December 10th, 2013

Curiosity Finds A Former Lake On Mars Popular Science

Once upon a time, in the lowest part of Gale Crater on Mars, there was a lake about the length and width of one of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. It was fed by rivers that ran into it. If you stood on its shores, you might have seen snow or ice capping the mountains in the distance.
After its first 100 Mars-days, or sols, on the Red Planet, NASA’s Curiosity rover trundled down into this now-dry lakebed. The rover took images of rocks along the way and drilled two holes to take samples. It’s from these samples scientists determined this lake existed and that its waters weren’t too alien, after all, compared to water on Earth. The water was of relatively neutral pH and low salinity. “I would be pretty confident it would be fresher than seawater,” says Scott McLennan, a geoscientist with Stony Brook University in New York who worked on this and other studies based on Curiosity data.
This is water that microbes could have lived in, although Curiosity found no direct evidence of life on Mars, nor is it designed to do so, McLennan tells Popular Science.

September 9th, 2013

More Than 200,000 People Sign Up To Die On Mars Popular Science

Five months after the Netherlands-based private spaceflight project Mars One announced it would begin accepting applications for a one-way trip to the red planet, 202,586 people from more than 140 countries have submitted videos explaining why they should be chosen for the mission.
The first of four selection rounds ended August 31. Now, the Mars One selection committee will spend the next several months narrowing down the applicants. There are even plans to launch a reality TV show to choose the final candidates. The goal is for 24 to 40 people to begin a seven-year training program in 2015. Then, working with the private space flight company SpaceX, Mars One hopes to send the prospective Martian settlers to the red planet in teams of four, beginning in 2023.

April 22nd, 2013

Apply Now For A One-Way Trip To Mars Popular Science

Want to live and die on Mars? Mars One has officially begun its worldwide search for astronauts who will fly to Mars in 2023—and never come back. The ultimate goal is to select 24 to 40 candidates who will travel to Mars in groups of four. Mars One wants to land the first group (two men and two women, ideally from four different continents, says CEO Bas Lansdorp) on the red planet in 2023, with the other groups following one at a time, every two years. Applications close August 31, 2013.

December 6th, 2012

How Does SpaceX Plan To Move Thousands Of Humans To Mars? Popular Science

SpaceX founder/Tony Stark movie inspiration Elon Musk made some heads turn this week, as heads are wont to do when they hear someone plans to ship 80,000 people to Mars. In a talk at the Royal Aeronautical Society, Musk offered early ideas on how to start a colony on the Red Planet. So, to recap: Musk wants his private spaceflight business to send 80,000 people to Mars every year. They’re not going to do that themselves, probably, but the company would certainly be leading the charge.tart a colony on the Red Planet.

July 12th, 2010

Rover Challenge 2010: University Teams Test Mars Rovers in Utah Desert Popular Science

On Saturday, June 5, in the remote southeast Utah desert, a team of engineering students from Oregon State University emerged as the champion of the fourth annual University Rover Challenge (URC).
Competition events began on Friday morning, June 4, at two adjacent sites near the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah. The “sample return mission” involved investigating sites that might have microbial life and bringing back a sample. At the second site, the “equipment servicing task” required rovers to flip switches, push buttons, and insert plugs into outlets.

May 20th, 2010

Carefully Choreographed NASA/ESA Mission Could Return Martian Soil Samples to Earth Popular Science

We’ve landed the robots, puttered about on the planet’s surface, and, at long last, found the water. Now, NASA is getting back to basics on Mars with a plan to once again search for signs of life on the Red Planet, a focus that’s been on the back burner since the 1976 Viking missions. But this time, NASA doesn’t want to analyze Mars from Mars. This time the space agency wants to bring samples back home, and has a cleverly orchestrated scheme to do it.
NASA thinks the acquisition and return of Martian rock and soil samples is completely doable, but it’s going to be a costly three-phase process, probably with a price tag totaling some $10 billion. And since the federal government isn’t exactly showering NASA with cash, the agency recently teamed with its European counterpart to map out the details of such a complex mission.

March 17th, 2010

Bad News for Terraformers: Periodic Bursts Of Solar Radiation Destroy The Martian Atmosphere Popular Science

Unfortunately for anyone looking to terraform Mars, a new study shows that powerful waves of solar wind periodically strip the Red Planet of its atmosphere. Scientists had known for years that Mars has atmosphere troubles, but only by analyzing new data from he Mars Express spacecraft were they able to identify the special double solar waves as the specific cause.
Double solar waves are a rare phenomenon that result when the Sun emits waves of differing speeds. If a fast wave follows a slow wave, the fast wave crashes into the back of the slow one, rolling them both up into a super-charged double wave. Scientists were able to correlate Martian atmosphere loss, as measured by the the Mars Express spacecraft, with records of double radiation waves in 2007 and 2008 taken by the Advanced Composition Explorer spacecraft. According to the study, one third of Martian atmosphere loss occurs during these waves, which are only present 15 percent of the time.

December 22nd, 2009

Former Soviet ‘Monkey Nursery’ Now Wants To Send An Ape To Mars Popular Science

Some rivalries die hard. Ham the American chimpanzee stirred up some Cold War ire when he became the first hominid in space in early 1961; now, scientists at the Institute of Experimental Pathology and Therapy, the pride of early Soviet space science, want to send one of their 350 apes on a mission to Mars — with a robot overseer, naturally.
The institute resides in Sukhumi in the breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia (remember that brief military tangle last year when Russia rolled through its former Soviet satellite?), where it once churned out medical research, as well as two rhesus monkeys that traveled into space in 1987. When the Soviet Union collapsed so did the institute’s benefactor, but a renewed relationship with Russia since seceding from Georgia has rekindled Abkhaz-Russian relations, as well as the prospect for sending one of the institute’s many surviving apes into space.

November 24th, 2009

Gearing Up for Manned Mission To An Asteroid Popular Science

The Plymouth Rock project could be a stepping stone to Mars. A plan to send a manned space mission to land on an asteroid is gaining traction within both NASA and the aerospace industry as experts look to bridge the feasibility gap between lunar missions and an eventual rendezvous with Mars. Of course, no party is ruling out the possibility of an Armageddon-esque trip to a Near Earth Object (NEO) on a harmful trajectory, should the need arise in the future.
While neither NASA or the White House has signed off on — or even offered funding to study — such a mission, briefing charts put together by Lockheed Martin, maker of the space agency’s next-gen passenger spacecraft, detail how a mission might work. It’s not as far-fetched, or far away, as one might think, with a mission to an NEO possible in a 2020-2025 time frame.

November 24th, 2009

NASA Robotic Rocket Plane To Survey Martian Surface Popular Science

NASA wants a rocket-powered UAV to fly around the Red Planet, photographing the surface. The plane, repetitively named ARES (not to be confused with NASA’s shuttle replacement, also named ARES), would fly to Mars in a regular rocket. Once it reaches the fourth rock from the Sun, it would pop out of the capsule, deploy its wings, and fire the rockets for an hour-long flight through the Martian sky. During that flight, ARES would cover about 373 miles, which is a little less than 100 times the area covered by the Spirit rover over the last five years.