Wednesday, April 16, 2014

NASA Plans Mars Human Exploration in 2030s

William H. Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, likened the steps the agency is taking to the Mercury and Gemini programs, both of which were building blocks toward putting men on the Moon with the Apollo missions.
Wednesday, before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee, Gerstenmaier said NASA is taking steps to “that will allow us to make sustained progress toward a human presence on the surface of Mars.” "There is real hardware in manufacture for the path to Mars," Gerstenmaier told senators. In 2017, for example, the agency plans an unmanned test of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle, which will be used to take astronauts to Mars. These initial steps toward Mars are comprised of “Earth-reliant” missions, such as the International Space Station, landing on an asteroid in lunar orbit, and finally, a “Mars-ready” mission. During the first stage, NASA, along with international partners and private entities, will conduct research on how to keep space crews safe and productive on long duration spaceflights. The joint effort will also explore how to transport cargo and crew affordably into low Earth orbit. The second major stepping stone was approved by House subcommittee yesterday. That mission calls for NASA to redirect an asteroid into lunar orbit, land astronauts on the asteroid, and return them safely to Earth. “We're going to grab a piece of the solar system, we're going to deflect it around the moon and insert it into a distant retrograde orbit around the moon where our crews can go visit," said Gerstenmaier. The mission he said would develop skills and techniques needed to “push the human presence into the solar system.”

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

NASA Mars Rover Curiosity Photo of Mars Light on Martian Mountain : "Curiosity takes cosmic ray hit"

Doug Ellison from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a man who would very much like to find evidence of life on Mars considering what it would do for JPL's budget,  tweeted that the image appears to be the result of Curiosity taking a cosmic ray hit, rather than a sign of little green men.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The European Space Agency (ESA) has a Mission to Mars with ExoMars in 2018 Planned.

Image from yesterday's opening of the Mars yard in Stevenage, UK. The Mars yard will be used put the #ExoMars rover through its paces ahead of its mission to the Red Planet in 2018.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mars Gully Formed 3 Years Ago

A substantial new gully channel has been discovered on Mars in images captured by the $40 million High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera mounted on the NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The most interesting fact is that the gully channel was not present on Martian land three years ago, which scientists concluded has been formed in past three years. According to NASA, Mars gully is commonly found in the mid-latitudes of Mars by carbon dioxide frost, especially in Southern highlands. Scientists claimed that such sort of events generally take place during winters with little presence of liquid water. NASA officials added that although gully on Mars looks like river channels here on earth, they are not actually formed out of flowing water. They added that carbon dioxide plays key role in formation of many gullies on Martian surface. The MRO has been orbiting the Mars since 2006 and has been fitted with 10-feet dish antennas and number of scientific instruments like spectrometer for exploring the Martian surface. Some other Martian features, known as Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL), have also been spotted by MRO which did not seem associated with liquid. Researchers said if water does flow across the surface of present-day Mars from time to time, the planet would be a likelier bet to host life as we know it.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mars Rover Curiosity is driving backwards to prove it can be done if needed.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover caught its own shadow in this image taken just after completing a backward drive of 329 feet (100.3 meters) on the 547th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Feb. 18, 2014). NASA/JPL-Caltech
The 1-ton Curiosity rover covered 329 feet (100 meters) in reverse on Tuesday (Feb. 18). The maneuver — carried out over relatively smooth and benign ground — was designed to test out a strategy for reducing wear on the robot's six metal wheels, which have accumulated dings and holes at an increasing rate over the last few months, NASA officials said."We wanted to have backwards driving in our validated toolkit because there will be parts of our route that will be more challenging," Curiosity project manager Jim Erickson, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"The Martian" by Andy Weir... "For the record, I didn't die on Sol-6... I might be the first human being to die on Mars...."

He got the idea for "The Martian" in 2009, and spent three years working out the details of the story. He drew on a real NASA proposal for a Mars mission called Mars Direct, which involves sending supplies in unmanned ships to Mars ahead of the crew, then sending astronauts in a lighter, faster ship. He'd been rebuffed by literary agents in the past, so he decided to put the novel on his website free of charge rather than to try to get it published. A few fans asked him to sell the story on Amazon so that they could download it to e-readers. Mr. Weir had been giving his work away, but he began charging a modest amount because Amazon set the minimum price at 99 cents. He published the novel as a serial on the site in September 2012. It rose to the top of Amazon's list of best-selling science-fiction titles. He sold 35,000 copies in three months. Agents and publishers and movie studios started circling. Mr. Weir signed with literary agent David Fugate, who sent 'The Martian' to Julian Pavia at Crown, pitching it as "Apollo 13" meets "Castaway" and Crown bought it last March for six figures. The same week Crown pounced, Twentieth Century Fox optioned film rights, beating out several other studios and producers. Fox hired screenwriter Drew Goddard, who wrote the sci-fi film "Cloverfield," to adapt and direct "The Martian."


UPDATE: I am now 60% through "The Martian" by Andy Weir... a $9 Kindle version which tells me percentages and not pages read. When I first started teaching decades ago, I imagined a semester long book project for my IPC students about a trip to Mars and with it all the Physics, Chemistry, (and yes Biology) that would involve. Like most being science teachers, I was fresh, new, and naive. Now retired. That project was never accomplished. Lots of trials and research, but nothing truly engaging or inspiring. Andy Weir's first novel, "The Martian", deserves your attention as a common reading book project for a second semester, rite of Spring, wake'em up project. I have tried Heinlein and Bova and Robinson in the past but Weir is a fresh, well written, and very thought provoking read. The hard science topics are both obvious and well presented to the reader... any science teacher will be excited by potential of classroom and lab activities it invokes. Live or Die on Mars, Martin Watney's tale is compelling... only 40% more to go til I find out how it all comes out. You can read the first chapter and the author presentation at here:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Winter Olympics on Mars in 3D

A new 3D image photo from NASA's Curiosity rover shows the car-sized robot at the lip of a small Martian sand dune, debating whether or not to drive over the obstacle on its way to a huge Red Planet mountain.