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Saturday, February 1, 2003


Space Shuttle Columbia Explodes

Space Shuttle Columbia crew.
Space Shuttle Columbia crew.
Credit: NASA
The space shuttle Columbia exploded shortly before its scheduled landing this morning. All astronauts on board were killed.

I'm sure you have all heard the news by now. I am actually 300 miles away from my home (and internet and tv access) but I have 5 minutes to make this post now. Check back later tonight for an official statement by Red Colony.com about how this event will affect the space program and Mars colonization.

I ask that you pray for the families of those who lost their lives today.

(More info: CNN.com)


- posted by Alex @ 15:27 EST

(permanent link)

Sunday, February 2, 2003


Time Article Expresses Deep Anti-NASA Sentiment

Time Magazine, February 10, 2003.
Time Magazine, February 10, 2003.
Credit: Time
The February 10th edition of Time Magazine will reach millions of subscribers across the United States on Tuesday. I've long been a reader of the magazine and a fan of their informative and intelligent work. But Gregg Easterbrook's article reaches absurdity. The article, like most articles from the magazine, fires off extremes from both sides so as not to appear one-sided. It is true that the Space Shuttle is outdated, and it is also true that a better machine could be built today. Why Congress has not pushed for a replacement is beyond me. But listen: "Did Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon really have to be there to push a couple of buttons on the Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment, the payload package he died to accompany to space?" That statement disgusts me, Time, and your lack of respect for NASA's purpose and human spaceflight hurts my head. The article also seriously calls for a replacement of the entire space administration! I will forever have a different approach toward your articles, and I've lost my trust in your quest to report news that is unbiased and fair.

- posted by Alex @ 17:12 EST

(permanent link)


Where Do We Go Now?

Space Shuttle Columbia aftermath.
Space Shuttle Columbia aftermath.
Credit: CNN/AP
I've posted my thoughts on the future of the space program after the Columbia disaster. My experiences as well as the notes I jotted down are all there. You can read it here.

- posted by Alex @ 21:44 EST

(permanent link)


Bush Wants $500 Million for New Shuttle

President Bush.
President Bush.
Credit: NPR.org
President Bush announced today that he wanted $500 million to upgrade the aging Space Shuttle program. The funds would be directed towards the development of a single-stage-to-orbit space plane. This comes after years of NASA funding cuts that may have been a contributing factor to the recent Columbia disaster. Although it is significant for boosting NASA's funding instead of lowering it, it is worth noting that the cost of a single shuttle launch is approximately $500 million...which means that this will not quite be a drop in the bucket for the $15 billion current NASA budget.

Read more about where NASA could be headed in the future. This article has already correctly predicted this funding increase.

(More info: CNN.com)


- posted by Brian @ 22:31 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, February 3, 2003


Jim Keener's Method

A terraformed Mars.
A terraformed Mars.
Credit: James Graham and Kandis Elliot
Jim's new terraforming method is up! Here's a snippet:

Changing Mars into a planet with lush forests, varied plant and animal life, and a thick Nitrogen-Oxygen atmosphere is the dream, and goal, of many scientists. Terraforming Mars will force us to work as humans, instead of America, Russia, China, and Europe. Perhaps the cooperative unity/competition balance gained will be a greater achievement that completely redesigning a planet. That is what we will have to think about during the century or two during terraforming.


- posted by Alex @ 17:29 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, February 4, 2003


Pillars of Fire Update

Ian Steil sent us an update to his novel, Pillars of Fire.

The next update promises to be the best one yet. It will be full of action, and the unexpected will happen. Iím anxious to begin writing the next section, and Iím very pleased to say I hit 20,000 words. I hope you continue to post my updates and give me advice and tips for my novel.


- posted by Alex @ 18:14 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, February 5, 2003


Why We Must Go to Space

A new article has been written by Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer for the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program. It outlines why he believes we must continue and expand space exploration, particularly in the wake of the Columbia disaster. You can view the entire article on Yahoo.com.

