Archive for the ‘Red Planet’ Tag

Smashing the Final Planetary Frontier!   31 comments

It’s Pluto Time!

New Horizons_Desert Fantasy_New Horizonns7A

Seen from Pluto the Sun would be no more than a very bright star, the large yellow disc of Earth skies would be a distant memory in the mind of the intergalactic tourist. The light Pluto receives from the Sun is a thousand times dimmer than that enjoyed on Earth and although Pluto does have a thin atmosphere, which scatters the little sunlight it receives, the bright skies of Earth will never be seen on Pluto.

Weather and atmospheric conditions can also affect the amount of sunlight received by Pluto although at this point little is known about these matters. What is known however, is that Pluto’s day lasts approximately 153 hours. Combine this with long seasons and a long axial tilt parts of Pluto can remain sunlit for four years at a time!

So what can the intrepid intergalactic tourist actually do on Pluto? Lying on a sun-soaked Plutonian beach catching a fantastic suntan certainly is not on the agenda! Reading a good book, for example, “The Interspatial Tourist Guide Galactica” would be a great starting point – once the eyes have adjusted to Pluto light.

Alternatively it is perfectly possible to take brilliantly clear pictures of the Plutonian planetscape for the photographic enthusiast. For the avid WordPress blogger this would make for great blog material! Be sure to use a long exposure or a wider aperture to collect as much light as possible and better still take a few tips from the New Horizons probe!

pluto-timepluto-seen-from-the-surface-ron-miller2AA

Pluto Time is a moment on Earth when the light conditions at sunrise and sunset matches sunlight at high noon on Pluto.

It’s always Pluto Time somewhere on our planet.

Next Pluto timeFind your personal Pluto Time visiting by NASA’s “Pluto Time” website and entering your location into the NASA web tool.

Pluto Time generates the next exact available time from any location in the world when you can go outside and discover what it would be like to actually be on Pluto experiencing the midday Plutonian light conditions . (Everyone has two chances each day, around dusk and dawn.)

NASA is also encouraging users of the tool to take photos during their local Pluto Time and share the images via Twitter with the hashtag #PlutoTime.

Pluto from Charon_thetimes3Charon, the largest of the 5 known moons of Pluto looms large in the Plutonian sky. It is actually bigger than Pluto and the two worlds both orbit each other – like a double planet. Charon is tidally locked to Pluto and therefore can only be seen from one side of the planet. On that side Charon would, on occasion, shine very brightly in the Plutonian skies. This is a similar effect to that of Earth and The Moon where we see only the bright side of the Moon but never the dark, far-side.

It turns out that we were compluto-lolcatpletely wrong about the colour we always believed Pluto to be which was shades of steely blue or grey.

Recent images sent back by New Horizons show that it is in fact a sandy reddish colour.

Competition for Mars the traditional red planet! However Mars should probably not be too worried now that it is sporting unexpected blue sunsets and green-blue auroras to set it apart from the competition.

Not to be outdone by Mars with its latest batch of tourist-attracting features, images from New Horizons also show that Pluto has a huge heart shape slicing intpluto with square close up highlighted o the surface of what is not far short of fifty percent of its side. Just for good measure the images also show that there is a whale on Pluto! Otherwise known as an expansive shadowy area at the base going by the nick-name of “the whale”.

a-scene-on-pluto-with-charon-its-giant-ron-millerX5

Despite Pluto being undeniably similar in colour to Mars, the reasons for this colouration are worlds apart. Mars’s rich red hues are a result of the iron oxide or rust which colours the planet’s rocks and soil. Whereas in Pluto’s case its colour seems to owe itself to the interaction between the Plutonian sunlight and hydrocarbon molecules. According to NASA, “The reddish colour is likely caused by hydrocarbon molecules that are formed when cosmic rays and solar ultraviolet light interact with methane in Pluto’s atmosphere and on its surface.”

Sources:

space.com 

solarsystem.nasa.gov

mic.com (Tech.mic)

independent.co.uk

universetoday.com

“Let Us Go You and I…”   44 comments

Martian Sunset…But Not As You Know It!

  Mars_Panoramic

“Welcome to Mars! The home of beautiful red sunsets and romantic pink-hued views of Earth in an exotic Martian dusk…lazy summer evenings in Gale Crater relaxing in your rose-tinted deck chairs on the red Sands of Mars, sun hats glowing softly in cooling evening sun… watching the first glimmers of rising stars in the interstellar regions between the neighbouring gas giant Jupiter red oxide beaches of Mars… the distant howls of the Black wolves of Mars shimmering golden-red shades in the setting sun….all the ingredients of the perfect intergalactic holiday Smile

 

But wait! Action replay!! This web page no longer exists! NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has just blown the whole intergalactic holiday guide to Mars straight out of the water!

