MarsNews.com
May 20th, 2019

Babies born on Mars could diverge from Earthlings within a couple of generations

At some point, humans might settle Mars. But according to an evolutionary biologist, babies born on the Red Planet will look, function, and behave dramatically different from Earthlings — and all within a few generations.

Tech entrepreneurs and technologists like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos love to talk about our species’ future as a multi-planetary species. And to be fair, they’re actually making important contributions to turn this vision into a reality. But while there’s a lot of focus on the technology that might take us to places such as Mars, not nearly as much thought seems to be given to what happens once we actually get there.

Any human colonists settling Mars would have to be confined to a relatively small habitat where they’d be subject to significantly higher radiation and more difficult living conditions than on Earth. In time, natural selection would amplify certain traits in the Martian population that would considerably differentiate humans born on the Red Planet from Earthlings. And according to Scott Solomon, a Rice University professor of evolutionary biology, this could happen within just a couple of generations.

May 17th, 2019

NASA’s MRO Completes 60,000 Trips Around Mars

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter By The Numbers: Over the past decade, the mission has shown how dynamic Mars remains today, as well as how diverse its past environmental conditions have been. This image represents some of the highlights in the last 13 years. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter hit a dizzying milestone this morning: It completed 60,000 loops around the Red Planet at 10:39 a.m. PDT (1:39 p.m. EDT). On average, MRO takes 112 minutes to circle Mars, whipping around at about 2 miles per second (3.4 kilometers per second).

Since entering orbit on March 10, 2006, the spacecraft has been collecting daily science about the planet’s surface and atmosphere, including detailed views with its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera (HiRISE). HiRISE is powerful enough to see surface features the size of a dining room table from 186 miles (300 kilometers) above the surface.

Meanwhile, MRO is watching the daily weather and probing the subsurface for ice, providing data that can influence the designs of future missions that will take humans to Mars.

May 14th, 2019

A New Idea for Putting Out Fires in Space: The Vacuum Cleaner?

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst (white shirt) and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman (blue) practice a fire drill training in NASA’s Space Station mock-up in Houston, TX. (Image Credit: NASA)

Current safety regulations ensure that only low-flammable materials are brought into space. Fires in locations like the International Space Station (ISS), however, are still possible.

Short circuits happen, for example. Cosmic rays may cause structural damage to materials, altering their flammability.

At present, the ISS has a CO2 gas extinguisher, combined with a water mist, to dilute the local oxygen concentration and remove heat.

The method, however, leaves harmful fumes in the enclosed space. Crewmembers who put out the fires must put on oxygen masks due to the risk of the high concentration of CO2 in the cabin.

Researchers from the Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan have developed a new type of fire extinguisher that is optimized for space-use and does not require the use of any oxygen masks.

The Vacuum Extinguish Method (VEM), a concept demonstrated in the academic journal Fire Technology, is a bit like the hoover in your living room, says lead researcher Dr. Yuji Nakamura.

“Think of it as simply sucking the flame like a vacuum cleaner to ‘clean up’ your firing zone,” Dr. Nakamura told Tech Briefs. “Then, the flame, as well as any other harmful products, is sucked in.”

The extinguishing system has two boxes. Once the first vacuum box is filled, a valve opens, sending the collected gas to the second container; the first box, meanwhile, continues its vacuuming.

May 14th, 2019

Humans to Mars Summit 2019 Launches in D.C. This Week: Watch It Live!

The 2019 Humans to Mars Summit kicks off in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday (May 14), and you can watch the conference events live online.

The annual three-day gathering, hosted by the nonprofit organization Explore Mars, brings together scientists, engineers, academics, government officials and other industry leaders to discuss the future challenges and the current progress humanity has made toward launching a crewed mission to the Red Planet by the 2030s.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will kick off the conference Tuesday morning with a speech at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT), following opening remarks from officials with Explore Mars. Afterward, industry leaders will talk about how NASA’s goal to land astronauts on the moon in 2024 will help astronauts get to Mars by the 2030s. Later in the day, NASA officials will present updates on the agency’s InSight Mars lander. To wrap up the day, Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida will offer his remarks about the Red Planet.

