Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Space Review: To the Moon, Uncle Sam!

The Space Review: To the Moon, Uncle Sam!

The Space Review: Human flight around the Moon: a worthy goal, but using the wrong vehicles

The Space Review: Human flight around the Moon: a worthy goal, but using the wrong vehicles

The Space Review: The risks and benefits of accelerating crewed SLS missions

The Space Review: The risks and benefits of accelerating crewed SLS missions

The Space Review: The status of Russia’s human spaceflight program (part 2) (page 1)

The Space Review: The status of Russia’s human spaceflight program (part 2) (page 1)

Martian Winds Carve Mountains, Move Dust, Raise Dust

Martian Winds Carve Mountains, Move Dust, Raise Dust: On Mars, wind rules. Wind has been shaping the Red Planet's landscapes for billions of years and continues to do so today.

$100 Million US Per Seat: Elon Musk Already Has Two Super-Rich Astronauts Ready To Take The Giant Risk And Fly Around The Moon!!!

SpaceX plans to fly private astronauts round the moon Elon Musk aims to launch first such trip out of earth’s orbit before end of next year Read next Fast FT SpaceX plans to send two people around the moon in 2018 ‘Man on the Moon’ by Dani Caxete, from the 2016 Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London © Dani Caxete Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Email3 Save YESTERDAY by: Richard Waters in San Francisco Elon Musk raised the bar again for private space flight on Monday, as his SpaceX rocket company said it planned to fly two private individuals around the moon before the end of next year. If successful, it will be the first trip by private astronauts out of earth’s orbit, and the first time since 1972 that anyone has made it around the moon. However, SpaceX has yet to even carry out a test flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket that would be needed for the trip, or the Dragon 2 capsule that would carry the astronauts. Mr Musk has made a career of setting hugely ambitious deadlines at SpaceX and for his electric car company, Tesla, only to see the dates slip. SpaceX’s customers have generally stuck by it despite the setbacks, though satellite company Intelsat switched a contract to a rival launch company last year because of delays with the Falcon Heavy. SpaceX said two unnamed individuals had approached it about making the flight and paid “a significant deposit” for a trip around the moon. The launch plan points to a timetable that would put SpaceX ahead of Space Adventures, a space tourism company that has been trying for years to get a lunar trip off the ground. Space Adventures some years ago set a price of $150m for a seat on its proposed trip. SpaceX did not disclose how much it would charge, but Richard Rocket, chief executive of NewSpace Global, which researches the private space industry, said it was likely to cost a minimum of $100m a seat to mount such a mission. Related article SpaceX reaches for the stars and back again The technology behind the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket The first test flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket is scheduled for this summer, with the Dragon capsule set to take its first, unmanned trip to the International Space Station before the end of the year. SpaceX hopes to launch its first humans into space in the second quarter of 2018, under a contract with Nasa to get supplies and astronauts to the ISS. “I’m wondering how they’re about to go from having yet to get anyone to the International Space Station to sending two astronauts around the moon,” said Mr Rocket. Mr Musk “has never been afraid to announce deadlines and miss them”, he added. A launch-pad explosion last September for its existing Falcon rocket was the latest setback for the company’s plans to achieve a regular launch schedule with several rockets a month blasting off for space. It has returned to flight this year with two successful launches. The ambitious goal for reaching the moon echoes Mr Musk’s tactic of using attention-grabbing targets to galvanise support for his projects, even if his original timetables end up slipping. Last September he caused a stir when he laid out a timetable to get astronauts to Mars by 2025. The same effect has been apparent at Tesla, which has been able to maintain a fanatical Wall Street following despite delays in hitting its production targets. Tesla is about to face its biggest test of all, with Mr Musk promising to boost its vehicle production to 500,000 in 2018, from fewer than 100,000 in 2016.  

This Epic Short Film Reveals What Life Will Look Like Once We've Conquered the Solar System

This Epic Short Film Reveals What Life Will Look Like Once We've Conquered the Solar System: If you really want to leave the earth and go to some other planet in our solar system. Then, don’t worry about this now, as scientists are working very hard on it and may be they are in more hurry than you. The dream of leaving Earth behind and go on a lunar or Martian base is far from realization just yet, but in the meantime, this classic short film by digital artist Erik Wernquist gives you an indication of what it’s really going to look like if when humans conquer the Solar System.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Exoplanet Hunters Find Three Habitable Earth-Like Planets Around One Star

