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Our Prototypes column introduces new vehicle concepts and presents visuals from designers who illustrate the ideas. Some of them will be extensions of existing concepts, others will be new, some will be production ready, and others really far-fetched.

The concept

The Oxyde is a spacecraft/space module designed to carry robots to the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter. It would also be used to pull smaller asteroids back closer to the Earth and Moon and could house engineers in charge of mining operations.


The background

Travelling within our solar system will probably become a possibility in the next 50 years. The next logical step will be to mine rare metals in space – if the numbers add up.

How will we do this? Will we develop multipurpose vehicles for this task? That’s the idea behind the Oxyde concept.

The Oxyde would fly into space by riding on top of a super heavy lift-launch vehicle.
The Oxyde would fly into space by riding on top of a super heavy lift-launch vehicle.

How it works

The Oxyde would be designed to carry humanoid robots into space. (See Robonaut 2by NASA.) It would not, however, be engineered to re-enter our atmosphere. It would fly out into space by riding on top of a super heavy-lift launch vehicle and remain there for the duration of its useful life.

The first Oxyde would be equipped with a chemical rocket powerful enough to reach the asteroid belt and bring back a small asteroid. Once it reached its destination, robonauts would exit the spacecraft and begin to survey and select suitable asteroids to mine.

Pulling an asteroid back to Earth will not be an easy task.The mass of the targeted asteroids would be limited by the thrust and fuel available on the Oxyde for the return trip. However, it would also be possible to send fuel to the surveying team once a candidate is selected.

Once the Oxyde is back near the moon, it could enter a lunar orbit with the asteroid and mining operations could begin.

At this point, a crew of human engineers could take their places aboard the Oxyde and live there to supervise mining operations. Basically, the Oxyde would become a space module for the mining crew.

The Oxyde would allow mining to take place in space, a necessary financial incentive for colonizing the solar system.
The Oxyde would allow mining to take place in space, a financial incentive to colonize the solar system.

What it’s used for

Would you like humans to colonize the solar system one day? If the answer is yes, then there will need to be a financial incentive, and mining is probably one of the best ones to attract investors. Of course, the cost will still be astronomical ($100-million (U.S.) for each launch, plus the spacecraft, preparation, etc.). There are thousands of unanswered questions, but this concept was meant first and foremost to continue the discussion around space mining .

The designer

I would like to thank Martin Rico for creating the images of the Oxyde concept. Rico lives near Buenos Aires and studied design at the University of Buenos Aires and now works as a freelance industrial designer. He also designed the Seataci Yacht concept and the Sutton and Maui snowboard and surfboard mobile rental units.

Source: This article was published theglobeandmail By CHARLES BOMBARDIER

Categorized in Science & Tech

Why do the other planets, like Venus (shown above) have a different atmosphere than Earth? Credit: ESA

Here on Earth, we tend to take our atmosphere for granted, and not without reason. Our atmosphere has a lovely mix of nitrogen and oxygen (78% and 21% respectively) with trace amounts of water vapor, carbon dioxide and other gaseous molecules. What’s more, we enjoy an atmospheric pressure of 101.325 kPa, which extends to an altitude of about 8.5 km.

In short, our atmosphere is plentiful and life-sustaining. But what about the other planets of the Solar System? How do they stack up in terms of atmospheric composition and pressure? We know for a fact that they are not breathable by humans and cannot support life. But just what is the difference between these balls of rock and gas and our own?

For starters, it should be noted that every planet in the Solar System has an atmosphere of one kind or another. And these range from incredibly thin and tenuous (such as Mercury’s “exosphere”) to the incredibly dense and powerful – which is the case for all of the gas giants. And depending on the composition of the planet, whether it is a terrestrial or a gas/ice giant, the gases that make up its atmosphere range from either the hydrogen and helium to more complex elements like oxygen, carbon dioxide, ammonia and methane.

Mercury’s Atmosphere:

Mercury is too hot and too small to retain an atmosphere. However, it does have a tenuous and variable exosphere that is made up of hydrogen, helium, oxygen, sodium, calcium, potassium and water vapor, with a combined pressure level of about 10-14 bar (one-quadrillionth of Earth’s atmospheric pressure). It is believed this exosphere was formed from particles captured from the Sun, volcanic outgassing and debris kicked into orbit by micrometeorite impacts.

Mercury's Horizon
A High-resolution Look over Mercury’s Northern Horizon. Credit: NASA/MESSENGER

Because it lacks a viable atmosphere, Mercury has no way to retain the heat from the Sun. As a result of this and its high eccentricity, the planet experiences considerable variations in temperature. Whereas the side that faces the Sun can reach temperatures of up to 700 K (427° C), while the side in shadow dips down to 100 K (-173° C).

Venus’ Atmosphere:

Surface observations of Venus have been difficult in the past, due to its extremely dense atmosphere, which is composed primarily of carbon dioxide with a small amount of nitrogen. At 92 bar (9.2 MPa), the atmospheric mass is 93 times that of Earth’s atmosphere and the pressure at the planet’s surface is about 92 times that at Earth’s surface.

Venus is also the hottest planet in our Solar System, with a mean surface temperature of 735 K (462 °C/863.6 °F). This is due to the CO²-rich atmosphere which, along with thick clouds of sulfur dioxide, generates the strongest greenhouse effect in the Solar System. Above the dense CO² layer, thick clouds consisting mainly of sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid droplets scatter about 90% of the sunlight back into space.

Another common phenomena is Venus’ strong winds, which reach speeds of up to 85 m/s (300 km/h; 186.4 mph) at the cloud tops and circle the planet every four to five Earth days. At this speed, these winds move up to 60 times the speed of the planet’s rotation, whereas Earth’s fastest winds are only 10-20% of the planet’s rotational speed.

Venus flybys have also indicated that its dense clouds are capable of producing lightning, much like the clouds on Earth. Their intermittent appearance indicates a pattern associated with weather activity, and the lightning rate is at least half of that on Earth.

