Mars One is a private space mission that hopes to send a group of people to Mars in a decade and leave them there to foster the first human colony. It has received endorsement and support from the likes of Gerard ’t Hooft, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. But it has also been criticized on several counts, including treating a serious life-threatening scenario as a reality show for the purposes of monetization and seeking funding while being glib about nearly all the practical details.
Before applicants even get to see the application, they must pay an application fee of around $38 USD (the price varies depending on country of residence). They fill out a public-facing profile and answer several private questions about achievements and awards, incidents that have frightened or stressed them out and how they dealt with them, personality types they find difficult to handle, and how they deal with cultures other than their own. To date, 30,000 other Red Planet hopefuls have applied.
“I want to see the sun rise over a completely new horizon, in a completely new sky. I think that’s worth any price,” wrote Erica Meszaros, another Mars One applicant, in her personal essay.
Meszaros is a software developer by trade and interned with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. She states that astronauts are traditionally chosen “from the Air Force” or—more recently, with the success of $200,000 per flight projects like Virgin Galactic—from “those with deep pockets.”
Part of Mars One’s pitch has been that much of the technology for traveling to and maintaining residence on Mars already exists; it’s just a matter of marshaling resources and initiative to get there. Both Hamm and Meszaros echoed this sentiment. Despite being publicly vague on the details, Mars One leaders maintain that they know the cost of the mission ($6 billion) and that it can all be assembled and launched in 10 years.
All applicants make a video as part of their public facing profile discussing, in brief, why they want to or are suited for a mission to Mars. “I have a great sense of humor, so I really get along with everybody,” said Francisco, a 32 year-old Argentinian man who works in “the commercial area at a plastic containers factory.”
“I’ve got a feeling that I don’t belong here, but out there,” said Anders, a 51-year-old Swedish man who has the most popular profile on the site. “What makes me the perfect candidate? Well, I’m single. I’m flexible.”
“I believe that the challenge that I’m putting up with everybody… If anybody can challenge me with the knowledge and all the things that I can do, then I give up, but if not, I would like to be the first one to go,” said Vasile Sofroni, a 54-year-old Romanian man with the second most popular profile.
Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category
Posted by Xeno on May 8, 2013
Posted by Xeno on April 27, 2013
Nearly three weeks after the 20-foot boat washed ashore in Crescent City, about 20 miles south of the Oregon border, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined it was from the 2011 tsunami, the first confirmed debris to reach California.
Though official word didn’t come until Thursday, a Humboldt State University professor used Facebook to connect the dots shortly after beachgoers discovered the boat April 7. Lori Dengler, who helped examine the craft, recognized the lettering after some of the barnacles were scraped away, the Del Norte Triplicate reported. The characters included “Takata High School” — a school in Rikuzentakata, a fishing town ravaged by the magnitude 9 quake and subsequent tsunami.
Dengler posted photos of the boat on the city’s Facebook page, the newspaper reported. Soon after, a teacher confirmed that it belonged to the school.
Though nearly 1,700 pieces of debris have been reported to NOAA, the boat is only the 27th item found that has definitively been traced back to Japan, said NOAA spokeswoman Keeley Belva. Other items include giant docks that washed ashore in Washington and central Oregon, and a Harley Davidson found in a container that reached British Columbia.
But the boat isn’t the first item recovered from Rikuzentakata. A year ago, a soccer ball marked in Japanese was discovered on a remote Alaskan island and eventually traced to a 16-year-old Rikuzentakata boy who recognized it as his. The teenager said his family lost everything in the tsunami, which he escaped by running to higher ground with his dog.
The Japanese government guesses the earthquake and tsunami — which killed thousands and devastated the northern part of the country — swept somewhere around 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean, NOAA said. Although 70% of that was thought to have sunk quickly, an estimated 1.5 tons remained.
But given the amount of time that has passed since the tsunami, NOAA said it was unclear how much of that debris is still floating — or where it will show up.
“We think that it will probably trickle through as things go on,” Belva said. “It’s hard to say when anything will show up exactly — it depends on what it is, if something has broken down, weather patterns and currents. It really is challenging [to predict].”
