July 8th, 2014

NASA finalizes contract to build the most powerful rocket ever Los Angeles Times

SA has reached a milestone in its development of the Space Launch System, or SLS, which is set to be the most powerful rocket ever and may one day take astronauts to Mars.
After completing a critical design review, Boeing Co. has finalized a $2.8-billion contract with the space agency. The deal allows full production on the rocket to begin. “Our teams have dedicated themselves to ensuring that the SLS – the largest ever — will be built safely, affordably and on time,” Virginia Barnes, Boeing’s Space Launch System vice president and program manager, said in a statement.
The last time NASA’s completed a critical design review of a deep-space human rocket was 1961, when the space agency assessed the mighty Saturn V, which ultimately took man to the moon.
Work on the 321-foot Space Launch System is spread throughout Southern California, including Boeing’s avionics team in Huntington Beach. The rocket’s core stage will get its power from four RS-25 engines for former space shuttle main engines built by Aerojet Rocketdyne of Canoga Park.

August 31st, 2012

Life on Mars time for JPL scientist and his family Los Angeles Times

David Oh’s eldest son taped aluminum foil over his windows. His daughter painted a sign warning visitors away from the front door. His wife pulled the phone cord out of the wall and turned the couple’s cellphones off.
David’s time on Earth had come to a temporary end — and he was taking his family with him.
As soon as the rover Curiosity dropped onto the Martian surface on Aug. 5, David and hundreds of his fellow scientists and engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory switched from Earth time to Mars time.

August 5th, 2012

Is exploring Mars worth the investment? Los Angeles Times

NASA’s Curiosity rover, slated to land next week, is the centerpiece of a $2.5-billion project. Some argue for rolling back spending, but proponents say knowing our celestial neighbor is in the nation’s best interest. Saturn has its famous rings and Jupiter is the granddaddy of the solar system, but no planet has entranced earthlings quite like Mars.
Humans have launched 40 spacecraft to the Red Planet, lured by the prospect that life might once have existed in what is now dry rocks and sand. The latest machine to make the journey isNASA’sMars Science Laboratory, a hulking, souped-up lab-on-wheels that will plunge toward the Martian surface next week.
But even as excitement builds, some wonder: Is Mars exploration a good investment?

August 2nd, 2012

Op-Ed: Elon Musk of SpaceX: The goal is Mars Los Angeles Times

As shipments go, it was routine — about half a ton of supplies — except it was delivered by the first commercial flight to the International Space Station. SpaceX partnered with NASA in this new model, the brainchild of Elon Musk, who’s behind Tesla electric cars as well. He left South Africa at 17, earned two U.S. undergraduate degrees and then made serial piles of dough pioneering online payment systems, including the one that became PayPal. Musk’s persona inspired aspects of Tony Stark in the”Iron Man,” but Musk’s aspirations seem more like Buzz Lightyear’s — to infinity, and beyond.

September 23rd, 2011

Astronauts risk blurred vision after months in space Los Angeles Times

If NASA ever wants to send astronauts to Mars, it first must solve a problem that has nothing to do with rockets or radiation exposure.
A newly discovered eye condition found to erode the vision of some astronauts who have spent months aboard the International Space Station has doctors worried that future explorers could go blind by the end of long missions, such as a multiyear trip to Mars.
Although blindness is the worst-case scenario, the threat of blurred vision is enough that NASA has asked scores of researchers to study the issue and has put special eyeglasses on the space station to help those affected.

February 6th, 2011

Op-Ed: On to Mars — but not back to Earth Los Angeles Times

We can establish a human outpost on Mars in our generation, and reputable scientists are finally getting on board with the idea. Risky though it may be, we have the technology to place a person on the Red Planet. But, if NASA demands that the Mars explorer must return to Earth, then the idea becomes more like science fiction, and colonization probably can’t be achieved within the lifespan of those now reading this article.
For a Mars colony to be a reality within the next 15 or so years, the first traveler would have to live out his or her life as a permanent resident of an alien desert world. That person could eventually be joined by others, but return would not be an option.

August 27th, 2010

After tackling dead bodies, the afterlife and sex, Mary Roach looks to the cosmos Los Angeles Times

Two years in the making, “Packing for Mars” necessitated visits to aeronautic institutions in various countries, as well as the sipping of her own recycled urine. For research. Asked if it was difficult to get NASA’s American astronauts to confess about vomiting or mid-orbit existential crises, she simply says: “Why do you think I went all the way to Russia?” During her Russian trip, it should be noted, she describes touring a museum dedicated to Soviet rocketry, discusses head lice and takes shots of whiskey with retired cosmonauts. All by 11 a.m., Moscow time.

October 18th, 2004

Aging Mars Rovers stay alert and able Los Angeles Times

Winter on Mars is a cruel season.
Nights are long. The sun is a shrunken orb, half its size on Earth. With temperatures plunging to a heart-stopping minus 175 degrees, there is little relief from the alien chill.
What lies ahead is even worse: dust storm season, when howling, planet-wide siroccos can claw at the surface and choke the atmosphere.
NASA’s twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have been operating in this brutal environment since they landed on Mars in January.
And it shows.

March 9th, 2004

NASA’s strategy: Follow the water Los Angeles Times

Albert Einstein once famously wondered whether God had a choice in how he created the universe. His still unanswered question drives physics to this day.
The same question could be asked about the biological universe — especially now that the rovers Spirit and Opportunity have found signs of ancient standing water on Mars.

February 10th, 2003

Robot Twins Readied for Journey to Mars Los Angeles Times

Swathed head to toe in surgical garb and huddled over a table, George Nakatsukasa slowly places a sturdy cover over the electronic heart of his six-wheeled patient. Across a room so clean it contains almost no dust, dozens of engineers are circling a second robot, peering beneath layers of aluminized plastic at the thick ropes of cable emerging from its torso.

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