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Tuesday, April 1, 2003


First Visitor from Mars Confirmed!

Life on Earth? Not for long...
Life on Earth? Not for long...
Credit: Warner Brothers
It has been confirmed: there is life on Mars! At exactly 4:36 PM Eastern Standard Time, the White House welcomed its first extra-terrestrial visitor since the Nixon administration. Marvin the Martian landed in the White House, stopping only briefly to shake hands with the President. Peter Arnett, the only reporter left in the United States, was given interview rights. Marvin seemed distracted throughout the interview, referring to a certain "Bugs Bunny" with whom he apparently had a bone to pick. The interview ended with a frightening threat to the security of the planet Earth. Marvin then began firing shots in the White House lobby, striking a tour guide in the leg. The man was last listed in serious condition. Marvin then launched off aboard his spacecraft. Most experts agree Marvin is now in orbit around the Moon. It is uncertain what he may do next, but I can assure you this will be a sleepless night for the billions who call the Earth home.

- posted by Alex @ 17:40 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, April 3, 2003


Mars Exploration Rover Launches

The two launch dates are May 30th at 4:28 PM and June 25th at 12:34 PM.
Tickets are $43.50 US plus tax each.
The Kennedy Space Center opens at 9AM and closes at 5PM.
The rockets will be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force launch pad.
Tickets include a bus ride to the launch pad, bus tour, IMAX movie fees, and an exibit pass.
Spectators may bring cameras and videocameras, but no backpacks.

For more information or to order, contact Kennedy Space Center at (321)-452-1212.


- posted by Alex @ 14:08 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, April 7, 2003


NASA Posts New Mars Images

Mars.
Mars.
Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS
Hey, an update! Our news updating program has been down the last few days and we finally just got it up and running. Luckily not too much has been happening on the red planet... except this:

NASA has just released 11,000 brand new Mars images. The images, taken by the Mars Global Surveyor from February to July 2002, bring the total number of Mars images available online to more than 123,800. You can see them all here. The RC Mars Pic of the Day feeds off this enormous gallery. In the coming days we'll include the new Mars images in the feature.

(More info: CNN.com)


- posted by Alex @ 18:36 EST

(permanent link)


Mars Express Arrives in Kazakhstan

The Mars Express orbiter and its companion Beagle II lander after much delay has arrived in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, where it will be launched by the Russian space agency in June. The spacecraft were carried by two giant Antonov aircraft.

Although the European Space Agency's first solo mission to Mars has had some delays, it is now on track...and it looks as if it will be well worth the wait.


- posted by Brian @ 20:45 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, April 8, 2003


Russians Prepare for Manned Mars Mission

Russian Mission Control.
Russian Mission Control.
Credit: Eyes on the Cape
Russia announced today that it was preparing to launch a study on the effects of a 1.5-year stay in conditions simulating the voyage to Mars.

The study would include six volunteers provided with a supply of three tons of water and five tons of food. The rest of the water, along with air to breathe, will come from recycling. A manned mission to Mars is currently set at the 2018 launch window.

Let us hope that world events do not derail the launch. Russia has been preparing for a manned mission since August 2001. The mission has since been moved forward from its preliminary date of 2020.

(More info: Interfax)


- posted by Brian @ 18:11 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, April 9, 2003


Mars Possibly Contaminated by Spacecraft

An Endospore.
An Endospore.
Credit: The American Phytopathological Society
New research done at the University of Idaho suggests that we may never know for sure whether life we find on Mars is Martian at all. His group simulated Martian conditions and placed bacteria in a natural, protective spore state in the most damaging soil found on Mars, known as ferrates. They survived.

This has enormous implications for all Martian biological research. We already have firm evidence that bacteria can survive in the vacuum of space, and even if the bacteria could not survive the harsh radiation inherent on Mars - which many strains could - it would only take a very thin layer of soil to protect them sufficiently. This means that any bacteria we find on Mars could very easily have come straight from Earth, catching a ride on the spacecraft that we sent to explore.

Further confusing the issue is the concept of panspermia. We have Martian meteorites in Antarctica and various other locales on Earth. As was suggested in 1996, life could have traveled across from Mars to Earth. If this is true, we may never be able to tell which planet life started on.

All this of course assumes that we will actually find life on Mars. The chances of it are getting greater as we look deeper at Mars and find more of the necessary prerequisites for life. It would be surprising if there were not life on Mars, rather than the other way around.

(More info: Astrobiology Magazine)


- posted by Brian @ 17:11 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, April 10, 2003


Mars Express Expected to Find Water

MARSIS Radar System on the Mars Express Orbiter.
MARSIS Radar System on the Mars Express Orbiter.
Credit: Nirgal.net
The British are entirely confident that they will find water under the surface of Mars. Says Professor Iwan Williams, "Everyone is 100% confident that we will find [water]."

This is a marked change from attitudes since the Viking lander revealed Mars to be a barren desert. It is a sign of how far NASA's startling findings have revolutionized how we think about Mars.

The European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter and Beagle 2 lander will be launching in June. Among other instruments, the orbiter carries the MARSIS system that can see 5 kilometers below the Martian surface. Based on what we now think we know of Mars, the orbiter should find ample underground water. If it doesn't, then we will have to rethink everything about the red planet.

(More info: BBC.co.uk)


- posted by Brian @ 16:32 EST

(permanent link)

Friday, April 11, 2003


Mars Exploration Rover Landing Sites Chosen

An artist's conception of an MER.
An artist's conception of an MER.
Credit: NASA/JPL
NASA announced today that it has chosen the landing sites for the two Mars Exploration Rovers, slated to launch in May and June. The two sites were heavily debated over, with conerns of safety vying against eagerness to dig into the really interesting locations on Mars. The first location, Gusev crater, once had a river flowing into it, making it prime location for spore bacteria and fossils. The second location, Meridiani Planum, has high concentrations of the black mineral hematite, usually formed only in the presence of water. So if we don't find what we are looking for, it will be a huge surprise.

(More info: CBS News, NASA Mars Exploration Rover Home)


- posted by Brian @ 17:07 EST

(permanent link)

Saturday, April 12, 2003


Life on Mars Not Carbon-Based?

Diagram of a cell.
Diagram of a cell.
Credit: The Online Biology Book, Estrella Mountain Community College
Everyone knows that life is made up of cells, and that the basic element that lets us be who we are is carbon. But just because it's like that on Earth doesn't mean that it has to be on Mars.

If the life that we hope to find on Mars evolved completely independently, it may also be completely different from life on Earth. After all, no one really knows what really happened to make life on Earth, and no one really knows if the conditions on Mars have ever been like they were once on Earth billions of years ago.

It is in this line of thought that the European Space Agency is approaching the instrumentation for the upcoming ExoMars mission. The ESA is now accepting idea submissions for instruments that might be useful not just in finding life that would be like us, but life based on altogether different principles. This is possibly the most difficult part of the entire project, as it involves predicting what something no one has ever seen is like on a different planet.

The United States, not to be outdone, is also pursuing the search for so-called "weird life." The National Research Council's Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life is seeking suggestions on the same subject. Unlike the ESA, which is already going to send the ExoMars mission, the committee not only has to come up with innovative ideas, but then persuade NASA to use them.

Were weird life to be found on Mars, it would literally change almost everything known about biology. The benefits to genetic research would most likely be extraordinary as well. More importantly, such a discovery would change the very nature of how we think about the universe. After all, if life can be so diverse in the only two planets we have ever looked for it on, then the possibilities for the entire universe are mind-boggling.

(More info: The Globe and Mail, The Scientist, ESA, National Research Council's Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life)


- posted by Brian @ 13:24 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, April 14, 2003


Mars Exploration Rover Launch Delayed

NASA announced today that it had discovered a problem with the software behind the wiring between the main computer and peripheral functions of the spacecraft. The main computer, located in the rover component, is to be separated from its control of the spacecraft and the lander. NASA discovered that when the rover was separated from these two systems it would interpret signals incorrectly.

The problem will require disassembly of both rovers, and will force the postponement of the May launch, which will be delayed until no earlier than June 6. This will not affect the launch date of the second rover, and the first rover will still arrive in Gusev Crater on January 4.

The Red Colony team's luck is holding out. We plan to see the launch of the second rover on June 25.

(More info: Spaceflight Now)


- posted by Brian @ 21:57 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, April 15, 2003


Landing Sites Page

Landing sites.
Landing sites.
Credit: NASA
In response to the announcement made Friday that NASA has chosen the two landing sites for the Mars Exploration Rovers, we have created a page called Landing Sites. The page can be found as part of the 2003 MER feature. You can expect more to be added to this page as information comes in.

I have a request. We're trying to create Mars Mission pages sections for each past, present, and future mission to Mars. A full timeline and index can be found here. The project is massive. It would take literally months for Brian, Jim, and me to create all these pages from scratch... that is, gather all the information and pics, write the sections, and post them in the Mars Mission format. So, we're asking you guys to help contribute. What's needed is what's not already posted. In other words, we'll take whatever you've got. Take a look at the Mars Direct section for an example.

If you would like to help in any way, check out the Missions to Mars message board.


- posted by Alex @ 15:49 EST

(permanent link)


Beagle 2 Mission Open to the Public

Artist's conception of the Beagle 2 lander.
Artist's conception of the Beagle 2 lander.
Credit: ESA
The ESA has announced that its Beagle 2 lander mission will be under complete scrutiny from the public. Operated from the National Space Centre in Leicester, Great Britain, visitors will be able to watch scientists work as they search for signs of life on Mars. Professor Alan Wells, director of space research at the center, said, "NASA has never done this. We are breaking new ground in the public presentation of space science."

The cost to visit the centre is 8.95 for adult regular admission, and 6.95 for children.

(More info: Ananova, British National Space Centre)


- posted by Brian @ 18:13 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, April 16, 2003


NASA, ESA, Japan Competing for Air Time

NASA 70-meter antenna at Goldstone in California.
NASA 70-meter antenna at Goldstone in California.
Credit: NASA
In February we reported that NASA and the ESA were working hard to upgrade their receiving networks to communicate with the multitude of spacecraft sent to Mars and other locations in the solar system. Now a similar problem has come up. Instead of the Earth being unable to receive the messages, there may be a problem with the spacecraft on Mars being unable to send them.

NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey has some of the most powerful radio equipment ever in orbit of Mars onboard. This gives other spacecraft near it the ability to use the Odyssey as a communications satellite to relay their messages to the Earth. The ESA's Beagle 2 lander will need to use this system to relay what it finds, as will the Mars Exploration Rovers. The Japanese Nozomi probe will also muddle the airwaves.

This conflict of interest could lead to problems with everyone getting their data through. Luckily, it will not completely halt communication to the Earth, but it could lead to a large slowdown in the information that can be gathered from the short, vital period that the landers will function.

(More info: The Daily Telegraph)


- posted by Brian @ 20:36 EST

(permanent link)

Friday, April 18, 2003


New Article: Genetic Engineering

DNA.
DNA.
Credit: Unknown
Chris Schubert sent me his article, Genetic Engineering, about two weeks ago, but I lost it among my countless emails offering secrets on how I can make a fortune on Ebay and increase my breast size. But now the article has been posted on Red Colony. Chris covers the different types of bacteria that might be used in bioengineering for terraforming Mars. It's a very complicated topic, but he covers all the bases and does it well. Check it out.

- posted by Alex @ 19:34 EST

(permanent link)


Private Company Unveils Manned Spacecraft

SpaceShipOne.
SpaceShipOne.
Credit: Scaled Composites
Today we have something to report, that, although it does not directly affect Mars or terraforming, has far-reaching consequences for the future of space travel. After two years of secret development at a hangar at the Mojave Airport in California, Scaled Composites today unveiled a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 62.5 miles up and launching again within two weeks. This represents a breakthrough of immense proportions.

The spacecraft is similar to the X-15. The White Knight launcher releases the spacecraft at a high altitude, which allows the SpaceShipOne to get to 100 kilometers high much easier. The company is expected to claim the X-Prize, which was designed to inspire competition between the private sector to achieve low cost, reusable space travel. After successful testing the company plans to promote space tourism.

The company's founder, Bert Rutan, is most famous for designing and launching the Voyager aircraft, which made the first nonstop, nonrefueled flight around the world in 1986.

(More info: Scaled Composites, Mercury News)


- posted by Brian @ 20:55 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, April 21, 2003


Links Section Updated

Hey, everyone. Happy Easter. Today we are happy to introduce the new Links Section. There are a ton of new entries, as well as a change in the format of the pages. One mandatory link, although having little to do with Mars, is GrandDuchy.net. It is operated by Adam (see: this, this, and this). This is mandatory. In his words, "Read on in order to realize that I am the man."

Oh, and uh... visit some Mars websites too.


- posted by Alex @ 13:20 EST

(permanent link)

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January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December