March 20th, 2013

Europe, Russia ink deal on double mission to Mars AFP

The European Space Agency (ESA) said it signed a deal on Thursday with its Russian counterpart to launch two unmanned missions to Mars, a quest that was rocked by a US pullout last year.
Called ExoMars, the scheme entails sending an orbital probe to the Red Planet in January 2016 to look for atmospheric traces of methane gas, a pointer to the existence of microbial life.
It will also send down a small stationary lander to test key technologies for the second mission — the launch of a six-wheeled rover in 2018.

November 11th, 2011

Mars explorers will include women, experts say AFP

Men walked on the Moon, but women will be among the pioneering explorers who someday step foot on Mars, said a gathering of top female space experts this week.
Plenty has changed since Neil Armstrong and 11 male successors left their footprints on the Moon from 1969 to 1972, but lingering stereotypes still harm young girls and not enough women reach the upper levels of planetary science, they said.
Some of the leading women at NASA, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and other organizations came together for a two-day meeting in the nation’s capital to discuss their work, how they made it and how the next generation can, too.
Despite challenges that may remain, the days when women were excluded from space exploration are over, said Colleen Hartman, NASA assistant associate administrator, science mission directorate.
“Men went to the Moon but everyone will be going to Mars.”

July 24th, 2011

NASA to explore massive Mars mountain AFP

NASA’s unmanned Curiosity rover will explore one of the tallest, climbable mountains in the Solar System to discover if signs of life ever existed on the red planet.
The landing site for the US$2.5 billion dollar Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) was unveiled the day after the 30-year shuttle era ended with the return to Earth of Atlantis after its final mission to the International Space Station.

March 23rd, 2010

Bill Gates, Toshiba in early talks on nuclear reactor AFP

A company backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Toshiba are in early talks to jointly develop a small nuclear reactor, the Japanese electronics giant said Tuesday.
The Nikkei business daily earlier reported that the two sides would team up to develop a compact next-generation reactor that can operate for up to 100 years without refueling to provide emission-free energy.
The daily said the joint development would focus on the Traveling-Wave Reactor (TWR), which consumes depleted uranium as fuel. Current light-water reactors require refueling every few years.
“Toshiba has entered into preliminary talks with TerraPower,” said Toshiba spokesman Keisuke Ohmori. “We are looking into the possibility of working together.”
Gates is the principal owner of TerraPower, an expert team based in the US state of Washington that is investigating ways to improve emission-free energy supplies using small nuclear reactors.

March 2nd, 2010

Scientist eyes 39-day voyage to Mars AFP

A journey from Earth to Mars could eventually take just 39 days — cutting current travel time nearly six times — according to a rocket scientist who has the ear of the US space agency.
Franklin Chang-Diaz, a former astronaut and a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), says reaching the Red Planet could be dramatically quicker using his high-tech VASIMR rocket, now on track for liftoff after decades of development.
The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket — to give its full name — is quick becoming a centerpiece of NASA’s future strategy as it looks to private firms to help meet the astronomical costs of space exploration.
NASA, still reeling from a political decision to cancel its Constellation program that would have returned a human to the moon by the end of the decade, has called on firms to provide new technology to power rovers or even future manned missions.
Hopes are now pinned on firms like Chang-Diaz’s Texas-based Ad Astra Rocket Company.

August 19th, 2009

Tight budget quashes US space ambitions: panel AFP

US ambitions for manned space exploration have hit a major hurdle in the wake of severe budget constraints, according to preliminary findings of a panel appointed by President Barack Obama.
Reaching Mars was deemed too risky while returning to the Moon by 2020 was ruled out barring an additional three billion dollars per year to replace the retiring space shuttle fleet and build bigger rockets, according to the group led by Norm Augustine, a former CEO of US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.
“Really, we’ve given the White House a dilemma. The space program we have today, the human space flight program, really isn’t executable with the money we have,” Augustine told PBS public television last week.

June 6th, 2008

McCain would like to see a man on Mars AFP

Presumptive Republican White House nominee John McCain said Thursday he would like to see a manned mission to Mars as part of a “better set of priorities” for NASA that would better engage the public. At a townhall event in Florida, the Arizona senator was asked about funding for the US space agency’s shuttle program, which is due to end in 2010.

May 28th, 2008

NASA restores radio contact with Phoenix Mars lander AFP

NASA has cleared up a malfunction that for several hours caused a rupture in communications between Phoenix Mars Lander, the US space agency said Wednesday. NASA said a “transient event” had knocked out UHF radio transmissions between Phoenix and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which relays data and instructions between the Phoenix and Earth.

September 25th, 2007

NASA aims to put man on Mars by 2037 AFP

NASA aims to put a man on Mars by 2037, the administrator of the US space agency indicated Monday.
This year marks the half-century of the space age ushered in by the October 1957 launch of the Sputnik-1 by the then Soviet Union, NASA administrator Michael Griffin noted.
In 2057, the centenary of the space era, “we should be celebrating 20 years of man on Mars,” Griffin told an international astronautics congress in this southern Indian city where he outlined NASA’s future goals.
The international space station being built in orbit and targeted for completion by 2010 would provide a “toehold in space” from where humanity can travel first to the moon and then to Mars, Griffin said.

May 26th, 2004

Desert trek a dry run for Mars AFP

A 44-year-old adventurer sets off Wednesday on a gruelling solo trek across Australia’s giant Simpson Desert that scientists hope will help them plan future missions to Mars.
Rob Porcaro, a marketing executive from South Australia, plans to hike 520km in 16 days across claypans, salt lakes and more than 700 sand dunes in remote central Australia.

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