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Space

SpaceX's New Combustion Technologies 4

Posted by samzenpus
from the try-this-one dept.
An anonymous reader shares this story that takes a look at some of the advances SpaceX is working on. "Getting a small group of human beings to Mars and back is no easy task, we learned at the recent GPU Technology Conference in San Jose hosted graphics chip and accelerator maker Nvidia. One of the problems with such a mission is that you need a very large and efficient rocket engine to get the amount of material into orbit for the mission, explained Adam Lichtl, who is director of research at SpaceX and who with a team of a few dozen programmers is try to crack the particularly difficult task of better simulating the combustion inside of a rocket engine. You need a large engine to shorten the trip to Mars, too....Not only do you need a lot of stuff to get to Mars and sustain a colony there, but you also need a way to generate fuel on Mars to come back to Earth. All of these factors affect the design of the rocket engine....As if these were not problems enough, there is another really big issue. The computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, software that is used to simulate the movement of fluids and gases and their ignition inside of all kinds of engines is particularly bad at assisting in rocket engine design. 'Methane is a fairly simple hydrocarbon that is perfectly good as a fuel,' Lichtl said. 'The challenge here is to design an engine that works efficiently with such a compound. But rocket engine CFD is hard. Really hard.'"
ISS

Russia Wants To Work With NASA On a New Space Station 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the have-to-protect-the-wormhole-from-the-carassians dept.
HughPickens.com writes with news that Russian officials are talking about working with NASA to build a new space station as a replacement for the ISS after its operations end in 2024. Igor Komarov, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, was unambiguous in his support for such a partnership. He added, "It will be an open project. It will feature not only the current members of the ISS." NASA, while careful not to discourage future cooperation, was not so enthusiastic. They said, "We are pleased Roscomos wants to continue full use of the International Space Station through 2024 -- a priority of ours -- and expressed interest in continuing international cooperation for human space exploration beyond that. The United States is planning to lead a human mission to Mars in the 2030s, and we have advanced that effort farther than at any point in NASA's history. We welcome international support for this ambitious undertaking." They reiterated that there are no formal agreements in place as of yet. These comments come as three crew members arrive at the ISS, two of whom will be up there for an entire year.
Mars

The First Billion-Pixel Mosaic of Mars 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the worth-a-billion-words dept.
StartsWithABang writes In 2012, Mars Science Laboratory performed the first robotically-controlled soft landing of a vehicle of such incredible mass: nearly half a tonne. A few months later, the rover, Curiosity, took the first ever billion-pixel mosaic from the Red Planet's surface, with breathtaking views of the terrain and alternate views of what the soils would look like were they here on Earth. Now in its third year on Mars, Curiosity is roving the low slopes of its ultimate destination: Mount Sharp.
Mars

Mars One Delayed 2 Years, CEO Releases Video In Response To Criticism 89

Posted by samzenpus
from the just-a-little-longer dept.
CryoKeen writes It's interesting how different news sites spin #marsgate. From Yahoo News: "The private colonization project Mars One has pushed its planned launch of the first humans toward the Red Planet back by two years, to 2026. The delay was necessitated by a lack of investment funding, which has slowed work on a robotic precursor mission that Mars One had wanted to send toward the Red Planet in 2018, Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp said in a new video posted today... 'We had a very successful investment round in 2013 that has financed all the things that we have done up to now. And we have actually come to an agreement with a consortium of investors late last year for a much bigger round of investments. Unfortunately, the paperwork of that deal is taking much longer than we expected,' Lansdorp said in the video." This Astrowatch article is a lot more scathing and to the point: "Mars One, the Dutch company planning to send people on a one-way trip to Mars, that recently selected a group of 100 hopefuls, struggles with criticism. In a Medium story this week, Mars One finalist Joseph Roche presented multiple reasons as to why he believed the entire operation is a complete scam. In response, the company published a video Thursday in which Bas Lansdorp, CEO and Co-founder of Mars One, replies to recent criticism concerning the feasibility of Mars One's human trip to Mars. He also revealed that the mission will be delayed for two years. Roche said that the 'only way' to get selected for the next round of the Mars One candidacy process was to donate money. 'My nightmare about it is that people continue to support it and give it money and attention, and it then gets to the point where it inevitably falls on its face,' Roche told Elmo Keep for Medium."
Mars

A Mars One Finalist Speaks Out On the "Dangerously Flawed" Project 169

Posted by samzenpus
from the on-second-thought dept.
superboj writes Dr Joseph Roche is one of the finalists to go on Mars One's much-hyped mission to the Red Planet. And yet he says he's never had an in-person interview, had to organize his own physical exam, was only tested on prepared questions, and is being encouraged to give more and more money to the group. That's why he's decided to quit.
Mars

Kim Stanley Robinson Says Colonizing Mars Won't Be As Easy As He Thought 228

Posted by Soulskill
from the canceling-my-retirement-vacation dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from io9: Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy filled us all with hope that we could terraform Mars in the 21st century, with its plausible description of terraforming processes. But now, in the face of what we've learned about Mars in the past 20 years, he no longer thinks it'll be that easy. Talking to SETI's Blog Picture Science podcast, Robinson explains that his ideas about terraforming Mars, back in the 1990s, were based on three assumptions that have been called into question or disproved:

