Simulated Mars trip planned to find best meals on the red planet. It’s almost like a picnic!
Life may exist in some form on Mars. Well-stocked supermarkets don’t.
So if astronauts someday head there in what’s estimated would be a three-year mission — roughly six months travel each way, plus two years on the planet — what they’d take to eat would be among the concerns.
To figure the cheapest and easiest ways to give astronauts well-rounded meals that they wouldn’t eventually tire of, a group of Cornell University andUniversity of Hawaii-Manoa researchers are looking for a half-dozen volunteers to spend four months next year living in a simulated Mars base on a Hawaii lava flow.
The volunteers will live essentially like astronauts, Hunter says. They’ll dress in simulated spacesuits — hazardous material suits instead of heavier and more cumbersome spacesuits. They’ll take a mix of the prepared foods NASA astronauts eat today and some shelf-stable foods, such as flour, sugar and freeze-dried meats, for making their own meals.
NASA currently has no plans for a Mars mission, though it’s developing a rocket for deep-space distances, such as the moon or Mars, spokesman J.D. Harrington says. It also has a research projects underway that look at other issues related to long spaceflights, such as radiation exposure and eyesight problems astronauts often develop, he says.
The site of the study hasn’t been determined, though there are a number of locations in Hawaii that are “quite Mars-like in various ways,” says Kim Binstead, co-investigator at the University of Hawaii-NASA Astrobiology Institute. “We need a site that is very low on vegetation, visually isolated, visually Mars-like and very stark.”
Volunteers, Hunter says, should be mostly scientists or engineers and “people who are congenial or easygoing, without a whole lot of prickles — people who are interested in food, who know how to cook. And people who are healthy.”
Those chosen will go to Cornell this summer to train to prepare meals with the given supplies, Hunter says. There’ll be a two-week dry run before the four-month experiment “to make sure everyone gets along and the equipment works,” she says.
The deadline for applying is Feb. 29. To apply, go to manoa.hawaii.edu/hi-seas. Researchers say they’ll make their choices by the end of May.
Source: USA Today
First human-robot handshake… in space
To my knowledge, in the history of human/robot relations, there has never been a time when humans shook hands with robots in space.
Until yesterday, anyway.
That’s because NASA’s Robonaut completed its systems checks aboard the International Space Station, which culminated in a handshake with Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank. The robot, which has been slowly assembled over the past year on the ISS, has now completed its systems checks. In addition to the handshake, it also said, using American sign language, “Hello World.”
“For the record, it was a firm handshake,” Burbank said to NASA. “Very nice. Nice job on the programming and all the engineering. Quite an impressive robot.”
The Robonaut is designed to perform maintenance tasks aboard the space station to free up the Astronauts for more important research tasks. You can follow Robonaut on Twitter here.
Orion Test - 2014
As planned, an unmanned Orion capsule will begin its journey at Cape Canaveral and take two loops around Earth before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. What’s now clear is that the capsule will be sent far beyond the lower Earth orbit of the International Space Station.
At its peak, Orion’s orbit is expected to extend nearly 3,700 miles from Earth - the farthest a NASA spacecraft built for humans has gone since the early 1970s.
That distance is “significantly higher than human spaceflight has gone since Apollo,” said Larry Price, Orion deputy program manager at Lockheed Martin. “The reason for that is so we can get a high-energy entry so we can stress the heat shield.”
The test will determine whether Orion can survive the re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere - where temperatures are expected to reach 4,000 degrees - in preparation for a human flight in 2021. NASA hopes that Orion eventually can carry astronauts back to the moon or to nearby asteroids.
Besides the heat shield, the practice flight is designed to test 10 systems whose failure could be disastrous, including the capsule’s flight software and parachutes. Like its Apollo-era predecessors, the four-person Orion capsuleis designed to land in water.
“The beauty about flying in 2014 is that we can learn early [if there are problems], so if we find something we really got to fix we’ve got time before we fly people,” said Mark Geyer, head of the Orion program at NASA.
So Newt Gingrich claims he’ll establish a moon base by his second term as president if he wins. A grandiose plan indeed.
Well how economically feasible is a moon base, will a colony be able to pay itself if one was established? I suppose we’ll just mine the hell out of the moon, but exactly how difficult will mining the moon actually be?
