Tag: mars program

NASA Giving People Chance to Send Their Names to Mars on Orion Flight

Excerpt from cnet.com

Since Richard Branson hasn't gotten around to offering Mars vacations yet (he's still working out that whole suborbital thing), we're all pretty much stuck here on Earth for the time being. But NASA understands the human desire to write our names upon the stars, so it's giving everybody a chance to shoot their names up into space on the first Orion mission, scheduled to launch December 4.
The collected names will be included on a microchip the size of a dime. The first trip will be on board NASA's initial test flight for the new Orion spacecraft. It's set for a 4.5-hour mission in orbit around Earth. It will then take a flying leap back through the atmosphere and land in the Pacific Ocean.

When you sign up to send your name off into space on Orion, you're signing up to send your name to Mars at some future time.

Currently, nearly 95,000 people have submitted names to fly to Mars. To sign up, you just go to NASA's name-collecting site, fill out some basic information, and submit. The site then generates a digital "boarding pass." You get the simple message "Success! Your name will fly on Orion's flight test." Next, enjoy a happy little chill up your spine as you imagine your name zipping through the atmosphere and some day taking up residence on Mars.

NASA Mars Boarding Pass
Your name here – get your boarding pass for Mars! (via NASA)

NASA also will be tracking mileage for all of our names, giving us a spacey version of frequent-flyer award points. The points are just for fun, but it's also a way to keep the public engaged and following along with these groundbreaking missions.

The deadline for getting your name on Orion's inaugural flight is October 31. If you miss Orion this time, NASA will still give newcomers an opportunity to sign up for name fly-alongs on future missions.

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NASA Challenges Public to Design a Piece of a Mars Probe

  Kelly Dickerson, Space.com NASA has challenged the public to design part of a spacecraft that could land future spacefliers on the surface of Mars. The NASA Mars Balance Mass Challenge runs through Nov. 21. The agency will announ...

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Spacecraft from US & India to arrive at Mars this month

Two new orbiters, including India's first Mars probe, are due to arrive at the Red Planet by the end of September.

By Elizabeth Howell, SPACE.com

The planet Mars is about to have some company. Two new spacecraft, one from the United States and the other from India, are closing in on the Red Planet and poised to begin orbiting Mars by the end of this month.

The U.S.-built probe, NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft, is expected to enter orbit around Mars on Sept. 21. Just days later, on Sept. 24, India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) orbiter is due to make its own Mars arrival when it enters orbit. Both MOM and MAVEN launched to space in 2013.

MAVEN is the first mission devoted to probing the Martian atmosphere, particularly to understand how it has changed during the planet's history. 

Before that happens, however, the spacecraft must burn its engines to go into orbit around the planet, and pass a commissioning phase while taking a few precautions for a "low-risk" situation where a comet will pass fairly close to Mars. 

"We've been developing MAVEN for about 11 years, and it comes down to a 33-minute rocket burn on Sept. 21," MAVEN principal investigator Bruce Jakosky, of the University of Colorado, Boulder, told Space.com.

The spacecraft can change tracks as late as 6 hours before entering orbit, but right now, it is so close to the correct path that a planned orbital maneuver on Sept. 12 won't be needed, Jakosky said.

Comet Siding Spring will pass near Mars on Oct. 19, and around that time, MAVEN will take a break from its commissioning to do observations of the comet and the planet's upper atmosphere. Although not much dust is predicted to result from the event, as a precaution, controllers will turn off nonessential instruments and move the solar panels edge-on to the dust. The spacecraft will also be behind Mars for 20 minutes during the comet's closest approach.

Where did Mars' atmosphere go?

One of MAVEN's primary scientific tasks will be to figure out how the Martian atmosphere changed during the planet's 4.5-billion-year history.

Several NASA spacecraft have found extensive evidence that water once flowed on the planet. For water to have flowed on Mars, the planet would have required a thicker atmosphere. But why and how the atmosphere got thinner, to the way it is now, is one question that puzzles scientists.

MAVEN is expected to last at least one Earth year, but with careful use of fuel, it could last a decade — long enough for controllers to watch the upper atmosphere change through almost an entire 11-year cycle of solar activity.

Most of Mars' water disappeared about 3.5 billion years ago, Jakosky said, and there will be two approaches for MAVEN to figure out how the atmosphere played into that.

One approach will be to look at the atmosphere today and try to extrapolate its changes to what it used to be billions of years ago. However, one complication of that approach is that the sun's output has changed over time. Early in the solar system's history, the sun's total output was 30 percent less than it is today. Therefore, Earth and Mars could have been colder, but the solar wind and ultraviolet energy would have been more intense.

The second approach will be to look at the ratio of stable isotopes (element types) in the atmosphere, specifically the ratio of hydrogen to its heavier cousin, deuterium. Over time, the sun pushes lighter elements out of the atmosphere, leaving the heavier ones behind.

Scientists already have gained a pretty firm understanding of the past deuterium-hydrogen ratio by examining known Martian meteorites and older Martian minerals that NASA rovers probed on the surface, Jakosky said. The next step will be to get more information on today's conditions, to make comparisons.

