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I would have thought the number would be higher to maintain a race on Mars but I guess if the belief about Adam and Eve, that would not be a problem.

How many humans are needed to start a colony on Mars?

Published Sunday, June 28, 2020 1:24PM EDT

This composite photo, created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s, made available by NASA shows the planet Mars. (NASA via AP)


TORONTO -- A new study has determined that only 110 people are needed to help build a functioning and self-sustaining human colony on Mars.

The study, conducted by Prof. Jean-Marc Salotti of France's Bordeaux Institute National Polytechnique, found that this number of humans could be enough to create the tools and supplies needed to establish a civilization on the red planet.

"For survival on Mars, some assumptions are made for the organization of the settlers and engineering issue. The minimum number of settlers has been calculated and the result is 110 individuals," Salotti said in the study.

The study, published June 16 in the scientific journal Nature, found that having 110 people on Mars is the ideal number of people to use resources on the planet without depleting supplies.

Salotti came up with this figure using a mathematical model to determine "the feasibility of survival on another planet." According to the study, the model was based on the relation between the time requirements for implementing enterprises necessary for long-term survival and the available time of the settlers.

The study assumed that the number of resources the settlers could bring from Earth would be limited and survival on Mars would primarily rely on "available local resources," such as gas, liquid, or a mineral, in addition to human "production capacity."

"The minimum number of individuals for survival depends on their capacity to produce essential objects and consumables using local resources," Salotti said. "The initial state of the settlement is very important because large quantities of resources and modern tools may help a lot in developing industries and achieving a viable state."

Salotti explained that the settlers would have to live in an oxygen-filled dome where they would build their own agricultural industry to sustain life on the planet.

In order for the settlers to survive, the study said their capacity to work must be more than the amount of time required to build tools. Their survival would also depend on organization within the group, and their capacity to share, which would help settlers become more efficient in dividing up work, according to Salotti.

However, he cautioned that the small community would still come with risks.

The study reported that the civilization could collapse due to infertility, inbreeding, sudden deaths, accident, random events, fighting between individuals, lack of resources and loss of efficiency.

"This is especially true at the beginning of the settlement, as any accident could dramatically reduce the production capacity. In order to mitigate the risks, it will therefore be important to start with large amounts of resources and spare parts," Salotti said.

The study also accounted for possible situations where support from Earth may suddenly be cut off due to reasons such as war, or if the settlement declared independence and tried to survive as its own regime.

While the calculation is hypothetical, Salotti said the study marks the "first quantitative assessment of the minimum number of individuals for survival based on engineering constraints." He added that his work suggests that human habitation of a new planet may be easier than previously thought.

The study's findings coincide with SpaceX's current plans regarding human missions into space.

Earlier this month SpaceX became the first private company to send people into orbit as one of the first steps in U.S. tech billionaire Elon Musk’s goal to start a civilization on Mars.

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Startup wants to offer balloon rides from Alaska to the edge of space

Each passenger could pay an estimated $125K for a 6-hour journey

The Associated Press · Posted: Jun 30, 2020 8:45 AM CT | Last Updated: 34 minutes ago
In this Sept. 27, 2011 file photo, a Minotaur IV rocket takes off from Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska. Florida-based startup Space Perspective plans to use the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak to serve as one of the launch sites for a vehicle called the Spaceship Neptune, The Anchorage Daily News reported. (James Brooks/Kodiak Daily Mirror/AP)

A company wants to use an advanced balloon to fly customers from Earth's surface in Alaska to the highest reaches of the planet's atmosphere.

Florida-based startup firm Space Perspective plans to use the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak to serve as one of the launch sites for the vehicle, called the Spaceship Neptune, The Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday.


The balloon rides will be manned by a flight crew taking eight passengers in a pressurized capsule suspended beneath a hydrogen balloon the size of a football stadium. Each passenger could pay an estimated $125,000 for a six-hour journey.

Mark Lester, CEO of Alaska Aerospace Corp., said the high-altitude rides will be available from Kodiak in a few years and will support Alaska tourism.

"You will have people from around the world who want to come to Alaska and see the northern lights from the edge of space," Lester said.

Alaska Aerospace and Space Perspective will test and refine spaceport operations and secure spaceflight licences from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Space Perspective plans to complete an unmanned test flight from the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida next year.

Passengers will begin with a two-hour ascent to about 31 kilometres above Earth. They will then be able to post on social media about the experience or send data.

"Neptune then makes a two-hour descent under the balloon and splashes down, where a ship retrieves the passengers," along with the capsule and balloon, Alaska Aerospace said.

Capsule recovery would occur in the waters around Kodiak Island and the Aleutian Island chain, depending upon the seasonal wind patterns.

The balloon design is derived from technology NASA has used for decades to fly large research telescopes, Space Perspective said.

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Orion's 'Twin' Completes Structural Testing for Artemis I Mission
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jun 30, 2020
The Orion STA, in its "full stack" launch configuration -- the crew module, service module and launch abort system, as well as the spacecraft adapter and jettisonable fairings -- was lifted into a reverberant acoustic chamber at Lockheed Martin for acoustic testing.

Before NASA astronauts fly the Orion spacecraft on Artemis missions to the Moon and back, engineers needed to thoroughly test its ability to withstand the stresses of launch, climb to orbit, the harsh conditions of deep space transit, and return to Earth. NASA designed Orion from the beginning specifically to support astronauts on missions farther from Earth than any other spacecraft built for humans.

In June 2020, engineers completed testing on a duplicate of Orion called the Structural Test Article (STA), needed to verify the spacecraft is ready for Artemis I - its first uncrewed test flight. NASA and its prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, built the STA to be structurally identical to Orion's main spacecraft elements: the crew module, service module and launch abort system.

The STA testing required to qualify Orion's design began in early 2017 and involved 20 tests, using six different configurations - from a single element, to the entire full stack - and various combinations in between. At completion, the testing verified Orion's structural durability for all flight phases of Artemis I.

"The STA has been an invaluable source for our engineers to prove out the integrity of Orion's design," said Stefan Pinsky, Lockheed Martin's test manager for the Orion structural test article. "Over the course of testing, planning for the configuration and hardware moves of the three large primary Orion elements is a complex process that can sometimes seem like a giant game of Tetris."

STA tests included loads testing to ensure the spacecraft structures can withstand intense loads at launch and entry; acoustic and modal testing to evaluate how Orion and its components tolerate intense vibrational forces; pyrotechnic shock testing that recreates the powerful pyrotechnic blasts needed for critical separation events during flight, such as module separation events and fairing jettisons; and a lightning test to evaluate potential flight hardware damage if the vehicle was exposed to a lightning strike prior to launch.

