MarsNews.com
November 21st, 2014

How NASA Plans to Land Humans on Mars The Planetary Society

Mars lander concept
On the surface, NASA’s humans to Mars plans seem vague and disjointed. For instance, it’s difficult to see how visiting a captured asteroid in lunar orbit fits into a bigger picture. But if you combine Gerst’s speech with two days of symposium panels and a day of interviews at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the full breadth of what the agency is trying to do begins to makes sense. There is indeed a plan to put humans on Mars. Vague? Yes. Hard to see? Absolutely. But that’s because Gerst and NASA are playing the long game. And right now, it may be the only game they can play. There are three big reasons NASA can’t lay out a comprehensive Mars plan: flat budgets, a perilous political landscape, and the sheer scale of a 20-plus-years program. Thus far, NASA’s most audacious human exploration program kicked off in 1961, when John F. Kennedy declared Americans would walk on the moon by the end of the decade. The nine-year program was a success, but it was bolstered by a strong political mandate and more than double the funding NASA receives today. The agency’s budget peaked in 1966 at $43.5 billion (in 2014 dollars). Today, NASA gets about $18 billion. There’s not much political will to go to Mars, and no indication that NASA’s budget will change significantly. In fact, NASA doesn’t even have a fiscal year 2015 budget yet, as it operates under a stopgap continuing resolution.

October 16th, 2013

Spaceflight experts work on alternate vision for Mars trips NBC News

While NASA works on a multibillion-dollar, decades-long space exploration plan that relies on monster rockets, an informal cadre of engineers is laying out a different vision that would take advantage of cheaper, smaller spacecraft that can fuel up at “truck stops” along the way.
Right now, the alternate vision, known as the “Stairway to Mars,” is little more than an engineering exercise. But the plan’s proponents on the Space Development Steering Committee say their scenario for Mars missions in the 2030s may have a better chance of becoming a reality than NASA’s scenario.

May 25th, 2013

Bigelow to test habitat prototype in desert near Las Vegas SEN

Desert dwellers near Las Vegas will receive an unusual addition to the population at some point next year: a habitat built by Bigelow Aerospace.
Public details are still few, except for these: it is called The Guide, it’s described as a “flight-like” test article that is somewhat smaller than an automobile, and it will be placed in a dry lake near Alamo sometime in the spring or summer of 2014.
This is just one of a series of tests that Bigelow is undertaking as it seeks to build one of its inflatable habitats on the Moon someday, said founder Robert Bigelow in a press conference Thursday.

April 4th, 2013

Inspiration Mars considers NASA’s Space Launch System, ULA rockets for 2018 Mars trip al.com

Dennis Tito, the man trying to mount a privately funded fly-by mission of Mars in 2018, is considering the Space Launch System being developed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center as his astronauts’ ride to the red planet. A Marshall spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday that Tito and another executive of his Inspiration Mars non-profit organization, visited Marshall March 19 for a briefing on SLS. Marshall is leading development of the booster part of the new heavy-lift rocket for NASA. An April 3 Inspiration Mars feasibility analysis on the website of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics lists SLS as an optional launch vehicle along with a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket and the big versions of the Atlas and Delta rockets assembled by United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Al. The Falcon Heavy has not flown yet, either, but ULA has launched both Atlas and Delta rockets successfully.

February 27th, 2013

Millionaire Dennis Tito plans to send woman and man to Mars and back NBC News

Millionaire space tourist Dennis Tito’s plan to send two astronauts on a 501-day flight that zooms past Mars and swings back to Earth would set plenty of precedents on the final frontier — but the most intriguing precedent might have to do with the astronauts that are to be sent: one man and one woman, preferably a married couple beyond childbearing years. We’re talking about sex in space, folks.
And if that’s not intriguing enough, consider this: There are already a couple of candidates for the job.

