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Debrief: Life on Mars

It’s been just over a week since our first event, Life on Mars, and we thought now would be the perfect time to sit back and reflect on it.

Firstly, we’d like to thank everyone for coming along and making it such an enjoyable evening. Your witty quiz names and animalistic competitiveness added so much to the proceedings.

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What would quizzes be without pun names?

For the first group of civilians on Mars, you settled in quickly. Drinking your way through the ethanol rations and indignantly defending your David Bowie album knowledge. In light of certain disagreements over quiz answers, future Rising Ape quizzes will come equipped with an academically formatted Harvard reference list. Still, the legendary Colin Pillinger would be delighted by your flattering biro portraits, and a couple of you were incredibly close to pinning the Curiosity on the Mars-y. Accordingly, inter-planetary points were awarded galore.

Next, we were very proud to see your ambition when taking on your mission to design a Martian rover. We were also slightly astonished with the lack of humanity when teams raided the scrapheap for building resources. We were reminded of a group of starving, rabid squirrels swarming in on a small packet of KP salted peanuts – needless to say, some did not survive.

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Constructing the rover using NASA-certified materials.

Following your vibrant materials raiding, we were surprised by your incredible ingenuity, some of the rovers could actually roll across rocky terrain, and one was built without any tape at all! (We know most Martian rovers are built without sticky tape, be it sello or gaffer, but NASA don’t use straws as axles either – this was seriously impressive!)

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“I tell you, he was small and green and I saw him run into that crater!”

When the sandstorm outside the colony had died down, our speaker Michaela Musilova inspired us with the science of astrobiology. She also shared with us stories from her time on the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), a Mars colony experiment in the Arizona desert. According to her experiences on the MDRS, before we ship off to Mars, we need to seriously work on the psychological problems which we suffer from when cooped up with people in a small space. The Rising Ape Team thinks the only reason there hasn’t been a murder on Big Brother is probably the voting off process. Needless to say this isn’t an option on Mars.

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Michaela’s captivating presentation.

Following Michaela’s talk we opened up to questions from the floor. The first of these came in at warp speed, with what is probably the hardest scientific or metaphysical question you can ask in three words: What is life? Keep this kind of curiosity coming Rising Apes, it’s what has made humanity special all along.

Here’s the night’s playlist because we know how much you colonists enjoyed doing the Martian Hop.

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Our chemist, David ‘Chem Judge’ Judge, with an assemblage of Martian rovers.
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LIFE ON MARS FT. MICHAELA MUSILOVA

Welcome to a night of knowledge, excitement, exploration and (ethanolic) excess.* (*Please drink reasonably, but feel free to consume knowledge and excitement in rampant abundance.) You are officially invited to join colony #001, the first human settlement on Mars.

The first task our crew will be subjected to is an Earth-style pub quiz on the topic of Mars. Indeed, a strange start to the first day on Mars. Nevertheless, you better wipe the dust off those Mars mission background briefings ESA mailed you a couple of months ago, and get studying. Your quiz team, or Tactical Life on marsTask Force, will be limited to a maximum of 4 colonists. But overall scores will be boosted with the second part of the evening—the activity. The nature of the activity is TOP SECRET, as exposing this information may lead some colonists to practice or buy ergogenic aids. Finally, once the scores have been collated and the prizes distributed to our most knowledgeable and dextrous of colonists, we will receive a 20 minute briefing from our crew’s resident astrobiologist Michaela Musilova. Michaela will talk us through exactly where the current academic thinking is on Martian life. Following this briefing we will have a question and answer session so we can all pick Michaela’s impressive brains some more.

To book tickets for this event follow the Eventbrite button in the sidebar. Alternatively, you can buy tickets at the door, subject to availability. You can even tell us you’re attending, and say hello, through the Book of the Face.

More about Michaela Musilova: Michaela is currently working as a PhD research student at the University of Bristol. Her dream is to be part of future space exploration missions searching for extraterrestrial life. Michaela Musilova’s primary interest is in extremophiles, organisms that live in extreme environments, such as deserts, deep sea vents and glaciers. They are significant to industry and medical research, since their enzymes are stable and functional over a wide range of physical/chemical conditions. Similar life could potentially be found in analogous extreme conditions on other planets and moons. Thus, they are very important to astrobiology – a multidisciplinary science exploring the origin and distribution of life in the Universe. During her studies, Michaela pursued other astrobiology related research, including: working as a research fellow at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); simulating lunar and planetary surfaces through NASA and the UK Space Agency’s MoonLite project (funded by a Nuffield Foundation grant); searching for exoplanets at the University of London Observatory; and being selected as an analogue astronaut at the Mars Desert Research Station, USA.