“Welcome to Mars! The home of serene blue-hued sunsets and softly blue-tinged skies!! … What! What! Stunning blue sunsets on Mars!!! the distant howls of the Black wolves of Mars shimmering cool blue shades of azure light in the setting sun on the towering foothills of Mount Sharp….all the ingredients of the perfect intergalactic holiday …” REALLY?!!

Sunset on Mars April 15 2015 Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Apparently so. Smile  Curiosity doesn’t tell ‘porkies’ and along with the images it kindly sent back to Earth it also saw fit to send a tweet too, so it must be true!

@Curiosity Rover “Let us go you and I…”

But WHY??!!! Are Curiosity and NASA finally losing it? Blue skies on Mars my Icewolfie paw!!! Hmm…well according to Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University – the Curiosity science-team member who planned the observations, maybe not…the theory goes like this….

 

mars_sunset Credit: Google

“When the blue light scatters off the dust, it stays closer to the direction of the Sun than light of other colours does. The rest of the sky is yellow to orange, as yellow and red light scatter all over the sky instead of being absorbed or staying close to the Sun.

Just as colours are made more dramatic in sunsets on Earth, Martian sunsets make the blue near the sun’s part of the sky much more prominent, while normal daylight makes the rusty colour of the dust more prominent.”

 

So! What should have looked like this……

Black wolf of Mars A_Image: Europa's Icewolf

 

….apparently looks like this! Welll…maybe this is slightly exaggerated but hey! You get the general picture yes? ;}

Black wolf of Mars B_Image: Europa's Icewolf

The Curiosity rover gathered enough evidence from around where it landed in Gale Crater (August 2012) to give firm grounds for believing that billions of years in Mars’ past a lake and stream system existed with the potential for habitation.

Today, 3 years later in 2015, Curiosity is hard at work in the centre of Gale Crater checking out Mt. Sharp which soars 3.4 miles (5.5 km) into the alien skies of Mars. Its numerous layers of rock (Mt Sharp that is not Curiosity Winking smile ) contain the key to historic environmental situation variants that have occurred on Mars across the centuries. The purpose of Curiosity’s mission here is to discover how Mars developed from a comparatively temperate and moist world somewhere back in the dim and distant past to the cold, arid desert wilderness world it has transformed into in the present times.

Needless to say mission scientists are yet to discover what any self-respecting intergalactic tourist to the Red Planet is fully aware of, from long nights spent lounging in the BLUE Martian sunsets in their favourite deck chair – the presence of “The Black Wolves of Mars,” howling lyrically long into the alien nights! Smile

 

Black wolf of Mars C_Image: Europa's Icewolf

Sources:

Space.com

Press Trust of India/Washington – The Indian Express

3-D Dinner is Served!   54 comments

Extreme Dinner is Served!

Growing food

How do we grow food in space?!! This is one of our most prevalent challenges, although it may well become an even bigger one here on Earth if we cannot figure out how to grow enough on the home world to feed our ever-expanding population!

Launching supplies into space is, of course, costly. So the ultimate aim for any long-duration interplanetary trip or long-term human presence on the surface of Mars would be to develop sustainable food cultivation techniques.

Marsbase_asc-csa.gc.ca

Extreme Gardening on Mars

Future Gardening on Mars may yet become a reality with the European Research Project MELiSSA on track to grow vegetables on the Red Planet. MELiSSA is an ESA project which “strongly promotes the implementation of space research based innovations on Earth via Industry.” Initially vegetables will be grown from seeds in a closed Earth system, later progressing to growing on the Moon. The first Martian vegetables will be grown in a Mars-bound spacecraft and if all goes to plan the ultimate planting and growing on Mars will follow.

marsveg_vasi.netNurturing vegetation and growing crops in such a hostile environment as space is fraught with difficulties and would involve a high degree of human ingenuity and new science. It would also require an intense and complex support system in order to succeed. In particular there is also the question of drinking water production, nutrients and crop cultivation techniques which will also require research.

If this plan does succeed, the new technologies and science necessary to achieve it could also be put to good use back on Earth, to develop land around the world which is not at this time suitable for food cultivation. This could provide a much needed lifeline to those countries where many of their citizens are starving, and also be of overall benefit in feeding our ever expanding population in general.

