MarsNews.com
August 14th, 2019

Nuclear Reactor for Mars Outpost Could Be Ready to Fly by 2022

NASA and NNSA engineers lower the wall of the vacuum chamber around the Kilowatt Reactor Using Stirling TechnologY (KRUSTY system). The vacuum chamber is later evacuated to simulate the conditions of space when KRUSTY operates.
Credits: Los Alamos National Laboratory

A new type of nuclear reactor designed to power crewed outposts on the moon and Mars could be ready for its first in-space trial just a few years from now, project team members said.

A flight test is the next big step for the Kilopower experimental fission reactor, which aced a series of critical ground tests from November 2017 through March 2018. No off-Earth demonstration is on the books yet, but Kilopower should be ready to go by 2022 or so if need be, said Patrick McClure, Kilopower project lead at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

“I think we could do this in three years and be ready for flight,” McClure said late last month during a presentation with NASA’s Future In-Space Operations working group.

“I think three years is a very doable time frame,” he added, stressing that this is his opinion, not necessarily that of NASA, which is developing the Kilopower project along with the DOE.

August 7th, 2019

How This Video Game Company Will Help Keep Mars Astronauts Healthy

Illustration of an astronaut in front of Mars.GETTY

Level Ex isn’t your average video game company. Instead of stealing cars or street fighting, its games focus on the human body, creating video games for doctors and other medical professionals that want to practice complicated procedures. Now the company aims to help astronauts stay healthy on long-term missions, such as going to Mars.

On Wednesday, Level Ex announced that it received a year-long grant of an undisclosed amount from the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH), an organization that is led by Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Space Medicine and is funded by NASA’s Human Research Program. The grant will provide funding for Level Ex to create a virtual simulation that can show how human anatomy and medical procedures will differ in space versus on Earth. Eventually, the company hopes to create medical video games that can be used to train astronauts on health situations they may encounter while in space. Level Ex has made many exciting products over its four year history, says founder and CEO Sam Glassenberg, but “this one is something special.”

August 1st, 2019

NASA Announces US Industry Partnerships to Advance Moon, Mars Technology

Illustration of a human landing system and crew on the lunar surface with Earth near the horizon.
Credits: NASA

As NASA prepares to land humans on the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis program, commercial companies are developing new technologies, working toward space ventures of their own, and looking to NASA for assistance. NASA has selected 13 U.S. companies for 19 partnerships to mature industry-developed space technologies and help maintain American leadership in space.

NASA centers will partner with the companies, which range from small businesses with fewer than a dozen employees to large aerospace organizations, to provide expertise, facilities, hardware and software at no cost. The partnerships will advance the commercial space sector and help bring new capabilities to market that could benefit future NASA missions.

“NASA’s proven experience and unique facilities are helping commercial companies mature their technologies at a competitive pace,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “We’ve identified technology areas NASA needs for future missions, and these public-private partnerships will accelerate their development so we can implement them faster.”

The selections were made through NASA’s Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity (ACO) released in October 2018. They will result in non-reimbursable Space Act Agreements between the companies and NASA. The selections cover the following technology focus areas, which are important to America’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

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 22nd, 2019

Footprints on the Moon and cemeteries on Mars: interview with space archaeologist Alice Gorman

Who will be the first person to be buried on Mars? Nick Brookes / flickr, CC BY-NC

It’s 50 years since humans went to the Moon – and now people are so focused on getting to Mars.

But what happens when another planet becomes home, when the first generations are born, live, and just as importantly, die in space?

I often think the first death in space is going to be a big turning point for how we relate to it. There haven’t really been any so far. There was the unfortunate USSR Soyuz 11 mission to Earth orbit, where three cosmonauts died when they left the spacecraft – but they were recovered on Earth. [The crew died on their descent back to Earth after a technical fault caused their Soyuz capsule to depressurise.]

There have been other deaths, for example on the tragic Space Shuttle accidents, but they haven’t actually been in space.

It’s something people often overlook when talking about the prospect of settling on Mars. The risks are so great. People are going to die. They’re probably going to die if there’s any human settlement on the Moon as well.

So how will that impact how we look at space?

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 18th, 2019

Drinking Red Wine on the Red Planet: Ingredient in Grapes May Protect Against Musculoskeletal Atrophy in Partial Gravity

You may remember Tang – the sugar-sweetened orange-flavored drink mix – as the official beverage of the Apollo 11 mission that landed the first men on the moon fifty years ago this month. But, according to a new report published in Frontiers in Physiology, the first men and women who set foot on Mars might be better off choosing a nice merlot.

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have demonstrated that resveratrol – a naturally occurring ingredient in grapes and blueberries – can preserve muscle function and mitigate muscle atrophy under conditions that mimic the gravity on Mars – which is about 40 percent as strong as that experienced on Earth. The team’s findings suggest that supplementing future astronauts’ diets with resveratrol could help maintain their musculoskeletal health even on a long-term mission to Mars.

“Resveratrol has been extensively studied for its health benefits, including its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-diabetic effects,” said senior author Seward B. Rutkove, MD, Chief of the Division of Neuromuscular Disease in the Department of Neurology at BIDMC. “Resveratrol has also been shown to preserve bone and muscle loss, however there’s a lack of research regarding its effects on the musculoskeletal system in partial gravity. We hypothesized that a moderate daily dose would help mitigate muscle deconditioning under conditions that replicate the partial gravity on Mars.”

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.”

July 12th, 2019

Medical care at the final frontier

CU students in the “Medicine in Space and Surface Environments” class perform CPR on a “fallen” crewmate in the Habitat at the Mars Desert Research Station in southern Utah.

Ben Easter, MD, steps onto a rocky ledge overlooking a dry riverbed. He cranes his neck and points into the canyon.

“Right here,” the emergency medicine doctor says with a gleeful glint, belying his boyish looks, “we’re going to foment some chaos and see what happens.”

The simulation is designed to test whether students, thrust into a search-and-rescue scenario where they must navigate rugged topography and rapid-fire events, are able to organize into teams and solve cascading problems, all the while racing the clock to save injured and ill crewmates.

“We want them to walk up onto this ridge and not know where exactly the patient is, and have a kind of ‘oh crap’ moment,” says Easter, on the teaching staff of a new class that blends wilderness medicine and aerospace engineering.

In a remote part of southern Utah – at the Mars Desert Research Station to be precise – 21 University of Colorado Boulder aerospace engineering students, a mix of graduate students and undergrads, became Martians. They experienced seven days of gut-knotting, brain-twisting moments along with after-burner bursts of inspiration – nudging more than a few students into changed-life territory.