My colleague Joel Achenbach has a great piece assessing Newt Gingrich’s proposal to mobilize the private sector for space exploration — and colonizing the moon. But why would we want a moon colony anyway? Mining? Joshua Keating ponders whether moon mining is all it’s hyped up to be:
But while the KREEP-rich samples brought back by the Apollo astronauts led researchers to believe that rare earth metals were abundant through the moon, recent gamma-ray spectrometer analysis has indicated that there’s far less rare-earth material on the moon than previously thought, and that’s it’s concentrated in specific areas. In other words, prospective moon miners should pick their landing site carefully.
Others, notably former Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmidt, have suggested mining the moon for Helium-3, an isotope that’s relatively common on the lunar surface but extremely rare on earth. Helium is used for a variety of current purposes, including radiation detection and MRIs, but some believe it could also be used for nuclear fusion power. … Unfortunately, mining HE-3 is not so easy.
Read the whole thing. By the way, it’s true that we poor Earthlings are at risk of running out of Helium-3, which is useful for medical imaging, for detecting smuggled nuclear weapons material, and also as a potential fuel for next-generation fusion reactors. But the United States is mainly facing a looming Helium-3 shortage because of bureaucratic bungling. The Energy Department has inadvertently been selling off the isotope, a by-product of the nuclear-weapons program, six times as fast as it was being produced. Fixing that oversight sounds like a modest first step before we go off harvesting our lunar counterpart.
(Article Via The Washington Post)
(Image Via ImpactLab)
Source: Washington Post
Asteroid threat sparks ‘NEOshield’ project
They can be mean and nasty, and they can mess up our planet big time.
They are near-Earth objects, dubbed NEOs, celestial flotsam such as asteroids or comets that can, and have, scored direct hits on our humble home planet.
A new international consortium has been launched to address the impact threat to Earth, but, more pointedly, to organize, prepare and implement mitigation measures.
Called NEOShield, the European Commission is providing a significant amount of euros to support the initiative. The undertaking consists of research institutes, universities and industrial partners in Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Spain, as well as in the U.S. and Russia.
The primary aim of NEOShield is to investigate in detail the three most promising asteroid threat-reduction techniques: kinetic impactors, gravity tractors, and the explosive blast-deflection method.
Gravity tractors and the nuke it approach, read more here
Russia Plans New Moon and Mars Missions
Despite the recent spectacular crash of Russia’s Phobos-Grunt probe, the Russian space agency Roscosmos has big plans. Roscosmos is negotiating with the European Space Agency to fly to Mars between 2016 and 2018. Russia also intends to send two spacecraft to the moon by 2020, and may later build a manned research station there, officials said.
Russia in planning new exploration missions to the moon and Mars, despite the recent spectacular crash of a probe that was to have traveled to the Red Planet.
“We are currently negotiating with the European Space Agency that we fly there (Mars) in the period 2016-2018,” said Vladimir Popovkin, head of Russia’s national space agency Roscosmos, in an interview Thursday on the Vesti FM radio station.
Russia also intends to send two spacecraft to the moon by 2020, and may later build a manned research station there, he said.
Popovkin’s comments came in the wake of Sunday’s crash of Russia’s Phobos-Grunt probe into the Pacific Ocean. The spaceship was designed to obtain a soil sample from the Mars moon Phobos and bring it back to Earth, but the probe’s interplanetary engines failed to fire.
Roscosmos also was in talks with the US national space agency NASA on possible joint construction of a manned base on the earth satellite’s surface or, alternatively, positioning an automated research station in orbit around the moon, Popovkin said.
Russian government funding for the projects, which are still in preliminary development, has not yet been allocated, he said.
The ill-fated Phobos-Grunt flight was Roscosmos’ first attempted interplanetary mission in 15 years. The probe’s development and launch cost some 160 million dollars.
The most likely causes of the probe’s failure were outdated computer programs and human error, Popovkin said.
(Article Via Sci-tech-today)
(Image Via Space.com)
Aurora Australis Observed from the International Space Station
Among the views of Earth afforded astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), surely one of the most spectacular is of the aurora. These ever-shifting displays of colored ribbons, curtains, rays, and spots are most visible near the North (aurora borealis) and South (aurora australis) Poles as charged particles (ions) streaming from the Sun (the solar wind) interact with Earth’s magnetic field.
While aurora are generally only visible close to the poles, severe magnetic storms impacting the Earth’s magnetic field can shift them towards the equator. This striking aurora image was taken during a geomagnetic storm that was most likely caused by a coronal mass ejection from the Sun on May 24, 2010. The ISS was located over the Southern Indian Ocean at an altitude of 350 kilometers (220 miles), with the astronaut observer most likely looking towards Antarctica (not visible) and the South Pole.
