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Friday, July 1, 2005


New Instrument to Search for Life

 Mars astrobiology probe.
Mars astrobiology probe.
Credit: Alison Skelley/UC Berkeley
Late last month, Alison Skelley and Richard Mathies from UC Berkeley and others from NASA traveled to the Atacama Desert to test the Mars Organic Analyzer (MOA). The Atacama Desert is one of the most lifeless places on Earth. However, the MOA was able to detect the presence of amino acids. Even more impressive, is that it was able to distinguish between left and right handed amino acids (its chirality). For some reason, life prefers left-handed amino acids. Scientists feel that this could be an important clue to distinguishing chemical from biological sources for any amino acids found on Mars (in space it seems to be 50-50). "We feel that measuring homochirality - a prevalence of one type of handedness over another - would be absolute proof of life," said Mathies, a professor of chemistry and Skelley's research advisor. "We've shown on Earth, in the most Mars-like environment available, that this instrument is a thousand times better at detecting biomarkers than any instrument put on Mars before." The instrument is scheduled to fly on the ESA's ExoMars Mission in 2011. Skelley has been working on amino-acid detection for 5 years now and this project for the past 2. "When I first started this project, I had seen photos of the Martian surface and possible signs of water, but the existence of liquid water was speculative, and people thought I was crazy to be working on an experiment to detect life on Mars," Skelley said. "I feel vindicated now, thanks to the work of NASA and others that shows there used to be running liquid water on the surface of Mars."

(More info: Berkeley)


- posted by Jim @ 13:52 EST

(permanent link)

Sunday, July 3, 2005


World to Cooperate on Russian Kliper Space Plane Project

Full-scale model of Kliper at Le Bourget Airshow.
Full-scale model of Kliper at Le Bourget Airshow.
Credit: ESA
The European Space Agency is reporting that it is "envisioning" cooperation with Russia to participate in the development and use of the next-generation reusable Kliper space plane. The space plane, designed partly to ensure the continued ability to reach the International Space Station but with the capability to do more, would use modern technology from Russia and Europe to replace the 40-year-old Soyuz concept as Russia's primary spacecraft. With Europe participating, it would provide the ESA with its first-ever ability to carry its own astronauts into space. Japan has also expressed interest in joining the project.

The Kliper would seat six people and lift 700 kg of cargo into orbit, and the Russians plan on using the craft for missions to the International Space Station, the Moon, and the Mars mission in 2015. It would have the capability of parachuting into the Russian steppes or landing on a runway like the Space Shuttle. At this point, it looks to compare most favorably with NASA's future Crew Exploration Vehicle, which, while not finalized, would either be a non-reusable capsule or of similar construction to the Kliper.

(More info: ESA.int, Yahoo! News)


- posted by Brian @ 14:27 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, July 4, 2005


Anniversaries and Impact

Fireworks
Fireworks
Credit: Goleta Air and Space Museum
To all Americans: Happy 4th of July. Today is the 229th anniversary of our independence.

To all: Happy 5th Anniversary to Red Colony!

To all: Happy 8th Anniversary Pathfinder and Sojourner. This mission inspired us to create RC.

To all: Deep Impact's impact probe smashed into a comet today. The mission was designed to do four things:
  1. Observe how the crater forms
  2. Measure the crater's depth and diameter
  3. Measure the composition of the interior of the crater and its ejecta
  4. Determine the changes in natural outgassing produced by the impact
Comets could play a major role in terraforming, and understanding their composition could help us design better theories.


- posted by Jim @ 19:33 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, July 6, 2005


New Article: A City for Mars

A dome on Mars.
A dome on Mars.
Credit: Mark Somers
If you're familiar with Frank Stratford or his work, you understand how adamant he is about the strength of the private sector in space colonization. His latest article, A City for Mars describes, in detail, "a proposal that may well become a key solution to the long term funding problems of space exploration from the private sector." His article outlines the exact specifications of the first city on Mars, including building plans, a timetable, and a pricetag. Here's a snippet:

I propose that a domed city be built on Mars that is able to hold 7500 people and will include a strong commercial sector, shopping areas, hotels, resorts, medical centres, a university, theme parks, swimming areas, parks, residential sectors, a large greenhouse area for food production, a space port nearby for the depature and arrival of tourists and industrial workers, roads leading to mines and a separate industrial sector near those mines. There will also be underground shelters to hold the population in case of dome problems and many other safety systems in place. This city will house 2500 permanent residents and 5000 tourists every day of the year. Enough money has already been wasted by government and private sector on unprofitable space ventures, and now is the time for something new, something that transcends all of these small time efforts and builds on them. It is time for a city to be built on Mars.


