Solar System – save for Mercury. This means that when the planet is at perihelion (closest to the Sun) it is roughly 0.28 AUs (42.5 million km) closer than when it is at aphelion (farthest from the Sun). Having just passed perihelion recently, the average surface temperatures on Mars can vary by up to an additional 20 ºC.

In short, Mars is still, and by far, the colder of the two planets. Not that it’s a competition or anything…

Further Reading: NASA

Mars One Readies For Robotic Red Planet Mission In 2018

While the world’s attention last year was focused on Mars One’s audacious plan to send people on a one-way trip to the Red Planet — not everyone thinks they’ll make it — the private organization has a much closer goal in its sights: landing a robotic mission there in 2018.

The goal is also audacious. Only NASA landers have worked for more than a few moments on the Red Planet, and even the agency it has experienced many failures along the way. Mars One is hoping to succeed using the design for the Phoenix northern mission, which is being duplicated somewhat in the upcoming 2016 Insight drill mission.

“We’re very lucky to have Lockheed Martin on the contract,” said founder Bas Lansdorp in a phone interview with Universe Today. He noted the company built the Phoenix lander, and that Mars One trusts Lockheed so much that the firm is being allowed to pick its own subcontractors for the mission.

Also on that mission will likely be the winner of a Mars One university competition to send an experiment to Mars. Called Seed, the proposal would see the first seed grown on Mars. The plant (called Arabidopsis thaliana, a common feature of space studies) would grow inside an external container that would protect it from the surrounding environment. The team is composed of students from the University of Porto, MIT Portugal and the University of Madrid.

The Mars Phoenix Lander thundered off of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 17 in the summer of 2007. About nine months later - it landed on the surface of Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL
The Mars Phoenix Lander thundered off of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 17 in the summer of 2007. About nine months later – it landed on the surface of Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

“The Seed experiment group, they have really put a lot of effort into creating public awareness of what they are doing, and they collected a lot of votes,” Lansdorp said. While the project also had to meet stringent technical requirements, it was the efforts at public support that were an “important reason” as to why they won, he added.

But even now, their flight is not a guarantee. Seed will need to fund the development and construction of its experiment. (Flight costs are taken care of by Mars One.) Also, the group will need to pass technical milestones between now and 2018. If for some reason Seed does not make it, Mars One would instead go to one of two backup projects. These would be selected from the second- and third-place winners, which are respectively, Cyano Knights and Lettuce on Mars.

As for Mars One’s funding, the organization eventually hopes to receive money from broadcast rights and sponsorships in association with its crewed landing, which it says would take place in the 2020s. But the money required to fund a robotic mission isn’t available from that revenue source yet. Hence, the organization is seeking an upfront investment in its work to get the money ready for development.

Composite image showing the size difference between Earth and Mars. Credit: NASA/Mars Exploration
Composite image showing the size difference between Earth and Mars. Credit: NASA/Mars Exploration

Lansdorp said Mars One already underwent an angel investment round, and the organization is now in touch with an institutional group connected to an “institutional fund”, which would also attract money from other investors. Negotiations are ongoing, so the name is not disclosed publicly yet.

The goal is to have this investment group fund the robotic mission and the crewed one. The investor’s financial return would come from the eventual broadcasting and sponsorship revenues.

Aims of the robotic mission include testing some of the technologies that the crew would later take advantage of, such as extracting water from the planet’s underground and testing solar panels on the Martian surface.

Crew selection is ongoing. Mars One did a major culling last year of thousands of candidates, and plans a further selection round that will be announced in February.

Mars One Dustup: Founder Says Mission Won’t Fail As MIT Study Predicts

How possible is it to land humans on Mars? And can Mars One, the organization proposing to start with sending four astronauts one way, capable of doing it by 2025 as it promises?

A new study says that the Mars One concept could fail on several points: oxygen levels could skyrocket unsafely. Using the local resources to generate habitability is unproven. The technology is expensive. But the founder of Mars One says the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) student study is based on the wrong assumptions.

“It’s based on technology available on the ISS [International Space Station],” said Bas Landorp in an interview with Universe Today. “So you end up with a completely different Mars mission than Mars One. So their analysis has nothing to do with our mission.”

