December 13th, 2013

Lockheed Martin receives $250,000 from ambitious Mars One project

Mars One has had some hard times lately, what with some prominent scientists and journalists finally beginning to grow skeptical about its viability, and its own CEO pushing the manned mission back by two years to 2025.
Some have been critical of the project’s high-profile call for astronauts willing to accept a one-way mission, saying that it’s an unethical and unnecessary measure that’s incompatible with modern values. Others simply poo-poo their schedule and funding plans, claiming that the Mars One foundation (called by its Dutch name of “Stichting Mars One”) cannot possibly do what it claims with the time, talent, and money it has available.
And then, earlier this week, the venerable Lockheed Martin came on board. For about $250,000, the aerospace giant will throw its talent, but perhaps more importantly its name behind the fledgling space program.

October 17th, 2013

Curiosity proves that bits of Mars fall to Earth as meteorites

Case closed. After several decades of speculation and the gathering of imperfect evidence, Mars rover Curiosity has positively identified hundreds of meteorites found all over the Earth as Martians. The discovery is not unexpected, but it allows the science to go forward with renewed confidence in conjectures about the Red Planet. In particular, Curiosity’s findings could help scientists figure out exactly how Mars lost the vast majority of its atmosphere, why, and how long ago it happened.

August 25th, 2011

NASA’s lasercom system aims to beam a HD video feed from Mars

As cameras technology has allowed us to increase the resolution of the images we capture and video we watch, so has the bandwidth required to transfer that imagery. In space, the amount of data that can be sent is currently limited due to the radio frequency (RF) systems being relied upon.
NASA is trying to fix that limitation by testing a new communications system called a Laser Communication Relay (LCR). LCR is a desirable replacement because the optical/laser communication system (lasercom) allows for much higher data transfer rates while retaining the same size, weight and power requirements of existing RF systems. What that also means is a smaller optical system can still transmit at a decent data rate too, but save on power, weight, and size on board a satellite.
The difference in data rates is quoted as being as much as 100x that of existing RF systems and is the equivalent of trying to transfer data over broadband compared to Wi-Fi. The example NASA gives is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) which manages a 6Mbps data rate. The lasercom system would increase that to 100Mbps, meaning a high resolution image would arrive on Earth in 5 minutes rather than the current 90 minutes MRO takes.

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