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Saturday, September 3, 2005


Mars by 2020?

A report, released by Paul Wooster and other members of MIT's Aeronautics and Astronautics department, and was partly funded by NASA, at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Space 2005 Conference in Long Beach, California says that if NASA makes the right choices, that "we can get to Mars in the 2020 timeframe," (Wooster). The idea behind the report is that the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), meant to be the Shuttle's successor, could be reused for a variety of missions, lessening the R&D for each individual mission. NASA has not released any official plans for Lunar or Martian exploration missions, but, according to Michael Griffin, they should be released late this September. Preliminary dates were placing a Mars mission past 2030. Wooster and his team examined over 2000 missions for safety, productiveness, and cost.

(More info: New Scientist)


- posted by Jim @ 13:13 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, September 7, 2005


New Article: MarsDrive Taskforce

The MarsDrive logo.
The MarsDrive logo.
Credit: Jason Archer
Frank Stratford has submitted an article entitled, MarsDrive Taskforce. His article lays out his hopes for the massive fundraising project that MarsDrive has already begun. What is the MarsDrive Taskforce? In short, it is a way to unite the special-interest space groups of the world together and pool all of their resources into one collective cooperative drive to colonize Mars. Here's a snippet:

To enable a real life private mission to Mars based on private funds and making use of all the great research space advocate groups are doing, we need significant funds. We have three sources to gain those funds from- Government, Private Corporations and the General Public. Lobby groups work on the government angle but even if they succeed that does not give private groups access to Mars. Private corporations do have the funds we need but the bottom line is they want to know what's in it for them and how can they make a profit. That is the reason why even small research projects are so hard to get going when relying on such companies. Finally there is the general public. The true untapped resource. The general public are you and me. Rich and poor alike. For years now the fundraising model has been to get corporate sponsors for various projects and I am all for that to continue. But that model will not be able to make the leap from a few million dollars to several billions any time soon, especially without demonstrating a financial incentive for such sponsors to shell out the needed billions. Corporations and governments are very restrictive and slow moving when it comes to spending billions of dollars for any reason.

To find out more about MarsDrive, visit marsdrive.redcolony.com.


- posted by Alex @ 14:03 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, September 8, 2005


Planetary Fourier Spectrometer is Broken

The Planetary Fourier Spectrometer
The Planetary Fourier Spectrometer
Credit: ESA
Mars Express's Planetary Fourier Spectrometer was designed to measure the absorption of sunlight through the atmosphere. This would enable scientists to study temperature profiles and the composition of the atmosphere. The PFS would have given us clear results in the mist of many varying results. The results are important because methane only last about 100 years in the Martian atmosphere and would need to be replenished. How often, by how much, and if the Methane is localized are important factors in deciding how it is produced.

The problem with the PFS is that because of the spacecrafts vibrations a pendulum that is responsible for collecting light is not smooth in its swing. Ludmilla Zasova, who leads the Russian Scientists who worked on the PFS says that stopped working in July. Vittorio Formisano, or Rome, is in charge of the craft and will not says that it is broken, but rather that he is working on it. So far scientists have been able to filter out some of the noise.

(More info: Nature)


- posted by Jim @ 9:31 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Possible Route to Repair UV Damage in Mammals

Crystal structure of cyanobacterial DNA photolyase.
Crystal structure of cyanobacterial DNA photolyase.
Credit: Riken, Harima Institute
Almost all forms of life on earth have an enzyme similar to photolyase, except mammals. Photolyase is an enzyme that can repair dimers in DNA. Dimers are when 2 juxtaposed nucleotides are excited by UV light and bond to one another. This causes problems in expression and replication of that segment of DNA. When this occurs in an oncogene, it leads to cancer. There is no known way to fix a dimer in mammals, since this function is taken care of by photolyase in other forms of life. Since until recently we did not know how it worked we could not replicate it. If scientists could replicates this enzyme, we could reduce the chances of cancer for long term space travel.

We currently have a better understanding of how it works becuase of Dongping Zhong and other researchers at Ohio State University. The team of researchers used pulses of light to analyze steps in the repair (similar to using stop motion photography to see how a humming bird flaps its wings). A more detailed description of how photolyase works can be found here.

