‘Inside 360’: Behind the Scenes of the Mars One Mission

Amersfoort, 27th May 2015 – Mars One is proud to introduce Inside 360; a series of in-depth articles that present an inside look into the details and feasibility of the Mars One mission. The first article can be found on Mars Exchange. Subsequent articles will be added periodically.

Mars One has taken the first crucial steps in the process of establishing the first human settlement on Mars. In order to address the questions and concerns that have been raised, Inside 360 will foremost provide an in-depth explanation of the individual phases of the mission. Mars One is continuously improving their mission plans based on advice from advisers and suppliers, and Inside 360 will offer the rationale behind decisions made. The ongoing series will additionally feature interviews with Mars One team members and external experts about the different aspects of the mission.

Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.

“Mars One is still in the early stages of organizing this human mission to Mars,” said Bas Lansdorp, co-founder and CEO of Mars One. “We are looking forward to sharing our developments as well as the studies completed by our suppliers. This way, the aerospace community can share their feedback and we can implement suggestions that improve our mission design.”

Astronaut Selection: Inside 360 will describe the Mars One astronaut selection process and include an interview with Mars One’s Chief Medical Officer, Norbert Kraft, M.D., discussing the selection criteria. Dr. Kraft has researched crew composition for long duration space missions at NASA and has also worked for the Japanese Space Agency and collaborated with the Russian Space Agency.  Continue reading

The End of Dark Energy

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

Dr. Peter A. Milne and his associates have found an unexpected and, to the cosmological community, startling result from their surveys of supernovae. This result illustrates both the consistent and varying nature of science at the same time.

Dr. Peter Milne

Dr. Peter Milne

We know from a great many astronomical observations that the universe has been expanding for a little short of 14 billion years and continues to expand. Because of gravity, everyone expected that this expansion was slowing over time with theories and measurements suggesting that this expansion would eventually coast to a very dilute universe drifting apart at ever slower speeds.

In the 1990s, some astronomers separately discovered that the universe is expanding ever more rapidly instead of the expected opposite slowing of expansion using measurements of he brightness of very distant supernovae. They received the Nobel Prize in physics for this work in 2011.

Stars can explode. One common explosion is called a nova. A much more cataclysmic and extremely brighter explosion is a supernova. Supernovae shine with a brightness that can exceed that of all of the hundred billion or so stars in its galaxy. For this reason, we can see them in distant galaxies that are barely visible in our best telescopes. A supernova is a rare event occurring about three times a century in a galaxy the size of our Milky Way. With hundreds of billions of galaxies, however, it’s not too hard to find hundreds each year using modern astronomical equipment.

A special sort of supernova created when the two stars in a binary star system go through a specific series of interactions is known as a type 1a supernova. Because of the steps required to reach supernova status, the brightness of these type 1a supernovae has been considered to be a constant that can be used to estimate distances to very distant galaxies. Brightness declines with distance in a very precise manner.

There remains the possibility that acceleration of very distant bodies in our universe away from each other is a basic property of our space-time structure not detectable at smaller distances of only millions or even tens of millions of light-years, that “dark energy” is just an attempt to recast a phenomenon into understandable terms, just as the caloric theory of heat was long ago. -HK

The measurements of these supernovae were the reason to believe that the expansion of the universe was accelerating. We are seeing these very distant supernovae with light that started its journey over ten billion years ago when the universe was very young. Dr. Milne has discovered that type 1a supernovae are not all the same but fall into two categories of different brightness. Furthermore, the supernovae from the early universe are, on average, less bright than those in the more recent universe.

The lower brightness of the distant supernovae may well be due to less inherent brightness instead of greater distance. This finding destroys a fair piece of that Nobel Prize discovery. Dr. Milne still attests that the universe’s expansion is accelerating, just not so fast, but the vast number of recalculations being done to account for this new discovery will take some time.  Continue reading

Mars One CEO Answers Questions About Mission Feasibility

Amersfoort, 19th March 2015 – Mars One recently published a video in which Bas Lansdorp, CEO and Co-founder of Mars One, replies to recent criticism concerning the feasibility of Mars One’s human mission to Mars.



Question: What do you think of the recent news articles that doubt the feasibility of Mars One?

BL: At Mars One we really value good criticism because it helps us to improve our mission. We get a lot of criticism from our advisors, and that is also exactly what we want from them. The recent bad press about Mars One was largely caused by an article on medium.com, which contains a lot of things that are not true. For example, the suggestion was made that our candidates were selected on the basis of how much money they donate to Mars One. That is simply not true, and it is very easy to find that on our website. There are a lot of current Round Three candidates that did not make any donations to Mars One, and there are also lots of people that did not make it to the third round that contributed a lot to Mars One. The two things are not related at all, and to say that they are is simply a lie. The article also states that there were only 2,700 applications for Mars One, which is not true. We offered the reporter, the first journalist ever, access to our list of 200,000 applications, but she was not interested in that. It seems that she is more interested in writing a sensational article about Mars One than in the truth.

We will have to delay the first unmanned mission to 2020. Delaying our first unmanned mission by two years also means that all the other missions will move by the same period of time, with our first human landing now planned for 2027. -B.L.

Question: Concerns have been voiced about the thoroughness of the astronaut selection process. What is your response to that?

