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Posts tagged ‘Venturing to Sarnie Owl’

Space station receives oldest female astronaut, bit of Mars

November 20, 2016

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The International Space Station gained three new residents Saturday, including the oldest and most experienced woman to orbit the world. A bit of Mars also arrived, courtesy of a Frenchman who brought along a small piece of a Mars meteorite.

Launched Thursday from Kazakhstan, the Russian Soyuz capsule docked at the 250-mile-high outpost just an hour or two before NASA launched a weather satellite from Florida. The Soyuz delivered NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy. They joined three men already on board, one American and two Russians.

This is the third space station mission for Whitson, who at 56 is older than each of her crewmates. She already holds the record for most time in space for a woman: nearly 400 days during her various missions. By the time she returns next spring, she should break the record for any American, man or woman.

“We could not be more proud,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told Whitson once she entered the space station. He joined the new crew’s family and friends at Russia’s Mission Control outside Moscow to welcome the newcomers on board.

“I’m really happy to be here,” Whitson replied. A biochemist by training, Whitson will celebrate her 57th birthday at the orbiting lab in February. Until Thursday, no woman older than 55 had flown in space.

Pesquet, meanwhile, is making his first spaceflight and Novitskiy his second. Before rocketing away, Pesquet told reporters he was taking up a piece of a Mars meteorite to illustrate the necessary union between human and robotic explorers. He intends to bring the stone back with him to Earth in six months. It then will launch aboard a Mars rover and return to its home planet.

“So it’s going to be the most experienced space traveler there is in the world,” Pesquet said Wednesday at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. “The idea is to show that space exploration is just the whole … we’re not competing against robotic exploration, we’re all working together. What we do on the (space station) is just one step on that road to exploration.”

Sunday marks the 18th anniversary of the launch of the first space station piece. It’s now as big as a football field, with a mass of 1 million pounds and eight miles of electrical wiring. Whitson and company represent its 50th full-time expedition.

“So we can celebrate the station’s birthday today,” said Sergei Krikalev, a cosmonaut-turned-space official who spoke from the Russian control center. “Good luck.”

NASA Scientists Discover Unexpected Mineral on Mars

Pasadena CA (JPL)

Jun 24, 2016

Scientists have discovered an unexpected mineral in a rock sample at Gale Crater on Mars, a finding that may alter our understanding of how the planet evolved.

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, has been exploring sedimentary rocks within Gale Crater since landing in August 2012. In July 2015, on Sol 1060 (the number of Martian days since landing), the rover collected powder drilled from rock at a location named “Buckskin.”

Analyzing data from an X-ray diffraction instrument on the rover that identifies minerals, scientists detected significant amounts of a silica mineral called tridymite.

This detection was a surprise to the scientists, because tridymite is generally associated with silicic volcanism, which is known on Earth but was not thought to be important or even present on Mars.

The discovery of tridymite might induce scientists to rethink the volcanic history of Mars, suggesting that the planet once had explosive volcanoes that led to the presence of the mineral.

Scientists in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston led the study. A paper on the team’s findings has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“On Earth, tridymite is formed at high temperatures in an explosive process called silicic volcanism. Mount St. Helens, the active volcano in Washington State, and the Satsuma-Iwojima volcano in Japan are examples of such volcanoes.

“The combination of high silica content and extremely high temperatures in the volcanoes creates tridymite,” said Richard Morris, NASA planetary scientist at Johnson and lead author of the paper.

“The tridymite was incorporated into ‘Lake Gale’ mudstone at Buckskin as sediment from erosion of silicic volcanic rocks.”

The paper also will stimulate scientists to re-examine the way tridymite forms. The authors examined terrestrial evidence that tridymite could form at low temperatures from geologically reasonable processes and not imply silicic volcanism. They found none. Researchers will need to look for ways that it could form at lower temperatures.

“I always tell fellow planetary scientists to expect the unexpected on Mars,” said Doug Ming, ARES chief scientist at Johnson and co-author of the paper.