February 27th, 2013

“Inspiration Mars” to pursue human mission to the Red Planet in 2018 Inspiration Mars

A unique window of opportunity for humankind will open in January 2018, and the Inspiration Mars Foundation intends to seize it, announcing plans today to pursue a challenging manned mission to Mars and back. This historic 501-day journey around the Red Planet is made possible by a rare planetary alignment that occurs five years from now.
Two professional crew members – one man, one woman – flying as private citizens will embark on what is known as a “fast, free-return” mission, passing within 100 miles of Mars before swinging back and safely returning to Earth. Target launch date is Jan. 5, 2018.
Officials with the Inspiration Mars Foundation, a new nonprofit organization founded by private space traveler Dennis Tito, announced their plans to pursue the audacious to provide a platform for unprecedented science, engineering and education opportunities, while reaching out to American youth to expand their visions of their own futures in space exploration.

July 24th, 2012

NASA tests IRVE-3 inflatable heat shield in hypersonic flight gizmag

Legendary science fiction author Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) scored another hit in the prediction department on Monday, July 23, 2012 when NASA tested an inflatable heat shield that he foresaw back in the 1980s. The test of the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) was launched by rocket into a suborbital trajectory from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, VA. The unmanned vehicle reached velocities of up to 7,600 mph (12,231 kph), yet was protected from atmospheric heating by the mushroom-shaped shield.

August 30th, 2011

NASA Tests Communication Scenarios For Near-Earth Asteroids Irish Weather Online

NASA’s Desert Research and Technology Studies (RATS) team has commenced testing communication scenarios for near-Earth asteroids.
The RATS team also is evaluates technology, human-robotic systems and extravehicular equipment in the high desert near Flagstaff, Arizona.
Field testing provides a knowledge base that helps scientists and engineers design, build and operate better equipment, and establish requirements for operations and procedures. The Arizona desert has a rough, dusty terrain and extreme temperature swings that simulate conditions that may be encountered on other surfaces in space.

June 2nd, 2011

The Real Space Saver: NC State Students Look To Support Manned Mission To Mars North Carolina State University

What would it take to make a manned mission to Mars a reality? A team of aerospace and textile engineering students from North Carolina State University believe part of the solution may lie in advanced textile materials. The students joined forces to tackle life-support challenges that the aerospace industry has been grappling with for decades.
“One of the big issues, in terms of a manned mission to Mars, is creating living quarters that would protect astronauts from the elements – from radiation to meteorites,” says textile engineering student Brent Carter. “Currently, NASA uses solid materials like aluminum, fiberglass and carbon fibers, which while effective, are large, bulky and difficult to pack within a spacecraft.”
Using advanced textile materials, which are flexible and can be treated with various coatings, students designed a 1,900-square-foot inflatable living space that could comfortably house four to six astronauts. This living space is made by layering radiation-shielding materials like Demron™ (used in the safety suits for nuclear workers cleaning up Japan’s Fukushima plant) with a gas-tight material made from a polyurethane substrate to hold in air, as well as gold-metalicized film that reflects UV rays – among others. The space is dome-shaped, which will allow those pesky meteors, prone to showering down on the red planet, to bounce off the astronauts’ home away from home without causing significant damage.

February 1st, 2011

New inflatable module will attach to ISS, blow itself up DVICE

NASA is in talks with Bigelow Aerospace to potentially acquire a new inflatable module for the International Space Station. Yes, that’s right: they’re going to blow up the ISS.
Bigelow Aerospace has been at this inflatable space station thing for quite a while, and it’s actually got two prototypes in orbit already, demonstrating that making a space station out of glorified party balloons is provably not completely nutso. Of course, Bigelow’s modules, while they do inflate, are far more complex than a simple balloon. They contain radiation shielding that’s as good as or better than the current shielding on the ISS, and their ballistic shielding (which provides protection against micrometeorites and orbital debris) is also more effective than traditional designs.
NASA is interested in getting in on a piece of the inflatable action for several reasons. The first one is cost: using Bigelow modules, NASA could substantially increase the size of the ISS at a fraction of the cost of more traditional station modules. The other reason is that NASA wants to encourage the commercial aerospace market, and there’s no better way to do that than to offer a private company some funding to prove the commercial viability of their product while adding a bunch of space to the ISS on the cheap at the same time.