At Lockheed Martin in Denver, teams worked round-the-clock for days at a time to prepare the tests, execute, tear down then reconfigure the STA for the next test, culminating in 330 actual days of testing.

During some test phases, engineers pushed expected pressures, mechanical loads, vibration and shock conditions up to 40 percent beyond the most severe conditions anticipated during the mission, analyzing data to confirm the spacecraft structures can withstand the extreme environments of space.

While the team was pushing the physical limits of testing with the STA, the actual Orion vehicle for Artemis I recently underwent rigorous testing at NASA's Plum Brook Station in Ohio to certify it can withstand the extreme temperatures and electromagnetic conditions it will endure during its first mission around the Moon and back.

The vehicle is now being readied at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for its integration with the Space Launch System rocket prior to its maiden flight.

The STA campaign will continue beyond Artemis I, incorporating structural loads testing on Orion's launch abort system, and crew module water impact tests to support NASA's Artemis II mission - the first flight around the Moon with astronauts. For Artemis III, the mission that will see the first female and next male astronaut land on the surface of the Moon, the STA will be used for testing to include the spacecraft docking system.

"It's a tremendous achievement for our teams to be able to successfully test this number of STA configurations to validate the structural robustness of the vehicle across the range of conditions that the spacecraft will experience on lunar missions under the Artemis program," said Howard Hu, NASA's acting Orion program manager.

"These results give us continued confidence that Orion is ready for its first Artemis flight to the Moon next year."


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July 2020 lunar eclipse: When and where to watch the ‘buck moon’ event

By Josh K. Elliott Global News
Posted June 30, 2020 2:15 pm
This file photo shows a view of the moon during a penumbral lunar eclipse, on January 10, 2020 in New Delhi, India.
This file photo shows a view of the moon during a penumbral lunar eclipse, on January 10, 2020 in New Delhi, India. Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Who needs fireworks when you’ve got a lunar eclipse?

Skywatchers in much of Canada and the United States will be treated to a penumbral lunar eclipse on U.S. Independence Day, just before the full “buck moon” rises late on July 4 and early July 5.

The penumbral lunar eclipse will appear as a shadow cast by the Earth onto the edge of the moon Saturday night and into Sunday morning. It will look like a foggy darkness over part of the lunar face.

The eclipse will start at 11:07 p.m. EDT (8:07 p.m. PDT) on Saturday night and last for about 2 hours and 45 minutes, according to NASA’s projections. The eclipse will reach its height at 12:31 a.m. EDT (9:31 PDT) on Sunday, when it will veil about one-third of the moon in the sky.

The entire penumbral lunar eclipse will be visible to Canadians in Ontario and provinces east of it, and for the vast majority of Americans. Skywatchers in southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan will be able to see the start of the eclipse, but Canadians in the west will have to catch the eclipse in progress when the moon rises in their area.

The entirety of the penumbral eclipse will also visible to skywatchers in Central and South America. The eclipse will not be visible from Alaska or the northern territories, except along their southernmost edges.

A full searchable map of the eclipse’s path is available at TimeandDate.com.

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UK space hub gets go ahead
by Staff Writers
Forres UK (SPX) Jun 26, 2020

The first orbital spaceflight from the United Kingdom has come a step closer following the Highland Council's decision to give the go-ahead for the Space Hub Sutherland spaceport. Orbex, the UK-based space launch company, has confirmed that Orbex Prime will be the first vertical launch vehicle to fly into orbit from the Space Hub, which will be constructed near Melness on the northern coast of Scotland. Orbex has confirmed the company has already signed six launch contracts.

"The Highland Council's approval of the spaceport is a landmark in the history of spaceflight in Europe and will place the community around Tongue, Melness and Skerray, the Highlands Region, Scotland and the United Kingdom at the very heart of the European space launch industry," said Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex.

"We would like to congratulate Highlands and Islands Enterprise on their leadership of this project and thank numerous local people for their active engagement and support throughout the meticulous planning process. We look forward to becoming an integral part of the local community as we establish our own permanent team at the Space Hub."

The go-ahead for Space Hub Sutherland coincides with a period of intensive work within Orbex: design and development work has continued throughout the pandemic. Orbex's innovative coaxial fuel tank is being subjected to ongoing cryogenic testing, and the company recently signed a lease to install a new testing facility on the former RAF base at Kinloss, close to the company's headquarters in Forres. In parallel Orbex's rocket engines have been progressing through a programme of increasingly demanding performance tests while avionics and guidance systems are also being ground tested.

Several new starters joined the Orbex team in recent weeks, with more expected to join over the summer period. Recruitment is expected to accelerate now that Orbex's preferred option of an easily accessible launch site in Scotland has been approved. Orbex has also partnered with the UK Space Agency's SPIN programme, offering long-term internships to give young engineers hands-on experience of launch vehicle design and production.

The Highland Council's decision will allow Orbex to complete the detailed scoping of its own launch site installation and launch preparation team, which will create full-time, permanent jobs at the Space Hub. Recruitment is expected to start while the spaceport construction is underway.

Conceived and developed as an environmentally sustainable launch system, Orbex Prime will use renewable biofuels to deliver an industry-leading ultra-low CO2 footprint. The Orbex vehicle is intended to be recoverable and re-usable, normally leaving no debris in the ocean or in orbit around the Earth. In January, the European Space Agency awarded Orbex a contract under its Future Launchers Preparatory Program, (FLPP) covering the further development of REFLIGHT, a near zero-mass reusability system which will allow Stage One boosters to be recovered and reused in multiple missions, further reducing the use of raw materials.

"The go-ahead for the Space Hub Sutherland, combined with the steady progress of the Orbex Prime launch vehicle, are important steps towards the first truly orbital space flight from the UK. The last piece of the jigsaw puzzle is the regulatory framework that will govern launches, and we look forward to those regulations being laid before Parliament in the coming weeks," concluded Larmour.


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NASA releases spectacular 10-year timelapse of the sun

Denio LourencoCTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, July 2, 2020 11:20AM EDTLast Updated Thursday, July 2, 2020 11:57AM EDT

TORONTO -- It’s been 10 years since NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) began watching the sun non-stop. To celebrate a decade of operations, the space agency released some incredible time-lapse footage of its solar mission.

Since 2010, the SDO has collected 425 million high-resolution images of the sun, amassing 20 million gigabytes of data. Using a variety of instruments, it was able to capture new images of the sun every 0.75 seconds for 10 years. Those images were spliced together to create the time-lapse video shown below.

