April 10th, 2015

Advisors to NASA: Dump the asteroid mission and go to Phobos instead Houston Chronicle

At the conclusion of its meeting the NASA Advisory Council adopted a “finding” that the asteroid redirect mission should be dropped in favor of demonstrating solar electric propulsion on a Mars orbit mission. That could include a Phobos or Deimos sample return, but the council wanted to leave NASA some flexibility to study all options.

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“If this technology is designed to go to Mars and back, let’s send it to Mars and back,” said Steve Squyres, chairman of the advisory committee. The vote was unanimous. This “finding” represents the opinion of the committee and is not binding on NASA. However it will likely spur NASA to at least further study a Mars orbit option, and will embolden the many critics of NASA’s asteroid mission

April 21st, 2010

Just 39 days to Mars Houston Chronicle

With hard work, an immigrant’s dream of spaceflight came true. Now, his ticket to America could be our ticket to the Red Planet. Like many red-blooded American teens coming of age during the 1960s space race, Franklin Chang-Diaz dreamed of chasing cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin to the stars.
There was a hitch, of course. Chang-Diaz wasn’t American. He lived outside the United States. And the Costa Rican didn’t even speak English.
No matter. Chang-Diaz would overcome these obstacles and more to fly a record-tying seven missions aboard the space shuttle. Along the way the physicist would also develop a plasma rocket that promises a revolutionary approach to spaceflight.
The rocket, potentially, could blast the next generation of astronauts to Mars in just 39 days, about one fifth of the time required by existing rocketry.

February 17th, 2010

NASA chief: Mars is our mission Houston Chronicle

NASA’s emerging exploration plan will call for safely sending humans to Mars, possibly by the 2030s, and de-emphasize exploration of the moon, the agency’s leader said Tuesday.
“That is my personal vision,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “I am confident that, when I say humans on Mars is a goal for the nation, not just NASA, I’m saying that because I believe the president will back me up.”
Bolden cited appearances set before congressional committees on Feb. 24 and 25 as a deadline for creating the “beginnings of a plan” for human exploration.
At those hearings, Bolden said, he will be able only to give a range of dates for a Mars trip because scientific questions, such as mitigating radiation exposure and bone loss, remain unanswered.
But he confidently said the 2030s, even the early 2030s, were viable if given a reasonable and sustained budget.

May 23rd, 2007

Moon, Mars trips will pose physical, mental health risks Houston Chronicle

As the Earth fades into the rearview mirror, the astronauts who set out on the missions that NASA proposes to the moon and Mars will face new challenges to stay mentally and physically fit.
Confinement on spacecraft and isolation from friends and family create psychological stress. Bones weaken without gravity and there is solar and cosmic radiation exposure.
“The risks to human health on long-duration missions beyond Earth orbit, if not solved, represent the greatest challenge to human exploration of deep space,” concludes Safe Passage: Astronaut Care for Exploration Missions, a study for the space agency by the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.
Without the swift, fictional propulsion systems of Star Wars and Star Trek fame, a round-trip voyage to Mars will send astronauts packing for 2 years. A tour of duty at a lunar outpost would last six months.
The trip durations lead to another worry: How does a faraway astronaut receive treatment for a medical emergency?

April 21st, 2006

Climate shift dried out Mars, study says Houston Chronicle

Warm, wet conditions that made Mars possibly suitable for life were wiped away by a sweeping climate shift marked by fierce volcano activity and other upheavals, an international science team reported Thursday — billions of years after the fact.

July 4th, 2005

As NASA evolves, what will replace the shuttle? Houston Chronicle

Squinting up into the bright sky, more than 400,000 people waited for Discovery in the California desert on that October morning in 1988.
The space shuttle program had been grounded for almost three years after the Challenger disaster. But the successful flight of space shuttle Discovery felt like a new beginning to the crowd. People whooped and sobbed as the shuttle punched out two sonic booms and glided to a landing at Edwards Air Force Base.
Almost 17 years later, Discovery is again returning the grounded space program to flight

March 11th, 2005

NASA juggles work force as it shifts focus to Mars Houston Chronicle

About one of every seven NASA workers nationwide will be transferred or paid to leave in the next 1 1/2 years as the space agency focuses on President Bush’s moon-Mars exploration plan, officials said Thursday. However, many of those who depart likely will be replaced by new workers with skills more closely aligned with the new, deep space mission. NASA employs about 18,900 government workers.

June 21st, 2004

Discovery of tiniest organism could have huge implications Houston Chronicle

They’ve deciphered DNA and cloned all manner of animals, but one question still nags biologists working on the frontiers of life.
Just how small can a creature be and still be considered living?
The answer could provide more than fodder for academic debate. A better grasp of the very smallest life forms could help doctors clear clogged arteries and dissolve kidney stones with antibiotics, or even end the argument over whether life once existed on Mars.

May 19th, 2004

Microbiologist sees Earth benefits in Mars soil Houston Chronicle

As the Martian rovers continue their search for more evidence of life-giving water, a Prairie View A&M University researcher is creating life using an artificial soil simulating that found on Mars. For the past four years, Raul Cuero has used NASA’s factory-made soil to breed microbes in his lab, much like 100 other scientific researchers in the nation — and seven others in Texas — have done since 1998. And as Opportunity sits at Endurance, a 430-foot-wide crater on Mars, awaiting NASA’s command to jump in, Cuero has moved forward in his discovery that Mars soil may lead to solutions that could rid Earth of toxins.

May 11th, 2004

New astronauts could be among the first on Mars Houston Chronicle

As universities are saying goodbye to the graduating classes of 2004, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is welcoming a new freshman class of astronauts. The 11 trainees are joining the astronaut corps at a time when the space program faces its greatest challenges and perils since the moon shots. The group includes four who already work at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Two of the 11 are women, and three are schoolteachers who will train as astronaut educators.

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