Earth’s Atmosphere:

Earth’s atmosphere, which is composed of nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor, carbon dioxide and other trace gases, also consists of five layers. These consists of the Troposphere, the Stratosphere, the Mesosphere, the Thermosphere, and the Exosphere. As a rule, air pressure and density decrease the higher one goes into the atmosphere and the farther one is from the surface.

Closest to the Earth is the Troposphere, which extends from the 0 to between 12 km and 17 km (0 to 7 and 10.56 mi) above the surface. This layer contains roughly 80% of the mass of Earth’s atmosphere, and nearly all atmospheric water vapor or moisture is found in here as well. As a result, it is the layer where most of Earth’s weather takes place.

The Stratosphere extends from the Troposphere to an altitude of 50 km (31 mi). This layer extends from the top of the troposphere to the stratopause, which is at an altitude of about 50 to 55 km (31 to 34 mi). This layer of the atmosphere is home to the ozone layer, which is the part of Earth’s atmosphere that contains relatively high concentrations of ozone gas.

Space Shuttle Endeavour sillouetted against the atmosphere. The orange layer is the troposphere, the white layer is the stratosphere and the blue layer the mesosphere.[1] (The shuttle is actually orbiting at an altitude of more than 320 km (200 mi), far above all three layers.) Credit: NASA
Space Shuttle Endeavour sillouetted against the atmosphere. The orange layer is the troposphere, the white layer is the stratosphere and the blue layer the mesosphere. Credit: NASA

Next is the Mesosphere, which extends from a distance of 50 to 80 km (31 to 50 mi) above sea level. It is the coldest place on Earth and has an average temperature of around -85 °C (-120 °F; 190 K). The Thermosphere, the second highest layer of the atmosphere, extends from an altitude of about 80 km (50 mi) up to the thermopause, which is at an altitude of 500–1000 km (310–620 mi).

The lower part of the thermosphere, from 80 to 550 kilometers (50 to 342 mi), contains the ionosphere – which is so named because it is here in the atmosphere that particles are ionized by solar radiation.  This layer is completely cloudless and free of water vapor. It is also at this altitude that the phenomena known as Aurora Borealis and Aurara Australis are known to take place.

The Exosphere, which is outermost layer of the Earth’s atmosphere, extends from the exobase – located at the top of the thermosphere at an altitude of about 700 km above sea level – to about 10,000 km (6,200 mi). The exosphere merges with the emptiness of outer space, and is mainly composed of extremely low densities of hydrogen, helium and several heavier molecules including nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide

The exosphere is located too far above Earth for any meteorological phenomena to be possible. However, the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis sometimes occur in the lower part of the exosphere, where they overlap into the thermosphere.

This photo of the aurora was taken by astronaut Doug Wheelock from the International Space Station on July 25, 2010. Credit: Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center
Photo of the aurora taken by astronaut Doug Wheelock from the International Space Station on July 25, 2010. Credit: NASA/Johnson Space Center

The average surface temperature on Earth is approximately 14°C; but as already noted, this varies. For instance, the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth was 70.7°C (159°F), which was taken in the Lut Desert of Iran. Meanwhile, the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth was measured at the Soviet Vostok Station on the Antarctic Plateau, reaching an historic low of -89.2°C (-129°F).

Mars’ Atmosphere:

Planet Mars has a very thin atmosphere which is composed of 96% carbon dioxide, 1.93% argon and 1.89% nitrogen along with traces of oxygen and water. The atmosphere is quite dusty, containing particulates that measure 1.5 micrometers in diameter, which is what gives the Martian sky a tawny color when seen from the surface. Mars’ atmospheric pressure ranges from 0.4 – 0.87 kPa, which is equivalent to about 1% of Earth’s at sea level.

Because of its thin atmosphere, and its greater distance from the Sun, the surface temperature of Mars is much colder than what we experience here on Earth. The planet’s average temperature is -46 °C (51 °F), with a low of -143 °C (-225.4 °F) during the winter at the poles, and a high of 35 °C (95 °F) during summer and midday at the equator.

The planet also experiences dust storms, which can turn into what resembles small tornadoes. Larger dust storms occur when the dust is blown into the atmosphere and heats up from the Sun. The warmer dust filled air rises and the winds get stronger, creating storms that can measure up to thousands of kilometers in width and last for months at a time. When they get this large, they can actually block most of the surface from view.

Mars, as it appears today, Credit: NASA
Mars, as it appears today, with a very thin and tenuous atmosphere. Credit: NASA

Trace amounts of methane have also been detected in the Martian atmosphere, with an estimated concentration of about 30 parts per billion (ppb). It occurs in extended plumes, and the profiles imply that the methane was released from specific regions – the first of which is located between Isidis and Utopia Planitia (30°N 260°W) and the second in Arabia Terra (0°N 310°W).

Ammonia was also tentatively detected on Mars by the Mars Express satellite, but with a relatively short lifetime. It is not clear what produced it, but volcanic activity has been suggested as a possible source.

Jupiter’s Atmosphere:

Much like Earth, Jupiter experiences auroras near its northern and southern poles. But on Jupiter, the auroral activity is much more intense and rarely ever stops. The intense radiation, Jupiter’s magnetic field, and the abundance of material from Io’s volcanoes that react with Jupiter’s ionosphere create a light show that is truly spectacular.

Jupiter also experiences violent weather patterns. Wind speeds of 100 m/s (360 km/h) are common in zonal jets, and can reach as high as 620 kph (385 mph). Storms form within hours and can become thousands of km in diameter overnight. One storm, the Great Red Spot, has been raging since at least the late 1600s. The storm has been shrinking and expanding throughout its history; but in 2012, it was suggested that the Giant Red Spot might eventually disappear.

Jupiter is perpetually covered with clouds composed of ammonia crystals and possibly ammonium hydrosulfide. These clouds are located in the tropopause and are arranged into bands of different latitudes, known as “tropical regions”. The cloud layer is only about 50 km (31 mi) deep, and consists of at least two decks of clouds: a thick lower deck and a thin clearer region.