“The discovery of tridymite was completely unexpected. This discovery now begs the question of whether Mars experienced a much more violent and explosive volcanic history during the early evolution of the planet than previously thought.”

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/NASA_Scientists_Discover_Unexpected_Mineral_on_Mars_999.html.

SpaceX could send people to Mars by 2024, Elon Musk says

by Shawn Price

Los Angeles (UPI)

Jun 3, 2016

SpaceX Chief Elon Musk is predicting his company will be able to launch humans to Mars by 2024.

Speaking at Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. on Wednesday, Musk said if there are no delays, there could be a human colony on Mars by 2025 and promised to give more details of his company’s “architecture for Mars colonization” at a global space conference in September.

“What really matters is being able to transport large numbers of people and ultimately millions of tons of cargo to Mars,” Musk said. “That’s what’s necessary in order to create a … growing city on Mars.”

SpaceX announced plans in April to send an unmanned Dragon Version 2 craft to the red planet possibly as soon as 2018, with the goal of landing large payloads there without parachutes or airbags or aerodynamic decelerators.

Musk acknowledged a schedule more ambitious than NASA’s, that isn’t intending to put a man on Mars until the at least the 2030s.

“When I cite a schedule, it is actually the schedule I think is true,” said Musk. “It’s not some fake schedule that I don’t think is true. It may be delusional. That is entirely possible from time to time. But it’s never some knowingly fake deadline ever.”

He also implied he could one day move to Mars for good. “I think if you’re going to choose a place to die, then Mars is probably not a bad choice,” Musk said.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/SpaceX_could_send_people_to_Mars_by_2024_Elon_Musk_says_999.html.

Potential Habitats for Early Life on Mars

San Francisco CA (SPX)

May 25, 2016

San Francisco CA (SPX) May 25, 2016 Recently discovered evidence of carbonates beneath the surface of Mars points to a warmer and wetter environment in that planet’s past. The presence of liquid water could have fostered the emergence of life.

A new study by James Wray at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Janice Bishop of the SETI Institute, as well as other collaborators, has found evidence for widespread buried deposits of iron- and calcium-rich Martian carbonates, which suggests a wetter past for the Red Planet.

“Identification of these ancient carbonates and clays on Mars represents a window into history when the climate on Mars was very different from the cold and dry desert of today,” notes Bishop.

The fate of water on Mars has been energetically debated by scientists because the planet is currently dry and cold, in contrast to the widespread fluvial features that etch much of its surface. Scientists believe that if water did once flow on the surface of Mars, the planet’s bedrock should be full of carbonates and clays, which would be evidence that Mars once hosted habitable environments with liquid water.

Researchers have struggled to find physical evidence for carbonate-rich bedrock, which may have formed when carbon dioxide in the planet’s early atmosphere was trapped in ancient surface waters. They have focused their search on Mars’ Huygens basin.

This feature is an ideal site to investigate carbonates because multiple impact craters and troughs have exposed ancient, subsurface materials where carbonates can be detected across a broad region. And according to study led James Wray, “outcrops in the 450-km wide Huygens basin contain both clay minerals and iron- or calcium-rich carbonate-bearing rocks.”

The study has highlighted evidence of carbonate-bearing rocks in multiple sites across Mars, including Lucaya crater, where carbonates and clays 3.8 billion years old were buried by as much as 5 km of lava and caprock.

The researchers, supported by the SETI Institute’s NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) team, identified carbonates on the planet using data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM), which is on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This instrument collects the spectral fingerprints of carbonates and other minerals through vibrational transitions of the molecules in their crystal structure that produce infrared emission.

The team paired CRISM data with images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) and Context Camera (CTX) on the orbiter, as well as the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) on the Mars Global Surveyor, to gain insights into the geologic features associated with carbonate-bearing rocks.

The extent of the global distribution of Martian carbonates is not yet fully resolved and the early climate on the Red Planet is still subject of debate. However, this study is a forward step in understanding the potential habitability of ancient Mars.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/Potential_Habitats_for_Early_Life_on_Mars_999.html.

