June 4th, 2014

America’s Long-Term Space Goal: Let’s Put Humans on Mars NBC News

A new report from the National Research Council declares that the expenses and risks associated with human spaceflight can be justified only by the goal of putting humans on other worlds, with the “horizon goal” of getting to Mars.
That goal is consistent with NASA’s long-term vision for space exploration — but the report, titled “Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches to a U.S. Program of Human Exploration,” goes farther by noting that NASA’s current budget is too meager to reach the goal, and that it’s “in the best interests of the United States” to let China participate in future space partnerships.
NASA’s budget has been trimmed back in recent years, and there’s currently a ban on U.S.-Chinese space cooperation.

November 25th, 2013

Apply now for a yearlong mock Mars mission in Canadian Arctic NBC News

Crew application deadline: November 30, 2013:
If you’re ready to take a timeout from your life and spend a year living in the Arctic on a simulated Mars mission, the Mars Society wants to hear from you.
The non-profit group, which advocates for manned exploration of the Red Planet, has released its requirements for the six volunteers who will be expected to spend 12 months at the society’s Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station on Canada’s Devon Island, which is about 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) from the North Pole, beginning in July 2014.

November 7th, 2013

MAVEN’s mysteries: An inside look at NASA’s next Mars mission NBC News

NASA’s MAVEN orbiter is designed to follow up on a huge question surrounding past findings about Mars: If the Red Planet was once far more hospitable to life, what happened?
“What I’m most looking for is clarity,” the University of Colorado’s Dave Brain, a co-investigator for the $670 million mission, told NBC News. “We’re very certain that Mars has undergone some big change over the last several billion years.”
Part of that big change had to do with Mars’ atmosphere: Past studies have suggested that the carbon dioxide atmosphere was once thicker and more Earthlike, which would have kept the planet warmer and wetter. Now the atmospheric density is just 1 percent of Earth’s, offering little protection from the sun’s deadly ultraviolet blast. Where did the air go?
“There are only two answers to that question: You can go down, or you can go up,” Brain said.

October 16th, 2013

Spaceflight experts work on alternate vision for Mars trips NBC News

While NASA works on a multibillion-dollar, decades-long space exploration plan that relies on monster rockets, an informal cadre of engineers is laying out a different vision that would take advantage of cheaper, smaller spacecraft that can fuel up at “truck stops” along the way.
Right now, the alternate vision, known as the “Stairway to Mars,” is little more than an engineering exercise. But the plan’s proponents on the Space Development Steering Committee say their scenario for Mars missions in the 2030s may have a better chance of becoming a reality than NASA’s scenario.

August 30th, 2013

Curiosity snaps sharpest-ever solar eclipse photos from Mars NBC News

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has captured the sharpest-ever images of a solar eclipse as seen from the Red Planet.
The 1-ton Curiosity rover snapped pictures with its telephoto lens as Phobos, the larger of Mars’ two tiny moons, blotted out much of the solar disk on Aug. 17.
“This event occurred near noon at Curiosity’s location, which put Phobos at its closest point to the rover, appearing larger against the sun than it would at other times of day,” Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, a co-investigator for Curiosity’s Mastcam instrument, said in a statement. “This is the closest to a total eclipse of the sun that you can have from Mars.”

August 28th, 2013

‘We are all Martians’: Chemist’s otherworldly claim stirs debate NBC News

Are we all Martians? A controversial hypothesis contends that life on our planet had to get its start somewhere else — most likely on Mars — because the chemistry on early Earth couldn’t have provided the required molecular machinery.
“The evidence seems to be building that we are actually all Martians; that life started on Mars and came to Earth on a rock,” Steven Benner, a chemist at the Florida-based Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, said in a news release. What’s more, recent studies suggest that the conditions suitable for the origin of life “may still exist on Mars,” he said.

February 27th, 2013

Millionaire Dennis Tito plans to send woman and man to Mars and back NBC News

Millionaire space tourist Dennis Tito’s plan to send two astronauts on a 501-day flight that zooms past Mars and swings back to Earth would set plenty of precedents on the final frontier — but the most intriguing precedent might have to do with the astronauts that are to be sent: one man and one woman, preferably a married couple beyond childbearing years. We’re talking about sex in space, folks.
And if that’s not intriguing enough, consider this: There are already a couple of candidates for the job.

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