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Mars One goes bankrupt as reality catches up to the doomed space scam

A grand mission to Mars that was always light on details has come to a decidedly terrestrial end. Mars One, a controversial space exploration project that made it as far as the “highly produced videos” stage of space colonization, has quietly filed for bankruptcy, according to a liquidation listing spotted by a Redditor on r/space.

As the post explains, the private company that spearheaded the Mars One spectacle is actually made up of two parts, a not-for-profit called the Mars One Foundation and a for-profit company known as Mars One Ventures. In 2016, Swiss financial services company InFin Innovative Finance AG picked up Mars One Ventures in a takeover bid.

In a statement on the takeover, Mars One’s leadership explained how the plan was still on track, in spite of appearances.

“The takeover provides a solid path to funding the next steps of Mars One’s mission to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. Those steps include reducing the remaining 100 astronaut candidates to just 24, as well as continuing the mission design phase with Mars One’s technology suppliers.”

When contacted about the bankruptcy, Mars One co-founder and CEO Bas Lansdorp told Engadget that the Mars One Foundation continues to operate but is stalled unless it receives an infusion of funds as Lansdorp works “to find a solution.”

Mars One was ill-fated from its inception, more grounded in CGI videos and marketing hype for a Mars mission reality TV show than any kind of scientific reality. And they couldn’t even get the show off the ground.

There were plenty of red flags for anyone willing to look, but the nature of its outlandish proposal allowed Mars One to prey on the intrinsic optimism and curiosity of would-be space explorers. As one finalist candidate revealed in an excellent exposé series on the company titled “All Dressed Up for Mars and Nowhere to Go,” Mars One’s financial reality looked like a multilevel marketing scheme — not a scientific expedition.

“When you join the ‘Mars One Community,’ which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points. You get points for getting through each round of the selection process… and then the only way to get more points is to buy merchandise from Mars One or to donate money to them.”

An MIT report in 2014 issued other telling warning’s about the project’s feasibility.

“… If all food is obtained from locally grown crops, as Mars One envisions, the vegetation would produce unsafe levels of oxygen, which would set off a series of events that would eventually cause human inhabitants to suffocate.”

Taken together, those two telling details tell you pretty much everything you need to know about a sadly small-minded company that sold the public a lucrative tale about its big red dreams.

The Boring Company goes brick-and-mortar with The Brick Store

Elon Musk has shot out some crazy, unbelievable tweets over the last year, but he wasn’t joking about the bricks. Musk has started a company called The Brick Store LLC to produce and sell bricks, according to public documents obtained by TechCrunch.

The new company, which was founded in July, will be managed by Steve Davis, the ex-SpaceX engineer who is also running The Boring Company (TBC).

TBC is developing new tunneling and transportation technologies, and the bricks will be made from soil displaced by the company’s tunnel-boring machines. Elon Musk has tweeted that the bricks could cost as little as 10 cents each, and might even be given away to affordable housing projects.

The Brick Store’s first physical outlet will be a far cry from Tesla’s sleek, designer showrooms. Planning documents submitted to Hawthorne, a city in southwestern Los Angeles County, show a rundown stucco building about a mile from TBC and SpaceX’s headquarters. Forbidding black steel security grilles “will be utilized … to accent the entrances and windows,” TBC wrote in its application to repaint the building.

Despite these design flourishes, TBC did not select the building for its aesthetic appeal. The building — formerly housing a kitchen cabinet business — is located above an exit tunnel that TBC is digging to extract the boring machine from its first test tunnel. This is intended to showcase Loop, a proposed underground transportation system carrying people or cars on self-contained electric skates traveling at up to 150 miles per hour.

The tunnel was originally planned to stretch around two miles under public roads from a parking structure next to SpaceX. However, in April this year, TBC used a subsidiary to quietly buy the Hawthorne corner lot, which sits about halfway along the planned route, for $2 million.

In July, TBC asked Hawthorne for permission to use that lot to build an access shaft to extract its tunnel-boring machine, which, because it cannot move backwards, would otherwise have been abandoned at the end of the excavation.

The same month, Musk founded The Brick Store, whose purpose, according to state filings, is the “manufacture and sale of bricks.” TBC has already produced some structures from bricks made from tunnel spoil, and Musk tweeted yesterday that they would be used to build a watchtower at the entrance to the tunnel.

Turning tunnel waste into a valuable commodity fits in with Musk’s environmental leanings — and will save TBC from the cost of disposing all that dirt. TBC has even suggested that the bricks could potentially be used as part of the tunnel lining itself. Musk has previously said that the tunnel would officially open on December 10.

TBC did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this story.

Bricks made from everyday soil, usually called compressed earth blocks (CEB), date back to ancient times. CEBs are still used in developing countries today, and are part of building codes in California and New Mexico. But even there, the market for them is tiny — possibly because CEB buildings can be awkward to build, wire and insulate. BC has even suggested that the bricks could potentially be used as part of the tunnel lining itself.

Dwell Earth sells machines that produce CEBs by applying pressure to a mixture of earth and a little cement.

“Elon seems to have a way of bringing energy and talent to big challenges, and we are happy to see that he may be as excited about [CEBs] as we are,” Dwell Earths founder Bob de Jong told TechCrunch.

The Boring Company

TBC received around $112 million from Musk earlier this year. These funds will be used to build a number of tunnels around the country, including a Loop to connect Dodger Stadium to the subway in L.A., one that would link Chicago and O’Hare airport, as well as an ambitious commuter Loop between Washington, D.C. and Maryland.

These projects could be thwarted, or at least delayed, because of an increasingly heated trade war between the U.S. and China.

TBC lawyers wrote to the United States Trade Representative in July that the tariffs imposed by President Trump on Chinese-tunneling machine parts, among other products, would delay its projects by up to two years and mean lost job opportunities. The company asked for an exemption from the tariffs that has not yet been granted.

If there’s anyone who can re-brand dirt and build a market for CEBs, it’s Elon Musk. But even if The Brick Store’s bricks don’t raise enough money for a Mars mission or save the planet, at least they are a little more practical than a novelty “not a flamethrower.”

6 scientists are living like they’re on Mars for the next 8 months

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A group of researchers have just begun their eight-month-mission on Mars.

Well, kind of. 

On Thursday, six crewmembers entered the geodesic dome that will be their home on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano for the next eight months as they live out a simulated mission on the red planet.

This marks the start of a mission funded by NASA to help the space agency figure out how people might behave during a real long-duration trip to the red planet. 

“During the eight-month HI-SEAS Mission V the crew will perform exploration tasks such as geological fieldwork and life systems management,” the University of Hawaii said in a statementRead more…

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