"It's a powerful way to determine the history of the atmosphere," he said. "We're hoping that will be one of the early results coming out of MAVEN."

India's Mars MOM on NASA's heels

The Indian Space Research Organization's Mars Orbiter Mission is India's first mission to Mars and is designed to search for elusive methane in Mars' atmosphere from orbit. Over the years, different orbital and surface missions have found variable amounts of the gas, which can be produced by nonbiological or biological means.

MOM is expected to last six to 10 months near Mars, and has five instruments on board. The spacecraft and all of its payloads are in good health, ISRO said in a Facebook update on Aug. 30.
One of the mission's greatest challenges will be to fire the liquid propulsion engine after it sat idle for nearly 300 days in space. The engine is required to bring the spacecraft into Mars' orbit. Media reports indicate that India plans to do a test fire of the engine on Sept. 22.

If the Indian space agency is successful in reaching Mars, it will be the fourth entity to have done so, following the Soviet Union, the United States and the European Space Agency.

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NASA review panel criticizes Mars Curiosity rover, says it lacks ‘scientific focus’

Mars rover Curiosity 'selfie'


Troubles seem to be far from over for the Mars rover Curiosity which is exploring the Martian surface in search of life. A review panel for the US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has condemned the Rover Curiosity mission, saying it lack in its scientific focus.
The harsh reaction comes at a time when Mars rover Curiosity, which was launched in 2012, was spotted gazing at the Martian clouds, growing speculation among the panelists that it lacks scientific approach. Recently holes in the rover’s wheels were also reported. Moreover, NASA had to give up one of its drilling project at the Martian rock after it was found unfit for the rover.
The Planetary Mission Senior Review panel that carried an analysis of NASA’s seven planetary science missions expressed its disappointment over the success rate of Curiosity.
According to the review panel, the Curiosity mission is the NASA’s flagship Mars project which is the most expensive of the seven space missions that have got renewed funding from NASA. The panel said that seeing the extent of funding and the high expectations from the mission, Curiosity fails to make best out of its technical capabilities.
The review panel further expressed dismay saying the team behind the Curiosity mission only plans to study the eight samples during its extended mission, which is far less than the expectations from a high magnitude project like this. The panel also cited other technical problems with the Curiosity mission terming it as a poor science return to the large investment.
Recently, Curiosity was spotted gazing at the clouds of Mars, a development which was criticized by the review panel.
The rover had tweeted on September 3 that it was heading towards Pahrump Hills while advancing towards Mount Sharp for conducting geology work and search for clouds.
Robert Haberle, who is part of the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) team, defended the action saying it was part of the study of martian environment.
According to him, clouds are a major part of the climate system of any planet and their behavior could give close insights about winds and temperatures of the Mars.

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Richard C. Hoagland Presents a Series of Mars Anomalies

  coasttocoastam.com In tandem with his 7/2/13 appearance, Richard C. Hoagland sends a set of images & descriptions related to his presentation to the Coast To Coast radio program. 1) (Above) NASA close-up of the infamous "Face on Mars...

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NASA Swarmies Could Turn Mars Surveying Into A Group Effort

NASA Robot ants Swarmies
Teams of smaller rovers could be a more efficient strategy than relying on individual rovers like Curiosity and Opportunity

If you’ve enjoyed following the journeys of NASA’s unmanned rovers like Curiosity and Opportunity across Mars, collecting samples, taking selfies, and trying not to get stuck, you’re in for a lot more fun when NASA eventually sends its swarmies up to the red planet. Instead of a relying on a single large rover that has to do everything on its own, the swarmies would be able to communicate with each other and cooperate on pre-assigned tasks with less oversight from people back on earth, reports Kelly Dickerson for Space.com.

Swarmies look for materials like ants look for food
The strategy, similar to how an ant colony finds food, is for each rover to go off on its own and then send a message to the others when it finds something interesting so that it can get help from the rest. Although testing is still in the early stages, the rovers are already showing promise with just GPS, webcams, WIFI antennae, and programmed instructions to survey an area and look for certain materials (water, for example) scattered around the Kennedy’s Launch Control Center parking lot (ok, very early stages). According to lead engineer Cheryle Mako, the project is progressing through the early data collection and investigation phases faster than had been expected.

Swarmies don’t have a single point of failure like current Mars rovers

One of the biggest advantages of switching over to teams of rovers is that the mission doesn’t end just because one of them crashes or malfunctions. Researchers may have to scale back their goals if the team loses too many rovers, but that’s still better than having a single point of failure.

“For a while people were interested in putting as much smarts and capability as they could on their one robot,” said engineer Kurt Leucht who is also working on the project. “Now people are realizing you can have much smaller, much simpler robots that can work together and achieve a task. One of them can roll over and die and it’s not the end of the mission because the others can still accomplish the task.”

In addition to extraplanetary surveying missions, with some modifications teams of swarmies could be deployed here on earth for search and rescue missions either to complement or substitute human search efforts in dangerous areas. They could also be used by industry to inspect pipelines, and as the swarmies become more sophisticated more applications are sure to crop up.

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