1) Mars doesn't have any life on it at all. And now, it's looking more likely that there could be bacteria living beneath the surface. 2) There would be enough of the chemical compounds we need to survive. 3) There's nothing poisonous to us on the surface. In fact, the surface is covered with perchlorates, which are highly toxic to humans, and the original Viking mission did not detect these. "It's no longer a simple matter," Robinson says. "It's possible that we could occupy, inhabit and terraform Mars. But it's probably going to take a lot longer than I described in my books."
Mars

Dry-Ice Heat Engines For Martian Colonists 91

Posted by Soulskill
from the until-we-get-a-gas-station-up-and-running dept.
LeadSongDog writes: Heat engines using the "Leidenfrost effect" can exploit the gas expansion as CO2 sublimates to drive turbines. "The technique has exciting implications for working in extreme and alien environments, such as outer space, where it could be used to make long-term exploration and colonisation sustainable by using naturally occurring solid carbon dioxide as a resource rather than a waste product. If this could be realised, then future missions to Mars, such as those in the news recently, may not need to be ‘one-way’ after all.

Dry ice may not be abundant on Earth, but increasing evidence from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) suggests it may be a naturally occurring resource on Mars as suggested by the seasonal appearance of gullies on the surface of the red planet. If utilised in a Leidenfrost-based engine dry-ice deposits could provide the means to create future power stations on the surface of Mars. " The research was published in Nature Communications, and one of the researchers published an explanatory article at The Conversation.
Mars

Martian Canyons May Have Been Carved By Wind 39

Posted by samzenpus
from the blowing-through-the-canyon dept.
sciencehabit writes Ancient canyons scar the surface of Mars, a relic from a time billions of years ago when rivers flowed on its surface. But water may not be the only factor that shaped these canyons—the wind whipping through them could be just as important, according to a new study of river canyons on Earth. Scientists studying chasms in the Andes mountains in northeast Chile have found that wind carves some canyons 10 times faster than water. The discovery may be significant for understanding how much water flowed on the surface of ancient Mars.
Mars

Mars "Webcam" To Be Made Available For Public Use 20

Posted by samzenpus
from the time-to-focus dept.
randomErr writes If your group can make a good use case you can control of the ESA's Mars Express webcam. Proposals by schools, youth groups and astronomy clubs are due by March 27. The Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC), is a low-resolution camera intended for visuals of the Beagle lander separation. In May, Mars will be in solar conjunction. Signals between Earth and Mars Express will be disrupted by the sun so for three days the VMC camera can be freely pointed at almost any target in its orbit.
Mars

New Images From Mangalyaan 37

Posted by timothy
from the way-up-there dept.
schwit1 writes Indian scientists have released a new set of color images taken by their Mars orbiter, Mangalyaan. Arsia Mons is one of the three giant volcanoes to the east of Mars' biggest volcano, Olympus Mons. Arsia Mons is important for future manned colonization, as there are known caves on its western flanks. In addition, those western flanks show solid evidence of past glaciers, which means that it is very likely that those caves will harbor significant quantities of water-ice, making settlement much easier.
Space

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Becomes First To Orbit a Dwarf Planet 49

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-working-on-orbiting-an-elf-planet dept.
The Grim Reefer writes with news that at 7:39 AM EST (12:39 UTC) today, NASA's Dawn spacecraft was captured by the gravity of dwarf planet Ceres. Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California received a signal from the spacecraft at 5:36 a.m. PST (8:36 a.m. EST) that Dawn was healthy and thrusting with its ion engine, the indicator Dawn had entered orbit as planned. "Since its discovery in 1801, Ceres was known as a planet, then an asteroid and later a dwarf planet," said Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission director at JPL. "Now, after a journey of 3.1 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometers) and 7.5 years, Dawn calls Ceres home." In addition to being the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet, Dawn also has the distinction of being the first mission to orbit two extraterrestrial targets. From 2011 to 2012, the spacecraft explored the giant asteroid Vesta, delivering new insights and thousands of images from that distant world. Ceres and Vesta are the two most massive residents of our solar system's main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Further details available from the Planetary Society.
Mars

New Data Indicates Arctic-Ocean Sized Body of Water on Ancient Mars 58

Posted by timothy
from the sounds-brisk dept.
mdsolar writes After six years of planetary observations, scientists at NASA say they have found convincing new evidence that ancient Mars had an ocean. It was probably the size of the Arctic Ocean, larger than previously estimated, the researchers reported on Thursday. The body of water spread across the low-lying plain of the planet's northern hemisphere for millions of years, they said. If confirmed, the findings would add significantly to scientists' understanding of the planet's history and lend new weight to the view that ancient Mars had everything needed for life to emerge. Update: 03/05 22:42 GMT by T : Correction: that headline should have read "Arctic" initially, rather than Antarctic.
Mars