- posted by Brian @ 16:19 EST

(permanent link)


Foam Not Cause of Columbia Disaster

Space Shuttle Columbia.
Space Shuttle Columbia.
Credit: AP
NASA today ruled out the insulating foam that struck Columbia on takeoff as the cause of the shuttle's destruction. The piece of foam weighed 2.5 pounds and was moving at 750 feet per second, which would not impart enough force to damage the extremely tough tiling. NASA currently is looking over the evidence it has and examining possibilities of space debris or meteroidal impact, as well as something that could have occurred at launch.

(More info: Yahoo! News)


- posted by Brian @ 23:53 EST

(permanent link)

Friday, February 7, 2003


Letter to America

Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off.
Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off.
Credit: Unknown
This week, I wrote an email to my home radio station, KDKA Pittsburgh. The letter included parts of the article that I had written in response to the Columbia disaster. Here's the beginning:

My name is Alex Moore. I am a junior at Canon-McMillan high school in Pittsburgh. I write to you today because I'm becoming completely disgusted with the public's short attention span and complete apathy for the space program.

You can read it here.


- posted by Alex @ 15:42 EST

(permanent link)

Saturday, February 8, 2003


Introducing the Mars Athenaeum

Mars Exploration Rover.
Mars Exploration Rover.
Credit: NASA
We are proud to introduce a new feature to Red Colony.com entitled the Mars Athenaeum. This feature will include all of the Mars general facts and data that you would expect from a Mars site. But there's more. An athenaeum can be described as "an institution, such as a literary club or scientific academy, for the promotion of learning." This section will have information on all previous Mars missions, the latest happenings on present missions, and all of the latest Mars Exploration Rover news.

The page isn't completed yet, but the first stage of this on-going project should be up within a week.


- posted by Alex @ 14:42 EST

(permanent link)


NASA to Build Planets

An artist's rendition of an Earth-like planet.
An artist's rendition of an Earth-like planet.
Credit: NASA
NASA's Virtual Planetary Laboratory is going to use supercomputers to create artifical planets and simulate their development for billions of years. The idea is to find the limits in which life could survive and see how that would appear to us looking through telescopes -- so that we can better find the ones that many people believe are out there. The experiment, part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute and done with contributions from Caltech, will model more familiar planets like Earth and Mars first to test its validity, and then move on to the more fantastical planets.

If this experiment is successful, it will go a long way towards developing all of the technology needed to create a complete Mars terraforming simulator, of a scale even more ambitious than Jim's current project.

(More info: NASA.gov)


- posted by Brian @ 15:46 EST

(permanent link)

Sunday, February 9, 2003


Beagle 2 Shipped to Toulouse

Computer-generated view of Beagle 2 on Mars.
Computer-generated view of Beagle 2 on Mars.
Credit: ESA
The Beagle 2 Lander, which will look for signs of life on the rocky Martian surface, was shipped to Toulouse, France yesterday to begin final preparation for its launch by the European Space Agency in May. The £4 billion (US $6.5 billion) project has the greatest chance yet of any craft sent to Mars of detecting life. It is very appropriately named after the HMS Beagle, the seagoing vessel that took famous evolutionist Charles Darwin around the world to the Galopagos Islands.

(More info: thisisBristol.com)


- posted by Brian @ 21:04 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, February 11, 2003


Red Colony.com Interview with Steve Squyres

Steve Squyres.
Steve Squyres.
Credit: Unknown
In August 2000 and again in February 2003, Red Colony.com founder Alex Moore wrote an email to Steve Squyres, Principal Investigator of the Mars Exploration Rover Missions, Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University, and Chairman of NASA's Space Science Advisory Committee. He kindly wrote back with answers to several important questions, and it is interesting to see how he answered over a three-year period. The exclusive interview can be found here in the evolving Mars Athenaeum section.

