March 20th, 2013

NASA Passed on Mars Flyby Mission in 1990s U.S.News & World Report

Millionaire entrepreneur Dennis Tito got space enthusiasts excited last month when he announced a project to fly a married couple around Mars in 2018—but NASA may have passed on a similar mission when it was proposed in the late 1990s by a prominent aerospace engineer.
According to Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society and a prominent advocate for exploration of the red planet, he had meetings with former NASA administrator Daniel Goldin in the late 1990s to pitch him a nearly identical mission to Tito’s that would have launched in 2001 and cost the agency about $2 billion.
Dubbed Athena, the mission would have used technology that existed in 1996 on a two-year Mars flyby mission. Two astronauts would have orbited the planet for about a year, remotely-controlling rovers on the Martian surface with about 100 times less lag time than rovers controlled from Earth. The spaceship would never land on Mars, which Zubrin contends was Goldin’s problem with the mission.

April 4th, 2004

Marsh gas on Mars U.S.News & World Report

Have scientists caught the scent of life on Mars? Observations from a European probe circling the planet and a telescope on Earth have detected a wisp of methane in its thin atmosphere. On Earth, most methane, aka marsh gas, comes from living things, such as the microbe-rich goop in swamps. Don’t get in a lather yet. On Mars, the source could well be nonbiological, such as water interacting with hot, volcanic rock under the surface. But even that could raise hopes of Mars life: Heat-loving microbes teem on and within Earth’s undersea volcanic vents. “If this is right, it is very exciting,” exclaimed James Kasting, an atmospheric chemist at Penn State University, as word spread last week at a meeting on astrobiology–the search for alien life–at NASA’s Ames Research Center south of San Francisco.

March 15th, 2002

Our First Martians U.S.News & World Report

For three years, Ken Edgett & Mike Malin have each spent as much as 80 hours a week staring at new images (more than 100,000 so far) gathered by a gadget called MOC, for Mars Orbiter Camera, which has been circling the planet since 1997 aboard the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. The camera, which Malin designed and built for NASA, is a technical triumph that could see a golf cart from 250 miles up. Malin Space Science Systems has been analyzing the stream of images it radios home. Malin and Edgett’s eyewitness reports are part of a continuing revolution in scientists’ view of Mars. In spite of some spectacular failures

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