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Wednesday, June 1, 2005


New Article: What to Do on the Moon

Earth's beautiful moon.
Earth's beautiful moon.
Credit: Harvard University
Although it's not about colonizing Mars, Steven Wintergerst's What to Do on the Moon gives a great introduction to the benefits of colonizing the moon. His article is split into several categories, with what the moon has to offer each: resources, astronomers, electricity, green houses, automated rovers, vacuum industries, rover transport, mining, satellite construction, and ballistic shipping. Steven is one of the largest contributors to Red Colony, and his articles, like this one, are consistently well-written. Here's a snippet:

I have chosen the moon, not for any reasons of feasibility, but because it is the closest world to the earth. The moon is ever present. Its size and brightness make it the realest of the extraterrestrial worlds in the common mind. Beyond that, manned missions to the moon are a proven fact. Having done something once makes doing it again, or at all, far more attractive to politicians, who try to stick to the known possibilities. A third reason is the unknown quantity of microbes. The moon has no microbes, but a flurry of papers, and websites have claimed that Mars probably does. The public has learned to fear and mistrust all microbes, even the ones that let cows eat hay.

Read this highly intriguing article to learn more.


- posted by Alex @ 20:56 EST

(permanent link)

Friday, June 3, 2005


Phoenix Mars Mission

NASA's latest lander has received the go-ahead. The Phoenix, selected in 2003, is slated to land on the northern permafrost plains of Mars. There it is expected to find evidence of water and to search for a conclusive answer to whether or not life exists on our red brother in space. The site will be selected from data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This craft, like the Vikings before it, is a stationary lander with a long arm used to scoop samples. Also like its Norse ancestors, it has equipment to measure the samples, especially their volatile chemicals (i.e. organic molecules and water). The Phoenix is the first of a series of Scout craft, low-cost counterparts to NASA's core Mars exploration program. As its name suggests, this rover does indeed rise from ashes. It is a combination of the terminated 2001 Mars Surveyor and equipment from the failed Polar Lander from 1999. The project has a US$386 million budget, and seems poised to provide important data that could be useful not just for basic science, but also for eventual colonization.

Godspeed from the Red Colony Team.

(More info: NASA News)


- posted by Jim @ 12:16 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, June 6, 2005


Methane from Rocks

In this false color picture, purple represents Olivine
In this false color picture, purple represents Olivine
Credit: NASA/JPL/ASU
Ever since the announcement that methane exists on Mars (archive), many have speculated that life must exist too. But a team of geologists from Dartmouth College has calculated that under certain conditions (which can exist beneath the surface) a mineral called Olivine (with water and Carbon Dioxide) can be converted into methane and serpentine. The researchers have calculated that it would require a 50cm think layer of Olivine a few km beneath the surface all over the planet to account for the methane and the length of time it's been there. An answer to where the methane is most likely from could come from future missions or the discovery of serpentine by the MER's.

(More info: News@Nature.com)


- posted by Jim @ 13:17 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, June 7, 2005


Methane Source Debate Heats Up

An olivine rock from Earth.
An olivine rock from Earth.
Credit: McHenry County College
As mentioned in the previous update's linked article, researchers at the University of Hawaii and Arizona State University have announced that they have found evidence of more olivine on Mars than previously thought. This would seem to imply that olivine is in fact responsible for the production of methane on Mars through the process described in the previous update. However it is far from certain that this is the case.

For instance, the published maps of methane and this olivine-rich region of Mars do not appear to match exactly. This does not mean that the methane is not caused by olivine; it could mean that the data is too imprecise or that dust storms prevented accurate data from being taken by the orbiters. To muddle things worse, olivine reacts strongly in the presence of water - and the correlation of water and methane that was found by an earlier group is very striking.

What is clear out of all this:
1. Since an estimated 6% of the methane observed on Mars could have come from external sources and volcanism, the methane is being made on Mars today.
2. It will take much more research and investigation to really know the answer to this problem, whether life, olivine undergoing serpentization, or something else.
3. We are living in exciting times for Mars research - and not in the Chinese curse sense.

(More info: University of Hawaii press release about more olivine, NASA Ames Marsoweb interactive data maps from MER selection, Space News Blog methane/water overlap, Planetary Society detailed article on sources of methane)


- posted by Brian @ 23:53 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, June 9, 2005


New Short Story: From Your Front Door to Mars

A city on Mars.
A city on Mars.
Credit: Michele Elaine Wilson
Frank Stratford has submitted a short story entitled, From Your Front Door to Mars. The story puts you in the shoes of a person whose family arrives in the first city on Mars to begin their new lives. But his story is a call to action, a demand that his future become a reality:

This vision of the future is my own. It may or may not happen but if it does not happen it will be because we could not and would not open our minds up to the possibilities that Mars holds for a new branch of human civilization. We and our children may well be the first settlers on Mars but only if we make the necessary preparations. This means getting people on the surface as soon as possible. We have the technology and we have the resources to make it to Mars as we have had for decades, what we lack is the vision and the drive. We are the only reason we are not on Mars, we the people. The entire planet can be changed so that we can even walk around on the surface and breath the air that we have created, but it all has to start somewhere. Our leaders need to know that we the people want to go to Mars for all the potential benefits it will hold and for the opportunities it will create for an increasingly unemployed young generation. Mars would give us that direction we need and so much more. Will you catch this vision too? Will you join us to Mars?


- posted by Alex @ 1:24 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, June 13, 2005


Martian Food

Martian bread and green tomato jam
Martian bread and green tomato jam
Credit: ESA
Two French companies, ADF and GEM, have created 11 delicious recipes (3 listed were 'Martian bread and green tomato jam', 'Spirulina gnocchis' and 'Potato and tomato mille-feuilles') that can be made on Mars. More importantly, they can be made with ingredients grown on Mars. The ESA gave the chefs a list of 9 ingredients that they believe could be grown on Mars. One of the restrictions was that 40% of the dishes must have been made from the 9 plants (rice, onions, tomatoes, soya, potatoes, lettuce, spinach, wheat and spirulina (a blue-green algae, 65% protein by weight), the remaining 60% was allowed to be vegetables, herbs, oil, butter, salt, pepper, sugar and other seasoning brought from home. "We are aiming initially at producing 40% locally for astronauts' food on future long-duration space missions, for example to Mars," says Christophe Lasseur, ESA's biological life-support coordinator. He is responsible for the development of systems to recycle and production of air, water, and food during long space missions. "In addition to being healthy and sufficiently nutritious for survival, good food could potentially provide psychological support for the crew, away from Earth for years," says Lasseur. ADF chef Armand Arnal, adds: "The main challenge was to create a wide panel of recipes, distinct and full-flavored, with only nine basic products.... Moreover, we had absolute restrictions on using salt, but were allowed to add a bit of sugar and fat, ingredients normally essential to the elaboration of a dish and to highlight its flavors."

Thanks to 'The Vanman' on the forum for bringing this great story to our attention.

(More info: ESA)


- posted by Jim @ 13:58 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, June 20, 2005


New Novel: Colonists

Future Martian colonists.
Future Martian colonists.
Credit: Unknown
Geoff O'Callaghan has written a full-length novel, entitled Colonists. The novel is slated to be produced as a film in Australia in 2006 or 2007. In Geoff's own words, here's a brief outline of the beginning of the story, without giving away any of the later plot details:

Colonist families, en-route to Mars, lose their adults to pollution in the feed lines, leaving their children: Stephen, Karla, Patricia , Anthony, Simon, Harry, Henrietta, Gary, and Pierre as orphans. This places an unwanted load on the existing workforce of Olympus base which is now short of workers, and must also care for nine grieving children. Command Neil Gordschsky decides to put the youngsters into his workforce where they will learn to look after themselves, to work, and to study.

The plan goes well as the Mayflower orphans learn to dig tunnels, drive trucks, collect cargo, clean vehicles, operate atmospheric plants, generators, and survey equipment. They even take part in creating new secondary bases Pavonis Gusev and Pavonis. Time passes, and they grow to love Mars, and its challenging environment. Karla becomes very attached to George who is Neilís assistant.

Stephen and three friends are nearly killed while on a mineral survey. While trapped in the cave, Stephen discovers a cache of gem quality diamonds. On the advice of his friend and mentor Kevin, he decides to keep the discovery secret.

You'll have to read to find out what happens next.

- posted by Alex @ 11:37 EST

(permanent link)



MARSIS Radar Successfully Deployed

Mars Express deploying the radar booms.
Mars Express deploying the radar booms.
Credit: European Space Agency
The European Space Agency is reporting that the MARSIS subsurface-sensing radar system on the Mars Express has been successfully deployed. The deployment was delayed over concerns that extending the long booms used to generate the radar would destabilize the spacecraft and damage it.

MARSIS will be critical in understanding the distribution of water on Mars, something which is necessary for almost any activity we could want to conduct there. Previous studies have used hydrogen spectroscopy to guess where water is, but MARSIS will provide much more accurate results, able to penetrate deep beneath the surface of Mars.

The system will also be used to study the ionosphere, which also has important implications for future projects.

(More info: ESA)


- posted by Brian @ 13:46 EST

(permanent link)


Russia Moving Ahead with Simulated Mars Mission

Yuri Gagarin, early symbol of Russia's space program and the first person in space.
Yuri Gagarin, early symbol of Russia's space program and the first person in space.
Credit: Time Magazine
As previously reported, and now with the help of the ESA, Russia plans on conducting the first realistic simulation of a manned Mars mission, complete with recycled air and other necessary equipment tests. Aimed at a 2010-2016 launch date, the simulation will occur this fall. The program seems to have survived budget cuts due to a problematic economy and the need to support the United States' contribution to the International Space Agency.

Some important features will be the use of telemedicine, a unisex crew of six people with different nationalities aged 25 to 50, and in situ monitoring of most "spacecraft" functions. After the 500- to 700-day time window, the Russians hope to move forward to testing other features of a Mars mission.

The time for the Russian mission seems to have been moved up from the previously stated 2018 launch window for a possible mission, which raises questions about whether the Russian space agency can pull such an ambitious project off.

(More info: RIA Novosti)


- posted by Brian @ 14:08 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


New Article: Nature's Agenda

The movement of life to Mars.
The movement of life to Mars.
Credit: Hans L.D.G. Starlife
Few articles can really capture the imagination so well as this. Hans L.D.G. Starlife has submitted his article, Nature's Agenda to Red Colony. A winner of the European Mars Society's Essay Contest in 2004, this article truly should be read by any newcomer or veteran to the Mars scene in order to inspire them to mankind's potential in the universe. Here's a snippet of his article:

In fact, if we choose to hinder this evolutionary drive by not migrating to Mars and interact with its environment, it would be as if our ancestors had chosen not to start cultivating the fields, simply because they didn't want to disturb the local plant life there. Is anyone today seriously suggesting we Humans should have remained hunters and nomads, not starting to cultivate our lands for this reasonÖ?

Interaction and interference are given ingredients in most evolution - physical, chemical, biological as well as cultural Ė here on Earth as well as everywhere else in our dynamic, everchanging universe. Dandelions and supernovas both influence their surroundings with their "seeds", for better or for worse. Thatís how itís supposed to be.

As we now learn to set sail for the Red Planet beaconing in the sky, to visit or to settle, to change ourselves or to change the planet, we should think about this greater agenda, subtle and hidden as it may be. As instruments of the cosmos, we are also contributing to this grand experiment called Life, tirelessly and continuously trying to surpass itself.


- posted by Alex @ 11:36 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


First Solar Sail Believed Crashed

Cosmos 1.
Cosmos 1.
Credit: Rick Sternbach, The Planetary Society (c)
Russia is reporting that the rocket booster that attempted to launch the Cosmos 1 solar sail craft from a nuclear submarine failed 83 seconds after takeoff, plunging the craft into the sea. Cosmos 1 was to have been the first solar sail craft in existence, using the push of the sun to propel itself. The mission was sponsored by Cosmos Studios and supported almost entirely by the Planetary Society, and so was notable for its private-sector base. As of yet, there has been no official acknowledgement from the Planetary Society of the loss of the craft or a statement of their intentions regarding future missions.

(More info: Netscape News, Planetary Society)


- posted by Brian @ 11:44 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, June 23, 2005


New Article: Steven Wintergerst's Terraforming Method

A lake on a terraformed Mars.
A lake on a terraformed Mars.
Credit: Michael Carrol
Steven Wintergerst has submitted his new and revised terraforming method. In it he outlines exactly how he feels Mars can be terraformed. His article is a good introduction to the concept of terraforming, and if you're not familiar with the concept, it's definitely worth a read. Here's a snippet:

Terraforming has never been done before, and therefore, it is an art, and not a science. Science is based on cold facts, calculations, and experience. Art is based on intuition, guesswork, and innovation. While successful terraforming must be based on science, until the process has been done several times, it will remain an art.

Mars, although a dismally unearthly place holds the most interest, as what may be our first potential terraforming project. However, before we begin terraforming, we must discern what it is about Mars that is unearthly. It will be impossible to make Mars more earthlike without knowing what the differences are. Once the differences are known, we can focus on those differences which are critical to human survival, and those that can be changed.


- posted by Alex @ 12:39 EST

(permanent link)

Friday, June 24, 2005


Red Colony Adds Support for RSS

A screenshot of Red Colony's RSS feed in action in Firefox.
A screenshot of Red Colony's RSS feed in action in Firefox.
Credit: Red Colony
Today Red Colony added support for the popular RSS format, a way to easily access news from your web browser or an RSS newsreader. Now, if you're using a modern web browser such as Firefox or Opera, you can catch news about Mars as soon as Red Colony knows about it. In Firefox, simply click the orange button below the scrollbar and create a Live Bookmark to automatically view the latest headlines in a bookmark. If your browser or reader needs a more direct hint, use the buttons on the right to open the feed itself, and follow the instructions of your reader. Internet Explorer does not yet support RSS; however there are many free RSS readers out there if you are a fan of IE.

This is the first part of a new push to accomodate the growing number of visitors and submissions to Red Colony, and expand the scope of our efforts. Look for more coming soon.


- posted by Brian @ 0:30 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Nanotubes for Better Hydrogen Storage

Titanium atoms (dark blue) attached to a carbon nanotube (light blue) bonded to H2 (red) molecules.
Titanium atoms (dark blue) attached to a carbon nanotube (light blue) bonded to H2 (red) molecules.
Credit: T. Yildirim/NIST
Carbon nanotubes with Titanium atoms bonded to it have been shown to hold 8% of its weight in Hydrogen. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology came across this phenomenon while running new models and computations for the electronic structure of materials. The FreedomCAR Research Partnership, which involves the Department of Energy with Ford Motor Company, DaimlerChrysler, and General Motors, stated a minimum storage capacity of 6% Hydrogen by weight. Until these results, that goal has been elusive. The Hydrogen can be released by simply heating the complex. Storing Hydrogen in a tank is extremely dangerous, and alternative methods would help spread the acceptance of this technology and increase safety on space missions. Safer and better storage of Hydrogen would also allow for a higher mass ratio for space exploration. This translates into less cost for lifting the same amount of fuel. The findings could also be used to find more efficient catalysts.

(More info: NIST)


- posted by Jim @ 9:27 EST

(permanent link)


New Article: Martian Monoculture

An asteroid settlement.
An asteroid settlement.
Credit: NASA
Perhaps this article will draw a little controversy over its unique philosophy of mankind's current inability to colonize another planet, but controversy cultivates creativity. Ferand Peek has submitted his article, Martian Monoculture to raise some concerns that a newly colonized Mars would make the same governmental and corporate mistakes that have been made here on Earth. His article is critical most of all of human complacency. Even if you disagree with his conclusions, few can argue that Mars should be different in many ways from Earth. Here's a snippet of Peek's article:

I love the idea of colonizing Mars as much as the next space enthusiast. However I have been asking myself more and more lately: 'is it necessarily the best option for us to undertake?' I can't help but see the same historical conflicts over land or territory or market influence, social system vs pure capitalist system, wealthy nations competing with poorer nations, played out again upon the surface of another world. It is possible that by the time such a project was completed, or substantial populations were living on the surface of Mars, the people of Earth may have moved past their current trend towards mono-culturalism through the power of multinational companies, and on to something perhaps more humane.


- posted by Alex @ 14:07 EST

(permanent link)

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