There may also be a thin layer of water clouds underlying the ammonia layer, as evidenced by flashes of lightning detected in the atmosphere of Jupiter, which would be caused by the water’s polarity creating the charge separation needed for lightning. Observations of these electrical discharges indicate that they can be up to a thousand times as powerful as those observed here on the Earth.

Saturn’s Atmosphere:

The outer atmosphere of Saturn contains 96.3% molecular hydrogen and 3.25% helium by volume. The gas giant is also known to contain heavier elements, though the proportions of these relative to hydrogen and helium is not known. It is assumed that they would match the primordial abundance from the formation of the Solar System.

Trace amounts of ammonia, acetylene, ethane, propane, phosphine and methane have been also detected in Saturn’s atmosphere. The upper clouds are composed of ammonia crystals, while the lower level clouds appear to consist of either ammonium hydrosulfide (NH4SH) or water. Ultraviolet radiation from the Sun causes methane photolysis in the upper atmosphere, leading to a series of hydrocarbon chemical reactions with the resulting products being carried downward by eddies and diffusion.

Saturn’s atmosphere exhibits a banded pattern similar to Jupiter’s, but Saturn’s bands are much fainter and wider near the equator. As with Jupiter’s cloud layers, they are divided into the upper and lower layers, which vary in composition based on depth and pressure. In the upper cloud layers, with temperatures in range of 100–160 K and pressures between 0.5–2 bar, the clouds consist of ammonia ice.

Water ice clouds begin at a level where the pressure is about 2.5 bar and extend down to 9.5 bar, where temperatures range from 185–270 K. Intermixed in this layer is a band of ammonium hydrosulfide ice, lying in the pressure range 3–6 bar with temperatures of 290–235 K. Finally, the lower layers, where pressures are between 10–20 bar and temperatures are 270–330 K, contains a region of water droplets with ammonia in an aqueous solution.

On occasion, Saturn’s atmosphere exhibits long-lived ovals, similar to what is commonly observed on Jupiter. Whereas Jupiter has the Great Red Spot, Saturn periodically has what’s known as the Great White Spot (aka. Great White Oval). This unique but short-lived phenomenon occurs once every Saturnian year, roughly every 30 Earth years, around the time of the northern hemisphere’s summer solstice.

These spots can be several thousands of kilometers wide, and have been observed in 1876, 1903, 1933, 1960, and 1990. Since 2010, a large band of white clouds called the Northern Electrostatic Disturbance have been observed enveloping Saturn, which was spotted by the Cassini space probe. If the periodic nature of these storms is maintained, another one will occur in about 2020.

The winds on Saturn are the second fastest among the Solar System’s planets, after Neptune’s. Voyager data indicate peak easterly winds of 500 m/s (1800 km/h). Saturn’s northern and southern poles have also shown evidence of stormy weather. At the north pole, this takes the form of a hexagonal wave pattern, whereas the south shows evidence of a massive jet stream.

The persisting hexagonal wave pattern around the north pole was first noted in the Voyager images. The sides of the hexagon are each about 13,800 km (8,600 mi) long (which is longer than the diameter of the Earth) and the structure rotates with a period of 10h 39m 24s, which is assumed to be equal to the period of rotation of Saturn’s interior.

The south pole vortex, meanwhile, was first observed using the Hubble Space Telescope. These images indicated the presence of a jet stream, but not a hexagonal standing wave. These storms are estimated to be generating winds of 550 km/h, are comparable in size to Earth, and believed to have been going on for billions of years. In 2006, the Cassini space probe observed a hurricane-like storm that had a clearly defined eye. Such storms had not been observed on any planet other than Earth – even on Jupiter.

Uranus’ Atmosphere:

As with Earth, the atmosphere of Uranus is broken into layers, depending upon temperature and pressure. Like the other gas giants, the planet doesn’t have a firm surface, and scientists define the surface as the region where the atmospheric pressure exceeds one bar (the pressure found on Earth at sea level). Anything accessible to remote-sensing capability – which extends down to roughly 300 km below the 1 bar level – is also considered to be the atmosphere.

Diagram of the interior of Uranus. Credit: Public Domain
Diagram of the interior of Uranus. Credit: Public Domain

Using these references points, Uranus’  atmosphere can be divided into three layers. The first is the troposphere, between altitudes of -300 km below the surface and 50 km above it, where pressures range from 100 to 0.1 bar (10 MPa to 10 kPa). The second layer is the stratosphere, which reaches between 50 and 4000 km and experiences pressures between 0.1 and 10-10 bar (10 kPa to 10 µPa).

The troposphere is the densest layer in Uranus’ atmosphere. Here, the temperature ranges from 320 K (46.85 °C/116 °F) at the base (-300 km) to 53 K (-220 °C/-364 °F) at 50 km, with the upper region being the coldest in the solar system. The tropopause region is responsible for the vast majority of Uranus’s thermal infrared emissions, thus determining its effective temperature of 59.1 ± 0.3 K.

Within the troposphere are layers of clouds – water clouds at the lowest pressures, with ammonium hydrosulfide clouds above them. Ammonia and hydrogen sulfide clouds come next. Finally, thin methane clouds lay on the top.

In the stratosphere, temperatures range from 53 K (-220 °C/-364 °F) at the upper level to between 800 and 850 K (527 – 577 °C/980 – 1070 °F) at the base of the thermosphere, thanks largely to heating caused by solar radiation. The stratosphere contains ethane smog, which may contribute to the planet’s dull appearance. Acetylene and methane are also present, and these hazes help warm the stratosphere.

Uranus. Image credit: Hubble
Uranus, as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA/Hubble

The outermost layer, the thermosphere and corona, extend from 4,000 km to as high as 50,000 km from the surface. This region has a uniform temperature of 800-850 (577 °C/1,070 °F), although scientists are unsure as to the reason. Because the distance to Uranus from the Sun is so great, the amount of sunlight absorbed cannot be the primary cause.

