August 27th, 2015

‘The Martian’ Promo Video: Neil deGrasse Tyson Examines the Ares 3 Mission to Mars

There are plenty of people who are already sold on The Martian, the latest sci-fi drama from Ridley Scott. It’s one of our 30 Movies to Be Excited for Before the End of 2015, and the most recent trailer really showed how good it looks.

But 20th Century Fox still has a little over a month to go before the film hits theaters, and they’re continuing their impressive viral marketing campaign with yet another cool video focusing on the crew of the Ares 3, another manned mission to the surface of Mars. This time, famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson examines the upcoming mission in the style of the recent Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey series.

August 24th, 2015

Help Restore Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) Green House by Contributing to New Crowdfunding Campaign

The Mars Society launched today an online crowdfunding campaign – via – to help raise $10,000 to rebuild and refurbish the green house used at the organization’s Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in southern Utah to carry out food and plant research important for eventual human exploration and settlement of the Red Planet.

The MDRS green house (commonly referred to as the GreenHab) was severely damaged by fire late last year, with MDRS staff determining that the facility was unfit for further use and needed to be completely rebuilt.

Plans to restore the new GreenHab include building a geodesic dome designed to house an assortment of food gardens and science experiments. More efficient, easier to use and healthier for plants, the new structure will ensure that plant and food research remain a key aspect of the overall MDRS simulation program.

A generous donation immediately following the GreenHab fire in December allowed the Mars Society to cover the cost of a temporary grow tent for plant research during the remainder of the 2014-15 field season and also purchase materials to build the new GreenHab dome structure.

Since then, Mars Society staff and volunteers have constructed a small sample geodesic test unit and completed a work trip to MDRS this past weekend to lay the building foundation, with plans to return to the Utah site in September to build the new dome in time for the upcoming crew field season, which begins in mid-October.

August 21st, 2015

Two MIT students just schooled a company trying to send people to Mars

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Two MIT engineering students just faced off with a private company that wants to send people on a one-way trip to Mars — and one group won by a landslide.
The debate stemmed from the students’ scathing critique of Mars One’s plan to set up a permanent human colony on Mars. That report, published in 2014, triggered widespread criticism of the company’s too-low $6-billion budget, unrealistic timeline, and general lack of preparedness for the challenges of Mars.

On Aug. 13 at the Mars Society Conference, two of the MIT students picked apart Mars One’s plan again — this time in front of CEO Bas Lansdorp and Barry Finger, chief engineer and director of life support systems for Paragon Space Development Corporation.

August 20th, 2015

NASA to rely on Mars programme’s silent workhorse for years to come


NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, aging and arthritic a decade after its launch, remains productive and is expected to be the primary pipeline for high-resolution maps of Mars for scientists and mission planners over the next decade.

Scientists who want to study Mars’ enigmatic history, tenuous water cycle and climate will continue to rely on the nearly $900 million MRO mission, and engineers charged with selecting landing sites for future Mars rovers, and eventual human expeditions, will use maps created from the orbiter’s imagery, officials said.

And the success of future landers, beginning with NASA’s InSight seismic probe next year, depend in part on MRO’s availability to relay data from the Martian surface to Earth.

August 19th, 2015

Nine Real NASA Technologies in ‘The Martian’ NASA

Mars has held a central place in human imagination and culture for millennia. Ancients marveled at its red color and the brightness that waxed and waned in cycles over the years. Early observations through telescopes led some to speculate that the planet was covered with canals that its inhabitants used for transportation and commerce. In “The War of the Worlds”, the writer H.G. Wells posited a Martian culture that would attempt to conquer Earth. In 1938, Orson Welles panicked listeners who thought they were listening to a news broadcast rather than his radio adaptation of Wells’s novel.

The real story of humans and Mars is a little more prosaic but no less fascinating. Telescopes turned the bright red dot in the sky into a fuzzy, mottled disk that gave rise to those daydreams of canals. Just 50 years ago, the first photograph of Mars from a passing spacecraft appeared to show a hazy atmosphere. Now decades of exploration on the planet itself has shown it to be a world that once had open water, an essential ingredient for life.

The fascination hasn’t waned, even in the Internet Age. A former computer programmer named Andy Weir, who enjoyed writing for its own sake and posted fiction to his blog, started a serial about a NASA astronaut stranded on Mars. The popularity ultimately led him to turn it into a successful novel, “The Martian”, which has been made into a movie that will be released in October 2015.

“The Martian” merges the fictional and factual narratives about Mars, building upon the work NASA and others have done exploring Mars and moving it forward into the 2030s, when NASA astronauts are regularly traveling to Mars and living on the surface to explore. Although the action takes place 20 years in the future, NASA is already developing many of the technologies that appear in the film.