- posted by Alex @ 17:46 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, February 12, 2003


Is a Space Elevator too... out there?

A space elevator.
A space elevator.
Credit: NASA Flight Products Directorate
The forum is bustling with controversy. Should the governments of the world consider building a space elevator, and if so, when could/should one be built? Do we have the technology to build an elevator hundreds of miles high into space, and is it worth the trillions (?) of dollars it might cost? The price of transporting cargo to and from space would be nearly eliminated in comparison to the millions per ton it costs now. Multiple shipments could go up every week instead of 4 times a year with the space shuttle. But do our current demands in space necessitate a space elevator? Probably not, but they will when we start going to Mars.

Speak out! Read what the community has to say and jump in! The topic is entitled, Space Elevators in the General Board.


- posted by Alex @ 17:12 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, February 13, 2003


South Pole Mostly Water

"Swiss Cheese" layers.
Credit: NASA/MSSS/Caltech
In a stunning blow to the carbon dioxide greenhouse effect method of terraforming, researchers in Caltech University said today that the martian southern cap was almost entirely composed of water, not carbon dioxide as once thought. The cause of confusion appears to have been a thin layer of frozen carbon dioxide covering the pole. This destroys any hope of using the positive feedback loop that would be caused by the release of CO2 once thought possible to warm the planet.

On the other hand, it does dramatically increase the amount of water available to any terraforming project. Water is critical to all plans involving terraforming, as it would be needed by both humans and all of the life we would create on the planet.

This by no means eliminates the possibility for terraforming Mars, as some pessimists have suggested. The use of a class of compounds known as perfluorocarbons, which are related to the CFC's that have been harmful to Earth's atmosphere, might still provide a way to raise the temperature of the planet significantly. It is also worth noting that water is a weak greenhouse gas when in the gaseous state, although temperatures would need to be several tens of degrees celsius higher to have this occur.

(More info: Yahoo! News)


- posted by Brian @ 18:38 EST

(permanent link)

Saturday, February 15, 2003


Mars Warm for Millions of Years

A warming Mars,
A warming Mars,
Credit: A. Zubrin
Dr. James F. Kasting, professor of geosciences and meteorology at Penn State University, said Friday that he believes there was not enough time available for short lived asteroidal impacts to have caused the valleys and "water-created" formations on Mars. He states that the most likely method of this continuous warming effect would be from the greenhouse effect, although a pure CO2-water greenhouse effect would not have been enough to melt water.

(More info: EurekAlert!)


- posted by Brian @ 0:20 EST

(permanent link)


NASA Models Martian Water Flow

3-D image of possible Martian lakebed system.
3-D image of possible Martian lakebed system.
Credit: NASA Ames Research Center
A NASA project using data from the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft has modelled past water flow systems to help create a better understanding of how water once moved on Mars. The project has proposed solutions to many of the most intriguing questions about Mars today, such as why many apparent water features seem to not connect with others, as one would expect if they were feeding into a body such as a lake.

(More info: NASA News)


- posted by Brian @ 0:36 EST

(permanent link)


Russia to Launch Mars Express

Mars Explorer orbiter.
Mars Explorer orbiter.
Credit: ESA Medialab
Russia announced today that it would launch the ESA's Mars Express mission May 24th from Baikonur. The mission was originally scheduled for launch in March by the ESA.

The Mars Express mission's primary focus is to look for evidence of water on Mars. It also carries the Beagle 2 lander, which is considered the best chance yet to find evidence of life past or present on Mars.

(More info: Space Daily)


- posted by Brian @ 17:54 EST

(permanent link)

Sunday, February 16, 2003


Los Alamos Constructs First Water Map of Mars

Map of water concentration on Mars.
Map of water concentration on Mars.
Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory
Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory on Saturday released the completed water map of Mars based on a specific type of hydrogen concentration detected by the 2001 Mars Odyssey currently orbiting Mars.