Like Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus’s weather follows a similar pattern where systems are broken up into bands that rotate around the planet, which are driven by internal heat rising to the upper atmosphere. As a result, winds on Uranus can reach up to 900 km/h (560 mph), creating massive storms like the one spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2012. Similar to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, this “Dark Spot” was a giant cloud vortex that measured 1,700 kilometers by 3,000 kilometers (1,100 miles by 1,900 miles).

Neptune’s Atmosphere:

At high altitudes, Neptune’s atmosphere is 80% hydrogen and 19% helium, with a trace amount of methane. As with Uranus, this absorption of red light by the atmospheric methane is part of what gives Neptune its blue hue, although Neptune’s is darker and more vivid. Because Neptune’s atmospheric methane content is similar to that of Uranus, some unknown constituent is thought to contribute to Neptune’s more intense coloring.

Neptune’s atmosphere is subdivided into two main regions: the lower troposphere (where temperature decreases with altitude), and the stratosphere (where temperature increases with altitude). The boundary between the two, the tropopause, lies at a pressure of 0.1 bars (10 kPa). The stratosphere then gives way to the thermosphere at a pressure lower than 10-5 to 10-4 microbars (1 to 10 Pa), which gradually transitions to the exosphere.

Neptune’s spectra suggest that its lower stratosphere is hazy due to condensation of products caused by the interaction of ultraviolet radiation and methane (i.e. photolysis), which produces compounds such as ethane and ethyne. The stratosphere is also home to trace amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, which are responsible for Neptune’s stratosphere being warmer than that of Uranus.

In this image, the colors and contrasts were modified to emphasize the planet’s atmospheric features. The winds in Neptune’s atmosphere can reach the speed of sound or more. Neptune’s Great Dark Spot stands out as the most prominent feature on the left. Several features, including the fainter Dark Spot 2 and the South Polar Feature, are locked to the planet’s rotation, which allowed Karkoschka to precisely determine how long a day lasts on Neptune. (Image: Erich Karkoschka)
A modified color/contrast image emphasizing Neptune’s atmospheric features, including wind speed. Credit Erich Karkoschka)

For reasons that remain obscure, the planet’s thermosphere experiences unusually high temperatures of about 750 K (476.85 °C/890 °F). The planet is too far from the Sun for this heat to be generated by ultraviolet radiation, which means another heating mechanism is involved – which could be the atmosphere’s interaction with ion’s in the planet’s magnetic field, or gravity waves from the planet’s interior that dissipate in the atmosphere.

Because Neptune is not a solid body, its atmosphere undergoes differential rotation. The wide equatorial zone rotates with a period of about 18 hours, which is slower than the 16.1-hour rotation of the planet’s magnetic field. By contrast, the reverse is true for the polar regions where the rotation period is 12 hours.

This differential rotation is the most pronounced of any planet in the Solar System, and results in strong latitudinal wind shear and violent storms. The three most impressive were all spotted in 1989 by the Voyager 2 space probe, and then named based on their appearances.

The first to be spotted was a massive anticyclonic storm measuring 13,000 x 6,600 km and resembling the Great Red Spot of Jupiter. Known as the Great Dark Spot, this storm was not spotted five later (Nov. 2nd, 1994) when the Hubble Space Telescope looked for it. Instead, a new storm that was very similar in appearance was found in the planet’s northern hemisphere, suggesting that these storms have a shorter life span than Jupiter’s.

Reconstruction of Voyager 2 images showing the Great Black spot (top left), Scooter (middle), and the Small Black Spot (lower right). Credit: NASA/JPL
Reconstruction of Voyager 2 images showing the Great Black spot (top left), Scooter (middle), and the Small Black Spot (lower right). Credit: NASA/JPL

The Scooter is another storm, a white cloud group located farther south than the Great Dark Spot – a nickname that first arose during the months leading up to the Voyager 2 encounter in 1989. The Small Dark Spot, a southern cyclonic storm, was the second-most-intense storm observed during the 1989 encounter. It was initially completely dark; but as Voyager 2 approached the planet, a bright core developed and could be seen in most of the highest-resolution images.

In sum, the planet’s of our Solar System all have atmospheres of sorts. And compared to Earth’s relatively balmy and thick atmosphere, they run the gamut between very very thin to very very dense. They also range in temperatures from the extremely hot (like on Venus) to the extreme freezing cold.

And when it comes to weather systems, things can equally extreme, with planet’s boasting either weather at all, or intense cyclonic and dust storms that put storms here n Earth to shame. And whereas some are entirely hostile to life as we know it, others we might be able to work with.

We have many interesting articles about planetary atmosphere’s here at Universe Today. For instance, he’s What is the Atmosphere?, and articles about the atmosphere of MercuryVenusMarsJupiterSaturnUranus and Neptune,

For more information on atmospheres, check out NASA’s pages on Earth’s Atmospheric LayersThe Carbon Cycle, and how Earth’s atmosphere differs from space.

Astronomy Cast has an episode on the source of the atmosphere.

Source: This article was published universetoday.com By Matt Williams

Categorized in Science & Tech

Nobody likes layovers, but the first astronauts heading to Mars will get to experience one of the longest such experiences of their lives. They’ll have to spend one year going around the moon, which will probably be a very annoying wait for the first people heading to the red planet. It’s not all bad news, however, as they won’t just wait for time to pass by. NASA actually wants to make sure that the round trip to Mars, a 1,000-day endeavor, is carefully planned during the time. 

NASA’s Greg Williams, revealed that the agency’s Phase 2 of its plan to send humans to Mars includes a one-year layover in orbit around the moon in the late 2020s, Space reports..

Williams, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for policy and plans at the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, revealed that NASA wants to build a “deep-space gateway” around the moon that would serve as the testing ground for the first Mars missions.

The moon orbit base would also serve as the staging point for the mission, and the spacecraft that will carry humans to Mars for the first time eve will be launched from the moon.

“If we could conduct a yearlong crewed mission on this Deep Space Transport in cislunar space, we believe we will know enough that we could then send this thing, crewed, on a 1,000-day mission to the Mars system and back,” Williams said.

Considering the length of the Mars trip, spending a year around the moon to make sure everything works correctly makes plenty of sense.

