MarsNews.com
July 31st, 2018

Mars Is At Its Closest to Earth Since 2003 Today! It Won’t Be Closer Until 2287

Mars’ closest approach to Earth since 2003 has given us especially detailed, up-close views of the Red Planet. This recent image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows Mars and its ongoing dust storm in incredible detail.
Credit: NASA, ESA and STScI

According to NASA, Mars was 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometers) from Earth at its closest point this morning. In August 2003, Mars was a smidge closer: 34.6 million miles (55.6 million km). Mars won’t be that close to Earth until 2287, according to a NASA update. Mars will reach opposition again before then. In October 2020, the Red Planet will reaches opposition and will be 38.6 million miles (62.1 million km) from Earth, according to NASA’s update.

You can see Mars tonight by looking to the southwestern sky. Weather permitting, Mars will be visible low on the southwestern horizon, with the moon shining to the upper left. Saturn will also be visible, as shown in the map below.

July 27th, 2018

Lunar eclipse: How to watch the blood moon and Mars this Friday

A NASA image of a “blood moon” blushing red.

NASA

A close approach by Mars will light up the sky all night Friday, July 27, and many parts of the world will also be able to catch a “blood moon” at the same time in a rare astronomical double-billing.

Those outside the viewing zone can catch the event online through the Virtual Telescope Project.

Friday’s red moon comes as part of the longest total lunar eclipse of the century. The sun, Earth and moon will line up and our planet will cast a reddish shadow onto our lunar buddy. That’s how it gets the dramatic-sounding “blood moon” nickname.

Mars will also be part of the show because the Red Planet and sun will be on opposite sides of Earth, a phenomenon know as Mars opposition. Mars will be nearing its closest approach to Earth since 2003, making it look very bright in the sky. Its appearance near the blood moon after sunset will give viewers a double vision in red.

The eclipse will be visible in parts of Australia, Asia, Africa, South America and Europe. Sorry, North America, you’ll need to watch online instead.

July 12th, 2018

What Ikea’s Designers Learned From Living In A Simulated Mars Habitat

[Photo: courtesy Ikea]

Ikea is looking to space for inspiration–literally. The furniture company announced last week that it will be collaborating with NASA in order to learn about what life would be like on Mars, and how the company might apply the space agency’s knowledge of living in small spaces to its products.

For the company’s designers to understand what it might be like to live on Mars, Ikea sent five people to live for three days inside a model Mars habitation in the Utah desert. Built in 2001 by the Mars Society–an advocacy group dedicated to helping humans get to Mars–the Mars Desert Research Station hosts scientists and students for two to three weeks at a time, allowing them to simulate what life might be like on the red planet next door. The Ikea team went through a three-day version of a Mars simulation with the engineer and space architect Constance Adams, with lectures, daily routines, and even an excursion outside the building to see what working on the planet’s surface might be like.

July 6th, 2018

Mars’ global dust storm size visualized in new animation

A new animation helps us visualize just how massive the Mars dust storm is. This storm, which obscured the Sun and resulted in NASA’s Opportunity rover going into a deep sleep, at one point was “only” as big as North America. In the weeks following that detail, NASA continued to update the public on this storm’s size, using countries as a reference. A new image, though, shows us exactly how much of the Red Planet is covered by this storm.

June 14th, 2018

Mars to Shine Brighter This Summer Than It Has in 15 Years

This NASA illustration shows how different Mars can look, depending on its distance to Earth.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Stargazers are in for a treat in July as Mars makes its closest swing by Earth, making it appear brighter than it has since 2003.

Over the course of the next several weeks, the distance between the Earth and the Red Planet will shrink as Earth passes between Mars and the sun. During the orbital fly-by, Mars will be its brightest on the morning of July 31.

In 2003, Mars came within 34.9 million miles of Earth, closer than it had ever approached in 60,000 years. This summer’s show won’t be quite as impressive as 2003, considering our neighbor planet will only be 35.8 million miles away at its closest. Still, backyard astronomers using telescopes should have a spectacular view of the Red Planet’s unique features.

“This Martian pass in July will be almost as good as the ultra-close opposition on 2003,” Dean Regas, an astronomer for the Cincinnati Observatory, told Mother Nature Network. “Mars will easily be visible to the naked eye. In fact, you will be hard pressed to miss it. It will look like a glowing orange beacon of light rising in the southeast after sunset. It’ll be much brighter than any star, brighter than Jupiter, nearly as bright as Venus. And you’ll see it every night for the next several months.”

The next time Mars comes as close as it will this summer won’t occur again until Sept. 15, 2035.

January 15th, 2018

Students Discover How To Grow Hops On Mars

Dr. Edward F. Guinan, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Villanova University, with two of his students in the “Mars Garden.” Credit Villanova University

Hops and Rye grow “fairly well” on Martian soil with the help of coffee beans and fertilisers produced back on Earth, according to a student experiment at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

“I was trying to come with a project for the students to do, a catchy project that would be fairly easy,” Dr. Guinan, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, told the New York Times.

NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander have analysed Martian soil in great detail, and scientists have since replicated its unique characteristics in order to test its crop-growing potential.

Guinan ordered 45kg worth of “Martian soil” — which is made with crushed basalt from an extinct volcano in California’s Mojave Desert.

Guinan set his students to work. Each were assigned their own patch within a greenhouse and asked to grow crops of their choice in order to feed a hypothetical colony of migrants to Mars.

“I kept telling them, ‘You’re on Mars, there’s a colony there and it’s your job to feed them. They’re all depending on you.”

January 3rd, 2018

American Girl’s 2018 Girl of the Year wants to be an astronaut when she grows up, and same

Dolls can be an inspirational part of girls’ and boys’ lives. The latest doll that has us shooting for the stars is Luciana Vega, American Girl’s 2018 Girl of the Year. Luciana is an 11-year-old aspiring astronaut who wants to go to space! Specifically, she’d like to be the first person on Mars. No doubt about it, we’d board that spaceship too.

“For us, it’s all about helping girls develop their strength of character — something that is more important in our world than ever,” American Girl spokesperson Julie Parks told Refinery29. “Luciana shows girls what it means to be a girl of strong character — where creative thinking, collaboration, and STEM literacy provide opportunities for meaningful growth and development. Luciana empowers girls to push boundaries, defy stereotypes, and embrace risks that will teach them about failure and success as they chart their own course in life.”

If that doesn’t sound like a doll with amazing #careergoals, we don’t know what does. Luciana is legit when it comes to being an astronaut: Her accessories are modeled after IRL ones. American Girl worked with an advisory board, and part of that board included a former NASA chief scientist, as well as a former astronaut.

December 26th, 2017

Inside SpaceX: What It’s Like Working for a Company on a Mission to Mars

When you learn that SpaceX’s mission is to make humans multi-planetary, it might sound kind of crazy. But, as Vice President of Human Resources at SpaceX Brian Bjelde points out, people used to think that a private company being able to develop and launch a vehicle into orbit was crazy, too.

“Today, we’ve got 19 launch vehicles that we’ve flown back from space, and three that we’ve re-flown,” Bjelde says. “We’re starting to turn the critics into fans.”

SpaceX’s biggest fans of all, though, might just be their own employees. For the second year in a row now, SpaceX has been honored as a Best Place to Work in Glassdoor’s annual Employees’ Choice Awards. And with a rating of 4.3 out of 5 and hundreds of glowing reviews, it’s not hard to see why.

“The stuff you get to see here will blow your mind. Every day. People here are friendly, super smart, and dedicated to SpaceX’s mission of enabling space exploration and human life on Mars,” says one current Software Engineer. “I wake up every morning knowing that I’ll be proud to have been part of something like this.”

So what’s it really like inside the company on a mission to Mars and helmed by Elon Musk? Glassdoor’s Emily Moore caught up with Bjelde to find out.

December 8th, 2017

Boeing’s Dennis Muilenburg says he’ll beat SpaceX to Mars; Elon Musk says ‘Do it’

SpaceX’s Elon Musk and Boeing’s Dennis Muilenburg have something of a space rivalry going on. (Elon Musk via Twitter; Dennis Muilenburg via Boeing)

So what does SpaceX CEO Elon Musk think of Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s claim that the first people to set foot on Mars will arrive on a Boeing rocket? “Do it,” Musk tweeted, in one of many two-word comebacks that might have come to mind.

The latest round of media jousting started when CNBC’s Jim Cramer brought up Mars during an interview with Muilenburg. “Who’s going to get a man on Mars first, you or Elon Musk?” Cramer asked.

In response, Muilenburg touted the Space Launch System, the heavy-lift rocket that Boeing is helping NASA build for deep-space missions.

“We’re going to take a first test flight in 2019, and we’re going to do a slingshot mission around the moon,” he said. “Eventually, we’re going to go to Mars, and I firmly believe the first person that sets foot on Mars will get there on a Boeing rocket.”

Muilenburg said pretty much the same thing last year during an industry conference in Chicago, but since then, Musk has laid out a vision that calls for sending settlers to Mars on SpaceX’s yet-to-be-built monster spaceship starting in the 2020s.

If Musk and NASA stick to their current schedules, the first bootprints on the Martian surface would be left by folks arriving on a SpaceX rocket as much as a decade before the Space Launch System sends a spaceship there.

August 18th, 2017

Mars has eclipses. We have video.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Texas A&M University)

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Texas A&M University)

If you think solar eclipses on Earth are cool, wait till you get a load of an eclipse on Mars.

Earth typically experiences anywhere from four to seven eclipses in a year, counting partial solar eclipses (when the moon doesn’t fully obscure the sun) and lunar eclipses (when the earth’s shadow partially obscures the moon).

On Mars, however, solar eclipses are practically a daily event. Mars has two moons — tiny, potato-shaped satellites named Phobos and Deimos, after the Greek deities of fear and dread, respectively.