According to the results, there is enough water buried just beneath the regolith on Mars to cover Mars to a depth of five inches in liquid water, if it were warm enough. "It's becoming increasingly clear that Mars has enough water to support future human exploration," Bill Feldman, the principal investigator for the project, said.

(More info: EurekAlert!)


- posted by Brian @ 0:38 EST

(permanent link)


Lack of CO2... a Curse or a Blessing?

Southern polar cap.
Southern polar cap.
Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS
In response to the report this week that Mars' southern polar cap is made primarily of water and not carbon dioxide, I have written an article. Lack of CO2... a Curse or a Blessing? mathematically explains how less is more. Here's a snippet:

According to Global Surveyor, there is 95.23% CO2 in the Martian atmosphere and 0.021% water vapor. Letís imagine that we begin terraforming and raise the pressure (with PFCs and oxygen from plants) to 675 millibars. Without adding any CO2 or H2O to the system, we find that there would be 1.128% CO2 in the atmosphere, far under the fatal level of 10% and far above Earthís level of 0.035%. 675 millibars would also yield 0.00025% water vapor on Mars, somewhat dryer than Earthís hospitable 2%.


- posted by Alex @ 22:14 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, February 17, 2003


Canada Looking to Help Nuclear Mars Rover Mission

Canadarm
Canadarm
Credit: NASA
The Canadian Space Agency announced today that it has requested funding to contribute robotics and mining expertise to a NASA mission slated to launch in 2009. This mission, dubbed the Mars Science Laboratory, is envisioned as a nuclear-powered rover capable of traveling hundreds of miles across Mars, looking for such things as water and life. Canada's expertise in robotics and mining could be a significant benefit to the project.

Canada's largest past contribution to a NASA project was the design and construction of the Canadarm, one of the most important parts of the Space Shuttle fleet. It has never malfunctioned, but instead has been used in everything from repairing the Hubble Space Telescope to knocking ice off the shuttle to building the International Space Station.

(More info: The Avion Online, NASA.gov)


- posted by Brian @ 13:05 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, February 18, 2003


Gaming Company to Sell Land on Mars

Screenshot of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
Screenshot of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
Credit: Gamers.com
A computer gaming company announced today that as part of an incentive program to get people to buy their upcoming role-playing game Star Ocean: Till the End of Time they would be giving away land on Mars.

The ten lots of land on Mars are being offered by Enix in collaboration with the Lunar Embassy Corporation.

(More info: Gamers.com)


- posted by Brian @ 15:53 EST

(permanent link)


New Mars Strategy

View of Mars.
View of Mars.
Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS
A group of scientists submitted its recommendation for continued martian exploration to the American Association for the Advancement of Science last Saturday. The proposal favored continued agressive exploration of Mars with a focus on being flexible to adapt to new data. For instance, if signs of life in the past or present were found, human exploration should follow quickly, they said.

(More info: Space.com)


- posted by Brian @ 16:08 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, February 19, 2003


Mars Society Uses Pic of the Day

The Mars Society logo.
The Mars Society logo.
Credit: Mars Society
The Mars Society has used the Red Colony.com Mars Pic of the Day on their website. It can be found on the left bar of the site on any page. For those of you who don't know, the Mars Society is an international organization founded with one goal: to put humans on Mars. The Society is already making giant leaps toward that goal, doing extensive work with NASA, the ESA, and other organizations. A very special thanks to webmaster Harold Miller and to the Mars Society.

To put the Red Colony.com Mars Pic of the Day on your own website, click here.


- posted by Alex @ 15:04 EST

(permanent link)


Study Finds Recent Liquid Water

Southern polar cap of Mars.
Southern polar cap of Mars.
Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS
A study published in the journal Nature by a geologist from Arizona State University contains an intriguing new theory: liquid water has flowed on Mars in the past 500,000 years -- much more recent than commonly thought.