"Also companies on Earth can benefit from the space research. For instance, new energy efficient light systems can be developed and commercialized for growing plants in green houses." ~ Prof. Benedikt Sas from the Centre of Excellence Food2Know.

China to Grow Mars Veg’

SpaceFoodMarsGreenhouseState media in China have reported Chinese astronauts are preparing to grow fresh vegetables on the Moon and Mars. A successful test held in Beijing was conducted and completed for research purposes, consisting of four different vegetable types. Growing in an "ecological life support system" which relies on plants and algae this environment would create an opportunity for fresh, home-grown vegetables to be harvested for healthy, nutritious meals.

“Chinese astronauts may get fresh vegetables and oxygen supplies by gardening in extra-terrestrial bases in the future,” ~ Deng Yibing, a researcher at Beijing’s Chinese Astronaut Research and Training Centre quoted by Xinhua news agency.


3-D Printing of food

One potential solution to these issues could be 21st century open-source technology in the form of 3-D printers. Already being used in industry and the arts, 3-D printing looks set to become ‘one of the defining technologies in human space travel and colonization.’

3-D Printing_m.gizmodo.co.uk

So! If you are one of those angry American citizens raging furiously against the changes to your gun laws and the shortage of aforementioned item and plentiful supplies of ammo’ or possibly even a really determined, hard core survivalist then this 3-D printer maybe the revolutionary solution you have been feverishly searching for…just print a nice, shiny new gun and you’re right there in business to exercise your right to bear arms!

But how could the growth of a replenishable source of ‘Martian mushrooms and cosmic cucumbers’ – a healthy stock of crisp, garden-fresh veggies being a vital ingredient in ensuring colonies are in good physical shape – viably be achieved?

A 3-D printer controlled by software recipes, such as the one being developed by researchers at Cornell University, could be the answer to your unappeasable appetite for a nourishing snack.

 3-D printing machine_dobrevijesti.info


Space Pizza!

It’s not quite a vegetable but it is the perfect choice for the first printed to order 3-D printed food; at your heady request it can print off a lovely big space pizza to satisfy even the largest of man-sized appetites!

3d-printing_trendjournal.mudpie.co.uk

It would be created by printing the first layer –dough for the pizza base, which will speedily bake on the hot plate it would be deposited on. This would be topped with a combo-layer of powdered tomato puree and oil then yet a further layer – of protein and ideally a blend of all nutrients and minerals required to create a thoroughly healthy pizza! Unheard of though a healthy pizza is, should it become possible it may even be possible to add medications where necessary, via computer commands.

Enter NASA!3_D pizza

NASA has been so enthusiastic about this innovative proposition for a galactic pizza express 😉 that it has approved a $125,000 grant for the development of a “universal food synthesizer,” a prototype dreamed up by mechanical engineer Anjan Contractor, of Systems and Materials Research Corporation (SMRC) in Austin, Texas. Based on 3-D printing technology this prototype also has the advantage of eliminating the problem of food waste.

“Long distance space travel requires 15-plus years of shelf life. The way we are working on it is all the carbs, proteins and macro and micro nutrients are in powder form. We take moisture out, and in that form it will last maybe 30 years.” ~ Anjan Contractor

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In conclusion

Although this innovative design is currently only at the ideas stage, in the future it could transform the way we conceive food here on Earth. This in-turn may help feed the planet.

“I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12 billion people sufficiently. So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.” ~ Contractor

3-D food_culturewav.esSources: Space.com

Science Daily

 

Roll up! Roll up! 2023: Martian Inhabitants Wanted!   34 comments

 

Mars_MSSS,JPL,NASA

Image Credit:MSSS, JPL, NASA

NASA to Mars 2030

"Interest in sending humans to Mars I think has never been higher. We now stand on the precipice of a second opportunity to press forward to what I think is man’s destiny — to step onto another planet."  NASA chief Charles Bolden at the Humans 2 Mars Summit at George Washington University. (May 6-8 2013)

Yet the road to Mars is long and challenging, and the difficulties are scientific, technological, political and economic,”

“Sending astronauts to the Red Planet (as President Barack Obama has directed NASA to do and to land humans on Mars by the 2030s)  “will likely require at least three missions: one to launch the crew and the vehicle that will take them to Mars, one to launch the habitat humans will live on at the planet’s surface, and one to launch the vehicle that will lift off from Mars to take the crew home,“ said Doug Cooke, a former NASA associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate who now heads a space consulting firm.

