The first in an occasional series on Elon Musk’s Mars plan.
By Douglas Messier Managing Editor
Elon Musk’s gigantiastic plan for transporting a million settlers to Mars is based on two basic premises that are alternately hopeful and apocalyptic. One is to have a great adventure while expanding humans out into space. The other is to save humanity from itself.
DARMSTADT, Germany, 19 October 2016 (ESA PR) — The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) of ESA’s ExoMars 2016 has successfully performed the long 139-minute burn required to be captured by Mars and entered an elliptical orbit around the Red Planet, while contact has not yet been confirmed with the mission’s test lander from the surface.
ESA has placed its ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter into orbit around the Red Planet. However, the fate of the Schiaparelli lander lander remains unknown. No signal has been received yet.
18:53 CEST: The ExoMars/TGO spacecraft completed its critical orbit-insertion manoeuvre at Mars today and its signals were received by ground stations at 18:34 CEST, just as expected. The timely re-acquisition indicates the engine burn went as planned, and mission controllers are waiting for a detailed assessment from the flight dynamics specialists at ESOC to confirm it.
Teams monitoring the Schiaparelli lander continue waiting for indication of the lander’s progress. Engineers are waiting for the next signal receipt slot, which will be provided by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which will overfly the Schiaparelli landing site between about 18:49 and 19:03 CEST, and downlink any received signals at around 20:00 CEST.
18:35 CEST: ACQUISITION OF SIGNAL from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter after it emerged from behind Mars.
17:28 CEST: The orbit insertion manoeuvre of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter should have ended but the spacecraft is now behind Mars on the line of sight from Earth. Acquisition of signal is expected when TGO emerges from behind Mars after 18:32 CEST.
17:12 CEST: End of planned Schiaparelli transmission. Initial signals were received via the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) as Schiaparelli descended to the surface of Mars, but no signal indicating touchdown yet. This is not unexpected due to the very faint nature of the signal received at GMRT. A clearer assessment of the situation will come when ESA’s Mars Express will have relayed the recording of Schiaparelli’s entry, descent and landing.
16:50 CEST: Signals from Mars take 9 minutes 47 seconds to reach Earth today, so the teams are waiting for the first indications that the entry, descent and landing events actually happened at Mars. It may take some hours to get official confirmation that Schiaparelli has landed on the Red Planet. Stay tuned.
The ESA TV programme will be broadcast on this page in two parts on 19 October:
15:44–16:59 GMT / 17:44–18:59 CEST 18:25–20:03 GMT / 20:25–22:03 CEST
For additional mission status text updates see here.
20 October – Status Report and First Images
A press conference is scheduled for 20 October at 08:00 GMT / 10:00 CEST, when a mission status update is expected, along with the first images from the Schiaparelli descent camera. This will also be streamed live via the player above.
Science fiction author Stanley Robinson of Mars Trilogy fame says he finds a lot of familiar elements in Elon Musk’s plans for Mars. But not necessarily in a good way. Below are excerpts from a Q&A he did with Bloomberg News.
Q. It’s 2024. Musk figures everything out and gets funding. He builds his rocket, and 100 people take off. Several months later, they land (somehow) and have to get to work remaking a planet.
I have to note, first, that this scenario is not believable, which makes it a hard exercise to think about further. Mars will never be a single-person or single-company effort. It will be multi-national and take lots of money and lots of years.
Musk’s plan is sort of the 1920s science-fiction cliché of the boy who builds a rocket to the moon in his backyard, combined with the Wernher von Braun plan, as described in the Disney TV programs of the 1950s. A fun, new story.
Q. What needs to happen for the Mars colony to live sustainably and give humanity the lifeboat Musk envisions?
It’s important to say that the idea of Mars as a lifeboat is wrong, in both a practical and a moral sense.
There is no Planet B, and it’s very likely that we require the conditions here on earth for our long-term health. When you don’t take these new biological discoveries into your imagined future, you are doing bad science fiction.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — When you need tools or parts for something you’re working on around the house, you head to the nearest hardware store. Space travelers don’t have that luxury and may have to make their own tools and parts on long duration missions like the journey to Mars. Scientists and engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, are using data from International Space Station experiments to study liquids that may be used to help make valuable tools when exploring deep space.
Today, President Obama outlined a vision to CNN for the future of space exploration. Echoing what he said in the 2015 State of the Union address, the President wrote, “We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time.” Later this week, many of the Nation’s top innovators will come together in Pittsburgh at the White House Frontiers Conference, where they will further explore, among other things, how American investments in science and technology will help us settle “the final frontier” – space. But today, we’re excited to announce two new NASA initiatives that build on the President’s vision and utilize public-private partnerships to enable humans to live and work in space in a sustainable way.
In April 2010, the President challenged the country – and NASA – to send American astronauts on a Journey to Mars in the 2030s. By reaching out further into the solar system and expanding the frontiers of exploration, the President outlined a vision for pushing the bounds of human discovery, while also revitalizing the space industry and creating jobs here at home.
DARMSTADT, Germany (ESA PR) — This week, the commands that will govern the Schiaparelli lander’s descent and touchdown on Mars were uploaded to ESA’s ExoMars spacecraft, enroute to the Red Planet.
The Trace Gas Orbiter has been carrying the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator since launch on 14 March. Upon arrival on 19 October, Schiaparelli will test the technology needed for Europe’s 2020 rover to land, while its parent craft brakes into an elliptical orbit around Mars.
While Elon Musk was in Mexico last week wowing the world with his plan to send a million people to Mars, NASA officials north of the border in Houston were contemplating a more mundane problem: how to continue sending a handful of American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Elon Musk’s obsession with making giant leaps forward in technology and how the approach has likely contributed to some of the company’s problems. I posited that SpaceX needs fewer leaps and more plateaus so its employees can consolidate what they have learned and get really good at it before moving on to the next level. [SpaceX: Giant Leaps, Deep Troughs But No Plateaus].
WASHINGTON, DC, September 27, 2016 (NSS PR) — At today’s meeting of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, Elon Musk, CEO of Space X, announced his bold plan to build a city on Mars. For over 40 years the National Space Society has led advocacy for space settlement.