MarsNews.com
February 24th, 2017

Andy Weir’s Best Seller ‘The Martian’ Gets a Classroom-Friendly Makeover

There are more than 160 swear words in Andy Weir’s sci-fi thriller, “The Martian,” including two memorably deployed F-words in the novel’s first three sentences.

The profanity did not strike Mr. Weir as excessive when he wrote the book nearly a decade ago. After all, the story’s narrator, an astronaut named Mark Watney, is stranded alone on Mars with a dwindling supply of food and a rescue mission that is four years away — circumstances that warrant constant cursing.

But shortly after the book came out, Mr. Weir started hearing from a subset of readers who objected to the obscenities.

“I got a lot of emails from science teachers who said, ‘Man I’d love to use your book as a teaching aid, but there’s so much profanity in it that we can’t really do that,’” said Mr. Weir, 44, who is cheerful, hyper-analytical and casually profane, much like his protagonist. “It’s hard to get that by a school board.”

February 22nd, 2017

Did Mars Once Have Three Moons?

Rather than the two Moons we see today, a collision followed by a circumplanetary disk may have given rise to three moons of Mars, where only two survive today. Image credit: Labex UnivEarths / Université Paris Diderot.

Rather than the two Moons we see today, a collision followed by a circumplanetary disk may have given rise to three moons of Mars, where only two survive today. Image credit: Labex UnivEarths / Université Paris Diderot.

Mars’ two moons, Phobos and Deimos, are small, irregular, but orbit in the same equatorial plane as the red planet. Although they’ve long been thought to be captured asteroids, those orbits would be supremely unlikely. Another possibility would have been if a massive impact created a debris disk, similar to how Earth’s Moon was formed. That alternative creates equatorial orbits, but normally produces at least one very large moon. However, a new simulation was performed, showing how an impact could create three moons around Mars, where the largest, inner one decays, creating Martian system we see today.

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.

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.

October 31st, 2016

Look up: Halloween offers treats for stargazers

Dusk falls (end of civil twilight) tonight at 6:45. The new moon makes for a very dark sky, so equip your trick or treaters with a flashlight and make sure they are otherwise easy for motorists to see.

That dark sky is great for sidewalk astronomy. If you have a telescope gathering dust under a bed or in a closet somewhere, get it out and enjoy the night sky. You don’t have to be an expert to share either. I like to have a step stool handy for smaller trick-or-treaters and a card table to set plastic pumpkins or masks while looking through the telescope.

October 13th, 2016

Retired basketball star Yao Ming takes on new mission as China’s ambassador to Mars

China has appointed retired basketball star Yao Ming and 10 other celebrities as “Ambassadors to Mars” to promote the nation’s first mission to Mars in 2020.

The 11 ambassadors will help publicise the Mars programme, encourage interest in science and technology among young Chinese people and also promote China’s international image.

The 2020 mission would be launched on a Long March-5 carrier rocket from the Wenchang space launch centre in southern China’s Hainan province, Xinhua reported.

June 1st, 2016

SpaceX News: Send Your Stuff to Mars — Today!

SpaceX is taking reservations for Mars.

You may think that you’ve already heard this news before. One month ago (almost to the day), Elon Musk famously penciled in “2018” as the date SpaceX will launch its first Red Dragon space capsule to Mars. Specifically, the company will use its new Falcon Heavy lift vehicle to carry a specially designed Dragon 2 spacecraft to Mars, then land said capsule vertically on the Red Planet, firing SuperDraco thrusters to brake its descent.

From that position, SpaceX’s Red Dragon would theoretically be able to relaunch from Mars, where the gravity is less than 38% of Earth normal, and return to Earth — fuel permitting. (That’s not Musk’s plan, however. He’s running this mission himself, and paying out of pocket, just to collect information in preparation for subsequent manned and unmanned missions to Mars.)

May 22nd, 2016

Mars Appears At Its Brightest Tonight As Planet Moves Into Opposition

Get your telescopes ready — tonight’s sky is expected to be a bright one.

Mars will be the brightest it’s been in two years as it undergoes what’s called Mars opposition, an orbital placement that puts the Earth directly between the sun and the Red Planet.

As a result, Mars will be brightly illuminated by the sun’s rays, making it the brightest object in the Earth’s sky, just behind the sun and moon.

It’s a phenomenon that happens once every two years (or 26 months), about the time the Red Planet takes to completely orbit the sun.

On Sunday, NASA estimates that Mars will be 47.4 million miles away from the Earth.

February 16th, 2016

New Mars map could provide directions for a visitor’s walk on the red planet

Ordnance Survey map of Mars (reduced version)

The British mapping agency Ordnance Survey has created an easy-to-read map of Mars’ surface using Nasa open data.

The map – posted to Flickr on Friday – covers 3.8m sq miles or approximately 7% of the red planet’s surface. It was produced to a scale of one to 4m.

The landing sites of past rovers are featured on the map, including the Mars Pathfinder in north-west Ares Vallis and the Opportunity rover, east of Margaritifer Terra.

Cartographic designer Chris Wesson “designed the map over a couple of months”, according to the Ordnance Survey blog. It is the first landscape the agency has mapped from another planet.

January 28th, 2016

NASA Day of Remembrance

January 28th, 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger. NASA Day of Remembrance commemorates the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia; along with all the members of its family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery.