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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Enters Orbit

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) entered the orbit of Mars this morning. At 5:16PM EST, the rover appeared from behind Mars. The craft is now in a seven-month aerobraking stage. This will take it from a 35hr orbit approx. 56,000km in altitude to a 2hr orbit approx. 300km-250km in altitude. "This is a great milestone to have accomplished, but it's just one of many milestones before we can open the champagne," said Colleen Hartman, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "Once we are in the prime science orbit, the spacecraft will perform observations of the atmosphere, surface, and subsurface of Mars in unprecedented detail." By unprecedented detail she means that it will return more data, ~56 trillion bytes in all, than all previous missions. The MRO has a spectrometer, color cameras (one being able to view items about 1m2 in size), and a radiometer. It will image the surface, watch the weather, and monitor how the atmosphere changes. Since the MRO can transmit data 10 times faster than any other orbiter, it will also be used as a relay station for other missions.

Thank you to the loyal visitors who reminded me about the mission. Also, apologies for the lag in news, I promise I will try to be more regular.

More info: NASA/JPL and New Scientist)

- posted by Jim @ 17:28 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Announcement about the Future of Red Colony

As Red Colony has aged it has gone through stages. From its beginnings as a little site for a group of friends, to the internationally known website that it is today, it has always gone through periods of little activity, and then periods of abundant activity. Those down-times are caused by the core team having to go to school and not have time to work on the site. In the past, those periods meant little community activity too, but this time the community didn't stop. Even now there is continuous activity on the forum; therefore, I propose that Red Colony be reorganized. No longer will it be a three-man core team. No longer will Red Colony lag when school is in session. With this announcement, Red Colony changes!

The first change is the creation of two groups to help create this plan. One group will focus on terraforming; the other on colonization. The goal of these groups is to create a library of information that will continuously be updated and expanded. I am envisioning a system similar to that of a wiki, but only members of that group can approve changes and make direct changes to the articles and information. Each group is also responsible for the validity of any articles that they approve for the site. The groups are supposed to seek out information to add to and update articles.

The groups will then use the information to create presentations, brochures, and possibly books, which will be aimed at different groups of people. For instance, one presentation will be for college students, one for middle school, another for the common man who knows little about space exploration, and possibly another aimed at academia. By tailoring the content and message slightly for different groups, we can inspire them without boring or belittling them. A teacherís packet could be created to help teachers introduce children to terraforming and colonization. What's more, by having a library of information for them to access, we can hopefully answer questions that anyone may have. We are to create art, ideas, and science to support our claims and steal people's imagination.

I would also want to create a group whose responsibility would be to read the older articles on the site to edit them and check their facts. If an article can be salvaged, it will be, otherwise it will be marked as old and unreliable. To salvage an article, it will be edited for grammar and spelling, then turned over to the appropriate group for fact checking. This is as important as the other two groups, for if our old articles are factually flawed and written poorly, then we would not be taken seriously in the Mars community. The editors will also be responsible for grammar checking submitted articles and passing them to the correct team.

Eventually, I am also looking to add a few (3) people to the core team of Red Colony, essentially to do what Brian and I, are supposed to be doing, but split among more people. This means that each person will have more time and less work to do, meaning that more gets done. With many of the duties that we once had to do split among more people, I will have time to make many of the site improvements that Iíve been promising.

It is also my intention to have monthly meetings to keep other members informed as to the progress of these three groups. The meetings are also supposed to help stimulate discussion between members. Other groups could also be created to work on other projects at these meetings.

I would like to thank the Mars Drive Consortium, especially Frank Stratford and Jason Archer, for helping to keep Red Colony going when times looked bleak and for helping me to get Red Colony organized.

I am asking the members of Red Colony to fulfill the mission we created years ago, to inspire and create. I am asking members of Red Colony to come together now to make Red Colony the organization that it has the potential to be.

Jim Keener
Bioengineering Specialist
Acting Head, Red Colony

- posted by Jim @ 16:47 EST

(permanent link)

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