Tag: Mars

House Space Subcommitee’s Surreal NASA Budget Hearing

Lamar Smith

Lamar Smith

I woke up early this morning with a low-grade headache. Checking Twitter, I discovered I’d slept through the beginning of a House Subcommittee on Space’s hearing on NASA’s budget with Administrator Charlie Bolden.

My headache immediately worsened as I found the hearing webcast on my cell phone. A whole range of largely unprintable words and phrases came immediately to mind, but there was one that kept coming back: clown car. The House Science Committee really needs a bigger clown car.

It’s not the committee members’ criticism of the Boulder (sorry, Asterorid) Redirect Mission that I had a problem with. Or their demands that NASA actually present a road map to help guide the nation on the road to Mars. I even understood why they felt the Obama Administration’s request for Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion was low. And the Europa mission probably needs more money. All those things are the subject of legitimate debate.

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Space Symposium Briefs: Stratolaunch, Falcon 9, CST-100, UAE to Mars & Lunar Bases

Gwynne Shotwell

Gwynne Shotwell

I’ve been monitoring the Twittersphere for news out of the 31st Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo. There have been a few interesting items of note:

  • Stratolaunch President Chuck Beames says the company is considering other air-launch rockets in addition to the one being built by Orbital ATK for use with its massive six engine carrier aircraft. The Orbital ATK rocket is for medium payloads but won’t be ready for several years. Stratolaunch is looking at smaller rockets that could be developed more rapidly and help with more near-term revenue.
  • SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell says the company’s next attempt to recover a Falcon 9 first stage may occur over land rather than on a barge at sea. SpaceX is building landing facilities at Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base.
  • Boeing plans to reveal the crew of its first CST-100 flight test this summer. The crew for the planned 2017 test will include one Boeing test pilot and one NASA astronaut.
  • The new United Arab Emirates Space Agency decided to launch a spacecraft to Mars in 2020 because sending an orbiter to the moon is too easy. The space agency, which was formed only last July, has yet to define the mission to the Red Planet or select international partners.
  • Current DLR Chairman Johann-Dietrich Wörner would really like to see the establishment of a base on the far side of the moon to enable radio astronomy. Wörner is set to take over had head of ESA in several months.

Coming Soon — Elon Musk: The Mini-Series


Hollywood uber-producer — and male bad-hair day model — Brian Grazer and Ron “Apollo 13″ Howard are planning an eight-hour mini-series on Elon Musk. Learn more

Secret Workshop Reaches Consensus on Human Mars Mission; Details to Follow


Washington, D.C., April 2, 2015 (Planetary Society PR)
– The Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (The Science Guy®) and members of the Society’s Board of Directors today announced results of the ”Humans Orbiting Mars” workshop. The goal of the workshop was to gather expert science, engineering, and policy professionals to build consensus on the key elements of a long-term, cost constrained, executable program to send humans to Mars.

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JPL to Host Live Webcast for Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator

Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project will be flying a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space from the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, in June.

The public is invited to tune in to an hour-long live, interactive video broadcast from the gallery above a clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where this near-space experimental test vehicle is being prepared for shipment to Hawaii. During the broadcast, the 15-foot-wide, 7,000-pound vehicle is expected to be undergoing a “spin-table” test. The event will be streamed live on www.ustream.tv/NASAJPL2 on March 31, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PDT. JPL’s Gay Hill will host the program while LDSD team members will answer questions submitted to the Ustream chat box or via Twitter using the #AskNASA hashtag.

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ESA, China Open Moon & Mars Exploration to Private Sector


ESA and the Chinese space agency have made separate announcements opening their deep space exploration programs to private sector participation.

ESA issued a Call for Ideas for exploring the moon and Mars on its website.

Private-sector partners are welcome to join ESA in its space exploration strategy. Join us to explore beyond Earth’s horizon by sharing knowledge, capabilities, risks and benefits.

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MARSDROP Micro-probes Could Explore Alien World


The steerable MARSDROP parawing glider is capable of up to 10 minutes of guided flight covering a lateral distance of approximately 10 kilometers (~6 miles). Foreground image is a MER scene. Inset is from a high-altitude weather balloon drop test that demonstrated parawing deployment within speeds and atmospheric conditions expected during Mars entry. The image captures the parawing and capsule descending to the Nevada desert floor. (Credit: Planetary Science Institute)

TUCSON, Ariz. (PSI PR) – Microprobes that piggyback on Mars-bound spacecraft could investigate areas currently unavailable to surface instruments, a Planetary Science Institute researcher said.

The payload could be steered to scientifically desired targets during the gliding phase, enabling a wide variety of enticing research locations including canyons, fresh impact crater sites, volcanic region and glaciers, PSI’s Rebecca M.E. Williams said during a poster presentation today at the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston.

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Masten’s Xombie Tests NASA JPL Landing Software

The ADAPT test system can help a spacecraft divert its course and make a smooth, pinpoint landing. The system is built on Masten's XA-0.1B "Xombie" vertical-launch, vertical-landing reusable rocket. (Credit: NASA Photo/Tom Tschida)

The ADAPT test system can help a spacecraft divert its course and make a smooth, pinpoint landing. The system is built on Masten’s XA-0.1B “Xombie” vertical-launch, vertical-landing reusable rocket. (Credit: NASA Photo/Tom Tschida)

Fast Facts:

› ADAPT test system can help a spacecraft divert its course and make a smooth, pinpoint landing

› Two technology demonstration test flights were completed in California

MOJAVE, Calif. (JPL PR) -- It’s tricky to get a spacecraft to land exactly where you want. That’s why the area where the Mars rover Curiosity team had targeted to land was an ellipse that may seem large, measuring 12 miles by 4 miles (20 by 7 kilometers).

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Mars Zero: Finalist Says Mars Colonization Effort Not What It Seems

Mars colony (Credit: Mars One)

Mars colony (Credit: Mars One)

Elmo Keep talks to Dr. Joseph Roche, an Irish professor who is one of the 100 finalists shortlisted for the first Mars One mission to the Red Planet. Roche paints a rather dismal picture of the venture, which hopes to being colonizing Mars in the mid-2020’s.  The article’s summary is devastating:

So, here are the facts as we understand them: Mars One has almost no money. Mars One has no contracts with private aerospace suppliers who are building technology for future deep-space missions. Mars One has no TV production partner. Mars One has no publicly known investment partnerships with major brands. Mars One has no plans for a training facility where its candidates would prepare themselves. Mars One’s candidates have been vetted by a single person, in a 10-minute Skype interview.

“My nightmare about it is that people continue to support it and give it money and attention, and it then gets to the point where it inevitably falls on its face,” said Roche. If, as a result, “people lose faith in NASA and possibly even in scientists, then that’s the polar opposite of what I’m about. If I was somehow linked to something that could do damage to the public perception of science, that is my nightmare scenario.”

I can’t say I’m overly surprised. The entire venture seemed half baked from the start; now it appears to be a gooey mass of bread dough filled with too much hot air and not enough yeast.

So, the questions for you, my faithful readers, is: Do I continue to cover this venture? Do you want to be kept up to date on their progress? Or should I ignore it until it implodes under its own weight?

Please feel free to weigh in below.

BBC Video Interview With Bas Lansdorp, UK Mars One Candidates


Video Caption: Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp is joined by UK Mars One Candidates Ryan MacDonald and Maggie Leiu to discuss the Mars One mission of BBC World news following the announcement of the final 100 Mars One astronaut candidates.