- posted by Alex @ 14:00 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Manned Mission to Include Cyborgs?

Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cyborg.
Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cyborg.
Credit: The Cyberpunk Movement
Universe Today is reporting that researchers at the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid and the Geological and Mineral Institute have developed a "wearable computer and video camcorder system" to help identify locations of interest and confirm possible sightings of life and interesting phenomena. The system already has a 68% agreement rate with human geologists. The end goal is to help fight false positives in the identification of life - saving time and improving reliability.

The Universe Today author believes that this technology should be incorporated in future rovers like the MERs up there today, but this will not be very useful until the rovers are capable of exploring on their own. Until then, manual control of the rovers means that scientists must look at the imagery taken on the previous run to determine where they want to go next, which makes the suggestions coming from the rover of interest, but not as important as a real-time aid to a human observer would be.

(More info: Universe Today, Centro de Astrobiología)


- posted by Brian @ 17:10 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Discovery Launches Safely

Space Shuttle Discovery.
Space Shuttle Discovery.
Credit: NASA
Space Shuttle Discovery successfully launched this morning at 10:39 AM. The launch marked the first manned space flight for NASA since the 2003 Columbia Disaster. The day was filled with emotion for the thousands of spectators crowded around the launch pad, whose enthusiasm served only to inspire the suddenly-reborn space agency. "Liftoff of space shuttle Discovery, beginning America's new journey to the moon, Mars and beyond," the shuttle's launch control announced. "Our long wait may be over," launch director Mike Leinbach said. "So, on behalf of the many millions of people who believe so deeply in what we do, good luck, Godspeed, and have a little fun up there." The mission will last for 12 days.

(More info: CNN.com)


- posted by Alex @ 11:48 EST

(permanent link)


New Original Artwork

A habitat on Mars.
A habitat on Mars.
Credit: Jason Archer
We have received some new original artwork, and you won't know what you're missing until you see it. Jason Archer, a professional artist, has submitted two still-shots he has created as part of some movies he is putting together for MarsDrive, the campaign to raise awareness for Red Colony and our mission. His first image, shown here, is of one of the first habitats on Mars. His second image is of a blimp over an early-terraformed mountain range on Mars. Darren Glidden also submitted some pictures he made of what he hopes to be Mars sometime after the 22nd century. They are Blue Mars 1, Blue Mars 2, and Blue Mars 3.

If you have some original artwork that you would like to submit to Red Colony, feel free to put it in a Word document and submit it to us. And as always, we welcome your fiction and articles dealing with colonization or terraforming.

All original images, and some other goodies, can be found on the Art & Screenshots page. You can view more of Jason's artwork and photography at jasonarcher.com. A very special thanks to both men for their contributions to the global Mars database that is Red Colony.


- posted by Alex @ 20:47 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Pillars of Fire

Pillars of fire.
Pillars of fire.
Credit: Unknown
Ian Steil is perhaps the most patient person I have ever met. In December of 2002, Ian began submitting pieces of his novel, Pillars of Fire. The novel began to take shape, and by last year was almost entirely finished. Unfortunately, due to a mix-up when we changed web-servers last summer, the book was lost and the file inadvertently deleted.

Ian waited and waited for us to correct the problem--which we did not--before finally sending an updated edition of Pillars of Fire a few weeks ago. As luck would have it, the novel was tossed around and misplaced.

Finally, after years of waiting, Pillars of Fire, the most widely anticipated original novel on Red Colony, has been released. This book is one of the most exciting, most unique, and most inspiring Mars novels ever written, and I urge you to give it a read. For all of his patience, Ian needs to be commended, but for what he has produced, he needs to be honored. Thank you so much for what you have contributed to the Mars community.


- posted by Alex @ 21:07 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, July 28, 2005


New Article: Reality - Mars Style

Real people.
Real people.
Credit: Cooperative Bank
Frank Stratford has submitted an article entitled Reality- Mars Style. His very moderate views on colonizing Mars, and the thoughtful realism he exhibits in all he does, shine here in this work dedicated to the everyday people who, despite the Mars community's best efforts, cannot understand why Mars (and space) is so important. Here's a snippet:

Why should we go? Many arguments of the past have referred to a "because it's there" or a pioneering tradition we must somehow maintain for the future of humanity, but let's think about it for a minute. Do the average public see what the space advocacy community sees? We try so hard to raise awareness and interest but it always seems to miss the mark. Where we see unlimited potential for all of humanity, they see nothing but where their next paycheck is coming from and how they are going to pay the bills.

What do we want Mars to be? (Not what could it be based on past examples.) This vision is yet to be created. That vision will be the new meaning of space colonization. We now need to decide what we want space and Mars settlement to look like and present that as an inspiring and all-inclusive picture of our future in space. People will want to know- "What will I be doing on Mars?" "What will it mean for us here on earth?" Grandiose schemes and utopian ideals are out. What people need now is reality, Mars style.


He suggests developing new fiction and raising awareness of the tangible benefits of Mars in the media, an echo of the mission of MarsDrive.


- posted by Alex @ 00:01 EST

(permanent link)

Friday, July 29, 2005


Subzero Bacteria's Genome Sequenced

C. psychrerythraea strain 34H.  The black lines indicate the movement of the cells.<br>
C. psychrerythraea strain 34H. The black lines indicate the movement of the cells.

Credit: "Motility of Colwellia psychrerythraea Strain 34H at Subzero Temperatures," Karen Junge, Hajo Eicken, and Jody W. Deming
Colwellia psychrerythraea 34H normally lives between -1C and 10C, but can live colder. In fact, the bacteria cannot live at normal temperatures. The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and collaborators have sequenced C. psychrerythraea's genome to try to figure out why. They found that some of the 4,937 genes code for polyunsaturated fatty acids in the cell membrane that resist freezing, polyester compounds that offer extra energy reserves, protective solutes inside cells, and ordinary enzymes altered to function in chilly seawater. The bacteria also takes mommy's advice; it dresses in layers: the cell has polysaccharides coating its cell membrane. The researchers compared its genome and proteome to other bacteria (living at normal and high temperatures) to find the differences.

Now that these genes are known, it would be possible to splice them into other bacteria to help them live at frigid temperatures better. One possible use would be helping bacteria survive better on Mars.

(More info: TIGR)


- posted by Jim @ 9:56 EST

(permanent link)


Ice in Crater

Perspective view of crater with water ice - looking east at approximately 70.5° North and 103° East.
Perspective view of crater with water ice - looking east at approximately 70.5° North and 103° East.
Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
The ESA has released some of the best pictures of ice on the surface of Mars, discovered in a crater as a frozen lake. The ice cannot be carbon dioxide because CO2 sublimates in this part of Mars in the season the picture was taken. The images were taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on Mars Express.

- posted by Jim @ 14:51 EST

(permanent link)

Sunday, July 31, 2005


New Article: Martian Aircraft

A blimp on Mars.
A blimp on Mars.
Credit: Jason Archer
The challenges of moving around on Mars have been overlooked by many colonization aficionados. Mars has a varied terrain, more difficult and rugged than any other body in the solar system. And worst of all, no one really knows it. To build roads and rails on the surface we must have an exact understanding of the terrain, to a degree greater than satellites can provide.

Steven Wintergerst believes that blimps can be used to survey the surface before roads are even planned. His article, Martian Aircraft explains it all. Here's a snippet:

On earth, virtually all road systems follow the paths of old trails. Old trails follow the paths of older trails, which follow the paths of animals, or natural stream beds, or the wanderings of near insane explorers who just ambled across a desert thinking “Well, I guess there must be something else thataway...”

What is needed is a fuel efficient way to get slightly above the ground, and not move around too fast. Slow speed travel close to the ground is generally safer anyway, and it will allow humans more time to use their discerning eyes. One possibility would be a lighter-than air craft. There are three basic types of lighter than air crafts: Balloons, blimps, and dirigibles.



- posted by Alex @ 14:15 EST

(permanent link)


New Material for Fuel Cells

Paul Kenis testing a microscale reformer.
Paul Kenis testing a microscale reformer.
Credit: University of Illinois
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a material that can make reforming of hydrocarbon fuels more efficient. "These novel materials show great promise for the on-demand reforming of hydrocarbons such as diesel fuel into hydrogen for portable power sources," said Paul Kenis. For a material to be useful in a reformer it has to have a high surface area, be stable at high temperatures, and be easy to push the fuel through (have a low pressure drop). The material the team created has all of these properties. The design has been shown to strip hydrogen from ammonia at up to 1000°C. Allowing fuel for fuel cells to be stored in a safer and less volatile form could pave the way for fuel cells to be used commercially.

(More info: University of Illinois)


- posted by Jim @ 18:06 EST

(permanent link)

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