A decade of sun activity was condensed into the 61-minute video which features notable events, like transiting planets and solar eruptions. The SDO was launched in February 2010 to help researchers understand the sun’s influence on Earth by studying the solar atmosphere.



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A new comet will be visible for early risers as it races closer to Earth

Published Tuesday, July 7, 2020 1:32PM EDTLast Updated Tuesday, July 7, 2020 3:02PM EDT
A new comet can be seen streaking throught the skies. Amateaur Astronomer Malcolm Park explains how you can see it.


TORONTO -- Early risers in the northern hemisphere will be treated to a view of a recently identified comet, which has suddenly become visible to the unaided eye, as it hurtles towards Earth.

Comet NEOWISE – technically called C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) – was first discovered on March 27 by the Near Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) space telescope launched by NASA in 2009.

At the time, astronomers were unsure if the comet would meet a similar fate to other comets before it, such as Comet ATLAS and Comet SWAN, and break apart as it travelled close to the sun and warmed up.

However, it appears Comet NEOWISE survived its closest approach to the sun late last week and is now making its way closer to Earth before it is expected to return to the outer solar system, according to NASA.

The space agency said the comet has become one of the few “naked-eye comets” of the 21st century after it “suddenly” became visible to the unaided eye this week.

“Word spread quickly, and the comet has already been photographed behind many famous sites and cities around the globe,” NASA said in the caption of a photo of Comet NEOWISE passing over Lebanon on Sunday, which they shared as their “Astronomy Photo of the Day” on Tuesday.  

Although the future brightness of the comet “remains somewhat uncertain” because there’s still a chance it may break apart and therefore dim, NASA said the comet is likely to continue to be visible in the early morning sky this week and in the early evening sky next week.

According to NASA solar system ambassador Eddie Irizarry, Comet NEOWISE is visible at dawn now, but it will be at its highest in the dawn sky around July 11. The comet may be a little tricky to catch, he said, because it will be set against the brightening sky in the northeastern horizon, as opposed to a dark night sky.

Malcolm Park, an astro-photographer who has taken photos of the comet in Ontario, said the comet rises at approximately 3:15 a.m. in the morning sky and becomes more visible between 4 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.

“If you're going to look in the morning, which is over the next week or so, you want to look in the northeast sky, you want a nice clear horizon, and hopefully, very little cloud because the cloud will obscure the detail in the tail,” he told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.

However, Comet NEOWISE may become easier to spot later in the month after it gradually dips below the horizon and reappears in the early evening sky around July 12 to 15. When that occurs, it will then be visible at dusk (just after sunset) in the low northwest horizon, Irizarry said.

“If the comet remains relatively bright, it might be easier to see in the second half of July during evening dusk, because, at that time, it will appear somewhat higher in the sky,” he said.

Although it may be difficult for the average stargazer to spot the comet in the early mornings right now, some skilled photographers have already managed to capture the speeding comet and its streaking tail.

I have a strong dislike of early mornings—but so worth it today because wow is that comet beautiful! C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) I was at Sunset Crater by 4AM. It was an easy naked-eye object, but really rewarding through binoculars. Last pic is closest to naked eye scale.#neowise pic.twitter.com/1I0Cx2fZQJ

— Jeremy Perez (@jperez1690) July 5, 2020

Comet NEOWISE and the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada ��! I was up really early for this shot. It's not often that we get the opportunity to see or photograph a comet of this brightness and with a tail. I hope you like it!�� https://t.co/BFyxFFw2DE pic.twitter.com/sGZBiEVryM

— Kerry LH�� (@weatherandsky) July 5, 2020

Even though some people have been able to spot the Comet NEOWISE without any instruments, Irizarry said most skywatchers would benefit from the use of binoculars or even a good camera.

Irizarry has also published several illustrations detailing the comet’s location in relation to different constellations so interested viewers know where in the sky to look.

Park also recommended using binoculars to view the comet, which he described as a “unique” opportunity.

“There are comets all the time, but they are not always visible to the naked eye or with binoculars in this case, and it's the pleasure of looking up at the night sky and seeing in the stars, something that's a little different and it represents a different kind of object that's out in the solar system.

On the chance the comet fades later in the month, Irizarry said it’s still a worthwhile endeavor for people to wake up early to try to catch it while it’s in the morning skies.

“It’s still a good idea to get up early in the morning this week and try for a glimpse of comet NEOWISE while it’s still relatively bright, just in case it gets fainter later in the month,” he explained.

Park, too, encouraged people to go out and try and see it sooner than later.

“We can't guarantee you that in a month or in six weeks, it'll still be as bright, although the possibility exists, it could still be visible in about a week to 10 days,” he said.

  • Comet NEOWISE

    Comet NEOWISE is seen over Lebanon on July 5, 2020. (Credit: Maroun Habib (Moophz) / NASA's "Astronomy Picture of the Day")

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NASA adds software experts to work toward new Boeing capsule flight
by Paul Brinkmann
Washington DC (UPI) Jul 07, 2020


NASA added software experts to work with Boeing and SpaceX on their space capsule programs following the failure of Boeing's Starliner test flight in December, the agency announced via a teleconference from Florida on Wednesday.

The software oversight changes were outlined in NASA's release of its final review of the Starliner failure.

The space agency said Boeing remains on track for a second test flight in the last half of this year. Competitor SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule successfully delivered astronauts to the International Space Station on May 31.

"Right now I cannot imagine a scenario where SpaceX is the only provider. ... We need both Boeing and SpaceX to be there for us," said Steve Stich, manager of NASA's commercial crew program.

He and NASA's Kathy Leuders, associate administrator for human exploration, acknowledged the agency might have concentrated more on SpaceX's software approach -- known as spiral software development -- because it was new to them.

"Perhaps we were a little more focused on SpaceX. We've augmented resources on both partners to make sure we're covered," Stich said.

Starliner was launched Dec. 20 without a crew, and failed to reach the International Space Station.

NASA and the company said a problem with the mission clock caused the spacecraft to burn fuel needlessly. That meant it wasn't able to reach the orbit necessary to catch up with the space station.

Boeing has acknowledged that one of its biggest problems with Starliner was a decision to break up tests of its flight software into segments, rather than run "end-to-end" tests from liftoff to docking at the station, and from undocking to landing.

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NASA hits Boeing with 80 recommendations before next space test
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) July 7, 2020


NASA has drawn up a list of 80 recommendations that US aerospace giant Boeing will have to address before attempting to refly its Starliner space capsule, following the failure of an uncrewed test last year.

The recommendations primarily concern the on-board software, which was the main problem with the flight test last December.

