March 28th, 2013

Why a Mars Comet Impact Would be Awesome Discovery News

When Jupiter’s tides ripped Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 to shreds, only for the icy chunks to succumb to the intense Jovian gravity, ultimately slamming into the gas giant’s atmosphere, mankind was treated to a rare cosmic spectacle (in human timescales at least). That was the first time in modern history that we saw a comet do battle with a planet… and lose.
But next year, astronomers think there’s a chance — albeit a small one — of a neighboring planet getting punched by an icy interplanetary interloper. However, this planet doesn’t have a generously thick atmosphere to soften the blow. Rather than causing bruises in a dense, molecular hydrogen atmosphere, this comet will pass through the atmosphere like it wasn’t even there and hit the planetary surface like a cosmic pile-driver, ripping into the crust.
What’s more, we’d have robotic eyes on the ground and in orbit should the worst happen.

February 28th, 2013

Comet impact could make Red Planet inhabitable RT (Russia Today)

A comet near Mars may strike it in a powerful impact, potentially making the planet much warmer. The Red Planet is luring many entrepreneurs, including billionaire Dennis Tito, who aims to beat other nations by sending a man and a woman to Mars.
The make-or-break window for this possible game-changer is October 2014. At that time, an Oort cloud comet called C/2013 A1, first discovered last month, will approach Mars, missing it by about 35,000 km, which is quite close.
However the comet’s trajectory is still uncertain, which leaves a small chance it could impact the planet, said Russian astronomer Leonid Elenin, who worked on calculating the course of the celestial body. The comet will be travelling at a speed of 56 kilometers per second relative to Mars when it passes; if they do collide, the resulting explosion would be equal to a 20,000-gigaton bomb blast – powerful enough to leave a 50-kilometer crater on the planetary surface
The event would trigger a major change of the Martian climate, Australian space scientist Robert Matson explained. The impact would evaporate large amounts of water and carbon dioxide ice from the comet, spread across a planetary scale, making the climate on Mars much warmer due to the greenhouse effect.

August 12th, 2012

Sci-Fi Short Terraform: A Different Kind of Mars Landing Wired

Mars turns from dusty dead zone to Earth-like paradise in Terraform, a striking sci-fi short created by five recent graduates of French visual-effects school ArtFx.
“Terraform is a short film mixing live-action footage and CGI,” wrote team member Thomas Nivet in an e-mail to Wired. “It tells the story of the planet Mars, being terraformed.”
The six-minute short (above) flows like a folk tale being read to a child in a far-distant future. “One day, the fire birds tore the sky apart,” says the voiceover, just before a wave of terraforming machines blaze through the Martian atmosphere and land on the rocky red planet. Splendid shots of spaceships and other machinery follow.

September 19th, 2011

‘The Mars Underground’ Documentary Updated and on DVD Wired

The Mars Society is pleased to announce that ‘The Mars Underground’, a documentary film that became an instant classic among space enthusiasts, has been updated and revised by the director and released on DVD.
Leading aerospace engineer and Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin has a dream. He wants to get humans to the planet Mars in the next ten years. Now, with the advent of a revolutionary plan, Mars Direct, Dr. Zubrin shows how we can use present day technology and natural resources on Mars to make human settlement possible. But can he win over the skeptics at NASA and the wider world?
‘The Mars Underground’ is a landmark documentary that follows Dr. Zubrin and his team as they try to bring this incredible dream to life. Through spellbinding animation, the film takes us on a daring first journey to the Red Planet and envisions a future Mars teeming with life and terraformed into a blue world. A must-see experience for anyone concerned for our global future and the triumph of the human spirit.

August 22nd, 2011

Synthetic Life Could Help Colonize Mars, Biologist Says Live Science

Synthetic organisms engineered to use carbon dioxide as a raw material could help humans settle Mars one day, a prominent biologist says.
Man-made, CO2-munching lifeforms are already in the works, geneticist Craig Venter told a crowd here during an event called TEDxNASA@SiliconValley Wednesday night (Aug. 17). Venter and his team, who made headlines last year by creating the world’s first synthetic organism, are trying to design cells that can use atmospheric carbon dioxide to make food, fuel, plastics and other products.
This ability would obviously have huge implications here on Earth, but it could also help make Mars — whose thin atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide — a more livable place, Venter said.

August 4th, 2011

NASA Spacecraft Data Suggest Water Flowing on Mars NASA

Observations from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.
“NASA’s Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “and it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration.”
Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars’ southern hemisphere.
“The best explanation for these observations so far is the flow of briny water,” said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson. McEwen is the principal investigator for the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) and lead author of a report about the recurring flows published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Science.

July 18th, 2011

Teen inventor combats kudzu menace CNN

He spends his days battling kudzu, an invasive plant that has overrun millions of acres of land throughout the Southeastern United States. For his sixth grade science project, Schindler — now 17 years old — came up with the idea of planting kudzu on Mars.
“We breathe in oxygen, we breathe out CO2, and plants breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen. I started asking what would make it impossible to grow kudzu on Mars,” he said.
Experimenting with different gasses led him to find that helium killed the kudzu but without harming the other plants around it.

September 14th, 2010

Why Don’t We Terraform Mars With Comets? The Atlantic Wire

The big question from theoretical physicist and occasional blogger Dr. Michio Kaku isn’t “Can we terraform Mars for human habitation by bombarding it with comets and asteroids” but “Why haven’t we started yet?” After appearing on the Sci Fi channel to explain his idea, Kaku took to his blog to answer reader questions about what, exactly, he was talking about. He begins by dismissing the idea of terraforming Mars with nuclear power plants as the reckless insanity it obviously is, going on to explain his much more modest idea of shooting asteroids at the red planet’s surface. Kaku goes on to set up a timeline for terraforming Mars. He predicts the first astronauts will arrive “mid-century,” the first human colonies will be built “later in the 21st century,” and terraforming will happen in the “mid 22nd century.” Just to give a sense of scale, 2250 is 240 years from now; the date 240 years ago was 1770. So, according to Kaku, the distance between the American Revolution and today is roughly equivalent to the distance between today and the terraforming of Mars.

September 9th, 2010

How Microbes Could Help Colonize Mars Astrobiology Magazine

Tiny rock-eating microbes could mine precious extraterrestrial resources from Mars and pave the way for the first human colonists, but would take much longer to help transform the red planet via terraforming. One of the most promising planetary colonizers comes in the form of cyanobacteria. The ancient bacteria helped create a habitable Earth with oxygen at least 2.5 billion years ago, and have since colonized practically every possible environment while relying upon photosynthesis to convert sunlight into energy.
Cyanobacteria and other rock-dwelling microbes also have proven that they can survive the hard vacuum of space aboard facilities such as Europe’s BIOPAN exposure platform and the International Space Station’s EXPOSE platform. Only the harsh space radiation in low Earth-orbit presents a life-threatening problem for the hardy organisms.

May 11th, 2010

Is terraforming Mars impossible? The Christian Science Monitor

It looks like humanities hope of turning Mars into a second Earth may never translate into reality thanks in part to the red planet’s lack of a magnetic field. Scientists have discovered that our Sun’s solar radiation may thwart all attempts at increasing the atmospheric pressure of the crimson world, which means we may never get the chance of witnessing a green Mars, let alone a blue one. Although this means that Mars may never become a second eden (unless we can create a global magnetic field), it does not mean that humanity will never settle the planet en mass.
Future colonists will have to adapt to living within specialized biospheres (with portable magnetic shields to protect them from radiation), although doing so is probably much cheaper than terraforming the entire planet.