Wednesday (May 15) will begin with remarks from Hoppy Price, chief engineer of NASA’s robotic Mars exploration program, and SpaceX’s principal Mars development engineer Paul Wooster — so we may learn more about SpaceX’s plans for a Mars colony and its new interplanetary vehicle, named Starship.” That will begin at 8:50 a.m. EDT (1250 GMT).

May 13th, 2019

White House wants $1.6 billion extra for NASA to accelerate astronaut return to the Moon

Lunar Gateway

NASA and the White House will ask Congress for an extra $1.6 billion for fiscal year 2020 in order to accelerate human missions to the Moon and return people to the lunar surface by 2024. The space agency is requesting these funds in addition to the $21 billion budget that the president already requested for NASA. That’s according to a new tweet from President Trump on Monday, who claimed that NASA will be going back to space in a “big way.”

The funding proposal is laid out in a new budget amendment that NASA officials have been crafting for the last two months, along with input from the White House. The additional funds are meant to help NASA meet Pence’s challenge of sending astronauts back to the Moon within the next five years. During a speech at a meeting of the National Space Council in March, Pence said that NASA’s original goal of sending humans to the Moon by 2028 was “just not good enough,” and that the space agency would pull off this new deadline by “any means necessary.”

May 9th, 2019

New water cycle on Mars discovered

Billions of years ago, Mars could have looked like this with an ocean covering part of its surface.
© NASA/GSFC

Approximately every two Earth years, when it is summer on the southern hemisphere of Mars, a window opens: only there and only in this season can water vapor efficiently rise from the lower into the upper atmosphere. There, winds carry the rare gas to the North Pole. While part of the water vapor decays and escapes into space, the rest sinks back down near the poles. Researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany describe this unusual Martian water cycle in a current issue of the Geophysical Research Letters. Their computer simulations show how water vapor overcomes the barrier of cold air in the middle atmosphere of Mars and reaches higher air layers. This could help to understand why Mars – unlike Earth – has lost most of its water.

Billions of years ago, Mars was a planet rich in water with rivers and even an ocean. Since then, our neighboring planet has changed dramatically: today, only small amounts of frozen water exist in the ground; in the atmosphere, water vapor occurs only in traces. All in all, the planet may have lost at least 80 percent of its original water. In the upper atmosphere of Mars, ultraviolet radiation from the Sun split water molecules into hydrogen (H) and hydroxyl radicals (OH). The hydrogen escaped from there irretrievably into space. Measurements by space probes and space telescopes show that even today water is still lost in this way. But how is this possible? The middle atmosphere layer of Mars, like Earth’s tropopause, should actually stop the rising gas. After all, this region is usually so cold that water vapor would turn to ice. How does the Martian water vapor reach the upper air layers?

In their current simulations, the Russian and German researchers find a previously unknown mechanism reminiscent of a kind of pump. Their model comprehensively describes the flows in the entire gas envelope surrounding Mars: from the surface to an altitude of 160 kilometers. The calculations show that the normally ice-cold middle atmosphere becomes permeable to water vapor twice a day – but only at a certain location and at a certain time of year.

May 7th, 2019

‘Twilight Zone’: DeWanda Wise on the Greek Tragedy of Her Mission to Mars [spoilers]

DeWanda Wise, “The Twilight Zone”
CBS All Access

Original “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling was so fascinated by the possibility of space and aliens that his very first space-adjacent episode aired two years before the first man even escaped Earth’s atmosphere. Now, Jordan Peele’s revival of the series carries on that storytelling tradition with the episode “Six Degrees of Freedom,” in which five astronauts blast off to colonize Mars.

DeWanda Wise, best known for starring in Spike Lee’s Netflix series “She’s Gotta Have It,” is a longtime fan of “Twilight Zone” and had even asked her agents specifically if she would be able to land the show. Her favorite episode is “To Serve Man,” the classic entry in which seemingly benevolent aliens land on Earth, improve the lives of humans, and then are revealed to actually eat the people they were helping.

In the episode, Wise plays flight commander Alexa Brandt of the Bradbury Heavy spacecraft and has created a tight-knit family with her crew (Jonathan Whitesell, Jessica Williams, Lucinda Dryzek, and Jefferson White). But when their launch is interrupted by news of Korean ICBMs hitting various cities in the United States, and America’s subsequent retaliation, the crew must make a last-minute decision to abandon the mission and possibly face perishing in a nuclear war or launch and possibly be mankind’s last chance for survival. They launch.