"Our thinking was all of the water activity on Mars had occurred really early and today it's cold and frozen. But then these pictures came down and we said `Whoa, liquid water is flowing in really recent times,'" Christensen said. "It's an active process, this isn't a dead process. It isn't a dead planet."

The theory is based on known variations in the martian axial tilt. According to the theory, within extremely recent geological timescales Mars has had liquid water flowing on the surface. If this is true, it maybe that life flourished during that time period, evidence of which we would be able to find by examining snow drifts near the equator.

(More info: CNN.com)


- posted by Brian @ 16:17 EST

(permanent link)


No Canadian Help on Mars Mission

Map of Canada.
Map of Canada.
Credit: Atlas of Canada
The Canadian Space Agency announced yesterday that it had not received from the Canadian government the requested funds for participation in the martian rover mission of 2009. Canada had been expected to contribute significant technical and monetary support in Canadian specialties such as laser rangefinder devices, robotics, and mining equipment.

Although the $100 million that was expected for the Mars mission did not materialize, other Canadian space projects received increased funding, such as the Extended Very Large Array project in New Mexico and the Atacama Large Millimetre Array project in Chile.

(More info: SpaceRef.com)


- posted by Brian @ 16:40 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, February 20, 2003


Let it Snow, Let it Snow

Snow Gullies.
Snow Gullies.
Credit: AP/NASA/JPL/MSSS
Scientists now say that life on Mars might be found under layers of snow. For three years, scientists have known of long "gullies" on the sides of craters. On Earth, similar gullies form when water runs down the side of a mountain. The top layer of snow is mixed with dust and other impurities, keeping the snow from melting. Just a few centimeters down, however, scientists speculate the snow can melt. If the report is true, the search area for life will be greatly increased. These particular gullies are found in the mid-latitudes of Mars. Special thanks to Jason.

- posted by Alex @ 21:06 EST

(permanent link)

Friday, February 21, 2003


Zubrin Gives Talk on Mars

Dr. Robert Zubrin.
Dr. Robert Zubrin.
Credit: SpaceDaily.com
Dr. Robert Zubrin, a founder of the Mars Society, founder and president of Pioneer Astronautics, author of the influential book The Case for Mars, and winner of the prestigious Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award spoke at Clemson, South Carolina Monday. The topic was near-future spaceflight and martian exploration.

On the topic of Mars, he stated, "Today, we're better prepared in every way for a mission to Mars than we were when we went to the moon in 1968. We're better prepared than anyone in history to launch a great age of exploration. If not now, when? If not us, then who?"

>Dr. Zubrin's plan for a manned mission to Mars would take about two thirds of one percent of the current US military budget to execute successfully.

(More info: The Tiger)


- posted by Brian @ 16:00 EST

(permanent link)

Sunday, February 23, 2003


NASA Announces Plans for New Shuttle

New Space Plane?
New Space Plane?
Credit: NASA
Well, it looks like we're going to keep the Space Shuttle until 2012. NASA announced last week that it is beginning an investigation of existing plans for a new space plane capable of taking four astronauts to and from low-earth orbit. The new plane will be drastically cheaper per launch than the existing space shuttle, but NASA has no plans to construct a vehicle to travel farther than the ISS. The agency will release more specific information later this year.

(More info: CNN.com)


- posted by Alex @ 15:03 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, February 24, 2003


NASA and Business Not Connecting

Space Perfume Rose.
Space Perfume Rose.
Credit: NASA
Commercial investment in space, long seen by many as the necessary prerequisite for serious exploration into space, seems to be declining.

Many companies have been scared off by high overhead costs and risk, and not all companies' products have a potential benefit from space. To date, NASA's most important commercial ventures include a new perfume, disease-free potatoes, liver medicine, and better car parts.

The hope for many people looking for more commercial investment will come with the construction of a new space plane. As costs go down, so will investment.

