With Martian air, Dirt, and Sunshine, It Should be Possible to Make Iron on Mars

mars
An artist concept of base infrastructure on Mars. Early habitats will be brought to Mars, but permanent infrastructure could be created using local materials. Credit: NASA

When the first humans reach Mars, they’ll probably live in habitats that were there ahead of time or in habs made from their landers. Eventually, though, if people are going to settle on Mars in large numbers, they’ll need to become self-sufficient. A group of researchers at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia is looking at ways to make it happen. Their goal is in-situ resource utilization on the planet for solutions to building out the materials needed for Mars cities. They’ve come up with a proposal to produce metals for use on Mars, using only what’s available on the planet. It’s the first detailed study of its kind focused on metal production at another world. It has further implications for colonies on the Moon, as well.

Continue reading “With Martian air, Dirt, and Sunshine, It Should be Possible to Make Iron on Mars”

A Remote Surgical Robot is Going to the International Space Station

Shane Farritor, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Virtual Incision. Credit: Craig Chandler/UNL

In the near future, NASA and other space agencies will send astronauts beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for the first time in over fifty years. But unlike the Apollo Era, these missions will consist of astronauts spending extended periods on the Moon and traveling to and from Mars (with a few months of surface operations in between). Beyond that, there’s also the planned commercialization of LEO and cis-Lunar space, meaning millions of people could live aboard space habitats and surface settlements well beyond Earth.

This presents many challenges, which include the possibility that the sick and injured won’t have licensed medical practitioners to perform potentially life-saving surgery. To address this, Professor Shane Farritor and his colleagues at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s (UNL) Nebraska Innovation Campus (NIC) have developed the Miniaturized In-vivo Robotic Assistant (MIRA). In 2024, this portable miniaturized robotic-assisted surgery (RAS) platform will be flown to the International Space Station (ISS) for a test mission to evaluate its ability to perform medical procedures in space.

Continue reading “A Remote Surgical Robot is Going to the International Space Station”

Hubble can Still Impress and Inspire. Here's Globular Star Cluster NGC 6638

Globular cluster NGC 6638 in the constellation Sagittarius, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Cohen.

Wow, what a beauty! While we’ve all turned our attentions to the new James Webb Space Telescope, this image proves Hubble has still has got it where it counts.  

This new image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the heart of the globular cluster NGC 6638 in the constellation Sagittarius. This star-studded cluster contains tens of thousands to millions of stars, all tightly bound together by gravity. Globular clusters have a higher concentration of stars towards their centers, and this observation highlights that density.

Continue reading “Hubble can Still Impress and Inspire. Here's Globular Star Cluster NGC 6638”

Will Europa finally answer, ‘Are we alone?’

While NASA’s much-lauded Space Launch System stands ready for its maiden flight later this month with the goal of sending astronauts back to the Moon in the next few years, our gazes once again turn to the stars as we continue to ask the question that has plagued humankind since time immemorial: Are we alone? While there are several solar system locales that we can choose from to conduct our search for life beyond Earth, to include Mars and Saturn’s moons, Titan and Enceladus, one planetary body orbiting the largest planet in the solar system has peaked the interest of scientists since the 1970s.

Continue reading “Will Europa finally answer, ‘Are we alone?’”

Watch OSIRIS-REx's Complex Orbital Path Around Bennu in This Cool Animation

OSIRIS-REx mission timeline. Credit: NASA.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft conducted a two-year reconnaissance and sample collection at the asteroid Bennu, providing crucial data about the 500-meter-wide potentially hazardous rubble pile/space rock. When OSIRIS-REx arrived on Dec. 3, 2018, it needed some tricky navigation and precise maneuvers to make the mission work.

Experts at NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio created an amazing visualization of the path the spacecraft took during its investigations. A short film called “A Web Around Asteroid Bennu” highlights the complexity of the mission, and the film is being shown at the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a festival honoring standout works of computer animated storytelling.

Continue reading “Watch OSIRIS-REx's Complex Orbital Path Around Bennu in This Cool Animation”

Dwarf Galaxies Found Without Influence From Dark Matter

Dwarf galaxy in Fornax.
The dwarf galaxy NGC1427A flies through the Fornax galaxy cluster and undergoes disturbances which would not be possible if this galaxy were surrounded by a heavy and extended dark matter halo, as required by standard cosmology. Courtesy ESO.

Ask astronomers about dark matter and one of the things they talk about is that this invisible, mysterious “stuff” permeates the universe. In particular, it exists in halos surrounding most galaxies. The mass of the halo exerts a strong gravitational influence on the galaxy itself, as well as on others in the neighborhood. That’s pretty much the standard view of dark matter and its influence on galaxies. However, there are problems with the idea of those halos. Apparently, some oddly shaped dwarf galaxies exist that look like they have no halos. How could this be? Do they represent an observationally induced challenge to the prevailing ideas about dark matter halos?

Continue reading “Dwarf Galaxies Found Without Influence From Dark Matter”

Jupiter Missions Could Also Help Search for Dark Matter

In a recent study published in the Journal of High Energy Physics, two researchers from Brown University demonstrated how data from past missions to Jupiter can help scientists examine dark matter, one of the most mysterious phenomena in the universe. The reason past Jupiter missions were chosen is due to the extensive amount of data gathered about the largest planet in the solar system, most notably from the Galileo and Juno orbiters. The elusive nature and composition of dark matter continues to elude scientists, both figuratively and literally, because it does not emit any light. So why do scientists continue to study this mysterious—and completely invisible—phenomena?

Continue reading “Jupiter Missions Could Also Help Search for Dark Matter”

I Asked an AI to Dream the Solar System as Food

Jupiter, as a Sandwich. Credit: Midjourney AI
Jupiter, as a Sandwich. Credit: Midjourney AI

As soon as I saw these new artificial intelligence image creation tools, like DALL-E, I wanted to see how well they’d work for generating space and astronomy images. I’m still on the waiting list for DALL-E 2, so I don’t have any feedback to give there, but I signed up for Midjourney AI, played around with the free account, and then signed up for a full paid account, so I could test out its capabilities.

Continue reading “I Asked an AI to Dream the Solar System as Food”

Masten Space is Building a Lunar Lander for NASA. Also, They Just Filed for Bankruptcy

Artist's rendering of the Masten XL-1 lander. Credit: Masten Space Systems

If you’re a fan of the commercial space industry (aka. NewSpace), then the name Masten Space Systems is sure to ring a bell. For years, this California-based aerospace company has been developing delivery systems to accommodate payloads to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. This included Xoie, the lander concept that won the $1 million Northrop Grumman Lunar X-Prize in 2009, their Xombie and Xodiac reusable terrestrial landers, and the in-Flight Alumina Spray Technique (FAST) that would allow lunar landers to create their own landing pads.

But perhaps their biggest feat was the Xelene Lunar Lander (XL-1) that they developed in partnership with the NASA Lunar CATALYST program. This lander was one of several robotic systems enlisted by NASA to deliver cargo to the Moon in support of the Artemis Program. This included the Masten-1 mission, which was scheduled to land a payload Moon’s southern polar region in 2023. The company was scheduled to make a second delivery (Masten-2) by 2024, one year before the first Artemis astronauts arrived. But according to a statement issued on July 28th, the company has filed for Chapter 11 and is bankrupt!

Continue reading “Masten Space is Building a Lunar Lander for NASA. Also, They Just Filed for Bankruptcy”