The mission has sparked a debate about sending humans on a trip with no promise for a return, but thousands of applicants vied for the chance to do it. After two cuts, the interim shortlist is now at 700 people. Those folks are awaiting interviews (more news is coming shortly, Landorp says) and no date has yet been announced for the next “cut.”

ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission captures spectacular portrait of the Red Planet and swirling dust storms with the on-board Mars Color Camera from an altitude of 74500 km on Sept. 28, 2014.  Credit: ISRO
ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission captures spectacular portrait of the Red Planet and swirling dust storms with the on-board Mars Color Camera from an altitude of 74500 km on Sept. 28, 2014. Credit: ISRO

A couple of weeks ago, MIT students presented a technical feasibility analysis of Mars One at the International Astronautical Congress in Toronto, Canada. The study is 35 pages long, so we recommend you read it to get the whole picture. The students’ main concerns are that crops (if they are responsible for 100% of the food) would send oxygen levels to unsafe margins, with no way to remove it. There are concerns with how well the in-situ resource utilization (using the resources on Mars to live off of) would perform. And the mission would cost $4.5 billion at a minimum — for the first crew only.

Cost: To get to Mars, the students say it will cost $4.5 billion and take 15 Falcon Heavy launches (a proposed next-generation rocket from SpaceX). Landorp says he can do it for $1.625 billion (since he doesn’t require constant Earth resupply) and as few as 13 launches (assuming $125 million per launch, a figure Landrop says is from SpaceX) by taking advantage of a few quirks of physics. If Mars One chooses a landing site that is four kilometers (2.5 miles) below the average Martian surface height, they will have both a thicker atmosphere and more time to land the payloads than, say, the Curiosity rover that landed about two kilometers (1.24 miles) above the average surface height. Mars One’s numbers show they could carry a payload of 2,500 kilograms (5,512 pounds) per mission, which they say is well within reach of what spacecraft can do today. The 13 launches would be divided into 11 robotic launches to send equipment to the surface, and two for humans (one to head to Earth orbit for assembly, and the other for the colonists to head to the in-orbit spacecraft and fly to Mars. The assembly crew would then fly back to Earth on the launch vehicle.)

Life support: While many of the technologies planned for use in life support are similar to those on the ISS — such as a trace gas system for air revitalization — Landorp says there will be some crucial differences. They are in talks with Paragon Space Systems Corp. (which describes itself as an environmental control firm for extreme environments, and whose customers include NASA and Bigelow.) As for the unsafe oxygen levels, Landorp points out there are plenty of oxygen removal systems available and that are used in hospitals and militaries. All that is needed is more testing in space. Landorp also points out these systems will be tested for two years robotically before humans land. “If that is not successful, then obviously we will not send humans,” he said.

The proposed Falcon Heavy rocket. Credit: SpaceX
The proposed Falcon Heavy rocket. Credit: SpaceX

In-situ resource utilization: Landorp acknowledges this requires more study, but says the robotic missions will be an important precursor for the human landings. Technologies needing to be developed will include nitrogen extraction from the Martian atmosphere. Oxygen production from water is well-studied in space, but water from the Martian surface (through vaporizing water in the soil) will require more work.

Another concern raised in media from time to time is where the money is coming from to fund Mars One. Landorp says right now funds are flowing from private investors. Mars One representatives are also in serious talks with a United Kingdom-based listed investment fund willing to finance the mission. In the long run, Landorp is confident money will come from broadcast deals similar to what partially fund the Olympics and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) competitions. Associated sponsorships would also help. But these won’t kick in until the colonists launch and land, since that’s when the world’s eyeballs will be on the mission.

Another stream of revenue, which may take five to seven years to kick in, will be intellectual property deals Mars One one representatives are working on closing now with potential suppliers, such as Lockheed Martin and Paragon. These agreements, should they go through as planned, would give Mars One a share of future revenue from any technologies flowing from the IP. “In the short term it’s not that interesting, it takes time to mature, but in the long term that will be interesting,” Landorp said.

