May 20th, 2013

Human Mars Lander Must Break New Ground Aviation Week & Space Technology

For all the attention focused on how hard it will be to keep astronauts alive while they fly from Earth to Mars, the challenge of setting them safely down on the Martian surface will be just as difficult.
Entry-descent-and-landing (EDL) experts who spoke at a Humans To Mars symposium here say the “sky crane” that landed the robotic Curiosity rover on Mars last year will not scale to the huge sizes need for humans. And even if it did, the “seven minutes of terror” controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory experienced at a distance during the first sky-crane landing may be a little too tame for a human mission.

March 28th, 2013

Serious Intent About 2018 Human Mars Mission Aviation Week & Space Technology

If Dennis Tito has his way, when NASA launches a stripped-down version of the robotic Mars Curiosity rover toward the red planet in 2020, a middle-aged married couple with good mechanical skills and “resilient” personalities will be offering first-hand commentary to reporters at Cape Canaveral on what the planet looks like from 100 mi. up.
Even if the Inspiration Mars Foundation that Tito is bankrolling for two years from his own deep pockets never gets its human Mars-flyby mission off the ground, the world’s first space tourist believes it will have given the U.S. space endeavor a much-needed boost. Benefits will accrue via technical data for future attempts, possible medical breakthroughs needed for deep-space travel and, yes, inspiration.

October 2nd, 2012

ESA May Have Role In NASA Mars Sample Mission Aviation Week & Space Technology

NASA has decided it can do a Mars sample-return mission on its own, but it will continue to collaborate with the European Space Agency on Mars exploration despite dropping out of Europe’s ExoMars program last year.
Even though Europe has shifted to working with Russia on ExoMars, the program’s 2016 orbiter could help provide data and command relays between Earth and a 2018 NASA rover on the surface of Mars. However, it remains to be seen if there will be such a rover, and what it could do if NASA finds the funds to build it.
The U.S. space agency has 4-6 months to decide how it will proceed under its reduced Mars-exploration funding plan. That decision will be shaped by a new set of mission options from the agency’s Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) instrument landing system, and possibly by congressional signals on fiscal 2013 funding levels for Mars. Also in the mix is the role of potential collaborators outside NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, including the European Space Agency (ESA).

August 4th, 2008

White House Briefed On Potential For Mars Life Aviation Week & Space Technology

The White House has been alerted by NASA about plans to make an announcement soon on major new Phoenix lander discoveries concerning the “potential for life” on Mars, scientists tell Aviation Week & Space Technology.
Sources say the new data do not indicate the discovery of existing or past life on Mars. Rather the data relate to habitability–the “potential” for Mars to support life–at the Phoenix arctic landing site, sources say.
The data are much more complex than results related NASA’s July 31 announcement that Phoenix has confirmed the presence of water ice at the site.

September 27th, 2004

Bigelow’s Gamble Aviation Week & Space Technology

The Bigelow Aerospace project to privately develop inflatable Earth-orbit space modules is beginning to integrate diverse U.S. and European technologies into subscale and full-scale inflatable test modules and subsystems at the company’s heavily guarded facilities here. While much public attention is focused on the massive International Space Station (ISS), Bigelow has quietly become a mini-Skunk Works for the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC). Ongoing technical assistance to Bigelow from JSC is focused on helping the company spawn development of orbiting commercial inflatable modules by the end of the decade, with the possibility of JSC later using the Bigelow technology for inflatable modules on the Moon or Mars.

April 1st, 2001

U.S. Poised For Return to Mars Aviation Week & Space Technology

The $297-million Mars Odyssey mission, crucial for NASA’s recovery from back-to-back Mars flight losses, is set for liftoff this week on a “do-or-die” mission to validate reforms in the wake of the failures. The Odyssey orbiter will search for “Martian oases” as targets for future U.S./European landers.

December 11th, 2000

2003 Landing System Undergoes Evaluation Aviation Week & Space Technology

Mars Explorer Rover (MER) project officials have determined they may not be able to take the design of the Pathfinder airbag landing system and “build it to spec” for the twin 2003 MER missions as planned. While still early in development, it appears there could be at least minor changes to the landing system’s parachute, solid rocket braking motors or possibly the airbags themselves to accommodate the heavier payload weight, and weight margin, for the 2003 mission. Officials plan to firm up the baseline in January when a project review is scheduled.

December 11th, 2000

NASA Invests Heavily In New Technology Aviation Week & Space Technology

NASA is going back to the drawing board to develop a series of “second-generation” Mars landers and rovers intended to provide safer and more accurate landings and the capability to cover far greater distances over the surface of the planet. The work is aimed at providing future technology options for planners, beginning with a proposed validation mission during the 2007 Mars launch opportunity intended to prove some of the new designs.

December 11th, 2000

Europe To Have Major Sample Return Role Aviation Week & Space Technology

France, Italy and several other European countries are angling to play an important part in the sample return missions, and the demonstration flight that will precede them, in line with their growing participation in Martian exploration. Under a statement of intent (SOI) signed in October, French national space agency CNES will provide two orbital vehicles–one for a demonstration mission in 2007, the other for the first Mars Sample Return (MSR) flight; a network of four Netlander probes to accompany the 2007 mission; and the launch for the 2007 mission ( AW&ST Nov. 13, p. 99). The Netlanders will also involve the collaboration of German aerospace center DLR, the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) and SSTC of Belgium. A final memorandum of understanding (MOU) is to be concluded late next year.

December 11th, 2000

NASA Weighs Mission Options Aviation Week & Space Technology

NASA has put all of its Mars sample return (MSR) mission options back on the table and plans to conduct an extensive engineering analysis over the next 1.5 years to select the best combination of new technology and operational techniques. The space agency’s goal is to make those decisions in time for a validation mission during the 2007 launch opportunity. And if all works according to plan, the systems and operations used during the 2007 mission would be mirrored in a sample return mission expectedas early as 2011.