NASA will kick off its Mars mission with Phase 1, between 2018 and 2026. During this time, the agency will send four missions to the moon that would deliver various components needed for the mission. Phase 2 will begin in 2027, with an uncrewed mission that would deliver the Deep Space Transport vehicle to the cislunar space.

The actual trip to Mars will take place in the 2030s, as shown in the following infographic.

Image Source: NASA/The Humans to Mars Summit

Source: This article was published BGR News By Chris Smith

Categorized in Science & Tech

The “incredibly brave” people who make the first journey to Mar will need somewhere to live.

And an engineer has discovered a way to make bricks from the planet’s red soil without a kiln or any other ingredients.

Instead, the bricks could be made be simply pounding the soil with a hammer, according to tests carried out in California.

In March, Donald Trump signed an order directing Nasa to send astronauts to Mars in 2033, confirming plans drawn up under Barack Obama in 2010. However Mr Trump then decided he wanted the mission to take place before the end of his four-year term of office, although it was unclear if he was joking.

Nasa has already begun work on how to overcome the considerable obstacles to making the perilous journey.

Yu Qiao, a professor of structural engineering at University of California San Diego, said: “The people who will go to Mars will be incredibly brave. They will be pioneers. 

“And I would be honoured to be their brick maker.”

Funded by Nasa, Professor Qiao and a team of engineers were tasked with coming up with a way to make buildings on Mars.

Their research led to a way to make buildings with only minimal resources – a key issue given the limit to the amount of materials and equipment the colonists will be able to take.

One previous suggestion was to build a nuclear-powered brick kiln.

Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the engineers described how they discovered a simulated version of Martian soil could be turned into a useable brick.

Donald Trump to Nasa astronauts: Get to Mars during my first term

Their technique involves encasing the soil in a rubber tube, then exerting pressure equivalent to someone dropping a 5kg hammer from about a metre.

It is believed iron oxide in the soil – which gives Mars its red colour – acts as a binding agent.

The resulting bricks, which are only about 2.5cm high, were found to be stronger than steel-reinforced concrete.

It is thought the colonist could lay down a layer of soil, compact it, then add another layer.

The engineers may also look into increasing the size of the bricks.

Before sending astronauts to Mars, Nasa plans to send a team to an asteroid with an extraordinary mission expected to take place by 2025.

“Nasa will send a robotic mission to capture and redirect an asteroid to orbit the moon,” its website says.

“Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft will explore the asteroid in the 2020s, returning to Earth with samples. 

“This experience in human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit will help Nasa test new systems and capabilities, such as solar electric propulsion, which we’ll need to send cargo as part of human missions to Mars. 

“Beginning in 2018, Nasa’s powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will enable these ‘proving ground’ missions to test new capabilities. 

“Human missions to Mars will rely on Orion and an evolved version of SLS that will be the most powerful launch vehicle ever flown.”

The idea is to send people to Mars and then bring them back to Earth.

“Engineers and scientists around the country are working hard to develop the technologies astronauts will use to one day live and work on Mars, and safely return home from the next giant leap for humanity,” Nasa said.

Author: Ian Johnston
Source: independent.co.uk

Categorized in Science & Tech

Donald Trump wants humans on Mars in the next three years.

He is unsatisfied with Nasa's current plans – to get humans on the Red Planet in the 2030s – and wants people on Mars by the end of his first term, in three-and-a-half years.

At a push, he wants people on the planet by the end of his second term, which would come in 2025 if he were to be elected again. The President told the astronauts that they need to speed up to meet his target.

Nasa's plan of a mission to Mars by the 2030s was already highly ambitious. It has been funded through a bill that Mr Trump just recently signed into law – which the astronauts had to remind him of during the video.

It wasn't clear whether or not Mr Trump was joking about the new, highly ambitious target. Putting people on Mars will require technical and specialist equipment far beyond any space mission so far, which astronauts pointed out during the call was only now being invented and built.

 

Mr Trump made the request during a livestreamed chat with Peggy Whitson, an astronaut who just became the American who has spent the longest time in space. During that video, he spoke at length about his plans for space exploration, and of his hopes for private corporations to be involved in that work.

image© Provided by Independent Print Limited image

The President has actively supported exploration of other planets like Mars, even taking funding away from Nasa's earth science work to focus instead on missions into our own solar system. And he is being supported by Elon Musk, who also wants humans to move to Mars and is invested in doing so through his SpaceX private spaceflight company.

 

During the call, Mr Trump joked that he wouldn't want to go to the International Space Station, because it is flying around the Earth at 17,000mph. That is "about as fast as I've heard", and "I wouldn't want to fly" at that speed, but it's "what you do", he said.

He also joked that the call to space was possible because of "great American equipment that works, and that is not easy", and said that he liked speaking to the astronauts more than he enjoyed speaking to politicians on the ground.

© Provided by Independent Print Limited

Source : MSN.com by Andrew Griffin

Categorized in News & Politics

NASA has finally revealed details about its plan to send astronauts to Mars.

  • The plan calls for building an outpost to orbit the moon and test Mars hardware.
  • A crew of four may have to spend up to three years inside of a Mars spaceship — yet never land on the planet.
  • It remains to be seen if NASA's flat budget can facilitate reaching Mars by 2033.

For years, NASA has talked about sending people to Mars with its gigantic new rocket, the Space Launch System, and a new spacecraft called Orion.

But NASA hasn't said exactly how it plans to use this hardware, which it's spending $40 billion to develop — not even with the publication of a 36-page Mars exploration plan in October 2015.

Fortunately, a plan may finally be coming into place.

On March 21, President Donald Trump signed a law that mandates NASA send people to Mars by 2033. Then, a week later, the space agency published its most detailed plan yet for reaching the red planet.

The scheme is neither for the claustrophobic nor the faint of heart. It involves locking astronauts into a tube-shaped spaceship, sending them into deep space for three years, and giving them no form of emergency escape beyond the moon.

What's more, astronauts would only orbit Mars in 2033 — they'd never attempt a landing.

