In Print: Mission to Mars, Molecular Fashion

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what’s going on in the current issue of C&EN. Meet Anders. He's 51 and Swedish. He's also one of more than 78,000 people who have applied to take a one-way trip to Mars.

Red rocks: Rendering of Mars One settlement. Credit: Bryan Versteeg/Mars One

As this week's Newscripts column explores, Netherlands-based "nonprofit" Mars One is currently soliciting applications from individuals interested in traveling to the Red Planet in 2023 and never returning. Approximately 28 to 40 applicants will be chosen from the pool of applicants to participate in a reality show in which they will train for seven years for the mission. An audience vote will then help determine the four people who will ultimately go where no man has gone before. There is a video portion to the application that requires applicants, such as Anders, to tell a little bit about themselves and explain their reasons for wanting to travel to a foreign planet. Many of these videos are posted to the Mars One website, and what's most striking about them is the general lack of enthusiasm many of these applicants have when discussing the opportunity to go to Mars. "I've often fantasized to just get on board a spaceship and go to explore the universe. I often get the feeling that I don't belong here, but out there, in space," the aforementioned Anders says, without so much as a smile.
ChemKnits resveratrol wine cozy

Wine cozy: Resveratrol gets some sweet threads. Credit: Courtesy of Rebecca Brown

What's behind this dearth of excitement? Maybe, deep down, the applicants recognize just how unlikely this trip to Mars really is. Mars One's website says that the mission will cost $6 billion. It's an astronomical figure that seems even more unobtainable when considering that the website says that the revenue Mars One generates from its reality show of civilian astronaut boot camp will somehow be on par with that generated by previous Olympic Games. The comparison seems ill-conceived, especially considering that the revenue generated by NBC during the last Olympic Games was barely enough to cover the network's expenses. A more tangible exploration of science comes in the second part of the Newscripts column, which discusses ChemKnits, a blog that features more than 40 chemistry-themed knitting charts. The charts include designs for a coffee-cup cozy emblazoned with the caffeine molecule and a wine cozy sporting resveratrol. "When deciding on what molecules to knit, I think first about the visual impact and if I can add some wit to the design," says Rebecca Roush Brown, the creator of the website and a Ph.D. who graduated from Harvard University in 2011 after studying biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology. Interested in seeing this wit on full display? Swing on over to the ChemKnits blog to check out Brown's impressive library of molecular designs.

Author: Jeff Huber

Jeff Huber is an associate editor at C&EN. He enjoys finding peculiar news stories that make him laugh and/or tilt his head in a thoughtful manner. This hobby has served him well as a contributor to the Newscripts blog.

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