As American space exploration fulfills promises for a new era of long-term moon colonization and a mission to Mars, the research of Florida Institute of Technology space physicist Ming Zhang will become more important to the lives of each and every astronaut. While his research on cosmic radiation has its roots in pure science, the practical applications of what he has learned about space weather are matters of life and death. With more than $1 million in NASA funding, Zhang is researching cosmic and energetic solar radiation, seeking how the two space weather components affect human beings, both as space travelers and as the end-user of satellite technology.
Paving the way for pioneers EurekAlert!
One of the big problems with space travel is that one cannot over pack.
Suppose astronauts reach Mars. How do they explore the planet if they cannot weigh down the vessel with fuel for excursions? A team of undergraduate aerospace engineering students at the University of Michigan is doing research to help astronauts make fuel once they get to Mars, and the results could bring scientists one step closer to manned or extended rover trips to the planet.
As NASA’s twin robot geologists Spirit and Opportunity prepare to land on Mars in January, a cadre of 20 smart robots developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University with support from NASA and Intel Corp. will be deployed at some of the nation’s most prestigious science museums to let visitors experience the thrill of exploring the red planet. The Personal Exploration Rovers (PERs) will reside in “Mars Yards,” specially designed to mimic Martian terrain at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.; its new Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport; the National Science Center in Augusta, Ga.; The San Francisco Exploratorium; and the new visitor’s center at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. The first exhibit will open at NASA Ames in late December. The others will follow between January 1 and January 24, 2004.
Any older athlete can attest that aging muscles don’t heal as fast as youthful ones. Now researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have found a molecular link between older muscles and slow healing. This work could lead to ways of preventing atrophy from immobilization, space flight or simply due to aging. “What you really want to do is maintain the youthfulness of the regeneration pathway,” said Thomas Rando, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences and an investigator at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System. The work will be published in the Nov. 28 issue of Science.
Solar sailing breaks laws of physics EurekAlert!
The next generation of spacecraft propulsion systems could be dead in the water before they are even launched. A physicist is claiming that solar sailing- the idea of using sunlight to blow spacecraft across the solar system- is at odds with the laws of thermal physics.
Los Alamos makes first map of ice on Mars EurekAlert!
Lurking just beneath the surface of Mars is enough water to cover the entire planet ankle-deep, says Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Bill Feldman. Feldman on Saturday released the first global map of hydrogen distribution identified by instruments aboard NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft and offered initial minimum estimates of the total amount of water stored near the Martian surface. His presentation came at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver. For nearly a year, Los Alamos’ neutron spectrometer has been carefully mapping the hydrogen content of the planet’s surface by measuring changes in neutrons given off by soil, an indicator of hydrogen likely in the form of water-ice, within about 35 degrees latitude of the north and south poles. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that Mars has enough water to support future human exploration,” Feldman said. “In fact, there’s enough to cover the entire planet to a depth of at least five inches, and we’ve only analyzed the top few feet of soil.”
Interplanetary rapid transit system EurekAlert!
Human Mars exploration may become a reality with the establishment of near-Earth gateways to the Moon and Mars. Global Aerospace Corporation (GAC) will report on the development of its concept for an interplanetary rapid transit system between Earth and Mars at the Annual Meeting of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC). Mr. Nock, President of GAC and a NIAC Fellow, will give this briefing at the NIAC Annual Meeting to be held at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, TX, June 11-12, 2002.
Global Aerospace Corporation announced today that it rolled out a full-scale prototype StratoSail
Formation of recent gullies and debris-flows on Mars by the melting of near-surface ground ice at high obliquity EurekAlert!
The observation of small gullies on Mars was one of the more unexpected discoveries of the Mars Observer Camera (MOC) aboard the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. The characteristics of these gullies suggested that they were formed by flowing water and soil and rocks transported by these flows. They appeared to be surprisingly young, as if they had formed in the last few million years or even more recently. This was a major surprise because the presence of liquid water seemed impossible on Mars in such a recent past. In their initial analysis, the MGS Camera investigators Mike Mallin and Ken Edgett proposed a scenario involving ground water seepage from a sub-surface liquid water reservoir located a few hundred meters or less below the surface. The existence of such an aquifer would have had major consequences for the future of Mars exploration and the possibility of life. However, the process capable of maintaining such a shallow aquifer at temperatures above the freezing point of water remained unclear. Analysing the MGS Camera data archive, we were able to find example of gullies originating from the top of isolated peaks and from dune crests. In these cases, the involvement of a subsurface aquifer was unlikely.
Soon after Mars was formed, it was bombarded by numerous large meteorites and asteroids. Scientists have discovered an unexpectedly large grouping of impact basins buried under Mars’ northern plains that resulted from this pounding. They used Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) topographic data to find them, because they can