That's according to a document by William Gerstenmaier, the head of NASA's human exploration and operations directorate, that he presented during a NASA advisory council meeting on March 28. We learned about the presentation via a story by Eric Berger at Ars Technica.

NASA is leading the next steps into deep space near the moon, where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems needed for challenging missions to deep space destinations including Mars," NASA said about the plan in a press release.

Getting to Mars in five phases

deep space gateway moon mars nasa

(An artist's concept of NASA's Deep Space Gateway space station, left, near the moon.NASA) 

Gerstenmaier's program lists five phases to reach Mars.

Phase 0 involves using the International Space Station "as a test bed to demonstrate key exploration capabilities and operations, and foster an emerging commercial space industry" with partners like SpaceX, Boeing, Orbital ATK, and others. We're currently in this phase.

Phase 1 is ambitious, involving six launches between 2018 and 2025.

First, NASA wants to launch its inaugural SLS rocket, a 321-foot behemoth that's designed to Saturn V rockets that blasted Apollo astronauts to the moon. If the maiden flight and tests of its Orion spaceship went well, the space agency would launch five more SLS rockets.

The first of those five would send NASA's unrelated Europa Clipper probe to Jupiter, where it would study an icy moon with a hidden ocean that may be habitable to alien life. Four other missions would each launch a piece of a new space station, called the Deep Space Gateway, into orbit near the moon — a region called cislunar space — where four astronauts would help assemble and provision it.

"The gateway could move to support robotic or partner missions to the surface of the moon, or to a high lunar orbit to support missions departing from the gateway to other destinations in the solar system," Gerstenmaier said in the release.

deep space transport moon mars nasa
deep space transport moon mars nasa
(An artist's concept of NASA's Deep Space Transport spaceship, right, near the moon.NASA) 

Phase 2 would build on the lunar space station by launching a Deep Space Transport to it in 2027. Then, around 2028 or 2029, four lucky astronauts would spend up to 400 days inside the 41-ton tube as it orbits near the moon. Their mission: make sure the DST works and nothing critical stops working.

Phase 3 would begin around 2030, assuming the DST and its crew experienced no problems. Another SLS flight would restock the spaceship with supplies and fuel, then yet another launch would load it with four people — the first crew to visit Mars.

Their two- to three-year flight "would likely involve a Venus flyby and a short stay around Mars" and "would offer no hope for an emergency return once the crew leaves cislunar space," Berger wrote.

Phase 4 would happen beyond 2033 and is fairly nebulous at this point. All it calls for in Gerstenmaier's document is "development and robotic preparatory missions" to deliver habitats and supplies to the surface of Mars, plus eventual "Mars human landing missions."

Will NASA put the first boots on Mars?

mars colony
View photos
(NASA) 

It remains to be seen whether NASA can pull off this grand plan on the relatively flat budget Congress keeps handing it.

During the Apollo moon missions, NASA made up more than 4% of the US budget. Today, its share has shrunk to about half a percent.

Even if NASA manages to execute this plan, it may have competition from the private partners it hopes to involve. The private sector may even beat NASA to Mars.

Elon Musk, the founder of the rocket company SpaceX,, recently said he planned to send people to Mars by 2022. Boeing has also challenged SpaceX in getting to the red planet. Musk said he was OK with this because all he wanted to do was colonize Mars and protect humanity from self-imposed annihilation or a rogue asteroid.

"I think it's good for there to be multiple paths to Mars ... to have multiple irons in the fire," Musk said in August.

This article was originally published in finance.yahoo.com.

Categorized in Science & Tech
  • NASA has finally revealed details about its plan to send astronauts to Mars.
  • The plan calls for building an outpost to orbit the moon and test Mars hardware.
  • A crew of four may have to spend up to three years inside of a Mars spaceship — yet never land on the planet.
  • It remains to be seen if NASA's flat budget can facilitate reaching Mars by 2033.

For years, NASA has talked about sending people to Mars with its gigantic new rocket, the Space Launch System, and a new spacecraft called Orion.

But NASA hasn't said exactly how it plans to use this hardware, which it's spending $40 billion to develop — not even with the publication of a 36-page Mars exploration plan in October 2015.

Fortunately, a plan may finally be coming into place.

On March 21, President Donald Trump signed a law that mandates NASA send people to Mars by 2033. Then, a week later, the space agency published its most detailed plan yet for reaching the red planet.

The scheme is neither for the claustrophobic nor the faint of heart. It involves locking astronauts into a tube-shaped spaceship, sending them into deep space for three years, and giving them no form of emergency escape beyond the moon.

What's more, astronauts would only orbit Mars in 2033 — they'd never attempt a landing.

That's according to a document by William Gerstenmaier, the head of NASA's human exploration and operations directorate, that he presented during a NASA advisory council meeting on March 28. We learned about the presentation via a story by Eric Berger at Ars Technica.

NASA is leading the next steps into deep space near the moon, where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems needed for challenging missions to deep space destinations including Mars," NASA said about the plan in a press release.

Getting to Mars in five phases

deep space gateway moon mars nasa

(An artist's concept of NASA's Deep Space Gateway space station, left, near the moon.NASA) 

Gerstenmaier's program lists five phases to reach Mars.

Phase 0 involves using the International Space Station "as a test bed to demonstrate key exploration capabilities and operations, and foster an emerging commercial space industry" with partners like SpaceX, Boeing, Orbital ATK, and others. We're currently in this phase.

Phase 1 is ambitious, involving six launches between 2018 and 2025.

First, NASA wants to launch its inaugural SLS rocket, a 321-foot behemoth that's designed to Saturn V rockets that blasted Apollo astronauts to the moon. If the maiden flight and tests of its Orion spaceship went well, the space agency would launch five more SLS rockets.

The first of those five would send NASA's unrelated Europa Clipper probe to Jupiter, where it would study an icy moon with a hidden ocean that may be habitable to alien life. Four other missions would each launch a piece of a new space station, called the Deep Space Gateway, into orbit near the moon — a region called cislunar space — where four astronauts would help assemble and provision it.

