MarsNews.com
April 19th, 2019

Fabric from University of North Dakota developed spacesuit to spend year in space

NDX-1 Mars Prototype Suit

Pieces of fabric from the University of North Dakota-developed NDX-1 spacesuit was launched into space aboard a Northrup Grumman “NG CRS-11 Cygnus” Resupply Mission, on Wednesday, on its way to the International Space Station (ISS).

The launch took place at the Wallops Flight Facility in Greenbelt, Md. Wallops is operated by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
NASA selected five technologies to test as part of its Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE)-11 mission, including the NDX-1 spacesuit sample provided by the UND Space Studies Department.

The MISSE program provides long-term exposure of materials to the inhospitable environments of the space environment, according to Pablo de León, a space studies professor at UND and primary inventor of the NDX-1 suit. All the materials are slated to remain in space for at least one year, allowing researchers to assess the long-term impact of temperature extremes and radiation on their performance.
MISSE has been a successful part of ISS research since 2001 when its original flight hardware became the first payload to be installed on the outside of the space station.

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 17th, 2019

A futuristic simulation of a Chinese Mars mission has opened in the Gobi Desert

A staff member demonstrates how she puts on the helmet of a mock space suit.

China’s propensity for over-the-top amusement parks and gimmicky tourists destinations is well-documented. While some seem like more of a dare, like a giant glass-bottom bridge suspended over a deep canyon, many of China’s tourist traps are designed to transport the visitor, whether it be to Europe or back centuries of Chinese history.

Add Mars to that list. Recently opened in Gansu province, and set among the orange backdrop of the Gobi Desert, C-Space Project Mars simulates a speculative Chinese-led mission to the red planet. China has shown grand ambitions for space travel. It successfully dropped a lander and rover on the far side of the moon in December, and it plans to send a rover to Mars in 2020.

April 12th, 2019

This technology would place humans traveling to Mars in a ‘sleep-like state’

SpaceWorks torpor habitat concept rendering (Photo: SpaceWorks)

SpaceWorks submitted a proposal to NASA in 2013 outlining technology that focused not on propulsion or advanced materials, but instead on affecting human biological systems and astronauts’ deep space travel habitat.

Its plan is simple: put the astronauts to sleep for about 80% of their voyage.

“I encountered this technology in the medical field called therapeutic hypothermia that places an individual into an inactive kind of sleep-like state,” said Bradford. “And they would cool the patient down for two or three days at a time, and that basically gives the body time to recover.”

According to Bradford, therapeutic hypothermia would provide a myriad of benefits. The crew would see reductions in the rates of muscle atrophy and bone loss from the lower metabolic state. He argues there is evidence that a “torpor state” could help build radiation shielding. Additionally, the space vessel would be stripped down to only the parts necessary to maintain the temperature of the habitat.

One design cuts the weight of NASA reference model from 45 tons to 20 tons for the SpaceWorks vessel for the same mission.

April 11th, 2019

The first study of a twin in space looks like good news for a trip to Mars

NASA | IMAGE EDITED BY MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

Thanks to twin astronauts, we now have our first solid evidence of how the human body responds to long-term spaceflight—and it’s thrown up some mysteries.

Three years ago, American astronaut Scott Kelly came back to Earth. His return from the International Space Station on March 1, 2016, ended his US-record-setting run of 340 days in space under a medical microscope. His twin brother, Mark Kelly (who had been an astronaut), was under similar scrutiny here on Earth. The pair offered a unique opportunity to explore how the human body responds to long periods in space—giving us a glimpse at what could happen on trips to, say, Mars.

Now, more than three years later, we are finally getting a clear picture of what microgravity, radiation, and the space environment did to Scott’s body. The first results, published in Science today by dozens of researchers from around the globe, show promise for humankind’s space-based future. “It is predominantly very good news for spaceflight and those interested in joining the ranks of astronauts,” says Cornell professor Chris Mason, principal investigator for the NASA Twins Study. “While the body has an extraordinary number of changes, it also exhibits extraordinary plasticity in reverting back to a normal terrestrial state.”

The study looked at a number of biological markers, from the immune system (it functioned similarly to the way it does on Earth) to the shape of the eyeballs (Scott’s retinal nerve thickened). But two of the standout results came from a closer look at DNA and gene expression.

April 9th, 2019

NASA Selects Two New Space Tech Research Institutes for Smart Habitats

Illustration of the interior of a deep space habitat
Credits: NASA

As exploration missions venture beyond low-Earth orbit and to the Moon — and eventually Mars — NASA must consider automated technologies to keep habitats operational even when they are not occupied by astronauts. To help achieve this, NASA has selected two new Space Technology Research Institutes (STRIs) to advance space habitat designs using resilient and autonomous systems.

