Mars

NASA bombshell: Government agency admits it can’t pay for humans to go to Mars

NASA has long said it would be able to send a manned mission to Mars, sometime during the 2030s. Now, in a bombshell announcement, the space agency has admitted it can’t afford the price tag. On July 12, during a propulsion meeting of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, NASA’s William Gerstenmaier, the agency’s chief of human spaceflight, said the funds just are not there for a mission. “I can’t put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is … at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 percent increase, we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars,” Gerstenmaier said, according to an Ars Technica report. “And that entry, descent and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars.” NASA could not be reached for additional comment for this story. For the 2017 fiscal year, NASA has a budget of $19.5 billion, a figure that many scientists have cried is inadequate. The proposed total Federal budget for 2018 is $4.1 trillion. For several years, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has derided NASA’s budget. The cost of a manned mission to Mars has varied greatly in recent years. In 2012, the head of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Brent Sherwood, said it could cost approximately $100 billion over 30 or 40 years. Director of the Mars Institute Pascal Lee recently said it could cost up to $1 trillion over 25 years. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has also come up with a cost for a manned mission to Mars. He estimates it would initially cost $10 billion per person to get a colony up and running, but believes the cost could drop to $200,000, according to a paper published by Musk in June 2017. Part of the cost drop could be reusable rockets, something SpaceX and Musk have been working on perfecting. Using private industry may be the way to go for humanity to get to Mars, at least according to some in the Trump administration. Vice President Mike Pence recently said, “American business is on the cutting edge of space technology.” Pence has also spoken at NASA, calling for a return to the Moon, saying, “America will lead in space once again.”

Let’s hope so.  But, it certainly won’t happen at the current, pathetic, funding levels.  As many of you know, here at The Daily Buzz we’ve been calling for the doubling, if not tripling of our space budgets, both civilian (i.e. NASA) and military (i.e. U.S. Air Force’s Space Command and the U.S. Army’s Space & Missile Defense Command or “SMDC”), since day one.  Of course we’re also for consolidating efforts, and using those funds more efficiently, as there is far too much waste in our federal budget.  BUT, in order to keep pace with adversarial nations like Russia, and China (which is making tremendous leaps in space), we need to invest in those programs…while also partnering with private U.S.-based companies like United Launch Alliance (ULA), Blue Origin, and SpaceX.

Alien spaceship on Mars or NASA debris? Curiosity rover spots a mystery object on the red planet sending conspiracy theorists into a spin

NASA’s Curiosity rover has snapped a photo of a mysterious object on the surface of Mars, which conspiracy theorists believe could be evidence of aliens. The high-definition image appears to show the object glinting against Mars’ rocky landscape. While many people believe that the object is made by aliens, others have suggested that it is merely the rover’s own entry debris. The image was taken in March, but was posted on Reddit this week, sparking a huge online debate about what it shows. Prosaic Origin, the Reddit user who posted the image, wrote: ‘Uh NASA? UFO caught on Mars Rover mission? Is this real?’ His post has received 79 replies, many of which back up his thoughts that it could be aliens. EdisonVonneZula said: ‘Looks like light glimmering off of a genuine spaceship on an alien planet in outer space.’ And Crazylegs99 wrote: ‘They forgot to Photoshop that one out. Love how skeptical the mods are. ‘You could have aliens waving hi through the windshield and it would be flagged as a likely prosaic.’ But not everyone is convinced. OnceReturned suggested the image could merely show debris from the rover’s landing craft.

Perhaps..  Click on the text above to see the photos in question, and you be the judge!

Strange ‘stone circle’ spotted on Mars

A mysterious ‘stone circle’ has been spotted on the surface of Mars, according to alien hunters. The image, captured by NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover, was featured on the secureteam10 YouTube channel after it was spotted by a UFO hunter. In the YouTube video, secureteam10 describes the image as “a very strange formation of rocks that are put together in what appears to be a very artificial way, arranged in a perfect circle.” The formation is “much different from the craters that we normally see on Mars and the moon and the other planets in the solar system,” secureteam10 added. “This almost looks like these rocks were arranged in this circular formation – either that, or these could potentially be some sort of ruin that is a part of a much larger structure, potentially buried.” The rocks sparked plenty of comment on YouTube, with not everyone convinced that the rocks had been arranged in the circular pattern. “It really just looks like a crater to me,” noted one commenter. “Looks like a boulder that is weathered,” wrote another commenter. “The circle on Mars is clearly part of a bagel,” quipped another. Features on the Red Planet’s surface continue to be a source of fascination. Earlier this year, for example, UFO hunters claimed that an image taken by NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover shows an ancient tree stump on the surface of the Red Planet. In 2015, UFO hunters also claimed to identify a mysterious woman-like shape in a picture taken by the Curiosity Rover. The largest rover ever sent to Mars, Curiosity launched on Nov. 26 2011 and landed on the Red Planet on Aug. 5, 2012.

