November 5th, 2014

Aerospace Gurus Show Off a Fancy Space Suit Made for Mars Wired

This talk is from WIRED by Design, a two-day live magazine event that celebrated all forms of creative problem solving.
The space suits astronauts wear today are marvels of engineering, but they’re far from perfect. For one thing, they’re unwieldy. At a weight of nearly 300 pounds, astronauts have to expend a huge amount of energy just to move them around. “It was great for 45 years ago, but we can do better,” says Dava Newman.

October 21st, 2014

What It Could Be Like to Live on Mars Wired

I’d always wanted to visit Mars. Instead I got Hawaii. There, about 8,200 feet above sea level on Mauna Loa, sits a geodesically domed habitat for testing crew psychology and technologies for boldly going. I did a four-month tour at the NASA-funded HI-SEAS—that’s Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation—in 2013, and a new 8-month mission is scheduled to start in October. It’s a long time to be cooped up, “so the psychological impacts are extremely important,” habitat designer Vincent Paul Ponthieux says. The key to keeping everybody sane? A sense of airiness. Yep—even on Mars, you’re going to need more space.

July 10th, 2014

Meet the Couple Who Could Be the First Humans to Travel to Mars Wired

Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum are planning a trip to Mars. They’ve been hashing out the details for 20 years now, and alternate between being extremely excited and utterly terrified by the prospect, refusing to discuss it after 5 p.m. to avoid nightmares.
The couple’s far-out dreams of space travel differ from those of many others because theirs could, potentially, come true. They founded a private space company called Paragon Space Development Corporation to find the most feasible way to send two people on a round-trip flyby of the Red Planet. Even the best possible plan will be extremely challenging. The list of things they still need to figure out is long and includes how to protect themselves against deadly radiation, how much food, water, and air to bring, and how to store their waste. Meanwhile, they must wait for Congress to agree to fund the project and allow the use of the NASA Space Launch System and Orion crew vehicle for transport.
And they need to figure this all out soon: They have only a brief window of time at the end of 2021 when Mars and Earth will align in such a way to make this trip possible.

May 5th, 2014

This Spacesuit for Exploring Mars Is a Form-Fitting Math Problem Wired

In science fiction, from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Ender’s Game, astronauts zip around zero-g environments clad in stylish, skin-tight spacesuits. In reality, outfits designed for outer space are bulky, hard to maneuver, and have all the charm of adult diapers. Even their name, Extravehicular Mobility Units, or EMUs, is clumsy.
Enter Dava Newman, fashion designer to the stars. You won’t see her work on the red carpet, but if this MIT professor has her way, all the most fashionable space explorers will be wearing her designs when they set foot on the red planet.

February 18th, 2014

Supersonic Jet Ditches Windows for Massive Live-Streaming Screens Wired

Spike Aerospace is in the midst of building the first supersonic private jet. And when the $80 million S-512 takes off in December 2018, it won’t have something you’d find on every other passenger aircraft: windows.
The Boston-based aerospace firm is taking advantage of recent advances in video recording, live-streaming, and display technology with an interior that replaces the windows with massive, high-def screens. The S-512’s exterior will be lined with tiny cameras sending footage to thin, curved displays lining the interior walls of the fuselage. The result will be an unbroken panoramic view of the outside world. And if passengers want to sleep or distract themselves from ominous rainclouds, they can darken the screen or choose from an assortment of ambient images. But this isn’t just a wiz-bang feature for an eight-figure aircraft.
While windows are essential for keeping claustrophobia in check, they require engineering workarounds that compromise a fuselage’s simple structure. And that goes two-fold for a supersonic aircraft. An airplane is stronger sans windows, which is one of the reasons why planes carrying military personnel or packages fly without them. Putting passenger windows on an airplane requires meticulous construction — the ovular shape, small aperture, and double-pane construction are all there to maintain cabin pressure and resist cracking while flying 500 mph at 35,000 feet.
It would be much simpler and safer to have a smooth-skinned, window-less fuselage, but frequent fliers have become accustomed to a calming view of the clouds and tiny cities during takeoff and landing.