(More info: CNN.com)


- posted by Brian @ 18:57 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, February 25, 2003


Busy Signals on Mars

New ESA communication dish.
New ESA communication dish.
Credit: ESA
What happens when you get seven spacecraft on Mars, all trying to communicate with the same receiving network on Earth? As the number of spacecraft on Mars grows to the highest number in the history of spaceflight, engineers from around the world are having to come up with innovative ways to receive communications from their multibillion dollar projects.

From Japan's Nozomi to ESA's Mars Express to NASA's many ongoing and upcoming Mars projects, as well as other, non-related space projects such as NASA's Cassini, the traditional network that receives information from spacecraft out in the great deep is showing signs of strain. Luckily, the engineers that designed the systems in use had some foresight. NASA's Deep Space Network and ESA's beginning listening system, which will soon feature a new station in Australia, will be listening for both different frequencies and different call signs to distinguish between the different spacecraft. In addition, the spacecraft systems have been designed with flexibility in mind, so that, for instance, the Beagle 2 lander can communicate with the more powerful Mars Odyssey spacecraft system as a backup.

(More info: ESA)


- posted by Brian @ 16:29 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, February 26, 2003


First Mars Rover Arrives in Cape Canaveral

Drawing of a Mars Exploration Rover.
Drawing of a Mars Exploration Rover.
Credit: NASA/Reuters
The first Mars Exploration Rover arrived in Cape Canaveral today in preparation for its launch May 30th by a Delta II rocket. The two Mars Exploration Rovers are the most ambitious landing project yet by NASA. The recent discoveries of potential liquid water on Mars as well as the recent mapping of subsurface ice have also sparked a high level of interest and anticipation for this mission.

Unfortunately, the rovers' solar cells will only give the rovers enough energy to operate in the summertime...and they are expected to be degraded too much by next summer to be of use. This is one of the many drawbacks of using solar energy instead of nuclear, as many experts continually point out.

The RC team will be travelling to Cape Canaveral to witness one of the launches, barring weather delays.

(More info: ABCNEWS.com, SpaceDaily)


- posted by Brian @ 16:19 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, February 27, 2003


US Mars Tracking Station Saved

The 70-meter antenna as fires approach.
The 70-meter antenna as fires approach.
Credit: NASA/CDSCC
The United States thanked the Tidbinbilla Volunteer Bushfire Brigade and the staff of the Canberra Deep Space Communications Centre for bravely defending the southern hemisphere's largest tracking station from a wild bushfire that swept the Canberra region.

The tracking facility is one of only three stations in the NASA Deep Space Network and responsible for tracking many Mars and other space missions and relaying data to other NASA facilities. If it had been lost, it would have been very difficult if not impossible to ensure total coverage of the current and future missions on Mars and elsewhere.

The Mount Stromlo Observatory nearby, which was world famous, was not as lucky. The observatory lost five telescopes and was devastated by the raging fires.

(More info: Herald Sun, Mount Stromlo Observatory Fire Resources)


- posted by Brian @ 18:17 EST

(permanent link)

Friday, February 28, 2003


RC Team to Attend Robert Zubrin Lecture

Penn State Mars Society.
Penn State Mars Society.
Credit: Pennsylvania State University Mars Society Chapter
The Red Colony.com team is packing their bags. Tomorrow we will be traveling to Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennsylvania. Dr. Robert Zubrin, a founder of the Mars Society, founder and president of Pioneer Astronautics, author of the influential book The Case for Mars, and winner of the prestigious Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award is touring various colleges and universities in the United States. His recent lectures have covered such topics as colonization (including the Mars Direct method), terraforming, and the Columbia disaster. After the lecture, the Pennsylvania Mars Society will meet with Zubrin and we'll have the opportunity to ask him any questions we might have. We will take lots of pictures (if we're allowed), wear our Red Colony t-shirts, and maybe even get an exclusive interview with the Mars Man himself!

- posted by Alex @ 15:29 EST

(permanent link)

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