Talking about Mars One on “This Week in Science”

Last week, my friend Kirsten Sanford (aka @drkiki) invited me to talk about Mars One with the lovable lunatics at This Week in Science, “a weekly hour-long web and radio show presenting an humorous, often opinionated, and irreverent look at the week in science and technology”.

Check, check, and check — we had a great time and more than a few laughs discussing Mars One, Mars exploration in general, and a variety of related topics, including what the heck you call the gangway that the astronauts walked in “The Right Stuff”. Many thanks to Kiki, Justin, and Blair for a delightful evening.

The show itself ran more than an hour, and the Mars section itself is around 45 minutes long, so I cued up the video below to start right before we dive into the conversation about Mars (if that isn’t working, you can either scan ahead to 47 min 30 sec or just click here). The length is a good thing, especially for those of you who have asked for a more in-depth discussion—unlike the short WBZ interview that ran the previous week, we do a much better job of explaining some of the broader justifications and finer details of the project.


If you like what you see, I encourage you to view the whole show and consider checking out their other episodes. TWiS is live (on video) every Thursday at 8 PM Pacific time, and if you can’t catch the live broadcast, they have a YouTube channel and a podcast.

ERRATUM: During the interview I got something wrong about the Hohmann transfer orbit from Earth to Mars: the launch from Earth does not happen at perigee (when Earth is closest to the sun). My statement to the contrary was based on an old, unexamined misunderstanding (which I am now grateful for the opportunity to have examined). Obviously, if the launch window opens every 26 months, it can’t be the case that Earth’s position relative to the sun is always the same. Instead, the relevant parameters are the relative positions of Earth and Mars. For a better explanation of the orbital mechanics involved in determining Earth–Mars trajectories and launch windows, see here and here.