Marsnet is coming…
We take the Internet and constant connectivity for granted on Earth, but once you take a step into space, things start to get a lot less broadband, and a lot more dial-up. So as we look into our future, when we have human settlements on Mars, will there be a Mars Internet or “Marsnet”? These questions have been asked by SpaceX founder Elon Musk and he has announced plans to boost connectivity in space, potentially partnering with Google. But this isn’t just about ensuring future Mars colonists can access their Netflix accounts; like most space endeavors, an off-world Internet infrastructure would have huge benefits to our daily lives on Earth.
“Our focus is on creating a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date,” Musk said in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek before his announcement on Friday about establishing a SpaceX office in Seattle, Washington.
Marsnet is coming…
fter a decade of exploring the Martian surface, the scientists overseeing veteran rover Opportunity thought they’d seen it all. That was until a rock mysteriously “appeared” a few feet in front of the six wheeled rover a few days ago.
News of the errant rock was announced by NASA Mars Exploration Rover lead scientist Steve Squyres of Cornell University at a special NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory “10 years of roving Mars” event at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, Calif., on Thursday night. The science star-studded public event was held in celebration of the decade since twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on the red planet in January 2004.
The first manned mission to Mars will be gritty, dangerous and, potentially, miserable for the crew. Despite the thrill of the awe inspiring adventure and discovery, the crew will need to be a very special bunch, fending off life-threatening situations while still carrying out science and completing mission objectives.
In a new trailer released for an upcoming sci-fi movie starring Liev Schreiber (of “X-Men” and “Ray Donovan” fame), the “true” horror of a mission to Mars is depicted, with a twist. In what appears to be the last day of the first manned mission to the Martian surface, a band of astronauts are preparing to come home.
China to Grow Veggies on Mars? Discovery
It’s no secret that China’s space program is progressing at fast rate, but could the nation leapfrog the US in the realm of human spaceflight by landing the first extraterrestrial “greenhouse” on Mars? The plan, as reported by the Chinese state media on Monday, saw a 300 cubic meter “ecological life support system” test being carried out in Beijing — an experiment that was supported by German scientists. In this trial run, four types of vegetables were grown and two people lived inside. It is not clear how long the test lasted or whether the test subjects remained healthy for the duration.
This system forms the basis of a far grander scheme that would allow astronauts to cultivate fresh fruit and vegetables, produce water and generate oxygen to breathe on the moon and Mars.
The two leading Republican candidates vying to take on President Barack Obama in this year’s presidential election turned to the topic of space during a debate last night in Tampa, Fla.
“This president has failed miserably the people of Florida,” said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. “His plans for NASA? He has no plans for NASA. The Space Coast is struggling.” Republican challengers Congressman Ron Paul and former Sen. Rick Santorum weren’t asked about space and didn’t bring up the topic during the debate.
Gingrich will be meeting Wednesday with leaders on Florida’s Space Coast — the region around Kennedy Space Center that bore the brunt of the layoffs following the retirement of the space shuttles last year.
On Christmas Day, the sun decided to get into the festive mood by laying on some decorations. Lacking the tinsel and tacky glow-in-the-dark reindeer on its front lawn, our nearest star decided to create a humongous coronal mass ejection (CME) in the shape of an interplanetary bauble, firing it right at us.
On Wednesday, SpaceX released a pretty cool promo video for its commercial crew development program. If it were any other commercial spaceflight company, I probably would have filed it under “Nice, but we’ve got a long way to go.” But this is SpaceX, a company that is proving its launch capabilities year after year, the most recent landmark launch being the flight of the Dragon capsule last year.
But company founder Elon Musk has far loftier goals than simply putting stuff into low-Earth orbit. That’s so last century. No, he wants to see SpaceX go to Mars, facilitating the expansion of mankind’s influence throughout the solar system. If there’s someone wanting a ride, Musk wants SpaceX to be the first company they call.
A particle detector being prepared for launch Friday aboard space shuttle Endeavour is intended to answer some fundamental questions about physics, but it has a practical side as well — testing a way to shield future astronauts from potentially harmful cosmic rays.
At the heart of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, or AMS, is a 2-ton magnet that will bend high-energy particles into five detectors for analysis. Scientists hope to learn about dark matter, antimatter and other exotic phenomenon, but engineers at NASA who are developing next-generation spaceships are keen to learn how similar magnets could be used not to attract particles, but to repel them.
A magnetic shield would replicate the protective cocoon of Earth”s naturally occurring magnetic field, which helps protect the planet from harmful radiation.
Food for Mars: A Daunting Challenge Discovery
Most people find the palatability of in-flight entrees an oxymoron. But even frequent fliers seldom encounter more than a few such meals per week. Astronauts, in contrast, may have to survive months in orbit dining on a really limited menu of processed foods and reconstituted beverages served from oh-so-glamorous plastic pouches. Luckily, even the International Space Station can restock its pantry several times a year because these foods are relatively perishable. Which explains the problem NASA faces in planning for really long missions — like a trip to Mars.
Astronaut foods may appear indestructible, but many crew favorites don’t retain their nutrition or palatability for even a year, notes Michele Perchonok.
Mars Express Swings by Phobos Discovery
A European space probe is on track for a close encounter with the Martian moon Phobos, an odd, potato-shaped satellite — origins unknown — that may be partly hollow.
Mapping Phobos’ gravity is among scientists’ top priorities when the Mars Express spacecraft soars as close as 50 kilometers (31 miles) above the moon Wednesday night.
Previous passes of Phobos by Mars Express have raised as many questions as they’ve answered. For example, calculations of the moon’s density led scientists to the surprising theory that parts of Phobos may be hollow. Minute changes in the probe’s flight path — tracked by a radio signal — as it passes over the moon Wednesday will be closely monitored in an attempt to correlate Phobos’ gravitational tugs with internal structural variations.