Wanna Trip To Space? To Raise Money, Mars One Is Offering A Lynx Joyride

Private trips to space are pricey, but from time to time contests come up that offer even those of modest means the chance to get there.

Take Mars One’s latest publicity campaign, which is to offer a chance for a trip upon the (so-far-unflown-in-space) Lynx spacecraft in exchange for donating to the organization, which plans to launch a one-way human trip to Mars in the next decade.

“The campaign will provide funding for a 2015 Earth mission, which is a simulation project to replicate the future Mars human settlement here on Earth, as well as the 2018 Mars mission to Mars,” Mars One stated.

The campaign, called “Ticket To Rise“, is essentially a fundraising campaign for Mars One. The group is selling memberships, selfies of photographs with Mars in the background (during a 2018 mission), T-shirts and at the high end, coins or attendance at VIP events.

Artist's conception of Mars One human settlement. Credit: Mars One/Brian Versteeg
Artist’s conception of Mars One human settlement. Credit: Mars One/Brian Versteeg

The Mars One plan to bring people to the planet has generated lots of publicity among the media, amid skepticism that the funding and technology could be available to bring people to the Red Planet starting in 2024. The organization began whittling down applicants this year and as of May, said there are now 705 “potential Mars settlers” remaining.

If successful, Mars One hopes to bring settlers to the Red Planet every two years, four people at a time, and leave them there to establish a colony. The organization says there are “no new technology developments” needed to get people to Mars, and that it has gone to “major aerospace companies around the world” to figure out what needs to be done.

The XCOR Lynx spacecraft is one of a small number of vehicles competing for the chance to bring wealthy people into space. From time to time, the company has partnered with other entities (such as men’s grooming company AXE) to run contests to drum up interest in their product, which so far is unflown in space.

Mars One Soliciting Your Research Ideas for 2018 Robotic Red Planet Lander

Would you like to send your great idea for a research experiment to Mars and are searching for a method of transport?

The Mars One non-profit foundation that’s seeking settlers for a one-way trip to establish a permanent human colony on the Red Planet starting in the mid-2020’s, is now soliciting science and marketing proposals in a worldwide competition for their unmanned forerunner mission – the 2018 Mars One technology demonstration lander.

The Dutch-based Mars One team announced this week that they are seeking requests for proposals for seven payloads that would launch in August 2018 on humanities first ever privately financed robotic Red Planet lander.

Mars One hopes that the 2018 lander experiments will set the stage for liftoff of the first human colonists in 2024. Crews of four will depart every two years.

Artist's conception of Mars One human settlement. Credit: Mars One/Brian Versteeg
Artist’s conception of Mars One human settlement. Credit: Mars One/Brian Versteeg

The 2018 lander structure would be based on NASA’s highly successful 2007 Phoenix Mars lander – built by Lockheed Martin – which discovered and dug into water ice buried just inches beneath the topsoil in the northern polar regions of the Red Planet.

Mars One has contracted with Lockheed Martin to build the new 2018 lander.

Lockheed is also currently assembling another Phoenix-like lander for NASA named InSight which is scheduled to blast off for Mars in 2016.

The payloads being offered fall under three categories; four science demonstration payloads, a single university science experiment, and two payload spaces up for sale to the highest bidder for science or marketing or “anything in between.”

The science payload competition is open to anyone including universities, research bodies, and companies from around the world.

“Previously, the only payloads that have landed on Mars are those which NASA has selected,” said Bas Lansdorp, Co-founder & CEO of Mars One, in a statement. “We want to open up the opportunity to the entire world to participate in our mission to Mars by sending a certain payload to the surface of Mars.”

The four science demonstration payloads will test some of the technologies critical for establishing the future human settlement. They include soil acquisition experiments to extract water from the Martian soil into a useable form to test technologies for future human colonists; a thin film solar panel to demonstrate power production; and a camera system working in combination with a Mars-synchronous communications satellite to take a ‘real time’ look on Mars.