"The gateway could move to support robotic or partner missions to the surface of the moon, or to a high lunar orbit to support missions departing from the gateway to other destinations in the solar system," Gerstenmaier said in the release.

deep space transport moon mars nasa
deep space transport moon mars nasa
(An artist's concept of NASA's Deep Space Transport spaceship, right, near the moon.NASA) 

Phase 2 would build on the lunar space station by launching a Deep Space Transport to it in 2027. Then, around 2028 or 2029, four lucky astronauts would spend up to 400 days inside the 41-ton tube as it orbits near the moon. Their mission: make sure the DST works and nothing critical stops working.

Phase 3 would begin around 2030, assuming the DST and its crew experienced no problems. Another SLS flight would restock the spaceship with supplies and fuel, then yet another launch would load it with four people — the first crew to visit Mars.

Their two- to three-year flight "would likely involve a Venus flyby and a short stay around Mars" and "would offer no hope for an emergency return once the crew leaves cislunar space," Berger wrote.

Phase 4 would happen beyond 2033 and is fairly nebulous at this point. All it calls for in Gerstenmaier's document is "development and robotic preparatory missions" to deliver habitats and supplies to the surface of Mars, plus eventual "Mars human landing missions."

Will NASA put the first boots on Mars?

mars colony
View photos
(NASA) 

It remains to be seen whether NASA can pull off this grand plan on the relatively flat budget Congress keeps handing it.

During the Apollo moon missions, NASA made up more than 4% of the US budget. Today, its share has shrunk to about half a percent.

Even if NASA manages to execute this plan, it may have competition from the private partners it hopes to involve. The private sector may even beat NASA to Mars.

Elon Musk, the founder of the rocket company SpaceX,, recently said he planned to send people to Mars by 2022. Boeing has also challenged SpaceX in getting to the red planet. Musk said he was OK with this because all he wanted to do was colonize Mars and protect humanity from self-imposed annihilation or a rogue asteroid.

"I think it's good for there to be multiple paths to Mars ... to have multiple irons in the fire," Musk said in August.

Source : finance.yahoo.com
Categorized in Science & Tech

Could a synthetic magnetic bubble, like a mini-magnetosphere, protect a crewed mission to Mars from cosmic radiation, and would the energy cost be prohibitively high?

As much as some folks are keen on sending people to Mars as soon as possible, it’s become obvious that protecting any astronauts from an unsafe level of radiation before they even get to Mars is going to be a tricky business.There are two main problems for astronauts leaving our home planet; one is cosmic rays, which are usually turbo-speed protons from outside of our solar system. Some cosmic rays are blocked by our Earth's magnetosphere, and the remainder are usually stopped by our atmosphere. The other problem comes direct from the Sun itself; the Sun also flings electrons and protons in our direction in the solar wind.

The solar wind is mostly stopped by our magnetosphere, but if you’re going out a bit further, we won’t have that protection.

The solar wind is a stream of particles, mainly protons and electrons, flowing from the sun's atmosphere at a speed of about 1 million mph.
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio and the MAVEN Science Team
The solar wind is a stream of particles, mainly protons and electrons, flowing from the sun's atmosphere at a speed of about 1 million mph.

The solar wind is usually relatively easy to protect yourself from; with a slightly thicker wall than the bare minimum on your spacecraft, you can usually protect your crewmembers from a solar wind related battering. However, cosmic rays are harder to stop. The protons which make up cosmic rays typically have more energy to them, so shielding has to be more robust. The second problem with cosmic rays is that sometimes they’re more than just a proton; they can be an entire helium nucleus (two protons, and two neutrons), making them a projectile that’s both very high speed and four times the mass of a solar wind particle. These enormous cosmic rays can break apart, at an atomic level, the material they crash into, filling the interior of your spacecraft with radiation, which is not great for anyone trying to live in there.Once a spacecraft leaves the Earth’s protective bubble, not only does the cosmic ray dose increase dramatically, but you’ve also got a much less protected place to deal with the solar wind. And if the Sun decides to unleash a solar flare in your direction, you’ve got an awful lot of protons coming your way from the Sun, in addition to the Galaxy in general pelting you with helium nuclei.Enlil model run of the July 23, 2012 CME and events leading up to it. This view is a 'top-down' view in the plane of Earth's orbit.Unprotected, a solar flare can rapidly give you radiation sickness, which makes you tired and also makes you vomit. Fortunately for all involved, most spacecraft have thick enough walls that the crew should be protected from solar flares, but it’s generally considered good practice to reduce all possible risks. On the other hand, cosmic rays are not so easily stopped.

Because cosmic rays are fundamentally a charged particle, using a miniature magnetosphere surrounding the spacecraft would be an effective way of keeping them away from both your crew and the walls of the spacecraft; if this could be built into a spacecraft, you wouldn’t need to bulk up the outer surfaces of the craft for radiation protection. However, actually doing so is a bit beyond us at the moment. There have been a number of proposed magnet configurations developed, and a recent simulation of three different styles indicated that the magnetic shielding could, in fact, reduce the overall radiation dose an astronaut would recieve. This is not a given, because to create such a magnetic field, you need to add extra stuff to your spacecraft; the more mass you have, the more stuff Galactic cosmic rays can bash into, filling your craft with extra radiation. However, these portable magnetospheres are only just in the design phase - the next big steps will be building them, making them lighter, easier to power, and making sure they work they way we hoped they would. At this point, all we can really say is that it should be possible. We'll have to wait and see if it's also practical.

Author : Jillian Scudder

Source : https://www.forbes.com/sites/jillianscudder/2017/03/19/astroquizzical-magnetosphere-travel-mars/#3d83bb8351c8

Categorized in Science & Tech

Gearing Up for Mars

For the first time in human history, human space exploration will go beyond our moon. With more than one organization looking to send humans to the red planet, traveling to Mars isn’t just a distant possibility — it’s an impending reality.

