April 24th, 2008

Scars on Mars suggest recent glaciers MSNBC

A vanished glacier with a mysterious calling card suggests Mars went through many ice ages in its very recent past.
A fresh look at images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter indicates thick glaciers may have existed in the past 100 million years in the planet’s equatorial region, but vanished after planetary wobbles changed the climate in certain areas.
“We’ve gone from seeing Mars as a dead planet for three-plus billion years to one that has been alive in recent times,” said Jay Dickson, a geologist at Brown University and lead author of the study. “[The finding] has changed our perspective from a planet that has been dry and dead to one that is icy and active.”

April 14th, 2007

Mars orbiter’s loss traced to human error MSNBC

Human error triggered a cascade of events that caused the battery to fail on the Mars Global Surveyor last year, according to a preliminary report released Friday.
An internal NASA board determined that power loss likely doomed the spacecraft after almost a decade of meticulously mapping the Red Planet.
But the problems can be traced to September 2005 when a routine update to onboard computers caused inconsistencies in the spacecraft’s memory. Engineers trying to fix the problem sent incorrect software commands then didn’t catch the mistakes because the existing procedures to do so were inadequate.

March 26th, 2007

Bigelow Shoots For The Moon MSNBC

Even as Bigelow Aerospace gears up for launching its second prototype space station into orbit, the company has set its sights on something much, much bigger: a project to assemble full-blown space villages at a work site between Earth and the moon, then drop them to the lunar surface, ready for immediate move-in.
In an exclusive interview, Las Vegas billionaire Robert Bigelow confirmed that his company has been talking about the concept with NASA – and that the first earthly tests of the techniques involved would take place later this year. The scenario he sketched out would essentially make Bigelow a general contractor for the final frontier.

September 4th, 2006

Signing Up For An Arctic Mars MSNBC

The Mars Society is looking for a few good men – and women – to spend four months holed up in an artificial igloo or tromping around the Canadian Arctic in bulky faux spacesuits. This won’t be an extended vacation, or a reality-TV plotline. For rocket scientist Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, next year’s exercise on Devon Island will be an experiment in the exploration process – a test that could help smooth the path to Mars. It’s been a couple of months since Zubrin first announced the plans for a four-month simulated Mars mission on Devon Island in Canada’s Nunavut territory, just 900 miles (1,440 kilometers) from the North Pole. Now he and other mission planners are ready to sign up a volunteer crew of seven who will operate from the Mars Society’s Arctic habitat from May to September next year.

August 31st, 2006

Lockheed Martin to build future moonship MSNBC

Lockheed Martin on Thursday won NASA’s multibillion-dollar nod to build the Orion crew exploration vehicle, a spaceship with a look and a mission that echoes the space agency’s giant leap to the moon in the 1960s.
The announcement kicks off an effort to produce spacecraft that would replace NASA’s fleet of space shuttles, due for retirement in 2010. NASA’s timetable calls for the cone-shaped Orion ships to bring cargo or up to six crew members to the international space station by 2014, and carry up to four astronauts to the moon and back by 2020.

August 30th, 2006

Traffic Jam on Mars MSNBC

When NASA launched a pair of rovers to Mars more than three years ago, no one ever thought the darn things would still be working by now, says Cornell astronomer Steve Squyres, the top scientist for the Red Planet rover missions. The proof of that lies in the fix that the Mars program finds itself in today, with two separate missions transmitting on exactly the same frequency.
The data traffic jam isn’t insurmountable, Squyres says, but it just goes to show that even a smashing success can carry complications.

June 27th, 2006

Four Months On A Mock Mars MSNBC

Being cooped up on a space mission can do funny things to you – even if it’s a make-believe mission. During an extended simulation of a voyage to Mars back in 1999, a bloody fistfight reportedly broke out between two ersatz astronauts, and one woman participant complained of sexual harassment. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens next year, when the Mars Society is due to stage a simulated four-month mission – not within the comfy confines of a laboratory, but amid the frozen wastes of the Canadian Arctic. The society’s president, Robert Zubrin, confirmed last week’s reports that his organization was forgoing its annual simulated mission on Devon Island this year, and concentrating instead on next year’s Arctic expedition. “Essentially we’re saving the money from this year so we can do something bigger next year,” Zubrin said.

May 2nd, 2006

Mars spacesuit gets an earthly test MSNBC

Students and faculty from five North Dakota colleges are testing a prototype Mars spacesuit in the Badlands. Students from the University of North Dakota, North Dakota State, Dickinson State, the state College of Science in Wahpeton and Turtle Mountain Community College in Belcourt designed the experimental suit with a $100,000 NASA grant.

January 25th, 2006

Powered by methane MSNBC

As a potent greenhouse gas, methane has been getting a bad rap

December 20th, 2005

Has Mars probe MSNBC

The British scientist behind the failed Beagle 2 probe said Tuesday he believes he has located the craft