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Saturday, January 1, 2005


Happy New Year

Fireworks
Fireworks
Credit: Unknown
From the Red Colony team to all, Happy New Year. We wish all of you the best and we hope to have a good start to this New Year. To all in school, good luck; to all who work, enjoy and don't stress too much; and to all, carpe diem (responsibly, of course). The Red Colony team has been busy for the past month writing both articles and code. Look forward to new articles and features this month.

On the 3rd and 25th of this month, Spirit and Opportunity, respectively, landed on Mars one Earth year ago. Congratulations to the MER year and we wish them and the rovers many more months of operating pleasure.


- posted by Jim @ 11:57 EST

(permanent link)

Sunday, January 9, 2005


NASA Mars Science Laboratory to Coincide With ESA, Russia

Artist's conception of the Mars Science Laboratory.
Artist's conception of the Mars Science Laboratory.
Credit: NASA/JPL
NASA has announced that its next rover on Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory, will launch in 2009 and arrive in 2010. This coincides closely with NASA's Mars Telecommunications Orbiter, the ESA's ExoMars rover and Russia's Phobos probe. This is largely due to both the increased interest in Mars as well as the limited launch windows available (approximately every 2 years) to get to Mars at a low cost. All of the missions on Mars are expected to communicate with each other and the Earth through an "interplanetary internet" system facilitated by the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter and the older orbiters, which will relay messages to the Deep Space Network. Although there are concerns over an extreme bandwidth problem, as the data coming in exceeds the ability of the world's space agencies to handle, there is much hope that the problem will be overcome by the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter and new tracking stations coming online.

The Mars Science Laboratory will probably be the most capable mission ever launched. It will be much larger than even the MERs, and will be powered by a radioisotope generator, which will allow it to last much, much longer than any previous rover and allow it much greater choice in landing sites, as it will no longer be contrained in latitude by solar power concerns. Even more incredibly, it will attempt a controlled descent to the surface, and will try to choose its landing site with unparalleled accuracy. No more bouncing across the rocky plains, hoping that a rock won't puncture the airbags. The rover will be expressly designed to ferret out signs of life, containing instrumentation that can detect hydrocarbons and other complex molecules that may signify life, as well as tools to examine the water cycle on Mars and other related areas.

(More info: New Kerala, JPL)


- posted by Brian @ 18:29 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, January 10, 2005


Better Solar Panels

Solar panels at sunrise.
Solar panels at sunrise.
Credit: Unknown
The University of Toronto has created a revolutionary new solar panel (more of a solar "film") that is 5 times more efficient than traditional panels. At 30% efficiency, it is about as efficient as our cars are at turning gas into movement. The new film consists of quantum dots (interesting arrangements of semiconductors) and plastic polymers. The film can capture infrared light, which is why it is more efficient. The film can be put anywhere: walls, roofs, hats, and even woven into fabrics. This technology could pave the way for a truely wireless world, one in which we could recharge our portable devices where we stand. Science labs in remote locations could also benefit by not having to have a gas or nuclear generator next to them. Speaking of remote, few things would be as remote as a base on the surface of Mars. Solar power is another very efficient, and most likely affordable, alternative to nuclear power on Mars.

(More info: CTV.ca)


- posted by Jim @ 20:38 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


New Short Story: Teaching Jacob

Lightning crashes in a desert.
Lightning crashes in a desert.
Credit: Unknown
We have received the first new submission of the year. Brunnen G has sent us a short story entitled, Teaching Jacob. This imaginative story of a man terraforming his own planet ends in his discovery of his own fate and the history of mankind. Here's a snippet:

This is the desert. From horizon to horizon it is flat hardpan, broken only by black sores of glass left by frequent blasts of lightning from the ceaseless storm overhead. The clouds are purple and heavy; they promise rain but never deliver. There is no sign of life here, and with good reason, there is no life here, not so much as a microbe.

Just a note to those of you who are unaware: Red Colony will accept your very own articles or short stories about colonization, terraforming, or anything related to Mars. Just visit the Submit Work page.


- posted by Alex @ 16:30 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Opportunity Finds a Weird Object

The object.
The object.
Credit: NASA/JPL
Roaming away from the debris field, Opportunity found a hunk of something on Meridiani Planum. "We're curious about it too. We have Mini-TES data on it now, and they suggest that it may actually be made of metal," said Dr. Steve Squyres, principal investigator of the Mars Exploration Rovers. "So we are beginning to suspect that it may be a meteorite. I stress that this is very preliminary!" The next thing on NASA's list is to test the object with Opportunity’s Instrument Deployment Device (in laymen’s terms, the robot arm which has scientific instruments, such as the Mössbauer Spectrometer, the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer, and a Rock Abrasion Tool).

Huygens will land tomorrow. I will post something as soon as information comes in. Godspeed to the Huygens team.

