Friday, March 20, 2015

MARS: The Next Frontier - NASA Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Demands Mission To Planet Mars; NASA Successfully Tests Megarocket Booster For Mars And Deep-Space Missions; Dry Ice On Mars May Help Colonize Red Planet, Research Says!

Buzz Aldrin posed in front of Stonehenge in a T-shirt reading, 'Get your a** to Mars' on Monday, claiming he was sending 'a message to the cosmos'

March 20, 2015 -  MARS
 - Buzz Aldrin, one of the first two men to walk on the moon, used one of the world's oldest monuments to send a message about the future of space exploration.

The 85-year-old former NASA astronaut, who touched down on the moon in 1969 with Neil Armstrong, posted a picture on Twitter of himself in front of England's Stonehenge, wearing a T-shirt reading, 'Get your a** to Mars'.

'While at @EH_Stonehenge yesterday I decided to send a message to the cosmos,' he wrote on Tuesday, accompanying the photo.

Stonehenge, a prehistoric ring of standing stones, dates back to between 3,000 and 2,000 BC.

Aldrin's picture is the last move in his campaign for the U.S. to focus on having human settlement on Mars.

The veteran astronaut has written a series of columns stressing that space exploration should continue.

He wrote in CNN last year: 'The moment to begin could be on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11's touchdown on the moon.

'We can make a courageous, Kennedyesque commitment to America's future in deep space.

Aldrin has stressed numerous times over the years that space
exploration needs to continue and the U.S. needs
to have a goal of settling on Mars

'The U.S. President could utter these momentous words: "I believe this nation should commit itself, within two decades, to commencing an America-led, permanent presence on the planet Mars."'

In November of last year, he wrote a column for TIME, stressing that more people need to touch down in space.

He wrote: 'I firmly believe we will establish permanence on that planet. And in reaching for that goal, we can cultivate commercial development of the moon, the asteroid belt, the Red Planet itself and beyond…

'We need to look forward to countries around the globe following our lead and establishing a rotating permanence on Mars for science and commercial resources.

'Some 45 years ago, when Neil Armstrong and I stepped upon the surface of the moon at Tranquility Base, we fulfilled a dream held by humankind for centuries.

'Yes, it was one small step. Today, more steps are needed.”

Aldrin holds his doctorate in astronautics and has consulted for the U.S. government on the future of space exploration. - Daily Mail.

To Mars...someday: NASA successfully tests megarocket booster for deep-space system

People take pictures as the SLS five-segment Solid Rocket Motor undergoes a static test fire at the Orbital ATK facility
in Promontory, Utah March 11, 2015. (Reuters / Jim Urquhart)

NASA has conducted a landmark test of a booster for its Space Launch System, the first heavy-lift rocket since the Apollo program ended in the 1970s. Working with Orbital ATK, NASA believes the booster will eventually help land a manned aircraft on Mars.

At 11:30 am ET, the 177-foot, five-segment QM-1 rocket motor was fired on the ground while lying horizontally, according to reports. The two-minute test took place at aerospace company Orbital ATK’s Utah test facility, marking an important step for the Space Launch System (SLS).

"I am very happy," Alex Priskos, manager of the SLS Boosters Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said on NASA TV.

"Great test. Just a fantastic result. ... This thing was about as perfect ... as it could be."

Success! Largest, most powerful rocket booster ever fired up today:  @NASA_SLS

The QM-1 weighs 1.6 million pounds. Prior to Wednesday’s test, it was predicted to burn 5.5 tons of solid fuel, producing 3.6 million pounds of thrust.

NASA wants to build on this test in order to use the SLS to launch its Orion spacecraft to an asteroid -- then, someday, to Mars.

Orion completed a 4.5 hour test flight on December 5, with cameras on board recording the views from space when travelling back to Earth.

Another booster test is planned for 2016, NASA officials said.

The first test flight for the entire SLS is set to take place in 2018, and its first manned flight in 2021.

WATCH: See NASA's Orion spacecraft hurtle through Earth's atmosphere.

During the first two SLS flights, the craft will be able to carry 70 metric tons of payload to low-Earth orbit. That payload demand is eventually expected to rise to 130 metric tons, thus allowing manned missions to areas such as Mars.

After 2018, the US Government Accountability Office says that “future mission destinations remain uncertain,” according to The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, later Wednesday, NASA astronaut Barry "Butch" Wilmore and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova will depart their orbiting lab on the International Space Station (ISS) and arrive back on Earth after their six-month mission, known as Expedition 42.