BL: We started our astronaut selection with over 200,000 applications that were submitted online. The application included a video and a lot of psychological questions for our candidates. We used that to narrow down the candidates to about 1000 that had to do a medical check, which was very similar to the check for NASA astronauts. All the remaining candidates then underwent an interview. The interview and all other parts of the selection process were led by Norbert Kraft, our Chief Medical Officer. He has worked on astronaut selection for 5 years at the Japanese Space Agency, and at NASA he researched crew composition for long duration space missions.  Continue reading

Mars One Fizzles?

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

One of the craziest schemes to garner worldwide publicity and lots of contributions is having some new problems. Mars One has lost one of its final hundred to misgivings about the process by which he was chosen. Will more come out with similar stories? Is this the beginning of the end for Mars One?

The Mars One stray is Joseph Roche, an assistant professor at Trinity College Dublin with a PhD in, wait for it, physics and astrophysics. With this education and background, he’s not just a scientist well equipped with Carl Sagan’s famous “baloney detection kit,” he’s also a specialist in getting around the universe.

Mars One is a reach too far. Until I see plenty of funding and until I see that water mission and then see the first supply mission land successfully, I will remain cautiously skeptical. -H.K.

I have written plenty about Mars One and its challenges. In the end, I stated that its biggest challenge is not radiation or water or air or food but money. It’s not just the money to send that first expedition to Mars but also the money to keep sending more until the colony is self-sufficient. The first expedition requires several preparatory flights to deliver lots of habitat modules, freeze-dried food, solar panels, machinery, rovers, and more. Each of those unmanned preparatory flights will cost very large sums of money, likely a billion or more dollars apiece.  Continue reading

Life on Frozen Moons

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

Now that three of the moons of our solar system’s gas giant planets have been said to have subsurface oceans, it’s time to take stock and consider the meaning of these analyses.

Ganymede and Europa of Jupiter along with Enceladus of Saturn are likely to have oceans far below their frozen surfaces. Should we send unmanned missions to explore these unusual moons, and what should we be searching for? Many have exclaimed that we have extremophiles (organisms that survive in extreme environments) here on Earth, so we cannot discount the likelihood of life beneath miles of ice where the Sun never shines.

This image or video was catalogued by Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Enceladus’ north polar region. This image was catalogued by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

If we search near the geysers of Enceladus, might we find the frozen remnants of miniature fish coughed up from deep down inside this odd moon? Answering this question requires more than a moment’s thought. What is life? How does it begin and advance? Are the ingredients for life available in those cold, deep seas?

Here’s my definition. Life uses available energy and materials to reproduce itself and has the potential for errors in reproduction that will allow for evolution. From what we know, those vast, cold underground oceans have the necessary ingredients. Without an energy source, they would be frozen and not liquid. Heat coming from the inside of a moon must provide chemicals that can both be used as chemical energy sources and as materials for constructing living organisms.  Continue reading

Does SETI Make Sense? Part IV: Communicating

Harry SETI header

We are likely to be the only civilization in our galactic cluster if the chances of forming such a civilization are but one in ten trillion. These are not encouraging numbers. For the sake of argument put the odds up to having 100 civilizations in our galaxy. That’s lots more than I would expect and means that the estimates are way off, by a factor of 10,000. Such an improvement in estimates certainly is friendly to SETI. But, can we contact one of these other civilizations?

Although I think that SETI is a colossal waste of resources, I cannot fault those who pursue this dream.

The galaxy is a very large place, about 100,000 light-years across. Any civilizations will be in an annulus around the center because being close to a galactic center is inimical to life. We won’t be able to communicate to the other side of our galaxy due to the extreme noise originating at our galactic center. Our potential range for communication is probably about 20,000 light-years, but this range again is limited by the number of noisy objects between us and our target.  Continue reading

Does SETI Make Sense? Part III: Evolution

Harry SETI header

Every planet that develops life based on chemistry similar to ours will begin with single cells. The entire water ecosystem will consist of these cells in some variety. That variety necessarily came about due to errors in copying the cells from one generation to the next. They would have a rather mundane life of drifting about randomly until encountering some useful molecule and absorbing that molecule. When enough of these molecules had been absorbed, possibly taking years, the single cell will divide into two.

In this slow, inexorable process, the seas will become full of these cells. Some will drift to inhospitable places where they’ll be killed and spill their contents back into the sea for other cells to absorb. Direct conflict is unlikely because the apparatus for killing and absorbing other cells is too complex to develop readily.

Altogether, there’s something like a chance in a billion that a given star will have a planet that can develop and sustain life. The chances are probably much worse.

Early on, after about a billion years, some developed the ability to use sunlight to make molecules from CO2 and water, from chlorophyll, probably an early form that has evolved into its many varieties today. Some scientists suggest that the earliest versions of chlorophyll did not produce oxygen as a byproduct. By about 2.3 billion years ago, some definitely had and started putting oxygen into the water. For life at that time, oxygen was a serious poison, worse than cyanide is to us. It was a matter of adapt or die — or hide somewhere where oxygen did not exist.

This was probably the first great extinction on Earth, and it was caused by oxygen pollution. Evolution favored those who had a way to neutralize this nasty chemical. Slowly but surely, the removal of so many anaerobic species left ecological niches open, and aerobic cells began to fill them. They used a new way to create energy though oxidation, a much more efficient way than their predecessors. Unfortunately (or fortunately from our viewpoint), the oxygen had some other side effects.

Continue reading