April 04, 2013
Inspiration Mars considers NASA's Space Launch System, ULA rockets for 2018 Mars trip
Dennis Tito, the man trying to mount a privately funded fly-by mission of Mars in 2018, is considering the Space Launch System being developed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center as his astronauts' ride to the red planet. A Marshall spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday that Tito and another executive of his Inspiration Mars non-profit organization, visited Marshall March 19 for a briefing on SLS. Marshall is leading development of the booster part of the new heavy-lift rocket for NASA. An April 3 Inspiration Mars feasibility analysis on the website of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics lists SLS as an optional launch vehicle along with a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket and the big versions of the Atlas and Delta rockets assembled by United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Al. The Falcon Heavy has not flown yet, either, but ULA has launched both Atlas and Delta rockets successfully.
March 15, 2013
To the stars: After a 25 year hiatus, NASA restarts plutonium production
After a quarter-century hiatus, the United States has begun producing plutonium-238 once more. The decision was made to ensure that future NASA projects would have access to the valuable fuel. As US stocks dwindled, NASA began buying plutonium-238 from Russia, but that agreement came to an end in 2010. When most people think of plutonium, they think of nuclear weapons — but that’s not what plutonium-238 is used for.
If you need a power source that can last for decades, plutonium-238 is fantastically useful stuff. It’s got a half life of nearly 88 years and it emits 560 watts of heat per kilogram of material. It’s a vital component of the radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) used on Curiosity and in a number of space probes, including Cassini. One of the best features of plutonium-238 is that, while it’s radioactive as hell (275 times more so than plutonium-239, it takes a minimal amount of shielding to protect spacecraft or humans from contamination. Plutonium-powered pacemakers (yes, that was a thing for a little while) have operated as long as 25 years without running out of power.
February 28, 2013
Comet impact could make Red Planet inhabitable
RT (Russia Today)
A comet near Mars may strike it in a powerful impact, potentially making the planet much warmer. The Red Planet is luring many entrepreneurs, including billionaire Dennis Tito, who aims to beat other nations by sending a man and a woman to Mars.
The make-or-break window for this possible game-changer is October 2014. At that time, an Oort cloud comet called C/2013 A1, first discovered last month, will approach Mars, missing it by about 35,000 km, which is quite close.
However the comet’s trajectory is still uncertain, which leaves a small chance it could impact the planet, said Russian astronomer Leonid Elenin, who worked on calculating the course of the celestial body. The comet will be travelling at a speed of 56 kilometers per second relative to Mars when it passes; if they do collide, the resulting explosion would be equal to a 20,000-gigaton bomb blast – powerful enough to leave a 50-kilometer crater on the planetary surface
The event would trigger a major change of the Martian climate, Australian space scientist Robert Matson explained. The impact would evaporate large amounts of water and carbon dioxide ice from the comet, spread across a planetary scale, making the climate on Mars much warmer due to the greenhouse effect.
February 21, 2013
India to Launch Mission to Mars This Year, says President
India will launch its first mission to Mars this year, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday, as the emerging Asian nation looks to play catch up in the global space race alongside the United States, Russia and its giant neighbor China.
"Several space missions are planned for 2013, including India's first mission to Mars and the launch of our first navigational satellite,'' Mukherjee told parliament.
India will send a satellite in October via an unmanned spacecraft to orbit the red planet, blasting off from the southeastern coast in a mission expected to cost about $83 million, scientists who are part of the mission say.
February 13, 2013
Step into the Twilight Zone: Can Earthlings Adjust to a Longer Day on Mars?
"Mutinous" is not a word frequently used to describe teams of NASA scientists and engineers.
But that's precisely the term employed by Harvard University sleep scientist Charles Czeisler to explain what happened when the group operating the Pathfinder mission's rover in 1997 was required to live indefinitely on Mars time.
"They didn't really have a plan for dealing with the Martian day before they went up, and the rover lasted a lot longer than it was supposed to, so they actually had a mutiny and wanted to shut the thing off because they were so exhausted," he says, drily adding the obvious: "NASA wasn't too happy with that notion."
January 03, 2013
Stanford researchers develop acrobatic space rovers to explore moons and asteroids
Stanford researchers, in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have designed a robotic platform that could take space exploration to new heights.
The mission proposed for the platform involves a mother spacecraft deploying one or several spiked, roughly spherical rovers to the Martian moon Phobos. Measuring about half a meter wide, each rover would hop, tumble and bound across the cratered, lopsided moon, relaying information about its origins, as well as its soil and other surface materials.
December 18, 2012
Mars Mission can see India emerge major power in science and technology
The Economic Times
India's Mars Mission could see the country emerge as a 'major power' in science and technology if it turned out to be a success, a former ISRO scientist said here today.
"After successful launch of Chandrayan 1, scientists are working on the Mars Mission satellite, which will study the surface. If successful, India can become a major power in science and technology," N Sivasubramanian, former ISRO scientist said at a function at a college here.
December 04, 2012
NASA Announces Robust Multi-Year Mars Program; New Rover to Close Out Decade of New Missions
Building on the success of Curiosity's Red Planet landing, NASA has announced plans for a robust multi-year Mars program, including a new robotic science rover set to launch in 2020. This announcement affirms the agency's commitment to a bold exploration program that meets our nation's scientific and human exploration objectives.
"The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "With this next mission, we're ensuring America remains the world leader in the exploration of the Red Planet, while taking another significant step toward sending humans there in the 2030s."