The selected proposals create two multi-disciplinary, university-led research institutes to develop technologies critical to a sustainable human presence on the Moon and Mars. The smart habitat, or SmartHab, research will complement other NASA projects to help mature the mission architecture needed to meet challenging exploration goals.

“Partnering with universities lets us tap into new expertise, foster innovative ideas, as well as expand the research and development talent base for both aerospace and broader applications,” said Jim Reuter, acting associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “We’re excited to work with these two new STRIs to develop smart habitat technologies for exploration missions on the Moon and Mars.”

Each STRI will receive as much as $15 million over a five-year period.

April 4th, 2019

CERN engineer prepares for simulated Mars mission

Zoe Townsend will join six other members of the LATAM-III crew to experience what life might be like on a future manned mission to Mars. Each of the team members will have specific tasks and challenges to carry out while at the MDRS, ranging from engineering and astrophysics to space farming and group problem-solving. As crew journalist, one of Zoe’s responsibilities will be to document mission progress via video updates. She will also be providing an inside track on her experience for The Student Engineer via a series of blogs, alongside conducting research into mining Martian resources with the aid of a rover.

“My project is a collaboration with the University West of England, where I would be taking a rover with a modular drill station to theoretically investigate the ability to mine resources for a base,” said Zoe. “This is with support from individuals at Catapult, Satellite applications. Another part of my work will be in outreach and creating video diaries for the Steminist platform.

“During my daily life, I am a CERN Engineer where I am working on the integration between the cryostat and the 16T magnets for the Future Circular Collider. Therefore, we also have support from CERN and as such, they will be promoting the mission.”

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.

April 2nd, 2019

Latest Updates from NASA on 3D-Printed Habitat Competition

Team SEArch+/Apis Cor won first place in the Phase 3: Level 4 software modeling stage of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The unique shape of their habitat allows for continuous reinforcement of the structure. Light enters through trough-shaped ports on the sides and top.
Credits: Team SEArch+/Apis Cor

The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge is a competition to create sustainable shelters suitable for the Moon, Mars or beyond using resources available on-site in these locations. The multi-level 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge puts teams to the test in several areas of 3D-printing, including modeling software, material development and construction. In addition to aiding human space exploration, technologies sought from this competition could also lead to lower-cost housing solutions on Earth and other benefits.

Teams competing in NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge completed the latest level of the competition – complete virtual construction – and the top three were awarded a share of the $100,000 prize purse. This stage of the challenge required teams to create a full-scale habitat design, using modeling software. This level built upon an earlier stage that also required virtual modeling.

Eleven team entries were scored and awarded points based on architectural layout, programming, efficient use of interior space, and the 3D-printing scalability and constructability of the habitat. Teams also prepared short videos providing insight into their designs as well as miniature 3D-printed models that came apart to showcase the interior design. Points were also awarded for aesthetic representation and realism. After evaluation by a panel of judges, NASA and challenge partner Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois, awarded the following teams:

1. SEArch+/Apis Cor – New York – $33,954.11
2. Zopherus – Rogers, Arkansas – $33,422.01
3. Mars Incubator – New Haven, Connecticut – $32,623.88

The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge will culminate with a head-to-head subscale structure print May 1-4, 2019, and the awarding of an $800,000 prize purse. Media and the public will be invited to attend the event in Peoria, Illinois.

March 26th, 2019

Op/Ed: How Capitalism Will Get Us to Mars and Beyond: Podcast

Today’s Reason Podcast conversation is with Michael Solana, a vice president at the venture capital firm Founders Fund. The firm, which is worth upwards of $3 billion, founded by Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder Luke Nosek, former PayPal CFO Ken Howery, and Sean Parker of Napster and Facebook fame.

Some of the fund’s investments include SpaceX, Airbnb, Lyft, and Oculus, as well as variety of lesser-known companies in the realms of aerospace, biotechnology, energy, and internet technology.

I spoke with Michael about the future, which he thinks about a lot both as an investor in emerging technologies and as host of the official Founders Fund podcast Anatomy of Next, the latest season of which explores the ways technological advancements in rocketry, materials science, augmented reality, fertility science, and artificial intelligence will get humanity to Mars and beyond.

But Solana and his colleagues also believe that Silicon Valley is mired in groupthink and susceptible to the false promises of socialism. In this conversation, we talk about what Founders Fund is doing differently, why Solana believes capitalism is necessarily the engine of growth and innovation, the promise and perils of privatizing government functions, and what he’s learned from the famously contrarian Peter Thiel about what it means to be an independent thinker.