In 2020, there will be a specific launch window that will allow travel from Earth to Mars in the shortest, most efficient path possible. Given our current rocket technology, the trip would take about five to six months. This window will not only expedite travel, but will give organizations a more specific time frame to work within. However, according to current progress, it is most likely that government and private space organizations will be sending only unmanned probes until the 2020’s and 2030’s.

NASA notes that “they are currently further along than ever before in human history on [their] Journey to Mars.” Additionally, last year, SpaceX started testing the rocket intended to bring humans to the red planet, China announced its ambitious plans to reach Mars (with an unmanned probe) by the end of the decade, and the UAE announced that they plan to reach the planet by 2117.

As Explore Mars Chief Executive Officer Chris Carberry recently stated:

Today we have unprecedented support for Mars exploration from Congress, industry, and the general public. Children born in 2017 are more likely than any generation before them to witness, before their 18th birthday, humans walk on another planet for the first time.

*3* Are We Really Ready to Send People to Mars?

The Reality of Martian Travel

This unprecedented support is encouraging, but it will take a lot more than that to send humans to Mars.

For starters, there will be no stopovers between Earth and Mars — which means that everything humans will need, including (but not limited to) food, water, air, will need to be on board for a trip that experts are estimating to last as long three years. Six months to get there, six months back, and at least a year in between as they conduct research and wait for a launch window.

Of course, given advances in technology and the continued success of the International Space Station (ISS), we are significantly more knowledgeable than ever about space travel and how to ensure an efficient use of resources. Still, even the ISS requires supplies to be sent to the outpost every few months.

ISS astronauts consume nearly two pounds of food daily. If you assume the same volume of food will be consumed by a four-person crew on a three-year Mars mission, that means they need to bring a total of 24,000 pounds of food with them. SpaceX may have been able to deliver a payload of 5,500 pounds of supplies to the ISS, but that was because they used an unmanned Dragon capsule.

NASA tried to find a food solution with a recent 3D printing project that yielded a 3D printed pizza. However, it might be more possible to make up this shortage by space farming, but the field is still in its infancy. To date, the ISS’ Vegetable Production System has only been successful in planting flowers and five harvests of Chinese cabbage. Eventually, though, once the technology is better understood and more trials prove to be successful, space farming could hit two birds with one stone and provide food as well as oxygen.

These challenges are currently being addressed by the different space agencies preparing for their Mars missions. And, hopefully, by the time the launch window opens up, we’ll be more than ready to explore the Red Planet.

Author : Javelosa

Source : https://futurism.com/when-should-we-send-humans-to-mars/

Categorized in Science & Tech

COULD AMERICA BE the first country to put humans on Mars? Should it be? And is it a race we can win?

As President Donald Trump takes office, that’s one of the many questions facing him and leaders in Congress about the future of our human spaceflight program and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

We believe the answer is—and must be—a resounding yes.

Human space flight is difficult, and space flight to Mars and back would be even more so. But successfully sending an American to Mars must be the centerpiece of NASA’s human spaceflight program.

With great pride and confidence, our new President and Congress should commit together to NASA sending Americans to Mars by 2033—a realistic goal consistent with the demands of both rocket science and political science. This date is also consistent with celestial mechanics, physics, engineering challenges that can be met, the support of key stakeholders in the public and private sectors, and a reasonable expectation of the investments Congress can provide.

When we Americans sent our countrymen to the Moon more than 50 years ago, leaders at NASA wanted the next destination in our solar system to be Mars. A human mission to Mars was proposed by NASA as the logical follow on to Apollo, but cost considerations and the fractious politics of the Vietnam Era put an end to that dream, temporarily.

Since then, the world watched as we flew our space shuttle for decades and then retired the program.

The world saw us play a central role in building and operating the International Space Station. The world saw us foster the rise of new entrepreneurial space companies that are now routinely delivering cargo to the International Space Station and are on track to send Americans to low Earth orbit in the next few years.  

We hope the world will watch us be the first to send Americans to Mars and bring them home safely.

There are three clear reasons why Americans should explore Mars. For science, the now well-established presence of water and early habitability of Mars offers the chance to help answer a fundamental question: “Are we alone?” Finding even extinct Martian life would forever change the way we view ourselves. Second, a national push to go to Mars would require new technologies, goods, and services that would yield an enormous return on investment to our economy. With such an effort, the American space program could generate considerable economic activity and create many US-based jobs.

Third and most importantly, the European Space Agency, Russians, and Chinese continue to accelerate their human spaceflight programs. Americans must not cede the finish line. Our country should not wait until we receive the news that someone else has won the race to Mars for our leaders in Washington to ask, “How’s our space program doing? Why didn’t we get first place?” It will be too late. We must ask those questions now.

After all, history shows us that nations that fail to explore succeed in becoming stagnant.

America must explore.

And exploring Mars is achievable under reasonably expected future budget allocations for NASA. During the space race under President Kennedy and then President Johnson’s leadership, NASA claimed 4 percent of the overall federal budget. Today, NASA’s budget is 0.5 percent of the federal budget; the agency receives about $19 billion per year, of which about $8 billion is spent on human space flight. With the right approach and planning, including a potential handoff of the International Space Station to a commercial entity, these funds could be redirected for a successful human mission to Mars. Our leaders in Washington could speed up the timeline for a successful mission, and national victory, with additional investments.

The dream of sending people to Mars is alive. We need to make the program and strategy to do it a reality. The alternative is to give up, to take our players off the field, to concede the human exploration space frontier to other countries, and thereby guarantee defeat.

Could a person walk on Mars? And is that person alive today? On both questions, we have no doubt. The first person to walk on Mars is somewhere on our planet, possibly still in a classroom, pondering the heavens. They might already be a young adult unknowingly at the beginning of a great adventure.

The big question before us and our leaders in Washington is whether we will make the investments and develop the plan we need to ensure that budding explorer and soon-to-be pioneer is an American.

Author: NORM AUGUSTINE, MARK KELLY, AND SCOTT HUBBARD. NORM AUGUSTINE, MARK KELLY, AND SCOTT HUBBARD
Source: https://www.wired.com/2017/01/put-people-mars-2033-good-nation

Categorized in Science & Tech
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