MarsNews.com
October 18th, 2018

VP, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince launch Mars Science City

The Mars Science City structure will be the most sophisticated building the world, and will incorporate a realistic simulation environment replicating the conditions on the surface of Mars. – Dubai Media Office

Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, have launched the Mars Science City project.

The AED 500 million-City will cover 1.9 million square feet, making it the largest space stimulation city ever built and will provide a viable and realistic model to simulate living on the surface of Mars.

The project, which was unveiled at the annual meetings for the UAE government in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, encompasses laboratories for food, energy and water, as well as agricultural testing and studies about food security in the future. The science city will also boast a museum that displays humanity’s greatest space achievements, including educational areas meant to engage young citizens with space, and inspire in them a passion for exploration and discovery.

The walls of the museum will be 3D printed, using sand from the Emirati desert.

October 16th, 2018

This speculative SpaceX timeline reveals roughly when, where, and how Elon Musk plans to colonize Mars

Elon Musk and SpaceX hope to colonize Mars with Big Falcon Rocket spaceships. SpaceX; NASA; Mark Brake/Getty Images; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Elon Musk is hell-bent on colonizing Mars.

That’s the spirit with which he founded SpaceX, his rocket company, in 2002. Musk was frustrated that NASA wasn’t doing more to get people to the red planet — and concerned that a backup plan for humanity wasn’t being developed (for when Earth becomes an uninhabitable wasteland).

Since then, SpaceX has developed several impressive aerospace systems: Falcon 1, its first orbital rocket; Grasshopper, a small self-landing test rocket; Falcon 9, a reusable orbital-class launcher; Dragon, a spaceship for cargo and soon NASA astronauts; and Falcon Heavy, a super-heavy-lift launcher.

But Mars is a cold, unforgiving, and almost airless rock located an average of 140 million miles from Earth. Astounding ingenuity is required to land even a small spacecraft there today, let alone a giant spaceship full of people and cargo in the future.

That’s why SpaceX is taking the lessons the company has learned over the past 16 years — and its increasing amount of money and number of staff members — and using them to build a space vehicle called the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR.

The fully reusable, 387-foot-tall system consists of two giant stages: a roughly 18-story-tall Big Falcon Spaceship and a similarly huge Big Falcon Booster. The booster will launch the spaceship (on top) toward space, then land itself for reuse.

October 10th, 2018

NASA OIG Forecasts Further Delays, Large Cost Overruns for SLS

Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft on Pad 39B. (Credit: NASA)

A new audit by the NASA Inspector General criticizes Boeing for its management of the stages of the Space Launch System (SLS) while forecasting further delays and large cost overruns for the beleaguered program that is designed to send astronauts to deep space.

“As of August 2018, NASA has spent $11.9 billion on the SLS, but will require significant additional funding to complete the first Core Stage—more than 3 years later than initially planned and at double the anticipated cost,” the audit concluded.

“In light of the Project’s development delays, we have concluded NASA will be unable to meet its EM-1 launch window currently scheduled between December 2019 and June 2020,” the report stated.

The EM-1 mission is the first launch of SLS and the second flight of the Orion spacecraft, which will not have a crew aboard. The delays also threaten the schedule for the crewed EM-2 mission, which is currently set to launch in mid-2022.

The audit, the first in a series examining SLS, examined how NASA and Boeing have managed the development of the system’s first (core), second and exploration upper (EUS) stages.

October 9th, 2018

AI Learns to Guide Planetary Rovers Without GPS

Images: NASA Frontier Development Lab
On the left, four ground-view camera images taken from the moon’s simulated surface are reprocessed as a top-down aerial reprojection view of the lunar landscape. On the right, a deep-learning algorithm uses moon satellite maps to come up with the five best candidate locations matching the aerial reprojection view.

A Mars rover roaming the Red Planet cannot whip out a smartphone to check its location based on GPS. Instead, the robotic explorer must take panoramic pictures of the surrounding landscape so that a human back on Earth can painstakingly compare the ground images with Mars satellite maps taken from above by orbiting spacecraft.

Locating a Mars mission after it first touches down, using that manual process of scrutinizing landscape features and making image comparisons, can take up to 24 hours. What’s more, it still requires at least 30 minutes to confirm a rover’s updated location after it’s on the move. But a new AI approach that trains deep-learning algorithms to perform the necessary image comparisons could reduce the localization process to mere seconds. A team of space scientists and computer scientists gathered together during the 2018 NASA Frontier Development Lab event to develop that potential path forward for future space missions.

“If we go to more planets or another moon or the asteroids, the goal is to be able to use this to localize ourselves in GPS-free environments,” says Benjamin Wu, an astrophysicist at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and a member of the team that tackled this challenge.

October 3rd, 2018

Learn To Farm On Mars With This Fake Martian Soil

Fig. 1. Comparison of martian simulants. (a) MAHLI image of the scooped Rocknest soil; image credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. (b) Photograph of MGS-1 prototype simulant produced for this work. (c) Photograph of JSC Mars-1. (d) Photograph of MMS-1 sold by the Martian Garden company.

If you watched or read “The Martian,” and wanted to try your hand at living on Mars or becoming a Martian farmer like Mark Watney, then today is your lucky day. Astrophysicists at the University of Central Florida have developed a scientific, standardized method to create soil like future space colonies might encounter on Mars. They’re selling it for about $10 per pound (or $20 per kilogram) plus shipping.

This soil, also called simulant, is designed and created to mimic the red soil on Mars. From how fine the grains are to what minerals are present, this simulant is about as close as you can get to real Martian soil. These researchers have also created an asteroid simulant and are working on developing a wider variety of simulants, like ones to mimic soils from different parts of Mars.

