MarsNews.com
May 7th, 2019

‘Twilight Zone’: DeWanda Wise on the Greek Tragedy of Her Mission to Mars [spoilers]

DeWanda Wise, “The Twilight Zone”
CBS All Access

Original “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling was so fascinated by the possibility of space and aliens that his very first space-adjacent episode aired two years before the first man even escaped Earth’s atmosphere. Now, Jordan Peele’s revival of the series carries on that storytelling tradition with the episode “Six Degrees of Freedom,” in which five astronauts blast off to colonize Mars.

DeWanda Wise, best known for starring in Spike Lee’s Netflix series “She’s Gotta Have It,” is a longtime fan of “Twilight Zone” and had even asked her agents specifically if she would be able to land the show. Her favorite episode is “To Serve Man,” the classic entry in which seemingly benevolent aliens land on Earth, improve the lives of humans, and then are revealed to actually eat the people they were helping.

In the episode, Wise plays flight commander Alexa Brandt of the Bradbury Heavy spacecraft and has created a tight-knit family with her crew (Jonathan Whitesell, Jessica Williams, Lucinda Dryzek, and Jefferson White). But when their launch is interrupted by news of Korean ICBMs hitting various cities in the United States, and America’s subsequent retaliation, the crew must make a last-minute decision to abandon the mission and possibly face perishing in a nuclear war or launch and possibly be mankind’s last chance for survival. They launch.

May 3rd, 2019

Mars City: If You’re Rich Enough to Go, You Probably Want to Stay on Earth

Space engineers want to entice wealthy explorers to spend six-figure sums on a roundtrip ticket to Mars, laying the groundwork for cities that could some day forge a new path for humanity. But with the long journey required, and in light of its harsh, unforgiving climate, will the prospect of a Mars vacation actually be alluring enough for the people who could feasibly afford it?

Not everyone who’s looked into it is convinced.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, one such believer, is the most high-profile advocate for attempting to start humanity’s first extraterrestrial city on the red planet. He’s spoken about his goal to send one million people to Mars in 100 years, with the price of a return ticket at $200,000, around that of a median house in the United States. His firm is building the Starship, a stainless steel behemoth capable of transporting 100 people at once. Pizzerias and bars on Mars are in Musk’s vision.

Musk is not alone. Another contender in the Mars race is the United Arab Emirates, which wants to collectively spend $135 million to build a 1.9 million square foot city by 2117, complete with space-themed museum with 3D-printed art. Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku previously told Inverse that a such a colony could theoretically take shape as early as the 2060s.

Guenter Lang, an economics professor at Kühne Logistics University in Germany, is one of the people who’s carefully studied what it would cost to actually go to Mars. His prediction isn’t as rosy.

Lang believes that a few hundred thousand people will want to take the plunge. However, without the right incentives — perhaps through subsidies to reduce the cost — a Mars city could end up a vanity project for the one percent of the one percent.

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 29th, 2019

SpaceX’s Elon Musk shows off a shiny Starship in landscapes of the Moon and Mars

Starships on Mars

New renderings of SpaceX’s next-generation Starship rocket, shared by CEO Elon Musk on Twitter early today, show the shiny spaceship sitting on bare ground on the moon and Mars.

The artwork is similar to less shiny renderings that came out a couple of years ago when Musk laid out the architecture for the Starship launch system (which was then known as the BFR) at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia.

Since then, SpaceX has begun launch-pad tests of a Starship prototype nicknamed the Starship Hopper, or StarHopper, at the company’s Boca Chica facility in South Texas. There’s been a series of tethered test firings of the methane-fueled Raptor engine that’s destined to be used on Starship, reportedly including a 40-second firing that took place over the weekend.

Last December, Musk promised to provide a “full technical presentation” about the Starship program once the StarHopper starts flying. His release of updated renderings could be a signal that he’s gearing up for that presentation. The fact that today’s freshened-up renderings have numbers in the upper right corner suggests the slideshow is in the works.

April 25th, 2019

Dartmouth’s Mars Greenhouse Wins 2019 NASA BIG Idea Challenge

A team of Dartmouth engineering students has been named winners of the 2019 NASA BIG Idea Challenge for its innovative design for a Mars greenhouse that can grow food and sustain a crew of astronauts on a future mission to the red planet.

The team, made up of undergraduates at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering, pitched their winning proposal to top scientists at NASA and National Institute of Aerospace at NASA’s Langley Research Center this week in Hampton, Virginia, where they competed against four other top university-team finalists for the top honor.

“The BIG Idea Challenge has been an amazing experience and I’m thrilled that we won,” said Zoe Rivas ’18, co-manager of the Dartmouth team. “I’m so excited to see what happens next with our greenhouse design and what NASA will do with all of the great ideas we saw in this competition.”

This is the first time that a Dartmouth team has entered – and won – NASA’s Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge, a national engineering competition that elicits solutions from some of the best and brightest students for some of NASA’s pressing, real-time space exploration challenges.

The team’s greenhouse design, initially conceived as the students’ senior capstone project, won for its innovation in food production and crop cultivation, as well as mechanical and aerospace engineering elements of the design.

“I can’t begin to explain how exciting this is,” said Alexa Escalona ’18, the team’s co-manager. “This validates all of the late nights and hard work.”

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.