3 Footpads of Phoenix Mars Lander atop Martian Ice.  Phoenix thrusters blasted away Martian soil and exposed water ice. Proposed Mars InSight mission will build a new Phoenix-like lander from scratch to peer deep into the Red Planet and investigate the nature and size of the mysterious Martian core. Credit: Ken Kremer, Marco Di Lorenzo, Phoenix Mission, NASA/JPL/UA/Max Planck Institute
3 Footpads of Phoenix Mars Lander atop Martian Ice
Phoenix thrusters blasted away Martian soil and exposed water ice. Proposed Mars One 2018 mission will build a new Phoenix-like lander from scratch to test technologies for extracting water into a useable form for future human colonists. NASA’s InSight 2016 mission will build a new Phoenix-like lander to peer deep into the Red Planet and investigate the nature and size of the mysterious Martian core. Credit: Ken Kremer, Marco Di Lorenzo, Phoenix Mission, NASA/JPL/UA/Max Planck Institute

The single University competition payload is open to universities worldwide and “can include scientific experiments, technology demonstrations or any other exciting idea.” Click here for – submission information.

Furthermore two of the payloads are for sale “to the highest bidder” says Mars One in a statement and request for proposals document.

The payloads for sale “can take the form of scientific experiments, technology demonstrations, marketing and publicity campaigns, or any other suggested payload,” says Mars One.

“We are opening our doors to the scientific community in order to source the best ideas from around the world,” said Arno Wielders, co-founder and chief technical officer of Mars One.

Image shows color MOLA relief with US lander landing sites (Image credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University). Yellow box indicates Mars One Precursor landing regions under consideration.
Image shows color MOLA relief with US lander landing sites (Image credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University). Yellow box indicates Mars One Precursor landing regions under consideration.

“The ideas that are adopted will not only be used on the lander in 2018, but will quite possibly provide the foundation for the first human colony on Mars. For anyone motivated by human exploration, there can be no greater honor than contributing to a manned mission to Mars.”

Click here for the Mars One 2018 Lander ‘Request for Proposals.’

Over 200,000 Earthlings applied to Mars One to become future human colonists. That list has recently been narrowed to 705.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Curiosity, Opportunity, Orion, SpaceX, Boeing, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, MAVEN, MOM, Mars and more planetary and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

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Learn more about NASA’s Mars missions and Orbital Sciences Antares ISS launch on July 11 from NASA Wallops, VA in July and more about SpaceX, Boeing and commercial space and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations.

July 10/11: “Antares/Cygnus ISS Launch from Virginia” & “Space mission updates”; Rodeway Inn, Chincoteague, VA, evening

Who Wants A One-Way Trip To Mars? Meet Three People Applying For Mars One

If you were to find yourself on the Red Planet, what would you do when you get there? Those who made the second round of the Mars One mission (which aims to establish a colony on Mars in the next decade) are a step closer to answering that question. In interviews with Universe Today, applicants Andrew Rader, Max Fagin and Brian Hinson explained what they’ll do if they embark on a planned one-way trip to the Red Planet.

It’s impossible in three interviews to capture the diversity of more than 1,000 second-round applicants, so we encourage you to head over to Mars One’s website to browse the full list of people. As for these three would-be Marstronauts, we have their application videos and their plans for Mars exploration below the jump.

Max Fagin, 26, United States

With a resume including the NASA Academy and the Mars Desert Research Station, you’d expect that Fagin would be interested in the conventional astronaut program. He wants to try for Mars One first, however, because the Red Planet is the destination he prefers.

“Applying to become an astronaut at NASA is still an option, but at the moment they don’t have Mars as a destination,” he said. “Right now it’s the asteroids, which is cool, I’d love to see that, but it’s not something I’m willing to risk my life over.” Going to Mars would provide a greater payoff, he added, in that a new home base could be established for humanity.

One question intriguing Fagin is how to make a vehicle that travels to Mars better optimized to be used on the surface. He believes that the design will need to be changed somehow post-landing to make it possible to perform agriculture and do other duties on station. (He is in fact doing graduate engineering work at Indiana’s Purdue University right now to study more about this problem.)

Fagin is looking forward to diversifying his training if he does get selected. He’s strong in engineering, he said, but feels that learning medical skills, for example, will position all crew members well to work on the surface.

