Tag: Mars

How To Protect Astronauts From Space Radiation On Mars

In this image taken by the Viking 1 orbiter in June 1976, the translucent layer above Mars’ dusty red surface is its atmosphere. Compared to Earth’s atmosphere, the thin Martian atmosphere is a less powerful shield against quick-moving, energetic particles that pelt in from all directions – which means astronauts on Mars will need protection from this harsh radiation environment.

On Aug. 7, 1972, in the heart of the Apollo era, an enormous solar flare exploded from the sun’s atmosphere. Along with a gigantic burst of light in nearly all wavelengths, this event accelerated a wave of energetic particles.

Mostly protons, with a few electrons and heavier elements mixed in, this wash of quick-moving particles would have been dangerous to anyone outside Earth’s protective magnetic bubble.

Luckily, the Apollo 16 crew had returned to Earth just five months earlier, narrowly escaping this powerful event.

In the early days of human space flight, scientists were only just beginning to understand how events on the sun could affect space, and in turn how that radiation could affect humans and technology.

Today, as a result of extensive space radiation research, we have a much better understanding of our space environment, its effects, and the best ways to protect astronauts—all crucial parts of NASA’s mission to send humans to Mars.

The Martian” film highlights the radiation dangers that could occur on a round trip to Mars. While the mission in the film is fictional, NASA has already started working on the technology to enable an actual trip to Mars in the 2030s.

In the film, the astronauts’ habitat on Mars shields them from radiation, and indeed, radiation shielding will be a crucial technology for the voyage.




From better shielding to advanced biomedical countermeasures, NASA currently studies how to protect astronauts and electronics from radiation – efforts that will have to be incorporated into every aspect of Mars mission planning, from spacecraft and habitat design to spacewalk protocols.

Radiation, at its most basic, is simply waves or sub-atomic particles that transports energy to another entity – whether it is an astronaut or spacecraft component.

The main concern in space is particle radiation. Energetic particles can be dangerous to humans because they pass right through the skin, depositing energy and damaging cells or DNA along the way.

This damage can mean an increased risk for cancer later in life or, at its worst, acute radiation sickness during the mission if the dose of energetic particles is large enough.

Fortunately for us, Earth’s natural protections block all but the most energetic of these particles from reaching the surface. A huge magnetic bubble, called the magnetosphere, which deflects the vast majority of these particles, protects our planet.

And our atmosphere subsequently absorbs the majority of particles that do make it through this bubble.

Importantly, since the International Space Station (ISS) is in low-Earth orbit within the magnetosphere, it also provides a large measure of protection for our astronauts.

“We have instruments that measure the radiation environment inside the ISS, where the crew are, and even outside the station,” said Kerry Lee, a scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

A long solar filament erupted into space on April 28-29, 2015. This type of eruption, called a coronal mass ejection, or CME, is sometimes followed by a wave of high-energy particles that can be dangerous to astronauts and electronics outside the protection of Earth’s magnetic system and atmosphere. For our journey to Mars, we will have to incorporate protection against this particle radiation into every aspect of mission planning.

This ISS crew monitoring also includes tracking of the short-term and lifetime radiation doses for each astronaut to assess the risk for radiation-related diseases.

Although NASA has conservative radiation limits greater than allowed radiation workers on Earth, the astronauts are able to stay well under NASA’s limit while living and working on the ISS, within Earth’s magnetosphere.

But a journey to Mars requires astronauts to move out much further, beyond the protection of Earth’s magnetic bubble.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Trump’s Space Force Logos Are Just As Dumb As Space Force, According Professional Designers

According to astronaut Mark Kelly and plenty of other experts, Donald Trump’s Space Force is, simply put, a pretty dumb idea.

Nonetheless, last night the president’s reelection campaign released a slew of possible Space Force logos–and they’re right in line with the stupefyingly bad design Trump’s team is known for.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence announced the Space Force concept last June, proposing a new branch of the military that will be aimed at space.

We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal,” Trump said at the time. The idea was met with widespread derision from Kelly and others, for several reasons.

The United States already has a Space Command. It’s been around since 1982. Space defense is also one of the U.S.




Air Force’s core missions, which currently involves monitoring space from natural and third-country threats, protecting military satellites, and foiling Mulder and Scully’s efforts to unveil an alien conspiracy to take over Earth.

Before we get to the logos, let’s take a moment to breathe, because these logos aren’t official in any way. They weren’t created by anyone at the Pentagon, NASA, or any other federal agency.

They were created by the Trump-Pence 2020 campaign PAC. And, as Parscale notes, they’re going to be used to “commemorate” the Space Force with a new “line of gear.”