(More info: Space.com)


- posted by Jim @ 20:53 EST

(permanent link)

Friday, January 14, 2005


Huygens Lands

An artist's rendition of Huygens.
An artist's rendition of Huygens.
Credit: Universe Today
After 7 years of space flight with Cassini and a half-month of flight by itself (since Dec. 25), the Huygens probe has landed on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. Since 5:25 AM EST, the probe has been sending back a carrier signal that was picked up by the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia, US. This signal was the probe's way of telling us that it was alive. It contained no scientific data (by design). The probe descended through Titan's thick atmosphere as it told us that its back cover was off as planned. It then released a large parachute, and later, a smaller one to help slow it down before it landed.

At approximately 11:19 AM the ESA received scientific data from the probe. This was humankind's first attempt at landing on anything in the outer solar system. It is worthy of note that Huygens has already outlived its expected lifetime, as many had predicted that Huygens would land on a hydrocarbon sea and sink immediately. The ESA is analyzing the data being forwarded by Cassini, from which we hope to gain a greater understanding of this planet-sized moon with such a high content of hydrocarbons. If the mission is successful, it may lead to further attempts in quests for life on Titan, where there are more of the right chemicals for life than perhaps any other place in the Solar System except Earth, and perhaps Mars.

As more news and pictures arrive, we will post updates. Our congratulations to the ESA for a job well done.

(More info: Universe Today)


- posted by Jim @ 13:15 EST

(permanent link)


First Image Arrives from Huygens

First image from Huygens.
First image from Huygens.
Credit: ESA/NASA/Univ. of Arizona
The first image ever taken of Titan's surface has arrived to Earth. The picture shows a possibly active riverbed network and to its right a solid featureless area which some analysts claim to be a lake of turpentine. While all of the data Huygens transmitted has been received, the ESA and NASA have yet to interpret it all or release any pictures other than this one.

- posted by Alex @ 15:31 EST

(permanent link)

Sunday, January 23, 2005


New Article: Terraforming Mars: An Economic Requirement

The economic need.
The economic need.
Credit: concilium.de
Giorgio Gaviraghi has written an article entitled Terraforming Mars: An Economic Requirement. In it he outlines some ideas for colonizing and terraforming Mars that, he claims, have rarely been discussed. He focuses on development of the Martian economy as a separate and distinct entity from that of Earth. Here's a snippet:

The overall plan for a first mission to Mars consist of a total of four missions, two unmanned and two manned, following Buzz Aldrin cycler theories, reutilizing, where possible, the same equipment. The general schedule consists of a total of 12 years from the go ahead to the return to Earth of the first manned crew. This schedule includes preliminary studies and tests for site selection and other support infrastructures for the first manned mission generally not considered in most reference plans.


- posted by Alex @ 0:18 EST

(permanent link)

Sunday, January 30, 2005


Paypal Founder Close to Cheap Rockets

A Falcon rocket by SpaceX.
A Falcon rocket by SpaceX.
Credit: Florida Today
Within a year, the cost of launching payloads into space may drop dramatically.

Or so says Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, and more recently, SpaceX. His company plans on launching commercial payloads with their two new rockets for as little as $6 million for light payloads to $18 million for payloads equivalent to a Delta II or Delta IV-Medium. That's about a 70% in reduction of cost.

The reasons why he is doing it are even better. The company, if it succeeds, will make money. That's not the issue for the philantropist, though. His goal is not only to make space launches inexpensive, but to make them inexpensive for his original goal: a biosphere to land on Mars, at a tiny price tag of $20 million. This is in conjunction with his cooperation with the Mars Society to launch a spacecraft to test long-term human adjustment to low gravity situations, and his dream of eventually colonizing--and terraforming--Mars. Musk may just represent the private interest that Mars enthusiasts have been hoping for for decades.

(More info: Florida Today, Space.com, SpaceX)


- posted by Brian @ 14:34 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, January 31, 2005


Super Light Sail Could Shorten Mars Trip to One Month

Artist's depiction of the Planetary Society's solar sail.
Artist's depiction of the Planetary Society's solar sail.
Credit: The Planetary Society
Forum member tricky1992000 has let us know of a fantastic new method of interplanetary propulsion based on a new type of light sail. Traditional light sails rely on light from the sun or a laser striking the surface of a huge, thin material connected to a spacecraft for propulsion. This method results in good flight times for long duration flights, but that isn't enough for normal interplanetary travel. Other methods of propulsion either are expensive, take too long, or are controversial.

Now we may have the answer. Famous author-physicist Gregory Benford and his brother have developed a revolutionary new type of light sail that relies on gas particles trapped in the fabric of the sail. As the source of light (Benford suggests an upgraded Deep Space Network) strikes the target, the gas heats up and is expelled out the back, providing propulsion. As the gas is depleted, the sail becomes an ordinary light sail, still capable of propulsion.

With flight times reduced to one month, down from the six of a conventional rocket, trips to Mars can be made safer and cheaper, with more ability to do science. If the method works out, our solar system could be filled with light sail craft, with propulsion stations placed around the system to provide quick and cheap transportation to all of Earth's colonies.

(More info: New Scientist)


- posted by Brian @ 14:59 EST

(permanent link)

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