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Standards in Space? Dutch Organization Announces Plans for Manned Mars Mission, Reality Show

Mars One, a Dutch nonprofit organization founded with the goal of carrying out manned missions to Mars, recently announced that it would begin accepting video applications in July from individuals interested in permanently settling on Mars. The organization, which boasts the support of Dutch physicist and Nobel Prize laureate Gerard 't Hooft, plans to document the selection process, journey, and eventual colonization of Mars as part of a reality television show. The project's success depends upon Mars One's ability to raise the necessary funds, and might rely upon standards already in place to help get it off the ground.

The initial voyage, expected to last seven or eight months, is intended to reach Mars by 2023, using a privately constructed spacecraft to ferry a group of four colonists to the red planet, with another 20 scheduled to arrive in subsequent missions. A standard developed by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) member and audited designator ASTM International assists space launches similar to those planned by Mars One by providing a test method for determining the yield stress of heterogeneous aerospace propellants that contain up to 70% solid additives. ASTM D2884-93(2012), Standard Test Method for Yield Stress of Heterogeneous Propellants by Cone Penetration Method, is not intended to address all safety concerns associated with its use.

Once on Mars, the colonists will carry out soil removal in order to build permanent shelters and to begin mining for needed mineral resources. Here on Earth, similar work would be assisted by SAE J 371-2010 (SAE J371-2010), Drain, Fill, and Level Plugs for Off-Road, Self-Propelled Work Machines. The standard, developed by SAE International, an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, is intended to help standardize the number of sizes and type of pipe thread and straight thread plugs associated with self-propelled work machines used for mining, earthmoving, road building, and related activities.

An American National Standard (ANS) developed by ANSI-accredited standards developer and organizational member the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) provides guidance regarding the application of electrical apparatus to electrically controlled irrigation machines, likely similar to the sort of equipment that would be needed to farm effectively on Mars - under some sort of protective dome or covering, of course. ANSI/ASAE S362.2 JAN1983 (R2009), Wiring and Equipment for Electrically Driven or Controlled Irrigation Machines, is intended to improve personal safety protections in the operation and applications of these devices.

In order to run these and other machines, Martian colonists will need a dependable source of electricity. Mars One is expected to utilize photovoltaic systems that make use of solar radiation to create electrical power. IEEE Std 1526-2003, IEEE Recommended Practice for Testing the Performance of Stand-Alone Photovoltaic Systems, includes practice tests that can be used to determine the performance of photovoltaic systems over the course of about one month, providing designers, manufacturers, and system users with insight into the effectiveness of a given system. The standard was developed by ANSI member and accredited standards developer IEEE.

According to Mars One, the reality show will be broadcast worldwide and will allow viewers to vote on which applicants will take part in the inaugural mission to Mars. UL 1419-2011, Standard for Safety for Professional Video and Audio Equipment, provides guidance on the safe use of professional grade video and audio equipment, likely including the sort of devices that would be used to film the show. The standard was developed by ANSI audited designator Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL).

Critics have noted that permanent settlements on Mars will come with a variety of challenges, including lower gravity, an inhospitable atmosphere, and radiation dangers associated with solar wind, and suggest that Mars One is unlikely to be able to raise the funds need to carry out its mission. However, even if Mars One fails to found the first Martian colony, voluntary consensus standards will likely play an important role in supporting any future exploration of Mars.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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