Brian Hinson, 44, United States

As you can see by the application video, Hinson is not afraid of standing out. He’s been to 39 countries and describes himself as experienced in learning about different cultures. He’s a private pilot and has also tested himself physically, for example by mountain-climbing to altitudes above 19,685 feet (6,000 meters).

“The whole Mars thing came up, and it sounds like the greatest adventure of all time,” said Hinson, who co-founded the company Skin Beautiful Dermaceuticals with his wife, Kathleen Eickholt (who is supportive of the Mars mission, but doesn’t necessarily want him to leave, he adds).

Hinson is a lifelong space enthusiast, but says his math capabilities weren’t enough to consider the NASA astronaut program. He would contribute to the mission as an engineer: “I think I could help out with hydroponics, recycle the water and everything else … [and also] picking up samples for scientists back home.”

From spending as long as 2.5 weeks on trips with strangers, Hinson added that he thinks psychological aspects will be key to success of the crew. He added that he expects the Mars One training process will include extended periods of time in isolation, perhaps something similar to the six months a science crew typically spends in Antarctica.

Andrew Rader, 34, Canada

Rader’s skills span both the technical and the human, as he earned a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and also was crowned “Canada’s Greatest Know-It-All” in a reality show competition hosted by the Discovery Channel. Mars One will only succeed as a venture if it can be “sold” to the public as a worthy endeavor, he said, adding that space enthusiasts will be among the hardest to convince because of their knowledge.

“Mars One could possibly happen if it gains enough support, if everyone donated a dollar, or space enthusiasts donated a hundred dollars [each], or billionaires donated a chunk, it could happen,” he added.

He characterizes the first few years of the colony as a time when people need to focus on the basic parts of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Keeping people safe and fed will come before scientific return for the first bit. His first goal on the surface will be to make the base as self-sustaining as possible. If that works out, he’d be happy to do things such as maintain rovers to pick up samples for people to analyze back at a Mars “lab”. (Having robots do surface exploration would reduce the risk of radiation, he said.)

Space is the long-term solution to the survival of our species, Rader adds, with the ultimate destination being outside the solar system. To get there first, however, you need stepping stones, and he believes Mars is the most likely destination for humans. “Mars is a very challenging place to go for us, but it is within our technological capabilities, and going there would create the technological incentives to go further.”

Mars One Proposes First Privately Funded Robotic Mars Missions – 2018 Lander & Orbiter

The Mars One non-profit foundation that aims to establish a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet in the mid-2020’s – with colonists volunteering for a one-way trip – took a major step forward today, Dec. 10, when they announced plans to launch the first ever privately funded space missions to Mars in 2018; as forerunners to gather critical measurements.

Bas Lansdorp, Mars One Co-founder and CEO announced plans to launch two missions to the Red Planet in 2018 – consisting of a robotic lander and an orbiting communications satellite; essential for transmitting the data collected on the Red Planet’s surface.

And he has partnered with a pair of prestigious space companies to get started.

Lansdorp made the announcement at a news media briefing held today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

“This will be the first private mission to Mars and the lander’s successful arrival and operation will be a historic accomplishment,” said Lansdorp.

Lansdorp stated that Mars One has signed contracts with Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) to develop mission concept studies – both are leading aerospace companies with vast experience in building spacecraft.

The 2018 Mars One lander would be a technology demonstrator and include a scoop, cameras and an exotic solar array to boost power and longevity.

The spacecraft structure would be based on NASA’s highly successful 2007 Phoenix Mars lander – built by Lockheed Martin – which discovered and dug into water ice buried just inches beneath the topsoil in the northern polar regions of the Red Planet.