The capsule could not be placed in the correct orbit, due to a clock error, and a had to return to Earth after two days instead of docking with the International Space Station as planned.

Boeing subsequently learned that other software problems could have caused the capsule and the rocket to collide at the time of separation, a potentially very dangerous event if the flight had been crewed.

Most of the problems identified run deep and are organizational, for example NASA's verification procedures. The space agency has been a client of Boeing's for decades, but seems to have placed too much faith in its historic partner.

"Perhaps we were a little more focused on SpaceX," said Steve Stich, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, in a call with reporters.

SpaceX, a relative newcomer to the space industry, is the other company chosen by NASA to develop a crewed vessel -- but unlike Boeing, its Crew Dragon successfully completed its uncrewed test flight in 2019, then its first crewed flight in May, with two astronauts on board.

Starliner's next attempt could take place in "the latter part of this year," added Stich, without making a guarantee. Boeing won't therefore be able to carry astronauts until at least 2021, while SpaceX's second crewed flight is set to take place this summer.

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NASA's Perseverance Rover Attached to Atlas V Rocket
by Staff Writers
Kennedy Space Center FL (SPX) Jul 13, 2020

stock image only

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has been attached to the top of the rocket that will send it toward the Red Planet this summer. Encased in the nose cone that will protect it during launch, the rover and the rest of the Mars 2020 spacecraft - the aeroshell, cruise stage, and descent stage - were affixed to a United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster on Tuesday, July 7, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Central Florida.

The process began when a 60-ton hoist on the roof of the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 lifted the nose cone, otherwise known as the payload fairing, 129 feet (39 meters) to the top of the waiting rocket. There, engineers made the physical and electrical connections that will remain between booster and spacecraft until about 50 to 60 minutes after launch, when the two are pyrotechnically separated and Perseverance is on its way.

"I have seen my fair share of spacecraft being lifted onto rockets," said John McNamee, project manager for the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. "But this one is special because there are so many people who contributed to this moment. To each one of them I want to say, we got here together, and we'll make it to Mars the same way."

With the mating of spacecraft and booster complete, the final testing of the two (separately and as one unit) will be underway. Then two days before the July 30 launch, the Atlas V will leave the Vertical Integration Facility for good. Traveling by rail, it will cover the 1,800 feet (550 meters) to the launch pad in about 40 minutes. From there, Perseverance has about seven months and 290 million miles (467 million kilometers) to go before arriving at Mars.

The Launch Period
NASA and United Launch Alliance recently updated the mission's launch period - the range of days the rocket can launch in order to reach Mars. It now spans from July 30 to Aug. 15.

The launch period opening changed from July 17 to 30 due to launch vehicle processing delays in preparation for spacecraft mate operations. Four days were also added to the previously designated Aug. 11 end of the launch period. NASA and United Launch Alliance Flight Teams were able to provide those extra days after final weights of both the spacecraft and launch vehicle became available, allowing them to more accurately calculate the propellant available to get Perseverance on its way.

No matter what day Perseverance lifts off during its July 30 to Aug. 15 launch period, it will land in Mars' Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021. Targeting landing for one specific date and time helps mission planners better understand lighting and temperature at the landing site, as well as the location of Mars-orbiting satellites tasked with recording and relaying spacecraft data during its descent and landing.

Managed by JPL, the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover's astrobiology mission will search for signs of ancient microbial life. It will also characterize the planet's climate and geology, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first planetary mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust). Subsequent missions, currently under consideration by NASA in cooperation with the European Space Agency, would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these cached samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA's Artemis lunar exploration plans.

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NASA plans to return its astronauts in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on Aug. 2

  • NASA plans to return astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.
  • The spacecraft is scheduled to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean on Aug. 2. 
  • Splashdown and recovery would mark the conclusion of NASA and SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission, the first time Elon Musk’s company has flown astronauts.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon "Endeavour" docked with the International Space Station.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon “Endeavour” docked with the International Space Station.

NASA is currently planning to return astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to Earth on board SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft in about two weeks, the space agency told CNBC on Friday.

The spacecraft, which the astronauts named Endeavour, is scheduled to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean on Aug. 2 at about 3 p.m. ET, according to NASA’s Johnson Space Center public affairs officer Kyle Herring.


Herring noted that the departure time from the International Space Station “is a bit of a moving target,” but said in an email that the spacecraft is scheduled to un-dock at about 8 p.m. ET on Aug. 1. NASA will look more closely at the weather forecasts for where the spacecraft might splash down after the astronauts perform a spacewalk next week. 


Splashdown and recovery would mark the conclusion of NASA and SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission, which launched successfully on a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida on May 30. The mission is the first time that Elon Musk’s space company has launched people with its spacecraft.


SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule splashed into the Atlantic Ocean after completing its test flight for NASA.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule splashed into the Atlantic Ocean after completing its test flight for NASA.

As Demo-2 was considered a test flight, the spacecraft carried only two astronauts on board. For Crew-1, which NASA considers to be the first operational SpaceX mission, the Crew Dragon spacecraft will carry four people. 


NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley buckled into the Crew Dragon capsule for SpaceX Demo-2.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley buckled into the Crew Dragon capsule for SpaceX Demo-2.

NASA intends to thoroughly review the data from the Demo-2 mission before it moves forward with Crew-1, a process it expects will take about six weeks. That would see Crew-1 launch in about mid-September. On Tuesday, the Falcon 9 rocket that will launch Crew-1 arrived at SpaceX’s processing facility in Florida, to undergo final preparations for the mission.

I imagine that the landing etc. will be carried on NASA live.  https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

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Rocket to lift Mars probe moved to launch pad
by Staff Writers
Beijing (XNA) Jul 17, 2020

Long March 5 carrier rocket arrives at its launch pad to lift China's Tianwen 1 Mars probe at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan, July 17, 2020.

The Long March 5 heavy-lift carrier rocket to lift China's Tianwen 1 Mars probe was moved to its launch pad at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province on Friday morning, according to the China National Space Administration.

The administration said in a statement that the rocket was moved out of its testing complex at around 8 am and spent nearly two hours on the tracks toward the launch pad.

It will blast off in due course between late July and early August to transport Tianwen 1, or Quest for Heavenly Truth 1, to an Earth-Mars transfer trajectory, the statement noted.

Next, engineers will conduct final examinations and then pump in the propellants before the launch, it added.

The Long March 5, the biggest and most technologically sophisticated rocket in China, was transported by ships to Hainan in May and was assembled and tested at the Wenchang center, the only coastal launch facility in the country.

