Friday, October 28, 2016

The Cosmos Award - The Planetary Post with Robert Picardo

Why Explore Mars-A Ten-Part Series

We Should Explore Mars So That Our Students Can Continue To Dream Big

Why Study Mars-To Better Understand Earth

The Mars Generation: Why We Must Go To Mars

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Further Clues To Lost ESA Mars Probe

No Balloons for JPL's Birthday, Just a 'Satelloon'

No Balloons for JPL's Birthday, Just a 'Satelloon': 80 years of daring to do what few others have tried, including bouncing radio signals off a giant, orbiting balloon in 1960.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Exo Mars Schiaparelli Analysis To Continue

Ruth McAvinia

ExoMars: Schiaparelli Analysis to Continue

Posted by Ruth McAvinia
2016/10/20 17:05 UTC
The fate of the ExoMars lander, Schiaparelli, remains uncertain. European Space Agency mission controllers had been optimistic on Wednesday night that a definitive answer would be known by Thursday morning’s news briefing (watch it here). However, although some more details have been made public about the lander’s descent, it is not yet clear whether it hit the martian surface at a speed it could not survive.
The entry, descent, and landing sequence was fully automated and should have consisted of clear phases. As it reached the atmosphere of Mars, the lander would slow down with atmospheric drag and heat up through friction, before opening a parachute, later jettisoning its heat shield, jettisoning the back half of the protective aeroshell along with the parachute, and firing thrusters shortly in advance of touchdown. The parachute and aeroshell should have been released at 1.2 kilometers from the surface, followed one second later by the activation of the thrusters bringing the lander down to around two meters before a final drop to the surface. The data suggest that the heatshield performed well. The parachute phase happened, and the thrusters fired at least briefly, but possibly not at the intended time or altitude.
Schiaparelli separating from Trace Gas Orbiter
ESA / D. Ducros
Schiaparelli separating from Trace Gas Orbiter
Artist’s impression depicting the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, from the Trace Gas Orbiter, and heading for Mars.
Investigations are continuing into exactly what happened and at what stage of the flight. ESA has emphasized the experimental nature of the lander, and the benefits of the data already collected. The detailed monitoring of the descent was a lesson learned from the loss of the UK’s Beagle 2 lander in 2003, whose fate was unknown until 2015. All of the data transmitted by Schiaparelli, also known as the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module (EDM), during descent has been recovered, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter may add some more information about its fate, although MRO has not been in contact with the lander. 
Andrea Accomazzo, ESA’s head of solar and planetary missions said: “The EDM entered the atmosphere of Mars and most important of all we have collected all the engineering information from this phase. This we have successfully done with the Trace Gas Orbiter.
“We have data from all the hardware of the EDM. This is fundamental for a test. We can also see the hardware has provided meaningful data. Now we need to analyse why, when we put together this data in the martian environment, the spacecraft did not behave exactly as we expected. It will take more time to have a global picture of the descent.”
Don McCoy, ExoMars project manager, said that the AMELIA (Atmospheric Mars Entry and Landing Investigation and Analysis) instrument team believed most of their data were collected. AMELIA co-principal investigator Stephen Lewis tweeted that 600MB of Schiaparelli data had been received and that 99% of the test was complete.
Science with AMELIA
Science with AMELIA
The Schiaparelli Entry, descent and landing Demonstrator Module (EDM) carried a number of sensors to measure characteristics of the atmosphere during atmospheric entry and descent. The AMELIA (Atmospheric Mars Entry and Landing Investigation and Analysis) programme, to be carried out by the Schiaparelli science team, will use the engineering data from these sensors to reconstruct the module's trajectory and determine atmospheric conditions, such as density and wind, from a high altitude to the surface. These measurements are key to improving models of the Martian atmosphere. In this illustration, a temperature profile of the Martian atmosphere obtained by the NASA Mars Pathfinder probe is shown.

ESA Director General Jan Wörner again emphasized the value of the information gained by the lander, and the success of the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).
TGO continues to perform well following its orbit insertion manoeuvre on Wednesday. It will have a challenging aerobraking phase next year to change its orbit. In addition to conducting science around Mars, TGO will serve as a relay station for ExoMars 2020.
ExoMars 2020 rover on Mars
ExoMars 2020 rover on Mars
Artist's rendering of ESA's ExoMars 2020 rover on the surface of Mars.
See other posts from October 2016

Or read more blog entries about: mission statusExoMars TGO


Stephen: 10/21/2016 05:07 CDT
Nil out of two landing attempts is NOT a good score and raises serious questions about ExoMars in 2020. Unless the ESA can turn things around in the next four years the odds now are that they are likely to end up with more silence instead of a functioning lander come 2020.
LocalFluff: 10/21/2016 10:42 CDT
We'll see how the promised Red Dragon of SPX will do on its promised journeys.
Red: 10/21/2016 02:18 CDT
It is good that at least the AMELIA data was received, although naturally we wished for more out of Schiaparelli.

