January 25th, 2015

28 Months on Mars The New York Times

NASA’s Curiosity rover has explored Gale Crater for 833 Martian days, or Sols. And it has found evidence, written in red rocks and sand, of lakes and streams on a warmer, wetter, habitable Mars.

December 8th, 2014

Looking to Mars to Help Understand Changing Climates The New York Times

We haven’t found life on Mars, but decades of robotic exploration have indeed strengthened astronomers’ convictions that rivers and perhaps even oceans once flowed on the red planet. “I think the short story is the atmosphere went away and the oceans froze but are still there, locked up in subsurface ice,” said Chris McKay, an astrobiologist and Mars expert at NASA’s Ames Research Center.
In September a new spacecraft known as MAVEN, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, swung into orbit around the planet. Its job is to get a longer answer to one part of the mysterious Martian climate change, namely where the planet’s atmosphere went.

February 19th, 2014

From India, Proof That a Trip to Mars Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank The New York Times

While India’s recent launch of a spacecraft to Mars was a remarkable feat in its own right, it is the $75 million mission’s thrifty approach to time, money and materials that is getting attention.
Just days after the launch of India’s Mangalyaan satellite, NASA sent off its own Mars mission, five years in the making, named Maven. Its cost: $671 million. The budget of India’s Mars mission, by contrast, was just three-quarters of the $100 million that Hollywood spent on last year’s space-based hit, “Gravity.”

November 22nd, 2013

Op/Ed: Why India Is Going to Mars The New York Times

If you want to marry in India and are looking for a bride or groom, normally you need to consult an astrologer, to learn whether the position of the planet Mars is favorable on your birth chart. If not, you may find it difficult to get the match of your choice. Lately, some employers have been trying this as well, matching their horoscopes with those of their prospective employees; companies are also comparing horoscopes with their clients for good fortune. The influence of Mars and the other planets on the life of an average Indian cannot be forgotten, especially this month. On Nov. 5, a Tuesday — Mangalvaar in Hindi, named for the planet Mars — India launched its first mission to the red planet. The day before, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization paid a visit to a temple, to seek the blessings of Lord Venkateswara. If the mission is successful, the Mars Orbiter will study the planet’s atmosphere and mineralogy, map its surface and test for methane, a possible sign of the presence of life.

January 12th, 2012

Russian Official Suggests Weapon Caused Exploration Spacecraft’s Failure The New York Times

A Russian scientific spacecraft whizzing out of control around the Earth, and expected to re-enter the atmosphere on Saturday, may have failed because it was struck by some type of antisatellite weapon, the director of Russia’s space agency said in an interview published Tuesday. He did not say who would want to interfere with the spacecraft, which was intended to explore a moon of Mars. Russia has not succeeded in sending a spacecraft to Mars since the 1980s. An attempt in 1996 to launch a Mars lander that could burrow below the planet’s surface failed because of a flaw in the rocket that carried it.
Phobos-Grunt, which took about five years to build and cost $160 million at current exchange rates, was launched from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan on Nov. 9; it also carried a small Chinese Mars orbiter.

September 3rd, 2011

Mars Rover Discovery Elates NASA The New York Times

It has been driving on and off for more than seven years, but now it has reached its new destination. Opportunity, a small exploratory rover that landed on Mars in 2004, has trundled to a crater called Endeavour. And the first rock it looked at has already opened a new chapter in the study of Mars, NASA scientists said Thursday. On a telephone news conference, mission scientists giddily described that rock: full of zinc and bromine, elements that, at least for rocks on Earth, would be suggestive of geology formed with heat and water.
“This rock doesn’t look like anything else we’ve seen before” on Mars, said Steven W. Squyres, a professor of astronomy at Cornell and principal investigator of the rover mission.

June 19th, 2011

Florida residents send names to Mars The New York Times

More than 34,000 Floridians will go to Mars this year, attached to the back of a wheeled rover. Well, sort of.
As part of an ongoing NASA initiative, the space organization invited people to submit their names online to be included on a dime-sized microchip to land on the red planet later this year.

April 28th, 2011

A Book Store. That’s Right. Book, Singular. The New York Times

At first glance, it looks like a charming independent bookstore, a West Village gem with a window display featuring artful stacks of gleaming hardcovers.
But, wait a minute. Is that one book? Like, many, many copies of the same book?
Selection isn’t the strong suit of Ed’s Martian Book, on Hudson Street, where you can’t buy “Water for Elephants” or anything by Mary Higgins Clark, but 3,000 or so copies of “Martian Summer: Robot Arms, Cowboy Spacemen, and My 90 Days With the Phoenix Mars Mission” (Pegasus, 2011), by a 32-year-old Brooklyn author named Andrew Kessler, are available for $27.95 each.
The book is Mr. Kessler’s account of NASA’s 2008 Phoenix Mars Lander mission, reported during 90 days inside mission control, in Tucson, alongside 130 leading scientists and engineers. Publishers Weekly calls the book a “slightly offbeat firsthand account of scientific determination and stubborn intellect” that “delivers a fascinating journey of discovery peppered with humor.”

December 21st, 2010

The Right Stuff to Wear The New York Times

A traveling exhibition of photographs and X-ray images will put spacesuits in all their complexity on display. Most of the National Air and Space Museum’s collection of about 300 spacesuits are stashed in a Smithsonian storage building , laid out five high on steel racks in a climate-controlled room. Each is protected by a sheet of muslin, giving the room the eerie feel of a morgue or the final resting place of members of an odd space cult. There are Mercury suits like the one worn by Scott Carpenter, the fourth American in space, its iconic reflective coating coming off in spots. There’s the Apollo 11 suit worn by Neil A. Armstrong, looking about as pristine as when he made his first small step on the moon in 1969, thanks to a cleaning job by NASA that, in retrospect, was ill advised because it damaged the materials the suit was made of. Nearby lies Harrison H. Schmitt’s Apollo 17 outfit, still heavily coated in lunar grit.

August 10th, 2010

All the Right Stuff and the Gross Stuff The New York Times

In conducting research into the physiology of astronauts in space, Mary Roach found out that one man on a Space Shuttle flight wore a sound monitor on his belly for the duration of his voyage. It is Ms. Roach’s style to be less interested in the belly-noise findings than in the freaky-deaky part of the story. “Don’t feel bad for him,” she writes in “Packing for Mars” about that awkwardly wired astronaut. “Feel bad for the Air Force security guy assigned to listen to two weeks of bowel sounds to be sure no conversations including classified information had been inadvertently recorded.” Ms. Roach has already written zealously nosy books about corpses (“Stiff”), copulation (“Bonk”) and charlatans (“Spook”). Each time, what has interested her most is the fringe material: exotic footnotes, smart one-liners, bizarre quasi-scientific phenomena. Yet her fluffily lightweight style is at its most substantial — and most hilarious — in the zero-gravity realm that “Packing for Mars” explores. Here’s why: The topic of astronauts’ bodily functions provides as good an excuse to ask rude questions as you’ll find on this planet or any other.