NASA JPL latest news release
NASA Telescope Reveals Largest Batch of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single StarNASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.
The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water -- key to life as we know it -- under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.
"This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Answering the question 'are we alone' is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal."
At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius. Because they are located outside of our solar system, these planets are scientifically known as exoplanets.
This exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system. Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, Spitzer confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.
The new results were published Wednesday in the journal Nature, and announced at a news briefing at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Using Spitzer data, the team precisely measured the sizes of the seven planets and developed first estimates of the masses of six of them, allowing their density to be estimated.
Based on their densities, all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky. Further observations will not only help determine whether they are rich in water, but also possibly reveal whether any could have liquid water on their surfaces. The mass of the seventh and farthest exoplanet has not yet been estimated -- scientists believe it could be an icy, "snowball-like" world, but further observations are needed.
"The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star," said Michael Gillon, lead author of the paper and the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey at the University of Liege, Belgium. "It is also the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds."
In contrast to our sun, the TRAPPIST-1 star -- classified as an ultra-cool dwarf -- is so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system. All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun. The planets also are very close to each other. If a person were standing on one of the planet's surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth's sky.
The planets may also be tidally locked to their star, which means the same side of the planet is always facing the star, therefore each side is either perpetual day or night. This could mean they have weather patterns totally unlike those on Earth, such as strong winds blowing from the day side to the night side, and extreme temperature changes.
Spitzer, an infrared telescope that trails Earth as it orbits the sun, was well-suited for studying TRAPPIST-1 because the star glows brightest in infrared light, whose wavelengths are longer than the eye can see. In the fall of 2016, Spitzer observed TRAPPIST-1 nearly continuously for 500 hours. Spitzer is uniquely positioned in its orbit to observe enough crossing -- transits -- of the planets in front of the host star to reveal the complex architecture of the system. Engineers optimized Spitzer's ability to observe transiting planets during Spitzer's "warm mission," which began after the spacecraft's coolant ran out as planned after the first five years of operations.
"This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations," said Sean Carey, manager of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California. "Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets so that the James Webb Space Telescope can follow up. More observations of the system are sure to reveal more secrets."
Following up on the Spitzer discovery, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has initiated the screening of four of the planets, including the three inside the habitable zone. These observations aim at assessing the presence of puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres, typical for gaseous worlds like Neptune, around these planets.
In May 2016, the Hubble team observed the two innermost planets, and found no evidence for such puffy atmospheres. This strengthened the case that the planets closest to the star are rocky in nature.

"The TRAPPIST-1 system provides one of the best opportunities in the next decade to study the atmospheres around Earth-size planets," said Nikole Lewis, co-leader of the Hubble study and astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope also is studying the TRAPPIST-1 system, making measurements of the star's minuscule changes in brightness due to transiting planets. Operating as the K2 mission, the spacecraft's observations will allow astronomers to refine the properties of the known planets, as well as search for additional planets in the system. The K2 observations conclude in early March and will be made available on the public archive.

Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler will help astronomers plan for follow-up studies using NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2018. With much greater sensitivity, Webb will be able to detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone, and other components of a planet's atmosphere. Webb also will analyze planets' temperatures and surface pressures -- key factors in assessing their habitability.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center, at Caltech, Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at Caltech/IPAC. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
For more information about Spitzer, visit:
For more information on the TRAPPIST-1 system, visit:
For more information on exoplanets, visit:

Mars Second | Mars welcomes Trump in his own words

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

NASA's Europa Flyby Mission Moves into Design Phase

NASA's Europa Flyby Mission Moves into Design Phase: A mission to examine the habitability of Jupiter's ocean-bearing moon Europa is taking one step closer to the launchpad, with the recent completion of a major NASA review.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The 20th Annual Mars Society Convention

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Call for Papers – 2017 International Mars Society Convention

The Mars Society invites presentations for 
the 20th Annual International Mars Society Convention, scheduled for September 7-10, 2017 at the University of California Irvine.

Subjects for discussion can involve all matters associated with Mars exploration and establishing a permanent human presence on the Red Planet, including science, technology, engineering, politics, economics, public outreach, government affairs, etc.

Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be sent by June 30th to: The Mars Society, 11111 W. 8th Avenue, unit A, Lakewood, CO 80215 or via email to: Email submissions are preferred.

Conference Sessions (tentative)

