You can Watch Ingenuity’s Flight on Mars, Captured by Perseverance

New video beamed back to Earth from the Perseverance Rover shows an incredibly detailed view of the Ingenuity helicopter’s flight back in September. The video – taken from about 300 meters (328 yards) away — shows Ingenuity’s takeoff and landing with such detail, that even a little plume of dust is visible during the helicopter’s ascent.

Continue reading “You can Watch Ingenuity’s Flight on Mars, Captured by Perseverance”

Orbital Launch in January? Elon Musk Updates His Vision for SpaceX’s Starship

Starlink launch from Mars

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has laid out a scenario for space travel that calls for his company’s Starship launch system to take on its first orbital test flight as soon as January.

Starship could go through “a dozen launches next year, maybe more,” and be ready to send valuable payloads to the moon, Mars and even the solar system’s outer planets by 2023, Musk said during a Nov. 17 online meeting of the National Academies’ Space Studies Board and Board on Physics and Astronomy.

But he advised against sending anything too valuable on the first flight to Mars. “I would recommend putting the lower-cost scientific mission stuff on the first mission,” he said, half-jokingly.

The National Academies presentation followed up on big-picture talks that Musk delivered in 2016 (when Starship was known as the Interplanetary Transport System), 2017 (when it was known as the BFR or “Big Frickin’ Rocket”) and 2018 (when Musk settled on “Starship”).

Musk’s basic concept is the same: Starship and its giant Super Heavy booster would be a one-size-fits-all system that could be used for point-to-point suborbital travel, orbital space missions and all manner of trips beyond Earth orbit, including moon landings. It’d be capable of lofting more than 100 tons to low Earth orbit (three times as much as the space shuttle), and sending 100 people at a time to Mars.

This week’s presentation provided some new details.

Continue reading “Orbital Launch in January? Elon Musk Updates His Vision for SpaceX’s Starship”

Fungi Were Able to Absorb Radiation on the ISS. Could Astronauts Grow Their own Radiation Shields in Space?

A lack of effective radiation shielding is one of the biggest challenges still to be overcome if humans are to embark on long-term voyages into deep space. On Earth, the planet’s powerful magnetosphere protects us from the deadliest forms of radiation – those produced by solar flares, and galactic cosmic rays arriving from afar – that stream through the Solar System. Astronauts on the International Space Station, some 408km above the Earth, receive elevated levels of radiation, but are close enough to Earth that they still receive some shielding, and can stay on orbit for up to a year. The same can’t be said for astronauts traveling further out, to the Moon, for example, or, someday, to Mars. Future deep space voyagers will need to bring their own shielding with them – or, as a new paper suggests – grow it along the way.

Continue reading “Fungi Were Able to Absorb Radiation on the ISS. Could Astronauts Grow Their own Radiation Shields in Space?”

The Sounds of Mars: Hear the Wind and Crunch of Rover Wheels on the Red Planet

Two microphones aboard the Perseverance Rover have recorded “alien” sounds on Mars – the sounds of a human-made spacecraft crunching its wheels on the Red Planet’s surface, or its motors whirring, or blasts from its scientific laser instrument. Perseverance’s microphones have also captured the sounds of another spacecraft – the Ingenuity helicopter – taking flight. During the five or so hours recorded so far, you can hear the Martian wind gusting in the background.  

“We’ve been able to see Mars from the rovers’ point of view for a quite a long time now,” said Greg Delory, a consultant to the Mars 2020 rover microphone team, “so to have another ‘sense’ on Mars is pretty incredible.”

Continue reading “The Sounds of Mars: Hear the Wind and Crunch of Rover Wheels on the Red Planet”

We Now Know Exactly Which Crater the Martian Meteorites Came From

Mars is still quite mysterious, despite all we’ve learned about the planet in recent years. We still have a lot to learn about its interior and surface evolution and how changes affected the planet’s history and habitability. Fortunately, an impact on the red planet sent clues to Earth in the form of meteorites.

The geological information contained in these meteorites would be even more valuable if we knew exactly where they came from. A team of researchers say they’ve figured it out.

Continue reading “We Now Know Exactly Which Crater the Martian Meteorites Came From”

Ingenuity Back in Action on Mars on its 14th Flight

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took a short hop flight on October 24, giving the mission team both a sigh of relief and an anticipatory look to future flights. This 14th flight of Ingenuity’s mission was a short 23-second hover, with a peak altitude of 16 feet (5 meters) above ground level, with a small sideways translation of 7 feet (2 meters) to avoid a nearby sand ripple.

Continue reading “Ingenuity Back in Action on Mars on its 14th Flight”

A Mars Colony Could be a Hydrogen Factory, Providing Propellant for the Inner Solar System

There are lots of potential uses for a Mars colony.  It could be a research outpost, mining colony, or even a possible second home if something happens to go drastically wrong on our first one.  But it could also be a potential source of what is sure to be one of the most valuable elements in the space economy – hydrogen.  

Continue reading “A Mars Colony Could be a Hydrogen Factory, Providing Propellant for the Inner Solar System”

Perseverance has Collected its First Sample of Mars and Prepared it for Return to Earth… Eventually

It’s another first for NASA.

In early September, the Perseverance rover successfully used its robotic arm and drill to drill into a rock and extract a sample. It extracted a rock core about 6 cm (2 in) long and placed it inside a sealed tube. This is the first time a robotic spacecraft has collected a sample from another planet destined for a return to Earth on a separate spacecraft.

Now we wait for the eventual return of the sample to Earth.

Continue reading “Perseverance has Collected its First Sample of Mars and Prepared it for Return to Earth… Eventually”