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article imageOp-Ed: Mars One wants proposals for 2018 payloads, but missing a trick?

By Paul Wallis     Jul 1, 2014 in Science
Amersfoort - Mars One, the controversial “ultimate reality show” program to land people to live on Mars, has issued a press release requesting proposals for four demonstration payloads. The project has attracted thousands of volunteers, and a lot of skepticism.
From the Mars One press release:
Amersfoort, 30th June 2014 - Mars One is extending a formal invitation to universities, research bodies, and companies to contribute to the payload of the 2018 unmanned Mars Lander. The best ideas will be chosen by a panel of experts. This mission will act as a staging point for the first-ever human mission to the red planet in 2025.
Artist s representation of a habitation on Mars.
Artist's representation of a habitation on Mars.
Video screen capture
Mars One is soliciting proposals for four demonstration payloads that will demonstrate technologies for the human mission in 2025, proposals for one payload that will be elected in a world wide university competition, and proposals for two payloads that are for sale to the highest bidder. These last two payloads can be used for scientific experiments, marketing activities or anything inbetween.
Existing payload specifications include:
Demonstration payloads: Mars One will send four experiments to demonstrate some of the technologies that are important for the successful permanent human settlement of Mars:
• A soil acquisition experiment that will collect soil for water production;
• A water extraction experiment that will extract water from the Martian soil;
• A thin film solar panel will demonstrate the possibility of generating the settlement’s energy by only using sunlight for power;
• A camera system which, in combination with a Mars-synchronous communications satellite, will enable Mars One to send a live video feed from Mars to Earth. Everyone on Earth will be able to take a ‘real time’ look on Mars.
Other options for Mars One
NASA s Curiosity rover finds evidence of flowing stream on Mars at this rock outcrop  named  Hottah ...
NASA's Curiosity rover finds evidence of flowing stream on Mars at this rock outcrop named "Hottah" after Hottah Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
You’ll notice that the science angle is pretty obvious. Less obvious is whether Mars One is considering exploiting options for commercializing the project through scientific research.
This project offers truly unique opportunities to carry out extremely valuable science.
Mars as it really looks  and lots of things to explore.
Mars as it really looks, and lots of things to explore.
JPL/NASA
While the Mars One program schedule is already laid out, there’s nothing to stop resupply missions from Earth, and additional project development.
The Mars One colonists aren’t scientists, but they don’t need to be, to carry out a wide range of tasks. Many basic research processes are pretty simple, and cheap to create. Shipping to Mars may not be cheap, but the science alone could provide a vast range of values for terrestrial science.
The trouble with Martian science is that it’s pretty slow moving. The achievements of the NASA landers have been spectacular, but so much more needs to be done. Not least of the issues is basic physical understanding of Mars, its hazards, and the possibilities of using hydrogen technology to extract energy on Mars.
(If, for example, H3 exists on Mars, it could provide a vast source of energy for the new colony. If water is found, it could be used for other types of energy and oxygen production. The possibilities are literally endless.)
NASA and other space agencies could also use Mars One as a field lab for projects, confirming or refuting information previously collected, and adding to the knowledge base.
Core sampling, not currently possible for the Martian landers, could also be carried out. This would give insights into the puzzling history of Mars, its ancient environment, and possible events which shaped the planet as we see it today.
The possible commercial benefits of these operations could assist augmenting the colony’s development, and perhaps even pay for a new colony. It might even be possible to build a “Martian space program” launching from Mars, if energy resources and materials can be developed.
This is the first giant step which has involved humanity as a whole. This is reality of another kind — a very necessary step. The best approach to this program is to find as many ways as possible to support it and make it viable.
Just one more thing — the impossibilities of today are the norms of tomorrow. This is no place for small thinking. Exploring the universe, by definition, means exploring all the possibilities.
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 exploration, Mars One payload proposals, mars colony