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article imageOp-Ed: Mars One University Challenge – Rate ideas for Mars exploration

By Paul Wallis     Sep 8, 2014 in Science
Sydney - If you’re one of those people has been watching the Mars One mission evolve, you’ll be pleased to hear your input is needed. The new Mars One University Challenge is designed to get feedback and ratings from interested people and followers.
They’re definitely not short of ideas – The Mars One University Challenge contains a truly fascinating list of projects, from artificially grown food and microbe evolution through to growing plants on Mars.
Mars One has been the subject of a lot of criticism for various reasons. The theory of a one-way mission to Mars hasn’t necessarily appealed to everyone, but it seems that science will not be denied in terms of the possible discoveries which can be made.
Suggestions have come from all around the world, including Germany, Russia, India, Spain, Chile, and Australia. Notable among these suggestions is the fact that they are all very strongly practically oriented, aimed at productive research.
Mars as it really looks  and lots of things to explore.
Mars as it really looks, and lots of things to explore.
JPL/NASA
Also notable is the fact that all of these projects deserve to be tried. If Mars One is looking for specific priorities, they will probably find that the opinions will vary widely. This is perhaps the first “democratization” of space research, and the findings will be very interesting indeed.
Trying not to belabor a point – One of the research projects is aimed at seeing how microbes react to the Martian environment. This is a particularly interesting idea for many reasons. The evolution of terrestrial bacteria on Mars is central to the future of Martian exploration. The evolution of pathogens, in particular, would be particularly interesting.
In this case, they are proposing to experiment with a pretty straightforward range of basic bacteria, including E. coli. This experiment does have long-term possibilities. The mere fact of human presence on Mars, including human symbiotic and other biota, means that Mars will be contaminated with terrestrial bacteria and viruses, sooner or later.
This mosaic of images from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover ...
This mosaic of images from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover released December 9, 2013 shows a series of sedimentary deposits in the Glenelg area of Gale Crater
, NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/AFP/File
How these organisms react to the Martian environment is critically important to the health of the Martian colony and explorers. For terraforming purposes, and creating of habitable zones on Mars, the research is equally crucial. Micro fauna underpin living ecologies. If that micro fauna turns feral, or becomes dangerous, it could become a major problem very quickly, particularly in the limited space available to colonists. Any type of biological contamination could be extremely serious, so this research is much less than frivolous.
Mars One is also fulfilling an unexpected mission – It’s allowing real practical thinking on the issues of Martian exploration and colonization. Humanity may have to be dragged kicking and screaming and fondling its spreadsheets into space, but it looks like it’s on its way, mentally as well as physically.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about mars one, Mars one University challenge, Martian exploration, democratisation of space exploration, terrestrial microbes on Mars
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