The MRO made a pass and there's literally a black smear on Mars now, so sadly it appears the Beagle 2 landed intact but unable to communicate whereas Schiaparelli communicated until impact.
ScienceNotFiction: 10/21/2016 08:03 CDT
From the basic design of the Schiaparelli Lander, we can see signs of an inevitable failure. It does not seem to have sufficient heat-insulation shielding on the upper portion before detaching itself from the atmospheric entry module. The three clusters of three hydrazine-powered thrusters only increase the probability of fuel related failures including fuel line rupture caused by entry vibration, overheating of the hydrazine containers and fuel lines caused by poor heat insulation inside the entry module, and thruster malfuctions which lead to a sudden mid-air explosion...etc. You'll have better success in landing a quadcopter on Mars than with Schiaparelli. I really doubt that we need such a complicated lander for delivering supplies to the Martian surface. A parachut and a airbag system would do the job just fine.

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Camera on Mars Orbiter Shows Signs of Latest Mars Lander: NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has identified new markings on the surface of the Red Planet that are believed to be related to Europe's Schiaparelli test lander, which arrived at Mars on Oct. 19.

Juno Sends Back Some Stunning Pictures Of Jupiter

Juno Sends Back Closest-Ever Images of Jupiter “Like Nothing We Have Seen Before”

Image courtesy NASA
Image courtesy NASA
NASA recently uploaded the most detailed and exceptional images of Jupiter ever taken, saying these closest-ever images of Jupiter are “like nothing we have seen before.”
The Juno spacecraft, which entered Jupiter’s orbit in July after a five-year trek across the solar system, captured all these images. Juno got closer to Jupiter than any other spacecraft in history and took exclusive images of the planet from this historic 6-hour flyby.
NASA took 1.5 days to download these images. The images show previously unseen storm systems and weather activity, as well as Jupiter’s north pole.
The principal investigator of the Juno mission, Scott Bolton, said, “the first glimpse of Jupiter’s north pole, and it looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before.”
Image courtesy NASA
Image courtesy NASA
“It’s bluer in color up there than other parts of the planet, and there are a lot of storms.”
An infrared device, the Italian Space Agency’s Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM), helped the Juno team study Jupiter’s polar regions in infrared wavelengths.
Bolton added, “There is no sign of the latitudinal bands or zone and belts that we are used to – this image is hardly recognizable as Jupiter. We’re seeing signs that the clouds have shadows, possibly indicating that the clouds are at a higher altitude than other features.”
Image courtesy NASA
Image courtesy NASA

Friday, October 21, 2016

Dr. Robert Zubrin Writes A Critique Of The Space-X Interplanetary Transport System

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Colonizing Mars: A Critique of the SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System
By Robert Zubrin, The New Atlantis, 10.21.16

In remarks at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico on September 29, 2016, SpaceX president Elon Musk revealed to great fanfare his company’s plans for an Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). According to Musk, the ITS would enable the colonization of Mars by the rapid delivery of a million people in groups of a hundred passengers per flight, as well as large-scale human exploration missions to other bodies, such as Jupiter’s moon Europa.
I was among the thousands of people in the room (and many more watching live online) when Musk gave his remarkable presentation, and was struck by its many good and powerful ideas. However, Musk’s plan assembled some of those good ideas in an extremely sub-optimal way, making the proposed system impractical. Still, with some corrections, a system using the core concepts Musk laid out could be made attractive — not just as an imaginative concept for the colonization of Mars, but as a means of meeting the nearer-at-hand challenge of enabling human expeditions to the planet.
In the following critique, I will explain the conceptual flaws of the new SpaceX plan, showing how they can be corrected to benefit, first, the near-term goal of initiating human exploration of the Red Planet, and then, with a cost-effective base-building and settlement program, the more distant goal of future Mars colonization.

Design of the SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System
As described by Musk, the SpaceX ITS would consist of a very large two-stage fully-reusable launch system, powered by methane/oxygen chemical bipropellant. The suborbital first stage would have four times the takeoff thrust of a Saturn V (the huge rocket that sent the Apollo missions to the Moon). The second stage, which reaches orbit, would have the thrust of a single Saturn V. Together, the two stages could deliver a maximum payload of 550 tons to low Earth orbit (LEO), about four times the capacity of the Saturn V. (Note: All of the “tons” referenced in this article are metric tons.)
At the top of the rocket, the spaceship itself — where some hundred passengers reside — is inseparable from the second stage. (Contrast this with, for example, NASA’s lunar missions, where each part of the system was discarded in turn until just the Command Module carried the Apollo astronauts back to Earth.) Since the second-stage-plus-spaceship will have used its fuel in getting to orbit, it would need to refuel in orbit, filling up with about 1,950 tons of propellant (which means that each launch carrying passengers would require four additional launches to deliver the necessary propellant). Once filled up, the spaceship can head to Mars.

To read the full article, please click here.
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