Space X’s Red Dragons to start Mars exploration in 2018

Los Angeles CA (Sputnik)

Apr 28, 2016

The Space X aerospace company has scheduled a 2018 test mission to Mars that, under the ambitious plans announced by company head Elon Musk, will become the first step to colonizing the Red Planet.

On Wednesday, the company teased the launch of its “Red Dragon” on Twitter, intended to “inform overall Mars architecture.”

A company spokesperson detailed that the major goal of the mission will be to find a safe method of landing large payloads on the surface of Mars, a planet with a very low-density atmosphere, compared with Earth.

Red Dragon, designed for long-range outer space missions, will use an upgraded version of Space X’s Dragon cargo spacecraft. The spacecraft will be powered by eight SuperDraco engines that will provide enough propulsive capability for a soft landing on the Martian surface, Ars Technica reported.

Space X will launch the Red Dragon spacecraft atop its Falcon Heavy rocket, a newer version of the Falcon rocket, in has tested recently.

The first Martian mission will be unmanned, but Musk said that piloted flights could become possible by 2020.

The Space X mission, if successful, will be the first interplanetary travel conducted by a commercial enterprise.After the first mission, Space X intends to use the Red Dragon to explore areas space beyond Mars.

Musk has promised to provide details on a hypothetical city to be built on Mars, at the upcoming September 2016 Aeronautical Conference.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/Space_Xs_Red_Dragons_to_Start_Mars_Exploration_in_2018_999.html.

SpaceX vows to send capsule to Mars by 2018

Miami (AFP)

April 27, 2016

SpaceX chief Elon Musk announced Wednesday that he will send an unmanned spaceship to Mars as early as 2018, as part of his quest to colonize the Red Planet some day.

Few details of the plan were released by Musk, the Internet entrepreneur who rose to fame as the cofounder of PayPal and currently also runs Tesla Motors.

“Planning to send Dragon to Mars as soon as 2018,” Musk announced on Twitter.

“Red Dragons will inform overall Mars architecture details to come.”

He appeared to be referring to an upgraded version of the California-based company’s Dragon cargo capsule, which is currently used as an unmanned spacecraft to shuttle food and supplies to and from the International Space Station.

“Dragon 2 is designed to be able to land anywhere in the solar system. Red Dragon Mars mission is the first test flight,” Musk tweeted.

However, there were no immediate plans for people to hitch a ride, he noted.

“But wouldn’t recommend transporting astronauts beyond Earth-moon region. Wouldn’t be fun for longer journeys,” he wrote.

The internal volume of the capsule is about the size of a sports utility vehicle, he added.

NASA is studying the effects of long-term spaceflight on the human body and has announced plans to send people to Mars by the 2030s.

However, it remains unclear how people would survive the long journey of a year or more, needing adequate food and water and protection from space radiation during the trip.

Musk has previously spoken of his vision of creating a colony of a million earthlings on Mars, in order to make humanity “multi-planetary” and avoid the risk of extinction on Earth.

His most recent feats include managing to return the first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets to an upright landing on water and on solid ground, as part of his effort to make rockets as reusable as airplanes.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/SpaceX_vows_to_send_capsule_to_Mars_by_2018_999.html.

First joint EU-Russian ExoMars mission to reach Mars orbit Oct 16

Moscow (Sputnik)

Apr 13, 2016

The first ever joint project between the European Union and Russia on the search for life on Mars – the ExoMars spacecraft- will reach Mars’ orbit on October 16, the head of Roscosmos State Corporation said.

“We expect the ExoMars spacecraft to enter the orbit of Mars around October 16 and later start its work,” Igor Komarov said.

A Russian Proton-M rocket carrier lifted off with the ExoMars’ orbital and the landing modules from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14.

The ExoMars-2016’s main mission is to prove the existence of methane in the planet’s atmosphere, which would confirm the existence of life on Mars.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/First_joint_EU_Russian_ExoMars_mission_to_reach_Mars_orbit_Oct_16_999.html.

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