MarsNews.com
October 1st, 2019

NASA Announces New Tipping Point Partnerships for Moon and Mars Technologies

Astrobotic is one of 14 companies selected for NASA’s Tipping Point solicitation. This illustration depicts CubeRover, an ultra-light, modular and scalable commercial rover.
Credits: Astrobotic/Carnegie Mellon University

NASA has selected 14 American companies as partners whose technologies will help enable the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

The selections are based on NASA’s fourth competitive Tipping Point solicitation and have a combined total award value of about $43.2 million. This investment in the U.S. space industry, including small businesses across the country, will help bring the technologies to market and ready them for use by NASA.

“These promising technologies are at a ‘tipping point’ in their development, meaning NASA’s investment is likely the extra push a company needs to significantly mature a capability,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “These are important technologies necessary for sustained exploration of the Moon and Mars. As the agency focuses on landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis program, we continue to prepare for the next phase of lunar exploration that feeds forward to Mars.”

The selections address technology areas such as cryogenic propellant production and management, sustainable energy generation, storage and distribution, efficient and affordable propulsion systems, autonomous operations, rover mobility, and advanced avionics.

September 17th, 2019

NASA, ESA officials seek formal approvals for Mars sample return mission

Artist’s concept of a Mars sample return mission, including a U.S.-built Mars Ascent Vehicle (left), a European-built Earth Return Orbiter (center), and a NASA-provided Earth Entry Vehicle (right). Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

After crystallizing a partnership to retrieve samples from the surface of Mars and return them to Earth, NASA and European Space Agency officials are seeking government funding commitments before the end of this year to carry out a multibillion-dollar robotic mission that could depart Earth with a pair of rocket launches as soon as 2026.

The Mars sample return mission, if approved, would pick up rock and soil samples collected by NASA’s Mars 2020 rover set for launch next year. The specimens would come back to Earth for detailed analysis in terrestrial laboratories, yielding results that scientists say will paint a far clearer picture of the Martian environment — today and in ancient times — than possible with one-way robotic missions.

A preliminary signal of support came earlier this year came in the White House’s fiscal year 2020 budget request, which proposed $109 million for NASA to work on future Mars missions, including a sample return. That’s after NASA received $50 million to study the sample return effort in 2019.

“The 2020 budget, the president’s recommended budget, included Mars sample return as a recommendation that we begin working on,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division, in a presentation Sept. 10 to the National Academies’ Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences. “We don’t know the status of that through congressional funding yet because we don’t have an appropriations bill yet, but we’re hopeful that there will be some appropriations there so we can move out on this activity.”

NASA unveiled a strategy to pursue a “lean” lower-cost Mars sample return mission in 2017, a plan Glaze said would allow scientists to get their hands on fresh samples from the Martian surface as soon as possible.

But even a lean Mars sample return mission will cost billions of dollars.

July 23rd, 2019

Op/Ed: Trump’s Plan To Develop The Moon And Mars Will Change The Future Of The Human Race

Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong’s son Rick Armstrong join U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as they commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in the Oval Office at the White House July 19 in Washington, D.C.
CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY

The United States is at a crossroads. For the first time in more than half a century, we could cease to be the leading power in space. The momentum of the Chinese program and its increasing outreach to other countries means that within a decade the United States could lose militarily, technologically and economically in space. That outcome would be catastrophic.

President Donald Trump understands how real this threat is and has begun to revitalize America’s commitment to space.

On the Fourth of July, he asserted, “I want you to know that we are going to be back on the moon very soon, and someday soon we will plant the American flag on Mars.”

The Artemis project is not the Apollo project 50 years later. It is something profoundly different.

Imagine that the first woman and man on the moon stay for three weeks (50 percent longer than all six Apollo visits combined). Imagine that their 21 days are spent assembling prepositioned materials to create a work and living space comparable to an Antarctic scientific research station. Imagine that they were joined by a second crew just before they returned to Earth so the new development had permanent habitation.

That kind of permanent development is what Trump has in mind.

The president has launched America on a Moon-Mars Development Project that will change the future of the entire human race.

July 19th, 2019

For First Time, Majority in U.S. Backs Human Mission to Mars

Americans’ views about landing an astronaut on Mars have shifted, with a majority now favoring the idea for the first time since 1969 and 1999, when majorities opposed the idea.

The latest figure comes as President Donald Trump has committed to a manned Mars mission. In his Fourth of July speech, the president said, “We’re going to be back on the moon … and, someday soon, we will plant the American flag on Mars.”

Gallup first asked Americans about attempting to land astronauts on Mars in 1969, shortly after the U.S. accomplished the same feat on the moon. At that time, just 39% were in favor and 53% opposed. A subsequent update on the 30th anniversary of the moon landing found public opinion had changed little, with 43% in favor and 54% opposed to going to Mars.

The recent increase in support for putting an astronaut on Mars is consistent with Americans’ more positive views of the U.S. space program, just ahead of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

As was the case 20 years ago, support for a manned Mars mission is highest among young adults aged 18 to 29 (65%) and lowest among adults aged 65 and older (46%). But support has increased substantially among older adults — as well as younger adults, to a smaller degree — thus boosting the national average.

