MarsNews.com
May 26th, 2017

Schiaparelli landing investigation completed

Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module with parachute deployed. Copyright ESA/ATG medialab

Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module with parachute deployed. Copyright ESA/ATG medialab

The inquiry into the crash-landing of the ExoMars Schiaparelli module has concluded that conflicting information in the onboard computer caused the descent sequence to end prematurely.

The Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator module separated from its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, as planned on 16 October last year, and coasted towards Mars for three days.

Much of the six-minute descent on 19 October went as expected: the module entered the atmosphere correctly, with the heatshield protecting it at supersonic speeds. Sensors on the front and back shields collected useful scientific and engineering data on the atmosphere and heatshield.

May 3rd, 2017

Japanese space agency’s mission aims to uncover how moons of Mars formed

2017-05-03 11_40_56-MMX - Martian Moons eXploration

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has announced a mission to visit the two moons of Mars and return a rock sample to Earth. It’s a plan to uncover both the mystery of the moons’ creation and, perhaps, how life began in our Solar System.

The Solar System’s planets take their names from ancient Greek and Roman mythology. Mars is the god of war, while the red planet’s two moons are named for the deity’s twin sons: Deimos (meaning panic) and Phobos (fear).

Unlike our own Moon, Phobos and Deimos are tiny. Phobos has an average diameter of 22.2km, while Deimos measures an even smaller 13km. Neither moon is on a stable orbit, with Deimos slowly moving away from Mars while Phobos will hit the Martian surface in around 20 million years.

The small size of the two satellites makes their gravity too weak to pull the moons in spheres. Instead, the pair have the irregular, lumpy structure of asteroids. This has led to a major question about their formation: were these moons formed from Mars or are they actually captured asteroids?

The excitement for a Mars moon mission has led to strong international involvement in MMX. On April 10, JAXA president Naoki Okumura met his counterpart from France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), Jean-Yves Le Gall.

The meeting cemented a collaboration between the two space agencies. CNES will provide an instrument for MMX as well as combining expertise on flight dynamics for the tricky encounter with the Martian moons.

May 2nd, 2017

Polish Kret will fly to Mars

Source: ASTRONIKA Sp. z o.o.

Source: ASTRONIKA Sp. z o.o.

Polish robot Kret will fly to Mars as part of NASA InSight mission in 2018 – said on Wednesday Dr. Jerzy Grygorczuk, VP of Astronika. Kret will be the first complete system provided by the Polish industry for such an important mission.
Polish company Astronika is the manufacturer of the robot that will dig into the surface of Mars and examine the properties of the Martian soil. The InSight mission, as part of which Kret will fly to Mars, is expected to last two Earth years.

“This is a success for Polish scientists. They are ready and competent to work with the world’s largest space agencies and to provide complex services” – emphasized Deputy Minister of Development Jadwiga Emilewicz.

Kret will go to Mars on a lander. A special robot arm will move it from the deck of the lander directly to the surface of the Red Planet. “Then it will start drilling. It will be in stages – not immediately to the depth of 5 meters. Every half meter it will take measurements. Kret will drag a 5-6 meter tail in the form of a tape which will be rolled into a tube in the opening made by the robot. It is equipped with a number of thermal sensors so that we can measure the thermal profile of the soil to the depth of 5 m. In addition, thermal conductivity gives information about the porosity of the soil and other physical properties. The purpose of all this is to find out how the Martian core works. The work of Mars’s core and its size is still unknown” – explained Jerzy Grygorczuk, VP of Astronika.

April 27th, 2017

Mars-like soil makes super strong bricks when compressed

Photo by David Baillot, materials processed by Brian J. Chow and Yu Qiao

Photo by David Baillot, materials processed by Brian J. Chow and Yu Qiao

Elon Musk’s vision of Mars colonization has us living under geodesic domes made of carbon fiber and glass. But, according to a study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, those domes may end up being made of brick, pressed from the Martian soil itself.

A team of NASA-funded researchers from UC San Diego, and led by structural engineer Yu Qiao, made the surprising discovery using simulated Martian soil — that’s dirt from Earth which has nearly the same physical and chemical properties. They found that by compressing the simulant under high pressure, it readily created blocks stronger than steel-reinforced concrete.

This isn’t the first time that researchers have attempted to create building materials from native resources on alien worlds. Last year, a team from Northwestern University figured out that you could create concrete by mixing Martian soil with molten sulphur. Qi’s own team had previously sought to make bricks from lunar soil material, managing to reduce the amount of binder needed from 15 percent of the final weight to just 3 percent, before turning their attention to the red stuff.

April 26th, 2017

Scientists Hatch Wild Plan to Terraform a Region of Mars

A research team has devised a plan to make a portion of Mars more Earth-like by slamming an asteroid into it.

This Mars Terraformer Transfer (MATT) concept would create a persistent lake on the Red Planet’s surface in 2036, potentially accelerating Mars exploration, settlement and commercial development, the team said.

“Terraformation need not engineer an entire planetary surface. A city-region is adequate for inhabitation. MATT hits this mark,” the Lake Matthew Team, the group behind the idea, wrote in a press release last month.

Key to the plan is a “Shepherd” satellite, which would steer an asteroid or other small celestial body into the Red Planet. That impactor would inject heat into the Martian bedrock, producing meltwater for a lake that would persist for thousands of years within the warmed impact zone, Lake Matthew Team members wrote.

April 20th, 2017

3D-Printing Tools from Martian Dust Will One Day Help Us Colonize Mars

Tools and building blocks made by 3D printing with lunar and Martian dust. McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University

Tools and building blocks made by 3D printing with lunar and Martian dust. McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University

One of the many challenges of colonizing Mars is that the planet is lacking many of the natural resources we rely on here on Earth. We’ll need to bring as much of what we need to survive as possible, but you can only pack so much into a spaceship. So scientists are developing ways to utilize at least one of the red planet’s most abundant resources: dust.