In other words, this is for merch. Still, let’s take a look.

The first logo is a blatant copy of the current NASA logo, aka the “meatball,” which was designed by NASA employee James Modarelli, in 1959.

The Trump knockoff replaces the classic mid-century typeface with an anachronistic 1980s font, which itself bastardizes the beautiful NASA Worm logo, from 1975.

Meanwhile, the swoop is now an inexplicable shade of mustard, and space itself is now a red state. I guess it’ll match the MAGA hats?

The second logo returns to dark blue, eliminating the delta wing but retaining the white orbital line and some of the “stars” of the NASA logo.

It features a strangely stylized 1940s novella version of a rocket, its powerful engine fumes symbolized by . . . an inverted “flammable” icon. An oddly kerned, Art Deco-tinged typeface completes this atrocity.

Here we have what looks like a poor misrepresentation of the retired space shuttle trying to escape the deadly embrace of a red space snake. Your guess is as good as mine on this one.

Perhaps the most absurd aspect of this project is the fact that the Trump-Pence 2020 campaign is asking people to choose a logo for a military branch that doesn’t exist, and probably never will.

Even if Space Force–and the further needless spending on the military-aerospace-industrial complex it would enable–is realized, its identity will be developed according to the Pentagon’s standard government-contracting processes.

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Everything You Need To Know About China’s Ambitious Space Plans

By 2030, China wants to be a major space power. To achieve that, it’s got some out-of-this-world ideas.

From building its own space station, to capturing an asteroid and putting it in orbit around the Moon, China’s space programme is often depicted as ludicrous and unfeasible. But it would be foolish to overlook its potential.

China is quickly becoming one of the most ambitious and pioneering nations when it comes to exploring space.

Our overall goal is that, by around 2030, China will be among the major space powers of the world,” Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the National Space Administration, said in January. So what are its plans?

Dark side of the Moon

One of China’s nearest goals is the plan to land a rover on the dark side of the Moon in 2018.

China’s Chang’e 4 mission is the next in line after Chang’e 3, which saw the popular Jade Rabbit lunar rover named after the Chinese Moon goddess. The plan is to study the geology of the Moon’s far side.

As the Moon orbits Earth, it is tidally locked, meaning the same side always faces us.

The far side of the Moon is not always dark, it is illuminated when the side facing the Earth is in darkness; it is just called the dark side of the Moon because we never see it.Landing there would be a significant first.




Asteroid chasing

China plans to visit the asteroid 2010 TK7 in 2026

China made headlines earlier this year when its plans to capture an asteroid were revealed, and somewhat mocked.

The idea of taking an asteroid and putting it in orbit around the Moon was reported by state media, but a detailed description of those specific plans is yet to be published.

However, a new study has revealed what China does plan to do in terms of asteroid chasing.

China’s latest proposal involves studying a chaotic asteroid.

A pair of Chinese researchers has published a paper in Advances in Space Research, outlining a plan to send a spacecraft to the asteroid 2010 TK7, which is on a bizarrely eccentric orbit around the Sun.

The mission will follow in the footsteps of NASA’s Rosetta spacecraft, which had a rendezvous with a comet. The plan is to launch the spacecraft in November 2021, with the manoeuvre happening in August 2025.

Space Station

Drawing of China’s large orbital station.

Not content with sending humans to asteroids, the Moon and Mars, China also plans on building its very own space station.

The first part of the Chinese large modular space station is expected to go into orbit around Earth in 2019 with the final sections in place by 2022.

The station will host three crew members, unlike previous efforts which could not support any crew.

The first Chinese space station, Tiangong-1 or ‘Heavenly Place’ launched in 2011, was only supposed to stay in orbit for two years.

Seven years later, and we are being told the satellite is out of control, and will crash into our planet in the next few months.

In 2011 it was decided China was not allowed to be part of the International Space Station (ISS) collaboration, when the US Congress passed a law saying it was concerned about national security.

An artists’s impression of how China’s Mars rover will look.

The ISS is a joint mission between the US, Canada, Japan, Russia and Europe. Plans to collaborate are continuing, as Nasa and Russia announced a deal to work together building a new space station around the Moon.

But this doesn’t rule China out of the picture completely. “The US-Russian agreement is in principle only,” Logsdon sats. “Neither country has a funded program for such a station yet.

If the Trump administration does fund such a US station, partnerships with many countries, not just Russia, will be sought. The issue then is whether Congress will allow Nasa to work with China.

The future of China’s space exploration is diverse and exciting. With many ambitious plans, and a few failures under its belt, it remains to be seen whether China will meet its ambitious goals.