July 17th, 2019

Op/Ed: Young Americans deserve a 21st-century Moonshot to Mars

Mars should be the next destination for humankind. Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock.com

I then see the decline in scientific education in the U.S., the decline in interest in the sciences and statistic after statistic showing American high school students ranking below the international average in mathematics and science proficiency. Is it surprising, then, that NASA is having trouble in every step of its meager plan for landing humans on the Moon again?

I cannot help but think that all this would change should the U.S. challenge itself with a Moonshot once again. And no, a return to the Moon won’t do. A real Moonshot isn’t a single mission, but a decades-long plan that educates generations, challenges its scientists and engineers, ignites the imagination and aspirations of its children, and once again glues the eyes of humanity on the livestream of that first footstep on Mars.

The Moonshot we need will have humanity establishing its first off-world colonies. It will send the first spacecraft to the distant stars. It will, more importantly, restore the United States to the forefront of science and technology. Fifty years after that first giant leap for mankind, it is finally time to take not just the second leap, but each and every leap that we’ve prevented ourselves from taking for five long decades.

July 16th, 2019

50 Years After Apollo 11 Moon Landing, NASA Sets Its Sights On Mars

Jim Bridenstine became NASA administrator in April 2018. He says that before the space agency can send humans to Mars, it has to get them back to the moon.
Olivia Falcigno/NPR

In the past year or so, scientists have discovered more evidence for liquid water under the surface of Mars. They’ve found complex organic compounds — the building blocks of life. And they’ve found that methane levels in Mars’ atmosphere vary with the seasons.

“Each of these things adds up to say that the probability of finding life on a world that’s not our own is going up,” says NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “And Mars, I think, is that best opportunity in our own solar system to find life on another world.”

The former Republican congressman from Oklahoma became the head of NASA in April 2018. Since then, he has had a lot to do to get ready for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, but he’s making sure the agency continues to look forward for its next mission: a crewed mission to Mars.

But before humans can go to Mars, they have to get back to the moon.

“It just so happens that the moon is a proving ground, so we can go to the moon and we can learn how to live and work on another world,” says Bridenstine. “How do we retire the risk? Prove the technology and then take all of that to Mars.”

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 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.

April 18th, 2019

Independent report concludes 2033 NASA human Mars mission is not feasible

One concept for a Deep Space Transport spacecraft that would take astronauts to and from Mars. An independent study concluded the technological challenges of such a spacecraft made plans to mount a human Mars mission in 2033 infeasible. Credit: Boeing

An independent report concluded that NASA has no chance of sending humans to Mars by 2033, with the earliest such a mission could be flown being the late 2030s.

The report, while completed prior to the March 26 speech where Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return humans to the moon by 2024, does offer insights into how much a lunar return might cost and how it fits into long-term plans to send humans to Mars.

NASA contracted with the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) to prepare the report, which Congress directed NASA to perform in the 2017 NASA authorization act. That bill called specifically for a technical and financial assessment of “a Mars human space flight mission to be launched in 2033.”

STPI, at NASA’s direction, used the strategy the agency had laid out in its “Exploration Campaign” report, which projects the continued use of the Space Launch System and Orion and development of the lunar Gateway in the 2020s. That would be followed by the Deep Space Transport (DST), a crewed spacecraft that would travel from cislunar space to Mars and back. NASA would also develop lunar landers are related system to support crewed missions to the lunar surface, while also working on systems for later missions to the surface of Mars.

That work, the STPI report concluded, will take too long to complete in time to support a 2033 mission. “We find that even without budget constraints, a Mars 2033 orbital mission cannot be realistically scheduled under NASA’s current and notional plans,” the report states. “Our analysis suggests that a Mars orbital mission could be carried out no earlier than the 2037 orbital window without accepting large technology development, schedule delay, cost overrun, and budget shortfall risks.”

April 3rd, 2019

After the Moon in 2024, NASA wants to reach Mars by 2033

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (L)—seen here at the US space agency’s headquarters in November 2018—says the acceleration of the calendar for a new Moon mission is “aggressive” but doable, and vital for any future Mars mission

NASA has made it clear they want astronauts back on the Moon in 2024, and now, they are zeroing in on the Red Planet—the US space agency confirmed that it wants humans to reach Mars by 2033.

Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said Tuesday that in order to achieve that goal, other parts of the program—including a lunar landing—need to move forward more quickly.

“We want to achieve a Mars landing in 2033,” Bridenstine told lawmakers at a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill.

“We can move up the Mars landing by moving up the Moon landing. The Moon is the proving ground,” added the former Republican congressman, who was appointed by President Donald Trump.

NASA is racing to enact the plans of Trump, who dispatched Vice President Mike Pence to announce that the timetable for once again putting man on the Moon had been cut by four years to 2024.

The new date is politically significant: it would be the final year in Trump’s eventual second term at the White House.