3 Footpads of Phoenix Mars Lander atop Martian Ice.  Phoenix thrusters blasted away Martian soil and exposed water ice. Proposed Mars InSight mission will build a new Phoenix-like lander from scratch to peer deep into the Red Planet and investigate the nature and size of the mysterious Martian core. Credit: Ken Kremer, Marco Di Lorenzo, Phoenix Mission, NASA/JPL/UA/Max Planck Institute
3 Footpads of Phoenix Mars Lander atop Martian Ice
Phoenix thrusters blasted away Martian soil and exposed water ice. Proposed Mars One 2018 mission will build a new Phoenix-like lander from scratch to test technologies for extracting water into a useable form for future human colonists. NASA’s InSight 2016 mission will build a new Phoenix-like lander to peer deep into the Red Planet and investigate the nature and size of the mysterious Martian core. Credit: Ken Kremer, Marco Di Lorenzo, Phoenix Mission, NASA/JPL/UA/Max Planck Institute

“We are excited to have been selected by Mars One for this ambitious project and we’re already working on the mission concept study, starting with the proven design of Phoenix,” said Ed Sedivy, Civil Space chief engineer at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “Having managed the Phoenix spacecraft development, I can tell you, landing on Mars is challenging and a thrill and this is going to be a very exciting mission.”

Lockheed Martin engineers will work for the next 3 to 4 months to study mission concepts as well as how to stack the orbiter and lander on the launcher,” Sedivy said at the briefing.

“The lander will provide proof of concept for some of the technologies that are important for a permanent human settlement on Mars,” said Lansdorp.

Two examples involve experiments to extract water into a usable form and construction of a thin film solar array to provide additional power to the spacecraft and eventual human colonists.

It would include a Phoenix like scoop to collect soils for the water extraction experiment and cameras for continuous video recording transmitted by the accompanying orbiter.

Lockheed Martin is already under contract to build another Phoenix type lander for NASA that is slated to blastoff in 2016 on the InSight mission.

“They have a distinct legacy of participating in nearly every NASA mission to Mars,” said Lansdorp.

So if sufficient funding is found it seems apparent that lander construction should be accomplished in time.

However, building the science instruments from scratch to meet the tight timeline could be quite challenging.

Given that the lander is planned to launch in barely over four years, I asked Sedivy if that was sufficient time to select, design and develop the new science instruments planned for the 2018 mission.

“A typical life cycle for the Mars program provides three and a half years from commitment to design to launch. So we have about 1 year to commit to preliminary design for the 2018 launch, so that’s favorable,” Sedivy told Universe Today.

“Now as for having enough time for selecting the suite of science experiments that’s a little trickier. It depends on what’s actually selected and the maturity of those elements selected.”

“So we will provide Mars One with input as to where we see the development risks. And we’ll help guide the instrument selections to have a high probability that they will be ready in time for the 2018 launch window,” Sedivy told me.

Video caption: Mars One Crowdfunding Campaign 2018 Mars Mission

For the 2018 lander, Mars One also plans to include an experiment from a worldwide university challenge and items from several Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) challenge winners.

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) was selected to studying orbiter concepts that will provide a high bandwidth communications system in a Mars synchronous orbit and will be used to relay data and a live video feed from the lander on the surface of Mars back to Earth, according to Sir Martin Sweeting, Executive Chairman of SSTL.

There are still many unknowns at this stage including the sources for all the significant funding required by Mars One to transform their concepts into actual flight hardware.

“Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing activities are important means to do that,” said Lansdorp.

At the briefing, Lansdorp stated that Mars One has started an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. The goal is to raise $400,000 by Jan. 25, 2014.

Link to – Indiegogo Mars One campaign

Mars One is looking for sponsors and partners. They also plan a TV show to help select the winners of the first human crew to Mars from over 200,000 applicants from countries spread all across Earth.

The preliminary 2018 mission study contracts with Lockheed and Surrey are valued at $260,000 and $80,000 respectively.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Curiosity, Chang’e 3, LADEE, MAVEN and MOM news and his upcoming Antares launch reports from on site at NASA Wallops Flight Facility, VA.

Ken Kremer

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Learn more about Mars, Curiosity, Orion, MAVEN, MOM, Mars rovers, Antares Launch, Chang’e 3, SpaceX and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations

Dec 11: “Curiosity, MAVEN and the Search for Life on Mars”, “LADEE & Antares ISS Launches from Virginia”, Rittenhouse Astronomical Society, Franklin Institute, Phila, PA, 8 PM

Dec 15-20: “Antares/Cygnus ISS Rocket Launch from Virginia”; Rodeway Inn, Chincoteague, VA, evening