They will leave the Soyuz capsule at 6:44 pm ET (2244 GMT) and land in Kazakhstan at 10:07 pm ET (0207 GMT on March 12).

Their departure will leave Expedition 43 leader Terry Virts, NASA astronaut, Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti at the ISS until March 27, when they will be joined by three people. Two of them, American Scott Kelly and Russian Mikhail Kornienko, will become the first people to stay aboard the ISS for one continuous year. - RT.

Dry ice on Mars may help colonize red planet, research says

Reuters / NASA / JPL / Handout via Reuters

A new way of generating energy could potentially power human colonies on Mars, a new study claims. This is thanks to nothing more than dry ice, which is abundant on the red planet, according to recent research.

Since man wants to start colonizing the place within the next few decades, we need all the help we can get. This could also have profound implications on planning. For now, we’re only considering one-way trips, owing to huge energy demands. This could change.

The gist of the new energy theory proposed by a team of researchers from Northumbria, Edinburgh and Newcastle universities lies in carbon dioxide. Scientists say the principle is no different to what happens when you observe the effect of a drop of water on a scalding-hot stove. The energy generated by that process, which agitates the drop of water, is similar to the pioneering new approach, outlined in the journal Nature Communications

Scientists call the principle at the heart of this process the Leidenfrost effect. This happens when a liquid comes into near contact with a much hotter surface. And it fits perfectly with the example of carbon dioxide – or dry ice.

Gale Crater on the planet Mars (Reuters / NASA / Handout via Reuters)

In the case of carbon dioxide, blocks of the material are able to levitate above a hot surface because of protection given by the layer of evaporated gas. Researchers propose harnessing the power of that gas to power engines – the first time anyone has proposed to use the Leidenfrost effect to generate energy.

“By placing water droplets and small blocks of dry ice on top of hot, turbine-like surfaces, we have used the Leidenfrost effect to create rotational motion. The turbines channel the released vapor, whose flow in turn drives the levitating surface above to rotate,” says Dr. Rodrigo Ledesma-Aguilar, co-author on the research in a related article.

If scientists manage to harvest this energy, there is no reason why trips to Mars should be one-way. In 2013, science discovered there were massive deposits of dry ice on Mars.

The gullies observed on Mars were a topic of debate, as scientists searched for evidence of the water that once created them. But recent studies are overwhelmingly in favor of carbon dioxide.

The experts are not quite sure how exactly frozen carbon dioxide can cause gullies to form. This phenomenon isn’t encountered naturally on Earth, so there was nothing to compare the processes on Mars with. One possible mechanism is that soil sublimates frozen carbon dioxide, which allows it to flow. Another is the buildup of frozen gas, which causes steep slopes to slide.

And according to Rodrigo Ledesma-Aguilar’s in the university’s press release:“Carbon dioxide plays a similar role on Mars as water does on Earth. It is a widely available resource, which undergoes cyclic phase changes under the natural Martian temperature variations.”

“Perhaps future power stations on Mars will exploit such a resource to harvest energy as dry-ice blocks evaporate, or to channel the chemical energy extracted from other carbon-based sources, such as methane gas,” he also said, adding that “one thing is certain: our future on other planets depends on our ability to adapt our knowledge to the constraints imposed by strange worlds, and to devise creative ways to exploit natural resources that do not naturally occur here on Earth.”

WATCH: Mars.

Harvesting the results, according to the researchers, will be humanity’s biggest challenge in the 21st century.

An engine based on the Leidenfrost effect is different to the steam-based ones we’re used to here on Earth. “The high-pressure vapor layer creates freely rotating rotors whose energy is converted into power without the need of a bearing, thus conferring the new engine with low-friction properties,” says Dr Gary Well, another co-author.

“This is the starting point of an exciting avenue of research in smart materials engineering. In the future, Leidenfrost-based devices could find applications in wide ranging fields, spanning from frictionless transport to outer space exploration,” explains Professor Glen McHale, executive dean for Engineering and Environment at the university.

NASA currently has two robotic rovers operating on Mars, and three orbiting probes. The latest probe arrived in the Martian orbit in September 2014, on a mission to study the planet’s upper atmosphere. The agency is not planning any manned exploration missions until the 2030s at the earliest. - RT.

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