16 February 2012—The failure of Russia’s ambitious Phobos-Grunt sample-return probe has been shrouded in confusion and mystery, from the first inklings that something had gone wrong after its 9 November launch all the way to inconsistent reports of where it fell to Earth on 15 January. What was never mysterious was how important the mission goal was—to land a probe on the Martian moon Phobos and then return soil samples to Earth. It was to have been the flagship mission that vaulted Russia back into prominence in interplanetary exploration after a quarter century of disappointment and delay, but it quickly turned into a heartbreaking debacle. On the heels of a woeful parade of other space failures, the mission cast an ominous shadow over the entire Russian space industry. The release of the official accident investigation results on 3 February served only to further rumors of fundamental hardware and software design flaws, and of blatant violations of … [Read more...] about Did Bad Memory Chips Down Russia’s Mars Probe?
Mars 1 mission
This is part of IEEE Spectrum‘s Special Report: Why Mars? Why Now? I slowly scan the nearby rocks and crags, letting my gaze drift up toward the horizon. My eyes are searching for a recognizable shape—anything that’s not a rock—to give me a sense of scale. I come up empty. Mars is all around me, here in the StarCAVE, a virtual reality enclosure at the University of California, San Diego. Five projectors transform a room the size of a walk-in closet into a 360-degree panorama of the view from the basin of the large Gusev Crater. For the near future at least, only robots will touch Martian soil. But even after the rusty surface becomes a trampled mess of human boot prints, we—you and I—probably won’t qualify for the trip. So even if “mankind” one day reaches the Red Planet, most of us are destined, at best, to experience its exploration secondhand. The good news is that such secondhand participation is likely to be a lot better … [Read more...] about Mars For The Rest Of Us
Colonizing Mars has long represented one of the more ambitious dreams for space travel proponents ranging from NASA scientists to Silicon Valley entrepreneur and SpaceX founder Elon Musk . The latter also envisions sending humans to Mars sometimes in the next several decades, and has mused about how to build a Mars colony population of 1 million people in an Aeon interview . Mars One — a nonprofit organization based in the Netherlands — shares some of the Musk’s goals and indeed, the Mars One vision relies on Musk’s SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. But Mars One’s concept of seeding Mars with human colonies by launching one-way missions recently received some close scrutiny from a team of MIT researchers. The MIT team’s critique identified potential challenges and estimated that settling the first batch of Mars colonists would require about 15 launches of the Falcon Heavy rocket being developed by … [Read more...] about Will Humans Start Colonizing Mars in Ten Years?
It’s your typical spelunking saga: You squirm through tunnels no wider than a watermelon in diameter, then rappel over the edge of a 200-foot cliff into a void so black you can’t even see your feet, let alone the bottom-assuming there is a bottom. If you survive that ordeal, you’ll still have to negotiate the slippery slope of the “Freakout Traverse” or the dreaded crevasse known as the “Great White Rift.” A subterranean tour through Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico might also include other highlights and lowlights: “Misery Hole,” “Death Pit,” and the “Parallel Universe.” Some explorers enjoy the thrill of probing an uncharted, underground wilderness. Others find solace in the quiet and darkness of America’s deepest cave, which extends more than 1,500 feet below the surface. Then there are those who come searching for life on Mars. Life on Mars? Indeed, as scientists explore the Red Planet via the Mars … [Read more...] about Looking Inside Earth for Life on Mars
“Putting The Mission out now, when the brotherhood has never been stronger — well, it’s the sweet dream we never imagined. It’s a dream fulfilled.” Reinforcing a consistent, unbroken level of staying power while also remaining a relevant force musically are two things virtually impossible to sustain in today’s music business, let alone across the decades. Many artists who came of age in the initial rock era — if they still even exist, that is — have long been relegated to the nostalgia bin or oldies circuit, trapped in the recurring hell-cycle of a perpetual Twilight Zone episode in the role of an old-school jukebox cranking out creaky hits on demand.This is decidedly not the case with Styx, the melodic prog-rocking band out of Chicago celebrating its 45th year of operation in 2017 with a powerfully cosmic new studio effort, The Mission, now available in multiple formats via Alpha Dog 2T/UMe. A concise, 43-minute-long concept … [Read more...] about Styx crosses solar systems and generations on ‘The Mission’