January 24th, 2014

Kerbal Space Program to get children as well as Kerbals into space Wired

More details have been announced for KerbalEdu, the educational version of Kerbal Space Program’s sandbox space flight sim.
The game sees players constructing spacecraft to launch the little green Kerbals into space as part of the titular Kerbal Space Program.
Propulsion systems, thrusters, aerodynamic design, power generation and docking capabilities, return trips and so on all need to be considered by the player otherwise you have to go through the hearbreak of stranding your Kerbals in space (telling yourself you will one day return to rescue them) or seeing them consumed in a catastrophic rocket malfunction.

August 5th, 2013

Curiosity’s Hard-Working Year on Mars Pays Off With Amazing Scientific Discoveries Wired

NASA’s Curiosity rover is a gigantic mobile laboratory. During the last year, it has roved over the Martian surface exploring a small section of Gale crater while making huge scientific discoveries.
The rover was built as a data-generating machine. You put rocks, air, and samples in and you get science out. Specifically, Curiosity is searching for signs of ancient habitability and seeking to answer an important question: Could Mars have ever had living organisms crawling over its surface?
Curiosity’s science team includes geologists, chemists, physicists, astrobiologists, and countless other researchers. Using the probe’s state-of-the-art equipment, they have drilled into Martian rocks, fired lasers and X-rays, baked powdered soil for analysis, and sniffed the atmosphere. Many of these activities had never been done on the Red Planet, or any planet beyond Earth, before. The data received from Curiosity has bolstered the idea that the planet once had water flowing over its surface and was a place where life could have conceivably thrived. It will take many more months and years of exploring to completely tease out all the details but the rover has already exceeded the expectations of its original designers.

February 20th, 2013

Space Tourist to Announce Daring Manned Mars Voyage for 2018 Wired

The world’s first space tourist, Dennis Tito is planning to launch a manned mission to Mars in January 2018 on a round-trip journey lasting 501 days.
Tito, who paid about $20 million to visit the International Space Station in 2001, has founded a new nonprofit company called the Inspiration Mars Foundation. The manned mission is intended to “generate new knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration,” according to a press briefing posted by NASA Watch, a website dedicated to space news, on Feb. 20.
The company will hold a press conference on Feb. 27 to provide details of the mission and answer any questions, of which there are numerous. In particular, how the mission intends to keep its participants safe and healthy during the journey will be a key issue.

January 18th, 2013

NASA Mohawk Guy to Ride With Mars Rover in Obama’s Inaugural Parade Wired

Presidential inaugurations are big deals, and tend to attract high-profile stars like Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen who are eager to rub elbows with the newly inaugurated commander-in-chief. But next week, a very unusual celebrity will be appearing in President Obama’s parade: the NASA scientist known as “Mohawk Guy.”
Bobak Ferdowsi, who earned the love and admiration of nerds everywhere as the vertically coiffed activity lead for NASA’s mission to Mars, will be rolling with his fellow scientists in Obama’s inaugural parade on Jan. 21 and a full-scale model of the Curiosity rover that they safely landed on Mars in August of last year, as well as a life-size replica of the new Orion capsule. And in true Ferdowsi fashion, he’s also planning a new haircut for the event – but all he’s saying right now is that it will be a “surprise.”

December 4th, 2012

Opportunity Rover Finds Mars Minerals That Formed in Life-Friendly Water Wired

While attention has been focused on the Mars rover Curiosity, NASA’s other active Mars rover, Opportunity, has quietly been going about its business and may have stumbled across an intriguing new geologic puzzle. Opportunity has begun examining ancient clays on Mars that would have formed in the presence of water with neutral acidity, a condition favorable for life as we know it.
“This is our first glimpse ever at an ancient Mars where conditions would be suitable for life,” said astronomer Steve Squyres of Cornell University, the lead scientist for Opportunity’s mission, here at the American Geophysical Union conference on December 4, 2012

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