The only parts of the simulants that don’t match the real thing are the toxic, carcinogenic, or otherwise dangerous components that exist in actual asteroids or in real Martian soil. “We leave out the dangerous stuff,” said Dan Britt, a physics professor and member of the UCF Planetary Sciences Group working on creating these simulants.

October 1st, 2018

NASA Unveils Sustainable Campaign to Return to Moon, on to Mars

NASA’s Exploration Campaign includes active leadership in low-Earth orbit, in orbit around the Moon and on its surface, and at destinations far beyond, including Mars.
Credits: NASA

In December of 2017, President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive-1, in which the president directed NASA “to lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.”

In answer to that bold call, and consistent with the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, NASA recently submitted to Congress a plan to revitalize and add direction to NASA’s enduring purpose. The National Space Exploration Campaign calls for human and robotic exploration missions to expand the frontiers of human experience and scientific discovery of the natural phenomena of Earth, other worlds and the cosmos.

The Exploration Campaign builds on 18 continuous years of Americans and our international partners living and working together on the International Space Station. It leverages advances in the commercial space sector, robotics and other technologies, and accelerates in the next few years with the launch of NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

The Exploration Campaign has five strategic goals:

Transition U.S. human spaceflight activities in low-Earth orbit to commercial operations that support NASA and the needs of an emerging private sector market.
Lead the emplacement of capabilities that support lunar surface operations and facilitate missions beyond cislunar space.
Foster scientific discovery and characterization of lunar resources through a series of robotic missions.
Return U.S. astronauts to the surface of the Moon for a sustained campaign of exploration and use.
Demonstrate the capabilities required for human missions to Mars and other destinations.

September 25th, 2018

Antarctica Greenhouse Produces Cucumbers, Tomatoes and More in Mars-Like Test

Paul Zabel with harvested kohlrabi. Credit: DLR.

Fresh vegetables on Mars, anyone?

An Antarctic greenhouse known as EDEN ISS not only survived the polar night but emerged from it with a harvest for local researchers, thus providing hope that future Mars colonists could also enjoy fresh food during their time on the Red Planet, German Aerospace Center (DLR) officials said in a statement.

Regularly withstanding temperatures below minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 40 degrees Celsius), the greenhouse provided herbs, lettuce and other vegetables to 10 people who were riding out the winter in the remote station, called the Alfred Wegener Institute’s Neumayer Station III. It’s the first time the greenhouse operated through the winter.

September 18th, 2018

Elon Musk reveals updated design for future SpaceX Mars rocket

SpaceX’s next generation vehicle—BFR—will be the most powerful rocket in history, capable of carrying humans to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

This evening, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gave an update on the design of SpaceX’s future massive rocket, the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), during an event announcing the first passenger who will fly on the vehicle.

The rocket’s capability has changed. Musk claims that once the rocket is complete, it will be able to take up to 100 tons of payload all the way to Mars. That’s if the rocket gets refueled in orbit by some kind of tanker spacecraft. He also showed off a simulation of how the vehicle will land on the surface of Mars. “I can’t wait,” Musk said at the even. “I’m super fired up about this. This is amazing.”

it will be able to take up to 100 tons of payload all the way to Mars
The BFR is instrumental to SpaceX’s plans of sending humans to the Moon and Mars. In its final form, it will be a gigantic rocket, reaching a height of nearly 348 feet. That’s about the size of a 35-story building and roughly the same height as NASA’s Saturn V rocket that went to the Moon. It will also be powered by 31 main Raptor engines, a new SpaceX design that can provide a combined 5,400 tons of thrust.

Overall, the BFR is a combination of a giant rocket booster and a massive cargo spaceship, called the Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS), which can hold up to 100 passengers comfortably. Both pieces are meant to do powered landings, meaning they use their engines to lower down the surface of Earth — or other worlds. It’s akin to how SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 rockets right now.

September 17th, 2018

Resource Utilization On Mars Could Be The Model Of Efficiency And Sustainability

ISRU system concept for autonomous robotic excavation and processing of Mars soil to extract water for use in exploration missions.
Credits: NASA

You’re an astronaut settling into your first mission on Mars, a less-than-hospitable planet to which human beings are ill-adapted. The atmosphere is over 95 percent carbon dioxide (CO2) and the temperature averages a chilly -81 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet, despite this outright hostile environment, you and your crewmates brought relatively few supplies. Bringing enough food for the whole three-year mission was cost prohibitive. Even considering the dramatically lower launch costs offered by private companies like SpaceX, it might still cost $144 million or more to send three year’s worth of food to Mars for a crew of four (assuming SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy can achieve a launch cost of $3,000 per pound and one astronaut consumes one ton of food per terrestrial year). Instead, you’re equipped with a variety of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) technologies that will allow you to convert compounds into useful materials and advanced recycling systems that will help ensure nothing is wasted.

Here on Earth, humans haven’t historically been concerned with waste. The World Bank estimates that the world’s cities will be producing nearly 2.5 billion tons of solid waste annually by 2025. Yet on Mars, where resources are scarce, we’ll be forced to treat seemingly useless materials and byproducts like valuable commodities. Fortunately, NASA has already been perfecting many important recycling and upcycling technologies on the International Space Station (ISS). The objective is to create a closed-loop system in which the outputs of a process can be used as inputs in another process in perpetuity.

September 14th, 2018

How Will Police Solve Murders on Mars?

Matt Chinworth

If humans ever go to Mars, the worst of our impulses will accompany us there. The Red Planet will not rid us of murder, violence, and blackmail. There will be kidnapping, extortion, and burglary. Given time, we will even see bank heists. For generations, people have imagined life on the Martian surface in extraordinary detail, from how drinking water will be purified to how fresh food will be grown, but there is another question that remains unanswered: How will Mars be policed?