1.           The question of life on Mars
2.           Latest findings from the Mars probes
3.           Plans for the missions of 2018 and beyond
4.           Concepts for future robotic Mars missions
5.           Plans for human Mars missions
6.           Advanced propulsion systems
7.           Launch vehicles for Mars exploration
8.           Long range mobility on Mars
9.           Life support & biomedical factors
10.         Human factors and crew composition
11.         In-situ resource utilization
12.         Habitat construction & industrial infrastructure
13.         Martian agriculture
14.         The First Martians, a permanent base on Mars
15.         Terraforming – Creating an ecology for Mars
16.         How Martian technology can help life on Earth
17.         Technologies for reaching for the stars
18.         Analog studies relating to Mars exploration
19.         The Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station
20.         The Mars Desert Research Station
21.         The one-way mission to Mars
22.         Rovers, robots, aircraft, and mobile agents
23.         Entrepreneurial approaches to Mars missions
24.         The benefits of space exploration.
25.         The Moon: A way station to Mars?
26.         Planetary protection: Necessity or fraud?
27.         International cooperation and agencies
28.         Law, governance & social systems for Mars
29.         Why Mars?
30.         Mission ethics: Is safety an option?
31.         Educating the next generation of Marsnauts
32.         The ARM: Breakthrough or boondoggle?
33.         Political action for Mars exploration
34.         Chapter tools and outreach strategies
35.         Proposed projects for the Mars Society
36.         University Rover Challenge
37.         Religion, philosophy & space exploration
38.         The two-person Mars flyby mission
39.         Phobos & Deimos: Mars Moon landings
40.         Achieving cheap access to space

The University of California Irvine is located in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and may be reached via Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) or John Wayne Airport (SNA). 
Online registration for the conference is now open.

The Mars Society
11111 West 8th Avenue, unit A
Lakewood, CO 80215 U.S.A.

Copyright (c) 2017 The Mars Society
All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Winston Churchill Wrote Of Alien Life In A Lost Essay

Winston Churchill, a longtime science enthusiast, at his home in Chartwell, England, in October 1939. He sent an essay to his publisher that month, just weeks after Britain entered World War II, that pondered the existence of extraterrestrials.CreditTopical Press Agency, via Getty Images
LONDON — Even as he was preparing for the biggest struggle of his life, leading Britain in its fight against Nazi Germany, Winston Churchill had something else on his mind: extraterrestrials.
In a newly unearthed essay sent to his publisher on Oct. 16, 1939 — just weeks after Britain entered World War II and Churchill became part of the wartime cabinet — and later revised, he was pondering the likelihood of life on other planets.
Churchill, who went on to become prime minister during much of World War II and again from 1951 to 1955, was so enthralled by the subject that he even ordered a suspected sighting of an unidentified flying object by the Royal Air Force to be kept a secret for 50 years to avoid “mass panic.”
In an 11-page essay titled “Are We Alone in the Universe?” the statesman showed powers of reason “like a scientist,” said Mario Livio, an astrophysicist who read the rarely seen draft and wrote about it in an article published on Wednesday in Nature magazine.
Continue reading the main story
“The most amazing thing is that he started this essay when Europe was on the brink of war and there he is, musing about a question about a scientific topic that is really a question out of curiosity,” he said in an interview.
Churchill first defines what life is, then details the requirements for life to exist and progressively expands his reasoning to the existence of life in other solar systems, Mr. Livio said. “He’s really thinking about this,’’ Mr. Livio said, “and though he didn’t have all the knowledge at hand, he thinks about this with the logic of a scientist.”
Churchill’s interest in science stemmed from his early years as an army officer in British-ruled India, where he had crates of books, including Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species,” shipped to him by his mother.
He later became friends, at least for a time, with the writer H.G. Wells, whose novel “The War of the Worlds,” about Martians invading Britain, had been adapted by Orson Welles for a famous CBS radio broadcast in 1938 — a year before Churchill wrote his article. (Churchill once said Wells’s “The Time Machine” was one of the books he would like to take with him to Purgatory.)
Churchill argued that it was probable that extraterrestrial life existed somewhere in the universe. This was years before Frank Drake, the American astronomer and astrophysicist, presented in 1961 his theory about the number of communicative civilizations in the cosmos. “It is astonishing that Churchill wasn’t a scientist and yet he showed such an interest in science,” Mr. Livio said.
The manuscript was passed on to the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Mo., the site of Churchill’s famed 1946 Iron Curtain speech, in the 1980s by Wendy Reves, the wife of Churchill’s publisher, Emery Reves. It had been overlooked for years until Timothy Riley, who became the museum’s director last year, stumbled upon it recently. Soon after news of the discovery, two other copies were found in a separate archive in Britain.
Although the article was sent to Mr. Reves in 1939, it was not published. Churchill had revised it a number of times in the 1950s.
In his article, Churchill wrote: “I am not sufficiently conceited to think that my sun is the only one with a family of planets.”
“I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization here that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures,” he wrote, “or that we are the highest type of mental and physical development which has ever appeared in the vast compass of space and time.”
Largely self-educated in the sciences, Churchill had boundless curiosity for practically anything, an attitude he once described as “picking up a few things as I went along.”
He wrote about 30 million words in his lifetime, including wartime speeches, an African travelogue, a book on oil painting, a lengthy memoir, and even an essay on an imagined invasion of Russia when he was just 15. For his body of work, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953.
Welding an active imagination with scientific thought, Churchill produced a few madcap ideas — which he called “funnies” — that he actually championed while he was prime minister, as a means to defeat Nazi Germany.
There was Operation Habakkuk, an imagined fleet of aircraft carriers made from wood pulp and ice to fight German U-boats in the mid-Atlantic. Then there was the Great Panjandrum, an enormous, rocket-propelled wheel packed with explosives. Churchill even invented a green velvet “siren suit” to be put on in a hurry during air raids.
While none of these ideas came into being (the giant wheel having run amok in the testing stage), science was not just a hobby for Churchill.
He was the first prime minister to hire a science adviser. Frederick Lindemann, a physicist, became Churchill’s “on tap” expert and once described him as a “scientist who had missed his vocation,” said Andrew Nahum, who organized an exhibition on Churchill and science at the Science Museum in London. He found a separate copy of the essay in the Churchill Archives Center at the University of Cambridge.
Churchill also met regularly with scientists such as Bernard Lovell, the father of radio astronomy and the Lovell telescope.
“Churchill presided over a culture that encouraged technological development,” Mr. Nahum said. Churchill had such a genuine interest in science, he added, that as chancellor of the Exchequer in prewar Britain, he complained to a friend of having to draft the budget instead of reading a book on quantum physics.
During World War I, when he was lord of the admiralty and later secretary of state for air and war, he encouraged military aviation, chemical warfare and tanks. During World War II, which he called in his memoirs “The Wizard War,” he supported the development of radar, rockets and Britain’s nuclear program.
Churchill founded in 1958 the British equivalent of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at Cambridge — Churchill College — which has since produced 32 Nobel Prize winners.
In the interwar period, Churchill wrote numerous scientific articles, including one called “Death Rays” and another titled “Are There Men on the Moon?” In 1924, he published a text asking readers “Shall We All Commit Suicide?” in which he speculated that technological advances could lead to the creation of a small bomb that was powerful enough to destroy an entire town.
Churchill’s recently unearthed article on extraterrestrial life was probably written in the same vein and was probably intended to be published as a popular science piece for a newspaper.
Two other scientific essays — one on cell division in the body and another on evolution — are stored in the museum’s archives in Fulton, Mr. Riley, the museum director, said in an interview.
Churchill had a “natural curiosity and general optimism about life,” Mr. Riley said. He had “a willingness to see technical and scientific advances improve not only his immediate world or his country, but the world.”

