July 2nd, 2015

Astronauts Need Flexible Spacesuits for Mars

The next couple of decades could see astronauts go to many places: an asteroid, the moon, even Mars.

But the current spacesuits used on the International Space Station (ISS) will likely need replacing to get those exploration jobs done, experts say.

The difficulty with today’s suits is they are designed for microgravity work. They would make walking in an environment with substantial gravity difficult, because the lower torso of the suit is stiff, and it’s difficult for the wearer to bend at the waist. Better mobility would be needed for doing geologic fieldwork, said Amy Ross, lead of the advanced pressure-garment team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston.

July 1st, 2015

This could be the first airplane on Mars cnet

When I think of airplanes on Mars, I imagine a sci-fi scenario with robotic winged flying machines swarming through the Martian air, gathering data like a flock of hyper-intelligent space seagulls.

The first airplane on Mars will be pretty far from this fantasy. Chances are, it will look a lot more like a kind of glider that’s already in use on Earth, according to a NASA photo released Monday.

The proposed Prandtl-m aircraft is a relatively dainty flying-wing-style plane. The prototype will be based on the existing Prandtl-d, a radio-controlled glider designed and built by aerospace engineering students during a NASA internship in 2012 and 2013.

June 30th, 2015

October Comet Flyby Caused ‘Mind-Blowing’ Martian Meteor Shower cnet

A rain of metallic stardust lit up the skies of Mars in the wake of the close passage of Comet Siding Spring, which roared past the Red Planet last October.

This is according to the instruments aboard NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft, which made the first direct detection of sodium, magnesium, aluminum, chromium, nickel, copper, zinc, iron and other metals high in the Martian atmosphere that can be linked directly to the material sloughing off the comet.

June 25th, 2015

DARPA: We Are Engineering the Organisms That Will Terraform Mars Motherboard

It’s no secret that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is investing heavily in genetic engineering and synthetic biology. Whether that excites or terrifies you depends on how you feel about the military engineering totally new life forms. If you’re in the excitement camp, however, here’s a nugget for you: DARPA believes that it’s on the way to creating organisms capable of terraforming Mars into a planet that looks more like Earth.

The goal of terraforming Mars would be to warm up and potentially thicken its atmosphere by growing green, photosynthesizing plants, bacteria, and algae on the barren Martian surface. It’s a goal that even perpetual techno-optimists like Elon Musk think isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but it’s a goal that DARPA apparently already has its eyes on.

June 23rd, 2015

Nathalie Cabrol: How Mars might hold the secret to the origin of life TED Talks

While we like to imagine little green men, it’s far more likely that life on other planets will be microbial. Planetary scientist Nathalie Cabrol takes us inside the search for microbes on Mars, a hunt which counterintuitively leads us to the remote lakes of the Andes mountains. This extreme environment — with its thin atmosphere and scorched land — approximates the surface of Mars about 3.5 billion years ago. How microbes adapt to survive here may just show us where to look on Mars — and could help us understand why some microbial pathways lead to civilization while others are a dead end.

June 17th, 2015

Martian New Year’s Party In Pennsylvania Will Inspire Young ‘Neil Armstrongs’ To Fly To Mars In 2030s The Inquisitr

Get out your noisemakers, pointy hats, and someone to smooch when the clock strikes midnight. It’s the Martian New Year, and the appropriately named Mars, Pennsylvania, is holding a big party to celebrate.

It’s a party that only comes around every couple years. The Martian New Year happens the same time as the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. That equinox is coming around this month, NASA reported.

Mars’ celebrations fall on June 18 to 20 — in two years, it’ll be held on May 5. This small Pennsylvania town 20 miles north of Pittsburgh, and home to about 1,700 earthlings, is the perfect spot for such a celebration — it even has a flying saucer sculpture in the middle of town. The festival was born when the local historical society tried to figure out how to promote their town, which has an advantageous name.

June 15th, 2015

NASA Prepares for First Interplanetary CubeSats NASA

When NASA launches its next mission on the journey to Mars – a stationary lander in 2016 – the flight will include two CubeSats. This will be the first time CubeSats have flown in deep space. If this flyby demonstration is successful, the technology will provide NASA the ability to quickly transmit status information about the main spacecraft after it lands on Mars.

The twin communications-relay CubeSats, being built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, constitute a technology demonstration called Mars Cube One (MarCO). CubeSats are a class of spacecraft based on a standardized small size and modular use of off-the-shelf technologies. Many have been made by university students, and dozens have been launched into Earth orbit using extra payload mass available on launches of larger spacecraft.

June 9th, 2015

Would-be Mars explorers say Utah dinosaur find supports their cause The Salt Lake Tribune

Would-be Mars explorers believe a Utah dinosaur quarry is proof their extraterrestial quest is worthy.

A dinosaur fossil found 13 years ago in southern Utah has resulted in one of the largest fossil discoveries in history and highlights the importance of sending human explorers into space, according to The Mars Society.

Scott Williams, director of science and exhibits for the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Illinois, said formal excavations in southern Utah started in 2008 after museum staff were directed to the site by geologists with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The site, located about 10 miles northwest of Hanksville, has been called a “bone jackpot.” The fossil site extends for more than a quarter mile, Williams says, and is roughly the size and scope of the Dinosaur National Monument bonebed.

June 8th, 2015

The Martian 20th Century Fox

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return. Based on a best-selling novel, and helmed by master director Ridley Scott, THE MARTIAN features a star studded cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover.

June 8th, 2015

NASA Go for June 8 LDSD Launch 20th Century Fox

The LDSD launch support team is go to report to stations tonight at 9 p.m. HST to begin preparations for a Monday, June 8, 7:30 a.m. HST (1:30 p.m. EDT) launch attempt from the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. NASA Television and JPL’s Ustream channel will carry live coverage of the launch beginning at 7 a.m. HST (1 p.m. EDT). The LDSD crosscutting technology demonstration mission will test two braking technologies that will enable larger payloads to be landed safely on the surface of Mars or other planetary bodies with atmospheres, including Earth.