Tianwen 1, the nation's first independent Mars exploration program, was approved by the government in January 2016 and is intended to orbit the red planet and land a rover on the Martian surface for scientific operations.

The farthest distance between the Earth and Mars is about 400 million kilometers while the nearest is 55 million km, so a probe will travel about seven months before it reaches the Martian atmosphere.

The Chinese probe consists of three parts - the orbiter, the lander and the rover - and they will separate in Mars' orbit. The orbiter will stay in the orbit for scientific operations and signal relay while the lander-rover combination will make an autonomous descent and landing.

The rover, which is expected to become the world's seventh of its kind and the first from Asia, has six wheels and four solar panels and carries six scientific instruments. It is more than 200 kilograms in weight and will work about three months on the planet, designers said.

Source: Xinhua News Agency

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NASA Teams Load Artemis I Rocket Hardware on Barge for Trip to Kennedy
by Ray Osorio for MSFC News
Huntsville AL (SPX) Jul 20, 2020

stock illustration only

Teams at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, moved the Artemis I launch vehicle stage adapter for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket onto the agency's Pegasus barge July 17.

The adapter is the cone shaped piece that connects the rocket's core stage and interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS). Pegasus will transport the flight hardware to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be integrated with other parts of the rocket in preparation for launch. Artemis I is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars.

"The launch vehicle stage adapter for NASA's Space Launch System rocket was the final piece of Artemis I rocket hardware built exclusively at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center," said Marshall Director Jody Singer. "This milestone comes as Marshall teams just completed the structural test campaign of the SLS rocket that confirmed the rocket's structural design is ready for Artemis missions to the Moon."

Huntsville mayor Tommy Battle joined Singer and other Alabama officials to mark the event. Singer read a proclamation by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey declaring July 17th Artemis Day in Alabama: "Alabamians are exceedingly proud of the Space Launch System achievements of today, and the advances of tomorrow made possible by the upcoming Artemis missions that will continue to demonstrate NASA's benefit to humanity."

Many Alabama companies have built major parts of the rocket, including Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville that serves as the lead contractor for the launch vehicle stage adapter. The launch vehicle stage adapter's cone shape partially covers the ICPS to protect the RL10 rocket engine. The RL10, built by Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California, powers the ICPS, built by Boeing and United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Alabama. The ICPS accelerates Orion fast enough to overcome Earth's gravity and set it on a precise trajectory to the Moon. Boeing also built the Artemis I core stage at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and that stage is currently undergoing final Green Run testing at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. After the arrival of the launch vehicle stage adapter in about two weeks, the core stage will be the final piece of Artemis I hardware to be delivered to Kennedy.

"The launch vehicle stage adapter is welded together as two separate cones that are then stacked on top of each other," said Keith Higginbotham, the launch vehicle stage adapter hardware manager. "Marshall's expertise with an innovative process called friction stir welding and the center's large robotic weld tools made it possible to build some pieces of the rocket at Marshall while the core stage was built at the same time by Boeing at Michoud."

Marshall teams also built the Artemis I Orion stage adapter, which is at Kennedy along with the ICPS. Work is underway on the ICPS, the launch vehicle stage adapter and the Orion stage adapter for the rocket's second flight. Many SLS companies and suppliers are busy completing parts of the rocket for the Artemis II mission that will send astronauts to the Moon inside the Orion spacecraft.

"Teledyne Brown is committed to supporting NASA's Artemis program to return American astronauts to the Moon and are now manufacturing the launch vehicle stage adapter for the second Artemis lunar mission," said Jan Hess, president of Teledyne Brown Engineering.

NASA is working to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS is part of NASA's backbone for deep space exploration, along with the Orion spacecraft, the human landing system, and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon. SLS will be the most powerful rocket in the world and will send astronauts in the Orion spacecraft farther into space than ever before. No other rocket is capable of sending astronauts in Orion around the Moon.

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China's Tianwen-1 Mars rover rockets away from Earth

By Jonathan AmosBBC Science Correspondent  Link to article that includes pictures and videos. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-53504797
  • 9 hours ago

    China's Tianwen-1 Mars rover rockets away from Earth
    By Jonathan Amos
    BBC Science Correspondent
    9 hours ago
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    Media captionCheers could be heard as China's big Long March 5 rocket sent the Tianwen-1 mission on its way
    China has launched its first rover mission to Mars.

    The six-wheeled robot, encapsulated in a protective probe, was lifted off Earth by a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang spaceport on Hainan Island at 12:40 local time (04:40 GMT).

    It should arrive in orbit around the Red Planet in February.

    Called Tianwen-1, or "Questions to Heaven", the rover won't actually try to land on the surface for a further two to three months.

    This wait-and-see strategy was used successfully by the American Viking landers in the 1970s. It will allow engineers to assess the atmospheric conditions on Mars before attempting what will be a hazardous descent.

    Tianwen-1 is one of three missions setting off to Mars in the space of 11 days.

    On Monday, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched its Hope satellite towards the Red Planet. And in a week from now, the US space agency (Nasa) aims to despatch its next-generation rover, Perseverance.

    Zhang Xueyu, the Hainan base commander, told jubilant mission technicians that the launch had proceeded entirely according to plan.

    "According to the aerospace control centre, the Long March 5 Y-4 rocket is in normal flight, and the probe to Mars has accurately entered the preset orbit. I now declare the launch of China's first Mars exploration mission a complete success," he said.

     The Tianwen-1 rover is built to work for at least 90 Martian days
    The targeted touchdown location for the Chinese mission will be a flat plain within the Utopia impact basin just north of Mars' equator. The rover will study the region's geology - at, and just below, the surface.

    Tianwen-1 looks a lot like Nasa's Spirit and Opportunity rovers from the 2000s. It weighs some 240kg and is powered by fold-out solar panels.

    A tall mast carries cameras to take pictures and aid navigation; five additional instruments will help assess the mineralogy of local rocks and look for any water-ice.

    This surface investigation is really only half the mission, however, because the cruise ship that is shepherding the rover to Mars will also study the planet from orbit, using a suite of seven remote-sensing instruments.

    Nasa's 1976 Viking-2 mission also landed on Utopia Planitia
    The historic statistics for the exploration of the Red Planet are well known: about a half of all ventures have failed. Indeed, China's first effort to send a satellite, Yinghuo-1, to the dusty world stalled in Earth orbit when its Russian carrier stage failed and fell back towards the Pacific Ocean.

    So far, only the Americans have managed to run long-lived operations on Mars (the Soviets' Mars-3 and Europe's Beagle-2 missions got down but failed shortly after).

