December 17, 2014
How Mock Mars Mission Will Simulate Life on the Red Planet ABC News
Martian explorers invaded the desert near the tiny town of Hanksville, Utah, early this morning and will remain there for the next two weeks to test technology that could be crucial on a long-distance mission. The four-member crew is part of an ongoing mission at Utah’s Mars Desert Research Station to study what life will be like for earthlings who make extraterrestrial visits to the Red Planet. And for the first time, they will be testing 3-D printed medical devices. Dr. Julielynn Y. Wong, a preventive medicine physician who is the director of the Center for Innovative Technologies and Public Health, is leading this -- the 145th simulation at the station -- to test out medical technologies in space.
December 16, 2014
NASA Rover Finds Active, Ancient Organic Chemistry on Mars
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory’s drill. "This temporary increase in methane -- sharply up and then back down -- tells us there must be some relatively localized source," said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Curiosity rover science team. "There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock." Researchers used Curiosity’s onboard Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory a dozen times in a 20-month period to sniff methane in the atmosphere. During two of those months, in late 2013 and early 2014, four measurements averaged seven parts per billion. Before and after that, readings averaged only one-tenth that level.
December 8, 2014
Looking to Mars to Help Understand Changing Climates The New York Times
We haven’t found life on Mars, but decades of robotic exploration have indeed strengthened astronomers’ convictions that rivers and perhaps even oceans once flowed on the red planet. “I think the short story is the atmosphere went away and the oceans froze but are still there, locked up in subsurface ice,” said Chris McKay, an astrobiologist and Mars expert at NASA’s Ames Research Center. In September a new spacecraft known as MAVEN, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, swung into orbit around the planet. Its job is to get a longer answer to one part of the mysterious Martian climate change, namely where the planet’s atmosphere went.
December 5, 2014
Successful Launch of Orion Heralds First Step on Journey to Mars
NASA marked a critical step on the journey to Mars with its Orion spacecraft during a roaring liftoff into the dawn sky over eastern Florida on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket. Once on its way, the Orion spacecraft accomplished a series of milestones as it jettisoned a set of fairing panels around the service module before the launch abort system tower pulled itself away from the spacecraft as planned. The spacecraft and second stage of the Delta IV rocket settled into an initial orbit about 17 minutes after liftoff. Flight controllers put Orion into a slow roll to keep its temperature controlled while the spacecraft flew through a 97-minute coast phase. The cone-shaped spacecraft did not carry anyone inside its cabin but is designed to take astronauts farther into space than ever before in the future.
December 3, 2014
NASA to test Orion spaceship that could take humans to Mars Bloomberg
The U.S. is preparing to launch the first craft developed to fly humans to Mars, presaging a second space age -- this one fueled by billionaires like Elon Musk rather than a Cold War contest with the Soviet Union. An unmanned version of the Orion spaceship built by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) is scheduled for liftoff tomorrow to an altitude of 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers), the farthest from Earth by a vehicle designed for people since the Apollo program was scrapped in 1972. “These are really exciting times for space exploration and for our nation as we begin to return to the ability to fly humans to space,” said Jim Crocker, vice president and general manager of civil space at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “What Orion is about is going further into space than humans have ever gone before.”