We’ve had a hard time coming up with reasons as to why everyone needs a 3D printer here on Earth, but on Mars the machines could be used to manufacture tools, spare parts, even entire structures, habitats, and vehicles, given there’s no hardware stores for astronauts to visit if we eventually send humans on the 34 million mile journey. But 3D printers don’t make things out of thin air.

You’ve probably seen an affordable consumer-friendly 3D printer at work, melting and extruding thin lengths of plastic to build up a model. There’s no plastic on Mars, however, and packing miles of filament on a ship takes up valuable space that could be better used for transporting oxygen, water, and other essentials. So scientists at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering have developed a way to turn extraterrestrial materials, like Lunar and Martian dust, into a 3D printing material.

April 12th, 2017

NASA Likely to Break Radiation Rules to Go to Mars

Despite the radiation risks, NASA is forging ahead with plans for a trip to Mars. Last month, engineers evaluated how crew interacted with a new control scheme.

Despite the radiation risks, NASA is forging ahead with plans for a trip to Mars. Last month, engineers evaluated how crew interacted with a new control scheme.

NASA’s biggest obstacle to sending humans to Mars may not be related to line items in budgets, but to the safety of the astronauts themselves.

Despite having sent humans into space for nearly 55 years, NASA doesn’t quite understand what risks the radiation out there poses. More importantly, the agency doesn’t know exactly how to manage those risks—and it might not be able to.

Space radiation presents the tallest hurdle to NASA’s future travel plans that extend beyond low-Earth orbit and for periods longer than a year. On the International Space Station, astronauts are bombarded with 10 times as much radiation as they experience on Earth in a given period; on a Mars, they will encounter 100 times the terrestrial dose.

April 10th, 2017

Potential Mars Airplane Resumes Flight

Test flights of the Prandtl-M have resumed. The airframe also is the basis for another aircraft that will collect weather data. Credits: NASA Photo / Lauren Hughes

Test flights of the Prandtl-M have resumed. The airframe also is the basis for another aircraft that will collect weather data.
Credits: NASA Photo / Lauren Hughes

Flight tests have resumed on subscale aircraft that could one day observe the Martian atmosphere and a variant that will improve collection of Earth’s weather data.

Work on the shape of the aircraft and the systems it will need to fly autonomously and collect data are ongoing for the Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars, or Prandtl-M aircraft. Student interns with support from staff members at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in California are advancing the project.

The March flights included two slightly different Prandtl-M aerodynamic models that were air launched from a remotely piloted Carbon Cub. The research validated the airframe that will be the basis for a potential Mars aircraft and the Weather Hazard Alert and Awareness Technology Radiation Radiosonde (WHAATRR) Glider on Earth.

April 7th, 2017

Two Cupertino students shine in Mars Medical Challenge

Lauren Lee, 12, a seventh-grader at Kennedy Middle School in Cupertino, shows off her 3-D printed drug-delivery device that will allow the user to inject any medically needed drug without assistance. Lauren was a winner in the “Mars Medical Challenge” sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation and with support from NASA. (Photograph by Jacqueline Ramseyer)

Lauren Lee, 12, a seventh-grader at Kennedy Middle School in Cupertino, shows off her 3-D printed drug-delivery device that will allow the user to inject any medically needed drug without assistance. Lauren was a winner in the “Mars Medical Challenge” sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation and with support from NASA. (Photograph by Jacqueline Ramseyer)

Two young Cupertino residents have been recognized for truly out-of-this world science projects.

Lauren Lee, 12, has been selected as a junior division winner of the “Mars Medical Challenge” sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation with technical support from NASA. Ansel Austin, 14, was selected as one of four finalists in the challenge’s teen division.

The challenge tasked youngsters nationwide with creating a digital model of a medical or dental device that is entirely 3-D printable and can be used by astronauts on a three-year round trip to Mars.

Lauren, a seventh-grader at Kennedy Middle School, created a drug delivery device, with inspiration from a family member.

Ansel, a freshman at Valley Christian, created the wearable “Flex Brace,” to protect astronauts’ bones.

April 5th, 2017

Mars rover spots clouds shaped by gravity waves

Panoramic image showing cirrus clouds in the Martian atmosphere, taken by the Opportunity rover in 2006. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/M. Howard, T. Öner, D, Bouic & M. Di Lorenzo

Panoramic image showing cirrus clouds in the Martian atmosphere, taken by the Opportunity rover in 2006. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/M. Howard, T. Öner, D, Bouic & M. Di Lorenzo

NASA’s Curiosity rover usually keeps its instruments firmly focused on Mars’s ground, zapping grit with its laser or drilling cores in bedrock. But every few days, the SUV-sized robot, like any good dreamer, shifts its sights upward to the clouds.

Well into its fifth year, the rover has now shot more than 500 movies of the clouds above it, including the first ground-based view of martian clouds shaped by gravity waves, researchers reported here this week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. (Gravity waves, common atmospheric ripples on Earth that result from air trying to regain its vertical balance, should not be confused with gravitational waves, cosmological ripples in spacetime.) The shots are the best record made so far of a mysterious recurring belt of equatorial clouds known to influence the martian climate.

Understanding these clouds will help inform estimates of ground ice depth and perhaps recurring slope lineae, potential flows of salty water on the surface, says John Moores, a planetary scientist at York University in Toronto, Canada, who led the study with his graduate student, Jake Kloos. “If we wish to understand the water story of Mars’s past,” Moores says, “we first need to [separate out] contributions from the present-day water cycle.”