    China, however, can take confidence from the successes of its two recent Chang'e Yutu lunar rovers, the second of which made the first ever soft landing on the far side of the Moon last year.

    The country's engineers will believe they are now ready to tackle the infamous "seven minutes of terror" - the time it takes for a spacecraft to make the perilous trip from the top of Mars' atmosphere to the ground.

    How long does it take to get to Mars and why is it so difficult?
    "Entering, deceleration and landing (EDL) is a very difficult (process). We believe China's EDL process can still be successful, and the spacecraft can land safely," mission spokesperson Liu Tongjie was quoted as saying ahead of launch by the Reuters news agency.

    Tianwen-1 will use a combination of a capsule, parachute and a retro-rocket to burn off entry speed and slow itself to a stop right at the surface. If all goes well, the landing mechanism will then deploy a ramp to enable the rover to begin its traverse across the Martian plain.

    Chinese scientists would like to get at least 90 Martian days of service out of the robot. A day, or Sol, on Mars lasts 24 hours and 39 minutes.

    Dr Rain Irshad is autonomous systems leader at RAL Space in the UK and is involved in Nasa's Insight lander on Mars.

    "It's incredibly exciting to see what China is doing," she commented.

    "Their space agency was only formed in 1993, and yet here they are, less than 30 years later, sending an orbiter, a lander and a rover to Mars.

    "But they put themselves through a training programme with their Chang'e missions at the Moon. It's been very impressive the way they've been banging out the lunar missions one after the other," she told BBC News.


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Russian Progress resupply cargo spacecraft docks with ISS
by Staff Writers
Moscow (Sputnik) Jul 24, 2020
File image of Roscosmos Progress space truck.

Roscosmos space corporation previously said that a Progress cargo craft would lift off for the International Space Station on 23 July, while a Proton rocket with communication satellites would head for orbit on 30 July.

Sputnik is live from the International Space Station as the Russian Progress-MS-15 resupply cargo spacecraft, which blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan hours earlier, has arrived to dock and deliver supplies, including food and fuel, to the Expedition 63 crew.

The flight to the ISS was the fifth via an ultra-fast three-hour (two-turn) flightpath. In future, it is planned to use it on Soyuz manned spacecraft, which currently fly to the ISS via a fast six-hour (four-turn) flightpath.

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Top 10 things to know for NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 return
by Staff Writers
Houston TX (SPX) Jul 28, 2020

When the fat lady sings it's over.

History was made May 30 when NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley launched from American soil in a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station. The SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft lifted off on the company's Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and docked with the space station on May 31. Now, Behnken and Hurley are ready to return home in Endeavour for a splashdown off the coast of Florida, closing out a mission designed to test SpaceX's human spaceflight system, including launch, docking, splashdown, and recovery operations.

1. Where will Behnken and Hurley splash down?

NASA and SpaceX are capable of supporting seven splashdown sites off the coast of Florida for the return of Crew Dragon on its Demo-2 test flight with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley from the International Space Station as part the agency's Commercial Crew Program. The seven potential splashdown sites for Crew Dragon are off the coasts of Pensacola, Tampa, Tallahassee, Panama City, Cape Canaveral, Daytona, and Jacksonville.

2. How will a splashdown location be chosen?

Splashdown locations are selected using defined priorities, starting with selecting a station departure date and time with the maximum number of return opportunities in geographically diverse locations to protect for weather changes. Teams also prioritize locations which require the shortest amount of time between undocking and splashdown based on orbital mechanics, and splashdown opportunities that occur in daylight hours.

Check out the Departure and Splashdown Criteria Fact Sheet for an in-depth look at selecting return locations, decision points during return, and detailed weather criteria.

3. How long will it take for Behnken and Hurley to return to Earth?

Return time for Behnken and Hurley will vary depending on the undock and splashdown opportunities chosen, with the primary opportunity taking between six and 30 hours.

4. What does the return look like? What are the major milestones?

Crew Dragon's return home will start with undocking from the International Space Station. At the time of undock, Dragon Endeavour and its trunk weigh approximately 27,600 pounds. NASA will provide live coverage of the return from undocking all the way through splashdown.

There will be two very small engine burns immediately after hooks holding Crew Dragon in place retract to actually separate the spacecraft from the station. Once flying free, Dragon Endeavour will autonomously execute four departure burns to move the spaceship away from the space station and begin the flight home. Several hours later, one departure phasing burn, lasting about six minutes, puts Crew Dragon on the proper orbital path to line it up with the splashdown zone.

Shortly before the final deorbit burn, Crew Dragon will separates from its trunk, which will burn up in Earth's atmosphere. The spacecraft then executes the deorbit burn, which commits Crew Dragon to return and places it on an orbit with the proper trajectory for splashdown. After trunk separation and the deorbit burn are complete, the Crew Dragon capsule weighs approximately 21,200 pounds.

5. How fast will Dragon Endeavour be going when it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere? How hot will it get?

Crew Dragon will be traveling at orbital velocity prior to re-entry, moving at approximately 17,500 miles per hour. The maximum temperature it will experience on re-entry is approximately 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The re-entry creates a communications blackout between the spacecraft and Earth that is expected to last approximately six minutes.

6. When do the parachutes deploy?

Dragon Endeavour has two sets of parachutes will that deploy once back inside Earth's atmosphere to slow down prior to splashdown. Two drogue parachutes will deploy at about 18,000 feet in altitude while Crew Dragon is moving approximately 350 miles per hour. Four main parachutes will deploy at about 6,000 feet in altitude while Crew Dragon is moving approximately 119 miles per hour.

7. Who recovers the crew and the Dragon Endeavour capsule from the water? What vehicles and personnel are involved?

For splashdown at any of the seven potential sites, SpaceX personnel will be on location to recover the capsule from the water. Two recovery ships, the Go Searcher and the Go Navigator, split locations between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. On either ship will be more than 40 personnel from SpaceX and NASA, made up of spacecraft engineers, trained water recovery experts, medical professionals, the ship's crew, NASA cargo experts, and others to assist in the recovery.

8. How long after splashdown until Behnken and Hurley are out of the capsule?

Immediately after splashdown has occurred, two fast boats with SpaceX personnel deploy from the main recovery ship. The first boat checks capsule integrity and tests the area around the Crew Dragon for the presence of any hypergolic propellant vapors. Once cleared, the personnel on the boats begin preparing the spaceship for recovery by the ship. The second fast boat is responsible for safing and recovering Crew Dragon's parachutes, which have at this point detached from the capsule and are in the water.