The planned portfolio includes the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers; two NASA spacecraft and contributions to one European spacecraft currently orbiting Mars; the 2013 launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter to study the Martian upper atmosphere; the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission, which will take the first look into the deep interior of Mars; and participation in ESA's 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions, including providing "Electra" telecommunication radios to ESA's 2016 mission and a critical element of the premier astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover.
October 27, 2012
Science olympiad winners wish to be part of Mars mission
Times of India
The three winners who took India to the stars at the 17th International Astronomy Olympiad at Gwangju, South Korea have a dream— to participaete in India's Rs 425-crore unmanned mission to Mars slated for lift off provisionally in October-November 2013.
Arindam Bhattacharya of Bangalore bagged the gold medal and Sheshansh Agarwal from Jaipur and Kumar Ayush of Jodhpur, each secured silver medals in the Olympiad held between October 16 and 24. A total of 18 teams from 17 countries participated in the contest which had three exams— theory, observation and practical.
October 25, 2012
ATK Selected to Develop MegaFlex™ Solar Array Structure
MegaFlex™ solar array was recently selected by NASA's Space Technology Program under a Game Changing Technology competition for development of the promising lightweight and compact solar array structure. ATK received a $6.4 million contract for the MegaFlex™ development.
MegaFlex™, under development by ATK's Space Components Division in Goleta, California, is designed specifically to meet the anticipated power demands of 350kW and higher, with very low mass and small stowed volume for future space exploration missions using solar electric propulsion.
"We are honored to win this program to develop the future space exploration power platform for NASA," said David Shanahan, vice president and general manager of ATK Aerospace Group's Space Components Division. "This win is a result of the outstanding innovation and capabilities of our Goleta team."
October 10, 2012
India test-fires Mars mission engine
The Times of India
The engines of the Indian Mars orbiter were tested for the first time on Monday morning. Speaking to TOI from Bangalore, Isro chief spokesperson Devi Prasad Karnik said the engine, known as the liquid apogee motor (LAM), was fired for about 670 seconds at Isro's Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Mahendra Giri in Tamil Nadu. "The test was successful and will go on for about 45 days," he said.
The mission is slated for lift off towards the end of October or beginning of November 2013.
September 28, 2012
Fueling the Fleet, Navy Looks to the Seas
U.S. Naval Research Lab
Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are developing a process to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce hydrogen gas (H2) from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into jet fuel by a gas-to-liquids process.
"The potential payoff is the ability to produce JP-5 fuel stock at sea reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery with no environmental burden and increasing the Navy's energy security and independence," says research chemist, Dr. Heather Willauer.
NRL has successfully developed and demonstrated technologies for the recovery of CO2 and the production of H2 from seawater using an electrochemical acidification cell, and the conversion of CO2 and H2 to hydrocarbons (organic compounds consisting of hydrogen and carbon) that can be used to produce jet fuel.
August 27, 2012
Robots to Go Spelunking in Martian Caves?
Scientists are beginning to sketch out plans for NASA's new Mars rover Curiosity to climb Mount Sharp, but future robots may have a more direct way to access the planet's history books.
Recent discoveries of "skylights" (pictured here) and lava tubes on the surface of Mars, as well as the moon, are sparking the development of robotic probes that can descend into caves and explore tunnels.
"Geology works in layers, so how many layers can you see? Well, we know there are sinkholes on Mars. Those sinkholes expose potentially hundreds of feet of layers, so if you could lower something down and examine those layers and explore a tunnel underneath, or anything of that sort, the science that can be done with that is just phenomenal," Jason Derleth, senior technology analyst with NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, told Discovery News.
February 15, 2012
Op/Ed : Obama Wrecks the Mars Program
National Review Online
In its budget submitted to Congress on February 13, the Obama administration zeroed out funding for NASA’s future Mars-exploration missions. The Mars Science Lab Curiosity, currently en route to the Red Planet and the nearly completed small MAVEN orbiter, scheduled for launch in 2013, will be sent, but that’s it. No funding has been provided for the Mars probes planned as joint missions in 2016 and 2018 with the European Space Agency, and nothing after that is funded either. This poses a grave crisis for the American space program.
NASA’s Mars-exploration effort has been brilliantly successful because, since 1994, it has been approached as a campaign, with probes launched every two years, alternating between orbiters and landers. As a result, combined operations have been possible, with orbiters providing communication links and reconnaissance guidance for surface rovers, which in turn can conduct investigations on the ground to verify and calibrate orbital observations. Thus, the great treks of the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, launched in 2003, were supported from above by Mars Global Surveyor (MGS, launched in1996), Mars Odyssey (launched in 2001), and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO, launched in 2005). But after serving ten years in orbit, MGS is now no longer operating, and if we wait until the 2020s to resume Mars exploration, the rest of the orbiters will be gone as well. Moreover, so will be the experienced teams that created them. Effectively, the whole program will be completely wrecked, and we will have to start again from scratch.
November 07, 2011
Free livestream Women and Mars conference
The Women and Mars Conference is just a few days away.
Register today at www.womenandmars.eventbrite.com.
You don’t want to miss this conference – see the updated conference agenda
Explore Mars is also pleased to announce that NASA has arranged for the Women and Mars Conference to be webcasted, freely available to anyone. ”We hope that as many people as possible will come to the conference as possible, since it will be a great event,” commented Explore Mars Executive Director, Chris Carberry. “However, for those who can’t be there in person, this webcasting will allow everyone to view the conference from anywhere in the world. We know for a fact that a group of women working at ESTEC in the Netherlands, will participate in the conference in this way”
For those interested to viewing the Women and Mars Conference online, please visit the LiveStream link at - http://www.livestream.com/exploremars
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