"To me this is one of the biggest challenges," Mike Raftery, director of space station utilization and exploration at Boeing, the primary contractor for NASA’s heavy-lift rocket being developed to go to Mars. "We have to essentially land a launch pad on the surface that’s then ready to launch the crew back to Earth.”

This will be no small challenge as to date, NASA has been unable to land more than 1 metric ton at a time on the surface of Mars — the Curiosity Rover. With a total 200 to 400 metric tons of equipment requiring delivery to the surface of Mars after being launched from Earth at the rate of 40 metric tons per trip, clearly this could prove problematic.

k_cburns_redorbit_dailyorbit_3-19-13_001_001_previewEngineers will have to develop a means to shield the Mars crews from dangerous radiation both en-route and on the surface of the Red Planet where the atmosphere is too thin to shield them as it does on Earth. They will also have to bring their own life-support systems, medicine, food, communications systems and navigation equipment.habitat_science1.nasa.gov

"It’s very likely that we’ll send some kind of lander or rover to the site we want to send people to first, to drill a couple meters down to tell us if we have fresh water," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate. Such a spacecraft could also serve as a beacon to guide the crewed lander down to the chosen spot on Mars. 

"We’re going to have to rely on being able to live off the land," said James Reuther of NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist. "Those will require significant technology investments in order to actually bring that about."

Explore Mars.Org

ExploreMars Summit_h2m.exploremars.org

Despite the challenges involved, many NASA and industry experts expressed confidence it can be done. In the words of Artemis Westenberg, president of Explore Mars Inc., the non-profit space advocacy group that organized the conference:Dragon_landing_on_Mars_exploremars.org

"In the coming days we have the opportunity to write history, to determine the future of humankind. We of Explore Mars give you this platform of this three-day summit. Now all you have to do is tell each other and the world the ‘how’ of getting to Mars.” (via Space.com)

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Mars One 2016

Mars_One_theregister.co.uk

The organisers of the Mars One project (a Dutch group, led by Bas Lansdorp, a researcher from the Netherlands with a Masters in Science from Delft University of Technology) think they have the answers to this quandary. They have seemingly jumped ahead of NASA, announcing ambitious plans to, execute the first fully commercial campaign of human exploration and development of Mars,” and have high hope of establishing the first settlers of a Mars colony by 2023.

By 2016 they intend to send a communications satellite to the Red Planet, following it up with additional time phased flights across succeeding years, before the actual landing of a foundation crew of permanent Mars colonists. The optimistic claim on their website states that:

“Mars One will establish the first human settlement on Mars in 2023. A habitable settlement will be waiting for the settlers when they land.”

Following the establishment of the foundation crew on the Red Planet, an additional group of new settlers will be sent to join them on a regular two-yearly basis, thereby expanding the colony.

Mars One_thetimes.co.ukmars20one20infographics

Mars One has no shortage of industry support and their suppliers include, ILC Dover, MDA Corporation, Paragon Space Development, SpaceX, Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL), and Thales Alenia Space.

“SSTL believes that the commercialization of space exploration is vital in order to bring down the costs and schedules. Mars-One is an imaginative venture making use of existing technology and SSTL is highly motivated to support this initiative,”  Sir Martin Sweeting, Founder and Executive Chairman of SSTL.

“I believe that the endeavour holds great promise and Paragon is prepared to manufacture and integrate the Mars One life support, thermal control, and space suit systems,” Jane Poynter, President and Chairwoman at Paragon Space Development Corporation

          Entrance_to_SpaceX_headquarters_en.wikipedia.orgFalconheavy_zeenews.india.comspacex_mars_colony_space4peace.org

The cost of launching the initial crew of four Martian colonists and landing them on the Red Planet, in addition to the utilisation of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launcher, will involve costs in the region of $6 billion, according to Mars One. Besides building their environment the colonists will also be tasked with answering questions regarding the on-going mystery of whether life in fact does exist on Mars and also the history of the neighbouring planet.

Astronaut selections (40 in total will be chosen) for the first manned Mars mission have already begun and applications have rolled in, in vast numbers. Potential applicants should however remember; this is a one-way trip! Mars One has no plans and no way of bringing you back! You will never set foot on Earth again…you will never breathe the air of Earth again…and you certainly won’t be able to Skype your friends and family!

Mars One_overclock.net

Further Information:

Mars One Mission and Vision

Mars 2023: Inhabitants Wanted! Apply Now!

Sources:  redOrbit.com

       space.com

mars-one.com