What is clear, however, is the country is not wasting any time trying to become the leader of the next space race.

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Mars Is Spectacular This Month – Here’s The Best Way To Spy The Red Planet

If you look at the sky tonight and spot a very bright star, it may well be a planet. Mars is the closest it has been to Earth for 15 years – and therefore the brightest.

Mars shines through reflected light,” says Robert Massey, the deputy executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society.

That means that when it’s closer to the Earth it appears brighter, because its apparent size is bigger.” It won’t be this visible again until 2035.

So, how best to see it? First, make sure tall trees or buildings are not obscuring the view. Ideally, you want a clear horizon. Then, look south.




It will be obvious, because it’s bright, it doesn’t twinkle and it has a distinct reddish tinge,” says Massey, who suggests Somerset, Devon and Dorset as good locations for spotting it.

The best Mars-gazing time is 1am, but it rises earlier in the evening.

You can see Mars with the naked eye, but a pair of binoculars would help,” says Massey. “If you have a small telescope, you may be lucky to see a polar ice cap.

If you are an amateur with good equipment, the details to look out for are two polar ice caps, mountains or volcanoes, and sunken, crater-like features. Massey suggests contacting your local astronomical society about public viewing events.

Hubble’s views of Mars at two recent oppositions

When is the best time to see Mars?

According to NASA, Mars Opposition begins Friday, July 27 around midnight.

Mars will be visible between Friday, July 27 and Monday, July 30, making its closest approach — 35.8 million miles to be exact — on Tuesday, July 31 at around 4 a.m. E.T.

Mars will be at its brightest Friday night due to an opposition surge that is affected by the planet’s angle of the sun — giving you the clearest view of the Red Planet.

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Water Discovered In Underground Lake On Mars

Liquid water is refreshingly abundant on moons in the outer solar system, but it has proven surprisingly tough to find in reliable quantities on Mars—until now.

Radar scans of the red planet suggest that a stable reservoir of salty, liquid water measuring some 12 miles across lies nearly a mile beneath the planet’s south pole. What’s more, the underground lake is not likely to be alone.




There are other areas that seem to be similar. There’s no reason to say this is the only one,” says Elena Pettinelli of Italy’s Roma Tre University, a coauthor of the paper reporting the discovery today in the journal Science.

If confirmed, the buried pocket of water could answer a few questions about where Mars’s ancient oceans went, as well as provide a resource for future human settlements.

A self-portrait of the Mars rover Curiosity.

Even more thrilling for astrobiologists, such a feature may be an ideal habitat for extraterrestrial life-forms.

In this kind of environment that we know of on Earth, in the Antarctic, we have bacteria,” Pettinelli says. “They can be deep in the ice.”

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NASA Is Planning To Make Water And Oxygen On The Moon And Mars By 2020

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins works with a Nitrogen/Oxygen Recharge System tank aboard the International Space Station.

NASA is forging ahead with plans to make water, oxygen, and hydrogen on the surface of the Moon and Mars.

If we ever want to colonize other planets, it is vital that we find a way of extracting these vital gases and liquids from moons and planets, rather than transporting them from Earth.

The current plan is to land a rover on the Moon in 2018 that will try to extract hydrogen, water, and oxygen — and then hopefully, Curiosity’s successor will try to convert the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into oxygen in 2020 when it lands on Mars.

In 2018, NASA hopes to put a rover on the Moon that will carry the RESOLVE (Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen & Lunar Volatile Extraction) science payload.

RESOLVE will contain the various tools necessary to carry out in-situ resource utilization (ISRU).




Basically, RESOLVE will sift through the Moon’s regolith (loose surface soil) and heat them up, looking for traces of hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be combined to make water.

There is also some evidence that there’s water ice on the surface of the Moon — RESOLVE will find out for certain by heating the soil and seeing of water vapor emerges.

A similar payload would be attached to Curiosity’s successor, which is currently being specced out by NASA and will hopefully launch in 2020.

This second IRSU experiment will probably suck in carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere, filter out the dust, and then process the CO2 into oxygen.

If either tech demonstration works as planned, future missions might include large-scale ISRU devices that are capable of producing significant amounts of hydrogen, oxygen, and water on the Moon or Mars.

This would probably be the most important advance since we first landed on the Moon in the ’60s. Basically, as it stands, space travel needs lots of hydrogen and oxygen and water.

Water has the unfortunate characteristic of being both heavy and incompressible, meaning it’s very difficult and expensive to lift large amounts of it into space (gravity can be really annoying sometimes).

