Friday, March 2, 2012

The media and "Mars"!

Seems my blog has attracted a little attention... included a quote from my blog in their article about the Hi-SEAS mission!

Check out their article here:

Which then got picked up by MSNBC:

Lots of good press coverage for Hi-SEAS so far! Hopefully this continues into the mission!

One experiment I've considered running is testing methods for conducting press interviews with the time delay.

Girl "calls" her father while he is in orbit. Source: CNSA
Currently it is relatively easy for someone on the ground to "call" astronauts in orbit of Earth and interview them as easily as if you were using Skype or a cell phone. But as NASA and other space agencies go further into space, communications will become delayed due to the time it takes for the signal to get from the spacecraft to Earth.

The longest time delay humans have worked with in the modern era is 1.3 seconds. That's the time it took messages from Earth to reach the Apollo astronauts on the Moon. And it took an additional 1.3 seconds for their response to reach Earth.

So if you were to ask an astronaut on the Moon a question, here's what it would sound like to someone here on Earth:
Earth: "What's your favorite meal in space?"
*wait six seconds*
Astronaut: "That's a great question. Since our sense of taste is less sensitive than on Earth, the spicy foods are really popular like the Shrimp Cocktail."

Now when we go to the asteroids or Mars, you'll have to wait between 3 to 22 minutes for your response (depending on if Mars is at its closest, or furthest point from Earth). That's a long time to wait! If you wanted to ask 6 short questions, it would take almost two hours!

Asking "back and forth" questions like this would waste a lot of time, especially for the Astronauts who will have many demands on their time.

Science fiction authors have proposed alternative methods of conducting interviews including:

1) "Live" conversation where each party has to wait 3-22 minutes for the response / to ask next question (Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy)
2) "Video edited" interviews where news hosts send a bunch of questions to crews in one video with pauses before asking the next question. "Astronauts" send their answers in a single video, and then editing team on the ground splices it together into a "classic" interview. (Shadows Of Medusa by Brian Enke)
3) Other alternatives like writing questions in an email which the astronaut then responds to individually on video.

With HiSEAS, we could try a variety of interview formats and then do a survey of both media outlets and viewers to see which types they prefer.

This is an example of the type of preparatory analog research that help make future space exploration smoother.

Any suggestions on alternate ways we could do interviews on "Mars"?

(Of course we'll be tweeting! With a 5-20 minute delay of course!)


  1. From the 2001: A Space Odyssey trivia, "The television interviewer explains that gaps of seven minutes each were edited out of the broadcast as signals raced between Earth and the hugely distant Discovery crew. Given that the resulting interview ran about four minutes and there were 19 such gaps, the interview must have taken about 2 hours 17 minutes to tape. (Unless the questions and replies were all sent in single bursts, and re-edited later.) "

    Live questioning just seems to be a waste. Video edited interviews or emailed questions seem to be a much more efficient option. Especially if you leave time for optional follow-up questions, which would negate the only advantage to a live interview.

    Most of the Hi-SEAS press has been in print, so email correspondence seems applicable. Could be a nice group experience to work together uninterrupted to compile responses to different interview questions.

    The blogs, tweets, and other various social networking outbursts should also be good fodder for articles. What are your thoughts on separate vs a combined blog for the crew?

  2. Meridith,

    There are a lot of different opinions on combined vs separate blogs for the crew.

    For the Mars500 mission Diego handled a large quantity of their public outreach. Which seemed very popular with people "following Diego on Mars".

    Though it only gives you one perspective of the mission.

    Having a combined blog gives you lots of perspectives, and allows you to have the blog updated more frequently, though the quality of the posts would vary and you would likely get a lot of repetition.

    Personally I would advocate for both. Crew members can maintain their own Twitter and Blog accounts if they want, but should also be a centralized "shared" account by all of the crew.


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