Saturday Morning Sci-Fi Open Thread: Mars Needs Believers!

Even as a very young hardcore sf reader, I knew I would never be part of a one-way space mission, because I can barely stand to spend a long weekend trapped in the house with a handful of people I love, much less a bunch of random strangers. (And, yes, I did not rate my chances of appealing to a quorum of those strangers, either.) But Murphy the Trickster God bless the… idealists… who are willing to share their dreams of Martian colonization with all the world and the Boston Globe:

When the initial tingle had passed and the idea had been given time to marinate and settle, Peter Degen-Portnoy said his family split into camps regarding his decision to commit to a one-way trip to Mars.

His sons think it’s cool.

His two oldest daughters stopped speaking with him.

And his wife left him.

Three years ago, Degen-Portnoy, a 54-year-old father of five from Stoneham, was one of 100 semifinalists chosen for Mars One, a wildly ambitious Dutch-led project that ultimately seeks to colonize Mars, beginning in 2032, with 20 permanent, never-to-return-to-Earth settlers. The plan has been controversial from the moment it was announced in 2012, with serious questions about the technological feasibility, as well as the plan to fund much of the mission.

Mars One organizers say the project can be accomplished for roughly $6 billion; critics say that is preposterous, as is the plan to raise much of that through corporate sponsorship and the sale of television rights.

The mission is currently far, far away from becoming a reality — millions of miles and millions of questions remain about how they will get there, how they will survive on Mars and build a self-sustaining colony, and of course how they will survive the trip. The current plan involves sending supplies ahead, then sending crews of four crammed into spaceships the size of a tour bus for the 18-month journey. When solar flares erupt, they will retreat into a bathroom-sized pod, surrounded by water for protection, for several claustrophobic days at a time.

While space experts and keyboard cowboys continue their debate, Degen-Portnoy and the three other semifinalists from Massachusetts have been dealing with the very real impact on their personal lives that comes when you make a commitment to a one-way trip to outer space.

For whether they go to Mars or not, “the 100,” as they call themselves, are the first humans to actually experience the terrestrial repercussions of making such an extravagant extraterrestrial commitment…

But there’s also a love story! Much more at the link — along with a full-sized version of the video clip at the top.

Another SpaceX Launch

About 3:47 Eastern, SpaceX is launching another rocket. This is an already-used-once Block 4 version, so it will not return to land. They are, though, going to try to recover 1/2 of the payload fairing, hoping to catch it with a small boat in the Pacific. Should be fun, if slow.


They are launching some satellites, two scientific and five Iridium satellites for the NEXT constellation.



East Coast Launch: Early Morning Viewing!


There’s an Orbital ATK Antares rocket launch at 4:39 AM Eastern, in just a bit. It’s launching from the Wallops Island Facility in Southeast Virginia.

Since the rain has gone, it looks like a lot of folks may see something, should they look the appropriate direction (and up!).

Link to more info:


You can watch the launch live on


SpaceX Block5 Launch

Ok folks, this afternoon SpaceX will launch a satellite using its Block5 version of the Falcon 9 rocket. This version is planned to be reused 10 times whereas the current version only is reused once. They learn a lot from measuring the crap out of each launch, flight, and landing or crash. Each rocket is pretty much unique as they improve small things, try new things out, etc. This is a risky approach, so there’s always the chance of a spectacular failure, but for this launch, I expect things to be pretty nailed-down. They are landing on the fun-named “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship in the Atlantic, and those landings can sometimes be…exciting!

Launch is supposed to be 4:14 Eastern, but may be delayed or postponed. I may not be around to edit this post once it’s live, so others are free to edit or update, as appropriate.


Enjoy the launch,  folks!



Another Launch! – Delayed until 11:15


Some time around 11:15 or later Eastern, Blue Origin is doing a test launch of New Shepard, one of their rockets. This company is owned by Jeff Bezos, who gives 1 billion dollars a year to support it. Wowzers, that’s a lot of scratch!


Anyway, I’m very busy this morning, but wanted to put this here for interested folks.  If any other front pagers find a better link, feel free to edit.