The aurora has a sinuous ribbon shape that separates into discrete spots near the lower right corner of the image. While the dominant coloration of the aurora is green, there are faint suggestions of red left of image center. Dense cloud cover is dimly visible below the aurora. The curvature of the Earth’s horizon (the limb) is clearly visible, as is the faint blue line of the upper atmosphere directly above it (at image top center). Several stars appear as bright pinpoints against the blackness of space at image top right.
Auroras happen when ions in the solar wind collide with atoms of oxygen and nitrogen in the upper atmosphere. The atoms are excited by these collisions, and they typically emit light as they return to their original energy level. The light creates the aurora that we see. The most commonly observed color of aurora is green, caused by light emitted by excited oxygen atoms at wavelengths centered at 0.558 micrometers, or millionths of a meter. (Visible light is reflected from healthy (green) plant leaves at approximately the same wavelength.) Red aurora are generated by light emitted at a longer wavelength (0.630 micrometers), and other colors such as blue and purple are also sometimes observed.
(Via Nasa Earth Observatory)
NASA tests parachutes
Last month NASA tested the parachutes on it’s new Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. A C-130 aircraft dropped a mockup of the design during the test and the parachutes were said to have done well in a failure scenario.
Orbital test flights will commence in 2014 even though the actual launching platform for Orion, called the Space Launch Systems (SLS), won’t be ready until 2017.
Deep Space flights with the Orion-SLS combo are predicted to occur in 2021.
But what really comes out at me is that the name of the vehicle reminds me of a different type of vehicle proposed by NASA for deep space missions in the late 1950’s. The original Project Orion proposed a deep space vehicle powered by nuclear explosions.
Small nuclear ordinances would be tossed out the back end of the spacecraft, and the resulting explosion would produce a wave of expanding plasma which would impact a “pusher” plate at the rear of the spacecraft, propelling Project Orion forward.
Noteworthy facts about Project Orion:
- A single Project Orion mission would have been sufficient to establish a large permanent moon base.
- Project Orion aimed for a manned mission to Mars by 1965
- Project Orion aimed for a manned mission to Saturn by 1970
- A ship powered by the Orion drive could have travelled to Pluto and back to Earth in less than a year.
- The spacecraft envisaged for Project Orion were single-stage and entirely reusable. Unlike Saturn V, the Space Shuttle, Ares, etc., there are no discardable fuel tanks or booster rockets. In Project Orion, the entire craft would travel to its destination, regardless of whether that is Earth orbit, the moon, Mars or Saturn.
- Project Orion plans were developed for craft varying in size from 300 tons (the smallest version) to 8,000,000 tons (the size of a small city). By comparison, the Shuttle orbiter has a mass of approximately 110 tons and can carry about 30 tons of payload into low Earth orbit, and the Saturn V could launch about 120 tons in low Earth orbit or 50 tons into lunar orbit.
- Including development and all other costs, Project Orion was estimated to be at least 20 times cheaper per pound, than any chemical rocket, at putting payload into low Earth orbit… and vastly cheaper for more distant destinations.
- The scientists working on Project Orion didn’t just plan to send a few highly trained astronauts on space missions; they intended to go themselves to Saturn, in many cases taking their wives and children with them!
(Via Project Orion)
We made it to the moon in less then a hundred years after first flight. We went from planes barely able to maintain flight for more then a couple minutes to landing a man on the moon!
I believe in the next hundred years, we’ll go even further. How far? I cannot say. I can say one thing though. I’ll be there, making it happen, along with every other human who shares my dream.
P.S. I’m naming the first interstellar ship after Sagan
If you need me I’ll be in Space
Tsunamis this large don’t happen on Earth. During 2006, a large solar flare from an Earth-sized sunspot produced a tsunami-type shock wave that was spectacular even for the Sun. Pictured above, the tsunami wave was captured moving out from active region AR 10930 by the Optical Solar Patrol Network (OSPAN) telescope in New Mexico, USA. The resulting shock wave, known technically as a Moreton wave, compressed and heated up gasses including hydrogen in the photosphere of the Sun, causing a momentarily brighter glow. The above image was taken in a very specific red color emitted exclusively by hydrogen gas. The rampaging tsunami took out some active filaments on the Sun, although many re-established themselves later. The solar tsunami spread at nearly one million kilometers per hour, and circled the entire Sun in a matter of minutes.