MarsNews.com
January 12th, 2017

To prepare for life on Mars, astronauts are going to … Utah?

Veronica Ann Zabala-Aliberto and Hugh Gregory collect rocks outside the Mars Desert Research Station during a previous Mars simulation mission in Hanksville, Utah. A new crew of six is set to begin a new mission this month. (Photo: George Frey/Getty Images)

Veronica Ann Zabala-Aliberto and Hugh Gregory collect rocks outside the Mars Desert Research Station during a previous Mars simulation mission in Hanksville, Utah. A new crew of six is set to begin a new mission this month. (Photo: George Frey/Getty Images)

This is the true story of six scientists, picked to live in a capsule in the middle of the Utah desert, work together and have their lives studied, to find out what happens when people stop being Earthlings and start being Martians.

While it’s too soon to say whether the crew of a certain long-running MTV reality show will make Mars its next setting, one thing’s for certain: if humans are really going to live on the Red Planet one day, we need to know exactly how that’s going to look. That’s where Team PRIMA 173 comes in. It’s a group of six highly qualified scientists, engineers, artists and leadership experts from around the world. Among the crew: Michaela Musilova, an astrobiologist from Slovakia; Arnau Pons, an aeronautical engineer from Spain; Roy Naor, a graduate student in planetary geology from Israel; and Niamh Shaw, an artist and journalist from Ireland.

They’ve all been selected by the Mars Society to take part in a scientific simulation project at the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah.

January 11th, 2017

Four extreme environments where humans are tasting life on Mars

David Howells/Corbis via Getty Images

David Howells/Corbis via Getty Images

No spot on Earth is a perfect match for Mars, but by training at some of Earth’s extreme habitats, space agencies including NASA and ESA are fine-tuning techniques for a trip to the Red Planet. New Scientist gathered postcards from four of them

January 6th, 2017

New image shows Earth and Moon from Mars orbiter

Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

There’s a lot of talk in our modern space race about getting to Mars, so every once in a while it’s nice to see what we’d be leaving behind if we did eventually make it to the Red Planet.

Thankfully, images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter can help us out with that. A new composite image released on Friday shows off Earth and its moon, taken when Mars was about 127 million miles away on Nov. 20.

The photograph is constructed from the best shot of Earth and the best shot of the moon from four sets of images, according to a post by Alfred McEwen, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona who is the principal investigator for the HiRISE camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

January 5th, 2017

‘Mangal Ho’ will be first Indian comedy film set on Mars

The movie is a Musical Sci-Fi Comedy and is currently under production.

The movie is a Musical Sci-Fi Comedy and is currently under production.

Director Pritish Chakraborty has claimed that his forthcoming film “Mangal Ho” will be the first Indian science fiction comedy on planet Mars.

“It is the first entertaining comedy film in India on the topic of Mars. Our tag line revolves around the theme first Indian civilisation on Mars,” Chakraborty told IANS.

He added: “We are showing a time period that is 25 years ahead. The character of an Indian scientist has been played by Annu Kapoor who has a major role in the film. The technology we are using in the film is 50 to 100 years ahead of time. We are showing that if Indian brain is used rightly, they can achieve a lot.”

“Mangal Ho” is the story of an attempt to send a couple to Mars and to create a civilisation there, and has been portrayed in a light-hearted and humourous manner. Annu is the scientist who spearheads this ambitious mission. Actor Sanjay Mishra plays a Bengali businessman in the film.

Chakraborty wants to release the teaser of the film on January 26, 2017.

December 29th, 2016

Future Mars Residents May Live in a Home Made of Ice

SEArch and Clouds AO

SEArch and Clouds AO

Want to Live on Mars? We have the ice house for you. NASA is crowd-sourcing ideas for future Martian habitats and the leading design is essentially a modified igloo. That’s right, the first humans to inhabit Mars, may reside in homes made of ice.

Last month, a research team from the University of Texas announced that Mars is hiding a secret supply of water just below its surface. They reported that a region on Mars known as Utopia Planitia is harboring as much water as Lake Superior here on Earth — only difference is the Martian reserves are frozen solid.

The ice reservoir is located a mid-northern latitudes — which means it’s about halfway between the equator and the poles — and is reportedly the size of New Mexico. Even though the supply may be buried under a layer of regolith ranging from 3 to 33 feet deep, this finding is still excellent news for a group at NASA’s Langley Engineering Design Studio in Hampton, Virginia.

December 28th, 2016

Astronauts With People Skills Will Colonize Mars

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In order to create a functional base on Mars, NASA and its private competitors will need to design the physical and digital technology needed to transport humans and what keeps them alive between a 33.9 million miles journey and a safe landing. But the mission won’t end there. Astronauts will need to work effectively together to make the whole project both sustainable and worthwhile. Given the extremity of the conditions, that’s no small ask.