It’s also hard to say what debris is from the tsunami and what isn’t, Belva said. Officials look for possible identifiers — such as lettering or boat registration numbers — and work with the Japanese government to try and pinpoint where the items originated.
Posted by Xeno on April 26, 2013
The solar-powered plane Solar Impulse is preparing for a journey around the world scheduled to begin on May 1. It is powered by about 12,000 photovoltaic cells that cover its massive wings. They allow it to charge its batteries and enable it to fly day and night without jet fuel. Above, the Solar Impulse glides over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Posted by Xeno on April 18, 2013
Want to go to Mars? Dutch organisation Mars One says it will open applications imminently. It would be a one-way trip, and the company hopes to build a community of settlers on the planet.
Uncharted waters, mountains or far away lands have always drawn explorers. History books show that desire for adventure, even in the face of extreme danger, did not deter the likes of Columbus or Magellan.
So it is perhaps not surprising that Mars One has already received thousands of prospective applicants. But there is no return – unlike the mission which hopes to fly to Mars and back in 2018.
Future explorers take note. Applicants must be resilient, adaptable, resourceful and must work well within a team. The whole project will be televised, from the reality TV style selection process, to landing and beyond.
On a visit to the BBC’s London office, Mars One’s co-founder Bas Lansdorp explains why this would be a one-way flight.
During the seven-to-eight month journey, astronauts will lose bone and muscle mass. After spending time on Mars’ much weaker gravitational field, it would be almost impossible to readjust back to Earth’s much stronger gravity, says Landsorp.
Successful applicants will be trained physically and psychologically. The team will use existing technology for all aspects of the project. Energy will be generated from solar panels, water will be recycled and extracted from soil and the astronauts will grow their own food – they will also have an emergency ration and regular top-ups as new explorers join every two years.
But is it realistic to believe that individuals could live and prosper on the Red Planet?
Mars is in the firing line of the Sun’s high energy particles, called solar wind. The atmosphere of Mars is very thin as the solar wind is thought to have stripped much of it away.
On Earth, we are protected from the solar wind by a strong magnetic field. Without this, it would be much more difficult to survive. Although Mars once had similar protection about four billion years ago, today there is no such shield protecting it.
The Martian surface is therefore extremely hostile to life, says Dr Veronica Bray, from the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, who is sceptical about the project.
There’s no liquid water, the atmospheric pressure is “practically a vacuum”, radiation levels are higher and temperatures vary wildly, she says.
“Radiation exposure is a concern, especially during the trip. This can lead to increased cancer risk, a lowered immune system and possibly infertility.”
To minimise radiation, the project team will cover the domes with several metres of soil, which the colonists will have to dig up.
“I have no doubt that we could physically place a human being on Mars. Whether they’d be able to survive for an extended period of time is much more doubtful,” adds Dr Bray.
Ambassador for the project, Professor Gerard ‘t Hooft, a recipient of the Nobel Prize for theoretical physics in 1999, admits there are unknown health risks. He says the radiation is “of quite a different nature” than anything which has been tested on Earth. …
Posted by Xeno on April 8, 2013
Guns, jewelry and watches were among the items prosecutors say he stuffed into his backpack.
Vang faces 11 felony counts of theft.
Brad Garrett, a former FBI special agent and ABC News analyst, said it would be difficult to stop something like this from happening again.
“You basically can’t secure bags because of the sheer volume and the movement of the bags and the handlers ability to have the bags where no one’s watching him at any given time,” he said.
A second airport horror story was also exposed this week when a Delta Airlines employee allegedly breached security at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
PHOTOS: TSA Pat-Down Horror Stories
Marcelino Aponte, 31, was turned away by TSA officials because he did not have a boarding pass for his flight to Orlando.
Authorities say Aponte then used his airport security badge to get through locked areas and board his flight– completely bypassing any metal detectors.
TSA told ABC News they responded within nine minutes, however Aponte’s flight landed in Orlando before he was detained.