August 18th, 2015

How (and Why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars Wait But Why


This is Part 3 of a four-part series on Elon Musk’s companies. For an explanation of why this series is happening and how Musk is involved, start with Part 1.

Pre-Post Note: I started working on this post ten weeks ago. When I started, I never intended for it to become such an ordeal. But like the Tesla post, I decided as I researched that this was A) a supremely important topic that will only become more important in the years to come, and B) something most people don’t know nearly enough about. My weeks of research and discussions with Musk and others built me an in-depth, tree-trunk understanding of what’s happening in what I’m calling The Story of Humans and Space—one that has totally reframed my mental picture of the future (yet again). And as I planned out what to include in the post, I wanted to make sure every Wait But Why reader ended up with the same foundation moving forward—because with everything that’s coming, we’re gonna need it. So like the Tesla post, this post became a full situation. Even the progress updates leading up to its publication became a full situation.

Thanks for your patience. I know you’d prefer this not to be a site that updates every two months, and I would too. The Tesla and SpaceX posts were special cases, and you can expect a return to more normal-length WBW posts now that they’re done.

About the post itself: There are three main parts. Part 1 provides the context and background, Part 2 explores the “Why” part of colonizing Mars, and Part 3 digs into the “How.” To make reading this post as accessible as possible, it’s broken into five pages, each about the length of a normal WBW post, and you can jump to any part of the post easily by clicking the links in the Table of Contents below.

August 12th, 2015

Traveling to Another Planet? Just Add Water! Wait But Why


As NASA and other space agencies continue humanity’s interplanetary reconnaissance, one thing is becoming very clear: on balance, the solar system is a rather soggy place. Water, mostly in the form of ice, lurks practically everywhere we look. There are water deposits on the Moon, on Mars, and even in the cold, shadowed floors of deep polar craters on sun-broiled Mercury. Water exists in even greater abundance further out from the sun, constituting much of the crust for a wealth of dwarf planets, moons, and asteroids and even occasionally forming subsurface oceans.

Planetary scientists speak often and with great eloquence about how all this water boosts the possibility of alien life right in our solar system; much less discussed is how it boosts the possibility of carrying human life far beyond Earth. Water will be a cornerstone of our existence everywhere we go, of course, perhaps in more ways than you realize. The killer app for all that extraterrestrial water isn’t just beverages and baths—it’s also rocket fuel.

August 11th, 2015

Those Veggies Grown on the ISS Get Humans Closer to Mars Wait But Why

The menu in space has grown a lot since John Glenn’s very first meal in 1962: On the first five hour-long orbital mission, he sucked applesauce from a tube and drank xylose sugar tablets dissolved in water. Now, astronauts can choose from more than 200 types of dehydrated foods, including a full Thanksgiving meal. But fresh food in space is still a rare treat, sent up with the resupply shipments once every couple of months.

Not anymore. Yesterday on the International Space Station, Expedition 44 crew members dined on their first meal of space-grown “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce. Growing the purple leaves, which the crew seasoned with vinegar and oil, was a concrete step toward making NASA’s long-promised manned journey to Mars—and maybe even more permanent space colonies—a reality.

August 7th, 2015

3D-Printed Mars Meteorite Wait But Why

Back in 2009, scientists detected an odd-shaped rock by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity’s panorama camera. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) team spotted the rock, now called Block Island, in the images downlinked to Earth after it had driven past the rock. The rover backtracked some 820 feet to study Block Island closer, eventually touching the rock with its robotic arm. The image showed a rock approximately 2 feet in length and half that in height, with a metallic bluish tint that distinguished it from other rocks in the area. Upon further analysis scientists discovered that Block Island was a meteorite comprised of iron and nickel. A portion of Block Island’s surface indicated exposure when a meteorite is abraded, polished, and etched by windblown sand.

August 6th, 2015

What Will Our Homes Look Like On Mars? Wait But Why


For generations there have been discussions about the next step in space exploration with a new focus on reaching and populating Mars. There are now many opportunities upon us with organisations such as NASA, the primary investigator, and Mars One the organisation co-founded by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, seeking out and developing technologies.

The big question is: can science fiction become science reality?

DesignCurial talks to internationally recognised space architects Guillermo Trotti, president of Trotti & Associates, and Brent Sherwood, programme manager at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), who give us an idea of what our homes on Mars would look like and how soon this might happen.

Trotti has contributed significantly to NASA, including working on the International Space Station (ISS), lunar bases, Mars vehicles and more, with Sherwood having 28 years professional experience in the civil and commercial space industry.