Millionaire and former space tourist Dennis Tito on Wednesday revealed details of his ambitious plan to send a manned spacecraft to Mars in January, 2018.Tito told a media gathering in Washington that the 501-day mission, dubbed Inspiration Mars, a mission for America, is likely to involve a two-person crew comprising a man and a woman. He said that ideally the pair would be a married, middle-aged couple, adding that the space travelers could be selected within the next year.There had been some speculation as to whether Tito himself would take part in the Red Planet mission, but he ruled himself out. He will, after all, be 77 in 2018 so his decision to oversee the mission from terra firma won’t come as a surprise to too many observers.“I will not be one of the crew members,” Tito confirmed on Wednesday. “And if I were 30 years younger, I still would not be.” Twelve years ago, the former rocket engineer became the first paying passenger to visit the … [Read more...] about Mission to Mars: Space tourist Dennis Tito intends to send married couple to the Red Planet (and bring them back again)
Aside from its extremely cold temperatures, unbearably thin atmosphere, and its all-around shroud of complete mystery; perhaps the biggest obstacle facing a journey to Mars is the sheer amount of time it would take to get there. Though exact timeframes tend to differ, a 260-day trip to the red planet seems the closest to a consensus among those knowledgeable of the journey, meaning it would take nearly nine months to reach its orbit. However, according to UC Santa Barbara physics professor Philip Lubin, by making use of directed energy propulsion (i.e. lasers) it might be possible to reach Mars in a fraction of the time it would take to watch The Martian.While Lubin’s idea of a 30-minute trip to Mars first burst on the scene during a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) symposium last October, the concept was featured by NASA 360 in a recent video. Though two-minute video hardly delves into the exact science of achieving such an endeavor, Lubin … [Read more...] about Could a spacecraft really make the journey to Mars in 30 minutes? One physicist says yes
Mars One, a Dutch nonprofit organization aiming to land the first humans on Mars and establish a space colony by 2025, appears to have run into trouble.Astrophysicist Joseph Roche, one of the 100 shortlisted candidates, was excited about the project until recently.However, his disposition has soured. At best, things are not quite what they appear to be, according to Roche.Roche pointed to an assessment of the Mars One mission by a team of MIT students led by Sydney Do, a Ph.D. candidate in aeronautics and astronautics, whose thesis focuses on planetary colonization. The team's assessment concludes, in essence, that the project is not feasible within its established parameters.Mars One did not engage with that team, which caused Roche concern.Further, Mars One claimed to receive applications from 200,000 people, when the actual number was 2,761, he pointed out.The candidate selection process was not rigorous enough, Roche also said, and rankings were influenced by how much candidates … [Read more...] about Mars One Could Turn Out to Be Mars Zero
Informatics Those motivations help explain why India, a poor country of 1.2 billion, even invests in a space program when so many of its people lack access to proper toilets, electricity and health care.For one, boosting its space business has always been a key selling point of the country's program.More than half of the world's missions to Mars so far have failed. In proving it can pull off a complex space mission, India becomes one of the world's few reliable ferrymen to the stars. That can attract investors, commercial launch orders and customers to hire Indian rockets and satellites for their scientific research.But, the program also is a source of pride and motivation for the country's burgeoning ranks of young professionals. India's robust scientific and technical education system has already produced millions of software programmers, engineers and doctors who have helped grow the country's growing middle class."Mars, of course, captures the imagination of the world. What better … [Read more...] about Mars Mission Opens India for Space Business
Data Analysis Scientists see Red on NASA Cuts of Mars MissionsIn this photo taken on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA administrator, Charles Bolden, second from left, examines a replica of the Mars Science Laboratory rover at NASA' Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. Far left, Richard Cook, Deputy Project Manager Mars Science Lab Mission. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)NASA has said that it's not giving up on Mars, but it'll have to get there later and at a lower price. Earlier this month, the president's budget canceled joint U.S.-European robotic missions to Mars in 2016 and 2018. Now, top science officials say they are scrambling to come up with a plan by the end of the summer for a cut-rate journey to the red planet in 2018. NASA sciences chief John Grunsfeld said he thinks there's a better than even chance that NASA will not miss the 2018 opportunity. That's when Mars passes closest to Earth, something that only happens once every … [Read more...] about Scientists see Red on NASA Cuts of Mars Missions