“The reality is if you work at an airline and you’re moving around through the airport from non secure to secure areas, you in effect do not have to go through TSA clearances each time you go in and out of a secure area,” Garrett said. …
Posted by Xeno on April 5, 2013
The cathedrals of Europe took centuries to build, surviving political upheavals for the benefit of future generations. Can a board game created today also last that long?
That’s what game designer Jason Rohrer was shooting for when he unveiled A Game for Someone, winner of the Game Design Challenge at the recent Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco.
Rohrer, who has created titles such as The Castle Doctrine, designed A Game for Someone for a challenge titled “Humanity’s Last Game,” which it won.
Rohrer’s new board game is meant to be played not by anyone alive today, but by people some 2,000 years in the future, assuming our species survives that long. To that end it has been buried somewhere in the Nevada desert, Polygon tells us.
“I wanted to make a game that is not for right now, that I will never play,” the website quoted Rohrer as saying, “and nobody now living would ever play.”
Inspired by the Mancala group of board games, A Game for Someone was tested in video game form by AI algorithms, and apparently Rohrer did not even play it himself.
It was designed to last through the ages, with the 18×18-inch board and silver cylindrical pieces machined from about 30 pounds of titanium.
The rules, which Rohrer has kept secret, were printed as diagrams on acid-free paper, sealed in a Pyrex tube, and housed in more titanium.
Rohrer then buried the game at a secret location in the Nevada desert, but kept the GPS location.
With dramatic panache, after describing the game he had GDC attendees open envelopes he had distributed. They contained a total of 1 million GPS coordinates.
“He estimates that if one person visits a GPS location each day with a metal detector, the game will be unearthed sometime within the next million days–a little over 2,700 years,” Polygon noted.
Anyone up for some game hunting? Who knows what else you’ll find buried out there. …
2,000 years? Not likely because about 353 years from now we find out that everything everywhere in the solar system can be searched without leaving your home by calculating the way light changes when it moves through a quantum “computer”. Anyone could then do a search of the physical Nevada desert from surface level down to 20 feet (that should do it) for a titanium signature mass between certain values.
Posted by Xeno on April 4, 2013
A Samoan airline that says it is the world’s first carrier to charge passengers by their weight rather than per seat defends the plan as the fairest way to fly, in some cases actually ending up cheaper than conventional tickets.
Samoa Air, which opened in 2012, asks passengers to declare their personal weight during booking, which is then charged per kilogram (2.2 lb) at a rate dependent on flight length. The customers will also be weighed at the check-in counter.
“The industry has this concept that all people throughout the world are the same size,” Samoa Air CEO Chris Langton told Reuters. “Aeroplanes always run on weight, irrespective of seats.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that this is the concept of the future. This is the fairest way of you travelling with your family, or yourself.”
Though the airline instituted the plan last November, it caught attention last week when the carrier began international flights to neighboring American Samoa and coincided with the publication of a report by a Norwegian economist suggesting that airlines should charge obese passengers more.
The Pacific Islands contain some of the world’s most prevalent countries for obesity, many ranking in the top 10, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Samoa is ranked number four, with 59.6 percent of the population considered obese, said the most recent 2008 WHO report.
According to Samoa Air’s latest schedule, the airline charges up to WS$1.32 ($0.57) per kg for domestic flights and WS$2.40 ($1.03) per kg for its only international flight to American Samoa, around 250 miles. A 150 kg person flying one-way internationally would be charged $154.50.
Children under 12 are charged 75 percent of the adult rate, with fares also based on weight. Any overweight baggage is calculated at the same rate as the passenger’s personal weight.
The plan could actually prove cheaper in some cases, such as for families travelling with small children, and Langton said customer feedback has mainly been “amazingly positive”.