Since 2013, HI-SEAS has run four separate behavioral experiments simulating the isolation and stress that a human crew would endure on the way to Mars and on the planet’s surface. The best way to do the latter, according to Project Manager Bryan Caldwell, is to send a bunch of scientists to live in hostile terrain. Mauna Loa, separated from civilization by 20 miles of lava fields and a simulated 22-minute communication delay, does the trick nicely. The first three experiments lasted four, four, and eight months respectively. The crew of HI-SEAS IV, a six-person team of scientists, were expected to treat the outside world as otherworldly and deal with the same deprivations as the first space pioneers for a full calendar year. As though retaining sanity wasn’t a big enough task, the scientists were also given various tasks and research to do while in the dome. While some of their duties simulated the day-to-day activities of real Mars astronauts, the crew’s primary function was to serve as test subjects in 13 different behavioral experiments. Outside of the dome, a team of multidisciplinary researchers monitored every aspect of the crew’s lives, hoping that they could pinpoint the “right stuff” for humanity’s next giant leap.

December 27th, 2016

China Issues Space White Paper – Moon, Mars Goals

CCTV/China Spaceflight.com

CCTV/China Spaceflight.com

China’s Information Office of the State Council on December 27 released an expansive white paper on that country’s space activities in 2016, and projected looks at its space agenda in coming years.

In an associated press conference marking the release of the white paper, vice administrator of the China National Space Administration, Wu Yanhua, stated that China plans to develop a new generation of heavy-lift carrier rocket, the “Changzheng-9” or “Long March-9.”

That booster is intended for future manned lunar landing and deep space exploration missions, according to a report by CRIENGLISH.com.

December 20th, 2016

Skimming an Alien Atmosphere

Artist’s impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter at Mars.

Artist’s impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter at Mars.

After the smooth arrival of ESA’s latest Mars orbiter, mission controllers are now preparing it for the ultimate challenge: dipping into the Red Planet’s atmosphere to reach its final orbit.

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is on a multiyear mission to understand the tiny amounts of methane and other gases in Mars’ atmosphere that could be evidence for possible biological or geological activity.

Following its long journey from Earth, the orbiter fired its main engine on 19 October to brake sufficiently for capture by the planet’s gravity.

It entered a highly elliptical orbit where its altitude varies between about 250 km and 98 000 km, with each circuit taking about four Earth days.

Ultimately, however, the science goals and its role as a data relay for surface rovers mean the craft must lower itself into a near-circular orbit at just 400 km altitude, with each orbit taking about two hours.

December 16th, 2016

How India Made it to Mars on the First Try

Although Mars is one of our closest planetary neighbors, it has foiled many space-faring nations wishing to explore it. Missions sent by the USSR, the United States, Japan, Russia, China, and Europe all failed the first time around. Only India was able to make it on its first try. In the latest video in Science Friday‘s “Breakthrough: Portraits of Women in Science” series, documentary producer Emily Driscoll introduces us to some of the scientists at India’s space agency, ISRO, who made it happen.

December 13th, 2016

Trump could replace Obama’s asteroid catcher with a SpaceX-backed mission to Mars

Getty Images/Shutterstock/NASA; illustration by Dave Mosher/Business Insider

Getty Images/Shutterstock/NASA; illustration by Dave Mosher/Business Insider

When Donald Trump is sworn in on January 20, there’s a good chance he could scrap one of President Obama’s boldest visions for NASA: the asteroid redirect mission, or ARM.

ARM would ostensibly launch a robotic probe to an asteroid in 2023, capture the space rock, and tow it near the moon. Next, astronauts would ride NASA’s shiny new Space Launch System and Orion space capsule (which aren’t finished yet) to visit and dig into the asteroid sometime in 2025.

But ARM’s slipping deadlines, ballooning costs, redundancy with the recently launched asteroid-sampling OSIRIS-REx probe, and seeming incongruence with the space agency’s larger ambitions to send people to Mars will almost certainly doom the mission, Eric Berger reported for Ars Technica in February. (The Trump-friendly House Committee on Science, Space and Technology also recently sent an unfriendly letter about ARM to NASA, and it appears to be yet another presumed nail in ARM’s coffin.)

So what could a Trump-controlled NASA replace it with?

Physicist and former astronaut John Grunsfeld, who recently retired as the leader of NASA’s science mission directorate, is pitching a popular idea involving a retrieving a sample of Martian soil, as Berger reported on Monday.