NASA's Three Options For The 2020 Mars Rover

NASA's Three Options for the 2020 Mars Rover Landing

Scientists have narrowed down sites for the next rover to set wheels on the red planet

Mars Site 1
This approximate true-color image of the Gusev Crater is one of the three potential landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover.

Curiosity is still be working hard on Mars, collecting data and sending it back to Earth for analysis. But scientists and engineers are already looking ahead to year 2020 and the launch of a new Rover, Mars 2020. This week, scientists narrowed down its possible landing zones to three different sites on the red planet.
Mars 2020’s main objective is seek out signs of life and environments that could have once been habitable, writes Elizabeth Howell at Seeker. Since traveling over Mar’s sometimes rugged terrain is slow going for a rover, so its landing spot is key.
The first selection, Jezero Crater, is the most popular scientific target, reports Paul Voosen at Science Magazine. An ancient river delta is visible from orbit, and the area contains the remnants of lakes, which could contain hits of life long gone.
Northeast Syrtis, the second candidate, is the site of an ancient volcano. As Sarah Lewin at reports, the warmth provided by the volcano could have fostered hot springs and melted ice. These warm little puddles would have been a great spot for ancient microbial life to flourish.
The final selection came as something of a surprise. Rather than picking a new destination, scientists chose Columbia Hills. In 2004, the Mars Spirit Rover landed at the Gusev crater at Columbia Hills and discovered that ancient hot springs once flowed at the site, reports Avery Thompson at Popular Mechanics. Scientists are excited about the opportunity to return to Gusev crater with Mars 2020’s updated tools. Howell reports that an advantage to Columbia Hills is that Spirit has already mapped much of the terrain.
One of Mars 2020’s main is creating a cache of soil and rock samples. In the future, NASA may launch a robotic mission to collect these samples and bring them back to Earth for an extended analysis. Mars 2020 will have the ability to measure the chemical composition and organic content of soils and rock. But bringing samples back to Earth would allow researchers to study the rocks in much greater detail. We’re still running tests on moon rocks retrieved from the lunar missions of the 1960s and 1970s; a Mars sample in Earth laboratories would be invaluable.

The design of Mars 2020 is based on Curiosity, which has been operating on Mars since 2012. Researchers have improved each component, and Mars 2020 will have some additional tools that Curiosity does not, including an experiment to use Mars’s atmosphere to produce oxygen, Howell writes. From our desire to analyze once-habitable environments to producing the air we need to breathe, it’s clear that these rovers are playing a key role in a possible manned mission to Mars.