“When the initial shock has worn off, there’s been nothing but support,” said Langton. “People who are up around 200 kg recognize…they’re paying (for) 200 kg, so they deserve to get 200 kg of comfort,” he added. …
Posted by Xeno on February 28, 2013
Picture an assembly line not that isn’t made up of robotic arms spewing sparks to weld heavy steel, but a warehouse of plastic-spraying printers producing light, cheap and highly efficient automobiles.If Jim Kor’s dream is realized, that’s exactly how the next generation of urban runabouts will be produced. His creation is called the Urbee 2 and it could revolutionize parts manufacturing while creating a cottage industry of small-batch automakers intent on challenging the status quo.Urbee’s approach to maximum miles per gallon starts with lightweight construction – something that 3-D printing is particularly well suited for. The designers were able to focus more on the optimal automobile physics, rather than working to install a hyper efficient motor in a heavy steel-body automobile. As the Urbee shows, making a car with this technology has a slew of beneficial side effects.Jim Kor is the engineering brains behind the Urbee. He’s designed tractors, buses, even commercial swimming pools. Between teaching classes, he heads Kor Ecologic, the firm responsible for the 3-D printed creation.“We thought long and hard about doing a second one,” he says of the Urbee. “It’s been the right move.”Kor and his team built the three-wheel, two-passenger vehicle at RedEye, an on-demand 3-D printing facility. The printers he uses create ABS plastic via Fused Deposition Modeling FDM. The printer sprays molten polymer to build the chassis layer by microscopic layer until it arrives at the complete object. The machines are so automated that the building process they perform is known as “lights out” construction, meaning Kor uploads the design for a bumper, walk away, shut off the lights and leaves. A few hundred hours later, he’s got a bumper. The whole car – which is about 10 feet long – takes about 2,500 hours.Photo: Sara PayneBesides easy reproduction, making the car body via FDM affords Kor the precise control that would be impossible with sheet metal. When he builds the aforementioned bumper, the printer can add thickness and rigidity to specific sections. When applied to the right spots, this makes for a fender that’s as resilient as the one on your Prius, but much lighter. That translates to less weight to push, and a lighter car means more miles per gallon. And the current model has a curb weight of just 1,200 pounds.To further remedy the issues caused by modern car-construction techniques, Kor used the design freedom of 3-D printing to combine a typical car’s multitude of parts into simple unibody shapes. For example, when he prints the car’s dashboard, he’ll make it with the ducts already attached without the need for joints and connecting parts. What would be dozens of pieces of plastic and metal end up being one piece of 3-D printed plastic.
Posted by Xeno on February 27, 2013
Now he’s aiming higher. He and a group of fellow space entrepreneurs announced today that they will try to mount the first-ever flight to Mars, sending a man and a woman to fly past the red planet and return safely in 501 days.
And they say they hope to pull it off by 2018 — just five years from now, and decades earlier than NASA or anyone else has even contemplated.
Tito, now 72, says he does not plan to fly himself, but he does plan to bankroll part of the mission himself. A former NASA engineer who went into finance to make his fortune, he says the flight would be possible because it would use privately designed spacecraft already in development — perhaps a rocket and conical space capsule built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, with an inflatable module made by Robert Bigelow’s firm for extra room.
“It’s not a commercial mission, it’s a philanthropic mission,” said Tito in an interview with ABC News.
It would be a tough, dangerous, lonely trip, which is why Tito’s group, Inspiration Mars, suggests the crew be a married couple. They would not even land on Mars — too complicated to organize for now — just speed by, perhaps getting a look at it from an altitude of 100 miles.
But Inspiration Mars says the excitement of that first foray to another planet would change the world.
“It’s a great step for humanity,” said Tito. “I think it would be really exciting, not only to our generation, but younger generations as well.”
Is it possible, or crazy? Doctors have worried about radiation in deep space; psychologists have fretted about the stress on astronauts alone for more than a year in a cramped ship. And Tito concedes the technical challenges are daunting: “We’d better start burning the midnight oil” to make the flight happen in time.
It so happens that in 2018, Earth and Mars would align in such a way that a round-trip could be made with relatively little fuel. Another chance like this would not happen until 2031. Insipration Mars says in a paper that the ship would leave on Jan. 5, 2018, pass Mars on Aug. 20, and be home on May 21, 2019.
That is, if everything works. Can it? Would you and your spouse want to be alone in deep space for a year?
“This ‘Mission for America’ will generate new knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration,” wrote the organizers. “It is intended to encourage all Americans to believe again in doing the hard things that make our nation great.”…