At this point the main recovery vessel can move in and begin to hoist the Crew Dragon capsule onto the main deck. Once the capsule is on the recovery vessel, it is moved to a stable location for the hatch to be opened for waiting medical professionals to conduct initial checks and assist Behnken and Hurley out of Dragon Endeavour.

This entire process is expected to take approximately 45 to 60 minutes, depending on spacecraft and sea state conditions.

9. Where do Behnken and Hurley go after they are out of the capsule?

Immediately after exiting the Crew Dragon capsule, Behnken and Hurley will be assisted into a medical area on the recovery ship for initial assessment. This is similar to procedures when welcoming long-duration crew members returning home on Soyuz in Kazakhstan.

After initial medical checks, Behnken and Hurley will be returned to shore either by traveling on the primary recovery ship or by helicopter. Helicopter returns from the recovery ship are the baseline for all splashdown zones except for the Cape Canaveral splashdown site, with travel times ranging from approximately 10 minutes to 80 minutes. The distance from shore will be variable depending on the splashdown location, ranging from approximately 22 nautical miles to 175 nautical miles.

Once returned to shore, both crew members will immediately board a waiting NASA plane to fly back to Ellington field in Houston.

10. What happens next?

Meanwhile, Dragon Endeavour will be returned back to the SpaceX Dragon Lair in Florida for inspection and processing. Teams will examine the data and performance of the spacecraft throughout the test flight to complete the certification of the system to fly operational missions for NASA's Commercial Crew and International Space Station Programs. The certification process is expected to take about six weeks. Following successful certification, the first operational mission will launch with Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialist Shannon Walker - all of NASA - along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi will launch on the Crew-1 mission from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The four crew members will spend six months on the space station.

The launch is targeted for no earlier than late-September.

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NASA Announces Astronauts to Fly on SpaceX Crew-2 Mission to Space Station
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jul 29, 2020

The members of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station. Picture from left are NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

NASA and its international partners have assigned crew members for Crew-2, which will be the second operational SpaceX Crew Dragon flight to the International Space Station as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, for the mission. JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will join as mission specialists.

Crew-2 is targeted to launch in spring 2021, following the successful completion of both NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 test flight mission, which is expected to return to Earth Aug. 2, and the launch of NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 mission, which is targeted for late September.

The Crew-2 astronauts will remain aboard the space station for approximately six months as expedition crew members, along with three crewmates who will launch via a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The increase of the full space station crew complement to seven members - over the previous six - will allow NASA to effectively double the amount of science that can be conducted in space.

This will be Kimbrough's third trip to space and his second long-duration stay at the space station. Born in Killeen, Texas, and raised in Atlanta, Kimbrough was selected as an astronaut in 2004. He first launched aboard space shuttle Endeavour for a visit to the station on the STS-126 mission in 2008, then aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for Expedition 49/50 in 2016.

He has spent a total of 189 days in space, and performed six spacewalks. Kimbrough also is a retired U.S. Army colonel and earned a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and a master's degree in operations research from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

McArthur will be making her second trip to space, but her first to the station. She was born in Honolulu but considers California to be her home state. After being selected as an astronaut in 2000, she launched on space shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-125, the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, in 2009.

McArthur operated the shuttle's robotic arm over the course of the 12 days and 21 hours she spent in space, capturing the telescope and moving crew members during the five spacewalks needed to repair and upgrade it. She holds a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a doctorate in oceanography from the University of California, San Diego.

This will be Hoshide's third spaceflight. He was part of the STS-124 mission aboard space shuttle Discovery in 2008 and a crew member for Expeditions 32 and 33, launching aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2012 for a 124-day visit to the station. Pesquet previously flew as part of Expeditions 50 and 51, launching aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and spending 196 days in space.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the space station. Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time, and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbital outpost.

For almost 20 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. As a global endeavor, 240 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational investigations from researchers in 108 countries.

The station is a critical testbed for NASA to understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflight. As commercial companies focus on providing human transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, NASA is free to focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep space missions to the Moon and Mars.

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Why U.S., China and UAE are all blasting off to the red planet

Ideal conditions come only once every 26 months

  • Calgary Herald
  • 30 Jul 2020
  • CHRIS KNIGHT National Post
img?regionKey=MznZcEq4U9dCPpKZiJxqwA%3d%3dCAI YANG / XINHUA VIA AP In a photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a Long March 5 rocket carrying the Tianwen-1 Mars probe lifts off from the Wenchang space launch centre in southern China’s Hainan province last Thursday.

Our solar system has two planets harbouring what might be deemed life. The first is Earth, home to more than 8 million animal species, including the one reading this story. The second is Mars, the only planet in the universe known to be populated entirely by robots.

The second is about to get a lot more crowded.

In the past week, spacecraft from the United Arab Emirates and China lifted off for a six-month journey to the red planet. On July 30, NASA’S latest mission will follow. If all goes well, next February Mars will play host to an additional two orbiters, one lander, two rovers and a helicopter. It’s the largest flotilla ever to make the trip, an armada of exploration.

Spaceships from Earth have been trying to make the dangerous journey to Mars for 60 years, with spotty success, at least in the early going. The first attempt in 1960 ended in a launch failure. So did four of the next five. (The fifth suffered communications failure.)

It took until 1965 for NASA’S Mariner to make the first successful flyby. Orbit would not be achieved until the Soviet Union launched Mars 2 in 1971. That same year, Mars 3 made the first “soft landing” — that’s where you don’t crash — but managed to send back only a partial picture before contact was lost less than two minutes later.

Things slowly got better. In 1976, NASA’S twin Vikings soft-landed and sent back pictures and other data. In 1997, the toaster-sized Sojourner became the first rover on another planet, operating for almost three months. 2004 brought Spirit and Opportunity, golf-cart-sized vehicles that lasted for many years. And in 2012 the Curiosity rover, the size of a small car, touched down and is still driving, without so much as an oil change.

There are at this moment four other dead rovers on the red planet, as well as nine landers (NASA’S Insight is the only one still working), several crash sites, and 15 orbiting satellites, of which six are still functioning. It’s a busy place, but there’s a lot of ground to cover. Although Mars is just a fraction of Earth’s size, its lack of oceans means the total area is almost exactly that of the land on our planet — take away half of Canada (or two Mexicos) from Earth’s land area, and you’ve got Mars.

Each of the latest missions has a different scientific and political objective. For the Emirates Mars Mission, success would mean the first visit by a West Asian, Arab or Muslim majority country. It would also mark the 50th anniversary of the nation’s independence from Britain. Beyond that, the Hope orbiter would spend at least two years studying the Martian climate, a complicated system that includes ice caps, water vapour and clouds in the thin, mostly carbon dioxide atmosphere.