Likewise, unless we come up with some other way of powering our spacecraft, it’s infeasible to carry the rocket fuel that we’d need for exploration from Earth.

In short, if we want to colonize space, we really, really need some kind of base outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, preferably on the Moon — but Mars would be good, too.

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NASA Is Actually Sending A Helicopter To Mars

NASA will include a small, autonomous helicopter in the agency’s upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission, officials announced today (May 11).

The craft will undergo a 30-day test campaign once it reaches the Red Planet to demonstrate the viability of travel above the Martian surface with a heavier-than-air craft.

NASA has a proud history of firsts,” NASA’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine, said in a statement.

“The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling. The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery and exploration missions to Mars.”

The Mars Helicopter’s development began in 2013 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. It’s just under 4 lbs. (1.8 kilograms), and its body is about the size of a softball, NASA officials said in the statement.




It will carry solar cells to charge up in the light of the sun and a heating mechanism to endure cold nights on the Red Planet.

The helicopter’s twin blades will whirl at about 10 times the rate of a helicopter’s blades on Earth — at 3,000 rpm — to stay aloft in Mars’ thin atmosphere.

Mars 2020 is slated to launch in July of that year on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and the mission should arrive at Mars in February 2021.

The six-wheeled rover will hunt for signs of habitable environments as well as sites that may have once hosted microbial life, examining the Red Planet with 23 cameras, a microphone and a drill to collect samples.

The helicopter will ride to Mars attached to the rover’s belly pan, officials said.

Once the rover reaches the planet’s surface, it will place the helicopter on the ground and move to a safe distance to relay commands; controllers on Earth will direct it to take its first autonomous flight.

The helicopter will attempt up to five flights, going farther and operating for longer each time — up to a few hundred meters and 90 seconds, officials said. It will also climb to 10 feet (3 m) and hover for about 30 seconds.

The Mars Helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-reward project, according to NASA: If the helicopter fails, it won’t affect the rest of the Mars 2020 rover’s mission, but if it succeeds, the agency will have a powerful new tool to survey the planet and access currently unreachable locations.

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Water On Mars: Exploration & Evidence

Liquid water may still flow on Mars, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to spot. The search for water on the Red Planet has taken more than 15 years to turn up definitive signs that liquid flows on the surface today.

In the past, however, rivers and oceans may have covered the land. Where did all of the liquid water go?

Why? How much of it still remains?




Liquid water appears to flow from some steep, relatively warm slopes on the Martian surface.

Features known as recurring slope lineae (RSL) were first identified in 2011in images taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

The dark streaks, which appear seasonally, were confirmed to be signs of salty water running on the surface of the planet.

If this is correct, then RSL on Mars may represent the surface expression of a far more significant ongoing drainage system on steep slopes in the mid-latitudes,” a research team member said.

In 2015, spectral analysis of RSL led scientists to conclude they are caused by salty liquid water.

When Mariner 9 became the first craft to orbit another planet in 1971, the photographs it returned of dry river beds and canyons seemed to indicate that water had once existed on the Martian surface.

Images from the Viking orbiters only strengthened the idea that many of the landforms may have been created by running water.

Data from the Viking landers pointed to the presence of water beneath the surface, but the experiments were deemed inconclusive.

The early ’90s kicked off a slew of Mars missions. Scientists were flooded with a wealth of information about Mars.

Three NASA orbiters and one sent by the European Space Agency studied the planet from above, mapping the surface and analyzing the minerals below.

Some detected the presence of minerals, indicating the presence of water. Other data measured enough subsurface ice to fill Lake Michigan twice.

They found evidence for the presence of hot springs on the surface and sustained precipitation at some areas. And they found patches of ice within some of the deeper craters.

Impact craters offer a view of the interior of the red planet.

Using the ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists were able to study rocks ejected from the planet’s interior, finding minerals that suggested the presence of water.

Curiosity has found yet more evidence of water flowing on ancient Mars.

The 1-ton rover rolled through an ancient stream bed shortly after touching down in August 2012, and it has examined a number of rocks that were exposed to liquid water billions of years ago.

Mars missions aren’t the only way to search for water on Mars. Scientists studying rocks ejected from the Red Planet found signs that water lay beneath the surface in the past.

While robotic missions to Mars continue to shed light on the planet’s history, the only samples from Mars available for study on Earth are Martian meteorites,” lead author Lauren White, of the JPL, said in a statement.

On Earth, we can utilize multiple analytical techniques to take a more in-depth look at meteorites and shed light on the history of Mars.

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Pass it on: New Scientist