(More info: Ohio State University)


- posted by Jim @ 12:24 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, September 15, 2005


The Pedal-powered Centrifuge could Help Astronauts Stay Fit in Space

The human-powered centrifuge
The human-powered centrifuge
Credit: New Scientist
Astronauts now bike in space, but scientists at University of California, Irvine have developed a bike on a centrifuge that more realistically represents the force of gravity on Earth. This helps to lessen bone and muscle atrophy in space. The device uses a person to pedal, spinning the centrifuge, and a person acting as a counterweight on the other side. The counterweight could be running on a treadmill or doing other exercises. Vince Caiozzo, who leads the research team, says that the people who have tested the prototype do not get motion sick, even up to 43rpm, if they don't look tot he side. Caiozzo says the next level of research is to compare how exercise on the machine compares to exercise on good ol' terra firma.

(More info:
New Scientist)


- posted by Jim @ 22:14 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, September 19, 2005


NASA Unveils its New Lunar Program

NASA's new lunar lander.
NASA's new lunar lander.
Credit: NASA
NASA has announced its new plans to put humans on the moon by 2018. Along the lines of President Bush's new space initiative from January of last year, NASA was asked to develop a program to create a manned base on the moon in preparation for an eventual colony on Mars.

The components of this new program are reminiscent of the Apollo missions of the 60s and 70s. But the mission, technologies, and capabilities will be quite different. A Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) will carry a crew of six to rendezvous with a lunar lander already arrived on the surface. "Think of it as Apollo on steroids," said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.

In response to the criticism that space has become irrelevant to a changing world, Griffin put it this way: "The space program is a long-term investment in our future. We must deal with our short-term problems while not sacrificing our long-term investments in our future. When we have a hurricane, we don't cancel the Air Force. We don't cancel the Navy. And we're not going to cancel NASA."

(More info: CNN.com)


- posted by Alex @ 20:50 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


New Article: Matthew Johnson's Terraforming Method

A terraformed Mars.
A terraformed Mars.
Credit: Matthew Johnson / TerraGen
Matthew Johnson has submitted an updated version of his Terraforming Method, an all encompassing explanation of how we might go about terraforming Mars. An easy-to-understand and brief read, his article is packed with stats and specifics as to exactly how the science behind his theories works. His style is developed and well-written, though some of his ideas may be controversial at times. He incorporates the somewhat renegade theory of paraterraforming. Here's a snippet:

All we know is that Mars won’t retain its atmosphere in the long run, so we must take this into consideration.If we were to put a roof over Mars, most of the above information is still valid, but a few changes must be made. First, the sun on Mars must be blocked out so as to totally freeze its current air and all the air imported from comets. This could be done with a large mirror that instead of directing more sunlight onto Mars, it reflected it away. Once Mars is an airless world coated with frozen gases, the towers must be built and the transparent roof constructed. To create an Earthlike meteorology, the roof should be at least 10 miles high, higher is possible. Once the ceiling is built, the sun is allowed to shine again and warm the frozen gases, creating an atmosphere and standing. Local biology does the same stuff as in terraforming, so everything progresses from here the same way.

Not only would this method stop slow escape of gases, but it would also decrease the amount of gases needed to get the job done. The only risk here is meteor punctures, but it would take a very large tear or impact to pose a significant threat. All that is needed to keep everything safe is a repair system constantly poised to fix holes, just as though Mars were an giant orbital habitat. Paraterraforming will fix the long-term problems of terraforming, but will likely add a century or two to total project time. And if the atmosphere is to be kept at bay by freezing it, a modular progression will not be possible. If we go this path, we will have to stick with the moon and orbital habitats until it is finished.


- posted by Alex @ 18:28 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


New Article: Space is For You

A base on the moon?
A base on the moon?
Credit: NASA
Frank Stratford submitted another fascinating article, this one entitled, Space is For You. The article begins with a very interesting premise: people have been misled. We were once taught to love space because it gave us a sense of nationalistic pride. But times have changed and so must our motives. However, Frank goes even further. Today, we cannot try to sell the idea of space by toting its scientific potential. Space is for mankind, and Mars is the next step in our expansion as a species. Here's a snippet of his article:

By now you would have heard that NASA intends to go to the Moon again in 2018, but why should that interest you? You already have enough concerns here in your life on earth with things like terrorism, hurricanes, wars and your own employment prospects keeping you up at night. What about the rising price of fuel? It's hitting people hard from all walks of life and in all nations. There is poverty, famine, crime, social injustice spread all over our world. The list is practically endless. I'm not going to sweep all these things aside and tell you that space is more important when you say, "Why is space so important to me?" or, "What has space got to do with my life here and now?"

The truth is you are absolutely right. What if instead of sending astronauts to the Moon and Mars for the sake of science and technology, we sent them there with the ultimate goal to build a permanent human settlement?


- posted by Alex @ 21:48 EST

(permanent link)

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