May 6th, 2019

Dust storms may have stolen all of Mars’ water

Rotating globes from May 28 and July 1 show a global dust storm completely obscuring the surface of Mars.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

In May 2018, Opportunity had been doing science on Mars since 2004, and there was no reason to think that the plucky rover wouldn’t carry on. Then, a dust storm hit that completely obscured the planet from view. After fine dust coated Opportunity’s solar panels, the rover apparently lost power and was declared dead by NASA in February 2019. Now, scientists think similar storms may have also delivered a coup de grace to water on Mars, stripping it from its surface for good.

At one point, Mars had a thick atmosphere and up to 20 percent of its surface was covered by liquid water, scientists figure. Around 4 billion years ago, however, Mars lost its magnetic field and with little to protect it from destructive solar winds, the red planet lost much of its atmosphere.

That left water on the surface vulnerable, and according to new observations from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), dust storms may have helped finish off the oceans and lakes. While water particles in the atmosphere normally linger at around 12 miles (20 km) in altitude, TGO noticed that the dust storms that killed Opportunity lifted H20 molecules up to 50 miles (80 km) above the ground.

May 3rd, 2019

Mars City: If You’re Rich Enough to Go, You Probably Want to Stay on Earth

Space engineers want to entice wealthy explorers to spend six-figure sums on a roundtrip ticket to Mars, laying the groundwork for cities that could some day forge a new path for humanity. But with the long journey required, and in light of its harsh, unforgiving climate, will the prospect of a Mars vacation actually be alluring enough for the people who could feasibly afford it?

Not everyone who’s looked into it is convinced.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, one such believer, is the most high-profile advocate for attempting to start humanity’s first extraterrestrial city on the red planet. He’s spoken about his goal to send one million people to Mars in 100 years, with the price of a return ticket at $200,000, around that of a median house in the United States. His firm is building the Starship, a stainless steel behemoth capable of transporting 100 people at once. Pizzerias and bars on Mars are in Musk’s vision.

Musk is not alone. Another contender in the Mars race is the United Arab Emirates, which wants to collectively spend $135 million to build a 1.9 million square foot city by 2117, complete with space-themed museum with 3D-printed art. Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku previously told Inverse that a such a colony could theoretically take shape as early as the 2060s.

Guenter Lang, an economics professor at Kühne Logistics University in Germany, is one of the people who’s carefully studied what it would cost to actually go to Mars. His prediction isn’t as rosy.

Lang believes that a few hundred thousand people will want to take the plunge. However, without the right incentives — perhaps through subsidies to reduce the cost — a Mars city could end up a vanity project for the one percent of the one percent.

May 2nd, 2019

Op/Ed: Buzz Aldrin: It’s time to focus on the great migration of humankind to Mars

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket lifts off from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on April 17. (NASA/Reuters)

Buzz Aldrin is a former astronaut and, as part of the Apollo 11 mission, was one of the first men to walk on the moon.

Last month, Vice President Pence announced that we are headed back to the moon. I am with him, in spirit and aspiration. Having been there, I can say it is high time we returned. When Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and I went to the moon 50 years ago this July, we did so with a mission. Apollo 11 aimed to prove America’s can-do commitment to space exploration, as well as its national security and technological superiority. We did all that. We also “Came in Peace for all Mankind.” More of that is needed now.

Today, many nations have eyes for the moon, from China and Russia to friends in Europe and Middle East. That is all good. The United States should cooperate — and offer itself as a willing team leader — in exploring every aspect of the moon, from its geology and topography to its hydrology and cosmic history. In doing so, we can take “low-Earth orbit” cooperation to the moon, openly, eagerly and collegially.

Meanwhile, another looming orb — the red one — should become a serious focus of U.S. attention. Mars is waiting to be discovered, not by clever robots and rovers — though I support NASA’s unmanned missions — but by living, breathing, walking, talking, caring and daring men and women.

To make that happen, members of Congress, the Trump administration and the American public must care enough to make human exploration missions to Mars a national priority. To be clear, I do not mean spending billions of taxpayer dollars on a few hijinks or joy rides, allowing those who return to write books, tweet photos and talk of the novelty. I mean something very different.