Mars Curiosity Rover Experiences Short Circuit, Will Be Stationary For Days 33

Posted by Soulskill
from the shocking-news-from-mars dept.
hypnosec writes: NASA says its Mars Curiosity rover has experienced a transient short circuit. The team has halted all work from the rover temporarily while engineers analyze the situation. Telemetry data received from Curiosity indicated the short circuit, after which the vehicle followed its programmed response, stopping the arm activity underway whenthe irregularity in the electric current happened. Curiosity will stay parked as its engineers analyze the situation and figure out if any damage has been done. NASA says a transient short circuit would have little effect on the rover's operations in some systems, but it could force the team to restrict use of whatever mechanism caused the problem.
Earth

Methane-Based Life Possible On Titan 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-life-jim-but-not-as-we-know dept.
Randym writes: With the simultaneous announcement of a possible nitrogen-based, cell-like structure allowing life outside the "liquid water zone" (but within a methane atmosphere) announced by researchers at Cornell (academic paper) and the mystery of fluctuating methane levels on Mars raising the possibility of methane-respiring life, there now exists the possibility of a whole new branch of the tree of life that does not rely on either carbon or oxygen for respiration. We may find evidence of such life here on Earth down in the mantle where "traditional" life cannot survive, but where bacteria has evolved to live off hydrocarbons like methane and benzene.
Mars

Adjusting To a Martian Day More Difficult Than Expected 135

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-as-bad-as-adjusting-to-a-neptunian-day dept.
schwit1 writes: Research and actual experience have found that adjusting to the slightly longer Martian day is not as easy as you would think. "If you're on Mars, or at least work by a Mars clock, you have to figure out how to put up with the exhausting challenge of those extra 40 minutes. To be exact, the Martian day is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds long, a length of day that doesn't coincide with the human body's natural rhythms. Scientists, Mars rover drivers, and everyone else in the space community call the Martian day a "sol" to differentiate it from an Earth day. While it doesn't seem like a big difference, that extra time adds up pretty quickly. It's like heading west by two time zones every three days. Call it 'rocket lag.'"
Mars

Mars One Does Not Renew Contracts For Robotic Missions 110

Posted by timothy
from the first-one-was-good-enough dept.
braindrainbahrain writes Mars One is, of course, the highly speculative, low credibility project to land humans on Mars after a one-way trip. In 2013 they had announced that two contracts had been awarded to the aerospace industry to develop a Mars orbiter and a Mars lander to carry a science experiment payload to the surface. Both contracts have been completed, but so far, Mars One has no immediate plans to renew the contracts and pursue further development of the crafts.
Moon

Could Fossils of Ancient Life From Earth Reside On the Moon? 88

Posted by samzenpus
from the how'd-this-get-here dept.
MarkWhittington writes Does the moon contain fossils of billions of years old organisms from Earth? That theory has been laid out in recent research at the Imperial College of London, reported in a story in Air and Space Magazine by Dr. Paul Spudis, a lunar and planetary geologist. The implications for science and future lunar exploration are profound. Scientists have known for decades that planets and moons in the Solar System exchange material due to impacts. A large meteor smashes into a planet, Mars for example, and blasts material into space. That material eventually finds itself landing on another planet, Earth in this case. Mars rocks have been discovered on Earth since the 1980s. Other rocks from the moon and, it is surmised, Mercury have also been found, blasted into space billions of years ago to eventually find themselves on Earth.
Mars

Mysterious Martian Plumes Discovered By Amateur Astronomers 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the mars-needs-bbq dept.
An anonymous reader writes Amateur astronomers have spotted two clouds coming from the surface of Mars that are a mystery to the professionals. From Discovery: "The plumes extended over 500- to 1,000 kilometers (311- to 621 miles) in both north-south and east-west directions and changed in appearance daily. They were detected as the sun breached Mars' horizon in the morning, but not when it set in the evening. 'Remarkably ... the features changed rapidly, their shapes going from double blob protrusions to pillars or finger-plume-like morphologies,' scientists investigating the sightings wrote in a paper published in this week's Nature."
Mars

Mars One: Final 100 Candidates Selected 233

Posted by samzenpus
from the one-step-closer-to-the-end dept.
hypnosec writes "The Mars One project has picked the final 100 candidates for the next round of the selection process. Initially, 202,586 people applied and ultimately around 40 will undertake a one-way trip to Mars. “The large cut in candidates is an important step towards finding out who has the right stuff to go to Mars,” said Bas Lansdorp, Co-founder & CEO of Mars One. “These aspiring martians provide the world with a glimpse into who the modern day explorers will be.”
Mars

Elon Musk To Write a Book About Earth Sustainability and Mars Colonization 131

Posted by samzenpus
from the use-your-words dept.
MarkWhittington writes Elon Musk has taken on quite a number of projects with a goal of changing the world while making lots of money doing so. He proposes to revolutionize space travel through his commercial launch company, SpaceX. His more earthly endeavors have included electric cars, home solar power, a transportation system called the Hyperloop, a space based Internet and, most recently, a battery that can power a house. Now, according to a story in Business Insider, Musk will open his mind on his views on "sustainability" was well as Mars colonization in book form.