China’s Tianwen-1 mission is even more ambitious, comprising an orbiter, a lander and a rover. Taking its name from Tianwen (The Heavenly Questions), an epic poem written more than 2,200 years ago by Qu Yuan, the orbiting spacecraft will include a high-resolution camera, ground-penetrating radar, a spectrometer, a magnetometer and several particle analyzers, with the aim of teasing out more information about the surface, subsurface and atmosphere.

The unnamed rover — China recently announced a global campaign to give it a name — will roll off the lander in a region of Mars called Utopia Planetia, where scientists believe there is a subsurface reservoir of ice containing as much water as Lake Superior. It too will carry cameras and radar as well as weather monitoring equipment. The rover is expected to function for 90 days, but previous vehicles have performed better than projected, in part because occasional wind storms serve to blow dust off the solar panels.

Then there’s NASA’S newest mission, scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral in Florida today at 7:50 a.m. ET. (The launch window extends until mid-august.) Hitching a ride on the bottom of the rover Perseverance is a miniature helicopter called Ingenuity. Weighing in at just 1.8 kg (or less than 700 grams in the lower gravity of Mars), Ingenuity aims to be the first aircraft to fly on another planet.

Perseverance looks a lot like Curiosity but carries a new range of instruments, including additional cameras and the ability to cache rock samples for eventual return to Earth on a future mission, tentatively planned for a 2026 liftoff. Orbital mechanics mean that an ideal launch window for Mars opens once every 26 months, which is why so many ships are leaving at the same time.

In the meantime, Russia is planning a 2022 launch of Exomars. The mission was originally scheduled for launch this year until problems with parachutes and electronics convinced scientists to perform additional tests.

Mars may be some time away from human visitors, but its robot population continues to swell.

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U.S. astronauts ready for capsule splashdown, the first in 45 years


NASA closely monitoring Hurricane Isaias in the Atlantic Ocean

The Associated Press · Posted: Jul 31, 2020 4:20 PM ET | Last Updated: 38 minutes ago
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley, right, and Bob Behnken are seen here in their SpaceX capsule shortly after docking with the International Space Station in May. (NASA/Twitter)

Two U.S. astronauts about to make the first splashdown return in 45 years said Friday they'll have seasick bags ready to use if needed.

SpaceX and NASA plan to bring Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken back Sunday afternoon in the company's Dragon capsule, aiming for the Gulf of Mexico just off the Florida panhandle. Flight controllers are keeping close watch on Hurricane Isaias, expected to stick to Florida's east coast.


Hurley said if he and Behnken get sick while bobbing in the waves awaiting recovery, it won't be the first time for a crew. Astronauts returning in the early 1970s from Skylab, NASA's first space station, did not feel well following splashdown, Hurley noted.

Feeling sick "is the way it is with a water landing," he said during the crew's final news conference from the International Space Station.

This will be SpaceX's first splashdown with astronauts on board, ending a two-month test flight that began May 30 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center — the first launch of a crew from the U.S. in nearly a decade. The capsule has been docked at the space station since May 31, allowing Hurley and Behnken to chip in with spacewalks and experiments.

Hurley said the emergency and other equipment has checked out well aboard Dragon. Launch and rendezvous went flawlessly, "so we expect nothing different for the splashdown," he said.

Their departure leaves three on board, one American and two Russians.

The Dragon capsule will be in the water for about an hour before it's hauled by crane onto a SpaceX recovery ship. It will be another hour before the hatch is opened and the astronauts emerge. Flight surgeons will be among the dozens of the recovery team members.

The plan is for the Dragon to undock from the space station on Saturday, a day before splashdown. The prime target is off the coast of Panama City, halfway between Tallahassee and Pensacola.

"We won't leave the space station without some good landing opportunities in front of us, good splashdown weather," Behnken told reporters. "We could stay up here longer. There's more chow and I know the space station program's got more work that we can do."

Like launch, the ride back will be essentially automated, with the crew and flight controllers intervening only if necessary.

Behnken has an extra reason to bring this Dragon back in good shape. Following refurbishment, the capsule will fly again next spring with a crew of four — including his wife, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur. SpaceX's next astronaut flight is targeted for the end of September.

Behnken said even before his launch, they had an inkling she would be assigned to a SpaceX flight. NASA announced the news this week.

"And of course, I'll have a lot of tips for her," he said.

Hurley is married to recently retired NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg.

NASA turned to SpaceX and Boeing for U.S.-based crew transport after the space shuttles retired in 2011. Russian rockets were the only way for astronauts to get to the space station until SpaceX became the first private company to launch humans into orbit two months ago. Boeing's first crew flight isn't expected until next year.

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On 6/28/2020 at 2:22 PM, Marshall said:

How many humans are needed to start a colony on Mars?

I know I am just a whisper in a tornado, a voice of an ancient elder, but IMO even the thought of living under an oxygen filled dome is beyond my comprehension....

I am sure those of you who appreciate a touch of humour now and then have received emails that highlight extremely stupid people doing extremely stupid things and normally ends with............... Be Careful Out There, They Live Among Us.

I would put those that believe this professors study is a prelude to man's attempt to colonize Mars  in the same category...............especially when we can't even get our $hit together to permanently keep this Big Blue marble from degenerating into a wasteland. 

Have a nice week.

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August 2, Sunday
All day — SpaceX Crew Dragon DM-2 Splashdown coverage; splashdown scheduled at 2:48 p.m. EDT
4:30 p.m. – Post-SpaceX Crew Dragon DM-2 Splashdown News Conference (time subject to change) 

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2 hours ago, Kip Powick said:

I know I am just a whisper in a tornado, a voice of an ancient elder, but IMO even the thought of living under an oxygen filled dome is beyond my comprehension....

I am sure those of you who appreciate a touch of humour now and then have received emails that highlight extremely stupid people doing extremely stupid things and normally ends with............... Be Careful Out There, They Live Among Us.

I would put those that believe this professors study is a prelude to man's attempt to colonize Mars  in the same category...............especially when we can't even get our $hit together to permanently keep this Big Blue marble from degenerating into a wasteland. 

Have a nice week.

Back in the day I imagine there were folks questioning the reasons for wanting to explore and sail across the seas to unknown and hostile lands instead of concentrating on improving the lands they were living in.     Have a great day. 

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1 hour ago, Marshall said:

Back in the day I imagine there were folks questioning the reasons for wanting to explore and sail across the seas to unknown and hostile lands instead of concentrating on improving the lands they were living in.     Have a great day. 

That is like comparing APPLES to ORANGES....and I'm sure you know it ?

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