Things that make ya go, “hmmm….”   To see a photo of the pic in question, click on the text above…and you be the judge.    🙂

Mars voyage will include one-year layover in moon orbit

The plan to send humans to Mars includes a one-year layover in orbit around the moon in the late 2020s, Space.com reports. Greg 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. According to BGR, NASA actually wants to make sure that the round trip to Mars, a 1,000-day endeavor, is planned carefully during the time. The moon orbit base also would serve as the staging point for the mission, and the spacecraft that will carry humans to Mars for the first time 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 space between the earth and the moon. The actual trip to Mars is being forecast to take place in the 2030s.

Exciting!!   🙂

NASA Reveals 4-Step Space Plan Ending in Mission to Mars

NASA has revealed their 4-step space plan for the next 15+ years, expressing their intentions to complete Mars missions by the 2030’s. Phase 0 seeks to “solve exploration mission challenges through research and systems testing on the ISS.” During this phase, which is set over the next few years, NASA also plans to “understand if and when lunar resources are available.” During Phase 1, which is set in the 2020’s and will operate in “the Lunar Vicinity,” NASA intends to “conduct missions in cislunar space,” and “assemble Deep Space Gateway and Deep Space Transport,” while Phase 2, which is set in the late 2020’s, will “complete Deep Space Transport and conduct Mars verification mission.” “As NASA’s Greg Williams explained this week at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington DC, the Moon mission is on the slate for 2027 and could see a crew spending a year sailing above the lunar surface,” reported Science Alert on Friday. “That extended stay in space would be preceded by at least five missions, some manned and some unmanned, to lug bits of equipment towards the Moon. That kit would include a habitat for crew members as well as the Deep Space Transport spacecraft that NASA has in the works to take people all the way to Mars.” NASA’s Greg Williams further claimed in a comment that a year-long mission in cislunar space would be one of the most effective preparations for a Mars mission. “If we could conduct a year-long 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,” said Williams. “We’re trying to lead this journey to Mars with a broad range of partnerships… One of the things we’ll be doing over the next few years is putting that package together.” President Trump’s Mars ambitions were revealed in March when he signed a bill securing funding for NASA. “Bill S.442, named the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017, was co-sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), provides NASA with $19.5 billion worth of funding for the 2018 fiscal year, with the aim of sending a ‘crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s.

It’s nowhere near enough.  But, it’s a step in the right direction.  So, we’ll put it in the win column…for now.      🙂

‘Mars Base Camp’: Lockheed fleshes out red planet space station plan

In 2028, a space station could be circling Mars, if a new concept comes to fruition. As a prelude to human expeditions to the planet’s surface, researchers aboard the proposed orbiting lab would aim to answer key questions about the complex world. The six-person Mars Base Camp is led by researchers at aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, who unveiled the concept last year and fleshed out more details of the project here at the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), held March 21-25 in The Woodlands, Texas. The Mars Base Camp is designed to vastly amplify the collection of imagery and scientific data from multiple sites on the planet over a full year of crewed occupation. This work could help identify the best spots for humans to explore on the Martian surface, Lockheed Martin representatives have said. The station’s inhabitants could also use virtual reality, immersive technology and artificial intelligence to drive advanced rovers and other craft on the Red Planet in real time. In addition, samples of rock and soil that robots such as NASA’s upcoming 2020 Mars rover collect on the Martian surface could be launched to Mars Base Camp, where crewmembers could examine them for signs of Red Planet life, project team members have said. Since Lockheed Martin researchers unveiled the project, they have been brainstorming with scientists and engineers from a variety of institutions to refine the idea. Discussions at LPSC continued that work. “The discussion we’re having here at the meeting is, how best can scientific discovery be enabled by having scientists in close proximity to mobile hardware on the surface of Mars or in the Martian atmosphere,” Steve Jolly, chief engineer for civil space at Lockheed Martin in Denver, told Space.com. For example, a human field geologist on Mars would make quick decisions about which spots to explore, the best rock formations to study and where to dig for soil samples, Jolly said. “We want rovers under scientific control to behave in the same way.” That’s not possible when Mars rovers and their handlers are on different planets. one to two days the duties that asaid Ben Clark, chief scientist on the Lockheed Martin team studying the Mars Base Camp. Moreover, if the rover experiences a problem, there’s a wait to find out what went wrong, followed by another wait as the issue is addressed

Fascinating!!  To read the rest of this article, click on the text above.

NASA finds new damage to Curiosity Rover’s wheel

Mars is a hostile place, and as the latest images beamed back from the surface show, the Curiosity Mars rover is really starting to suffer the effects of an extended stay there. The 16-inch wide solid aluminum wheels that allow Curiosity to travel across the surface of Mars are breaking. Images captured on March 19 show two fresh breaks in the raised treads of the left middle wheel that were not present when the wheels were last checked on January 27. The good news is, such wear is expected even if it was initially underestimated back in 2013 after less than a year on the planet’s surface. It is not bad enough, or progressing quickly enough, to force NASA to change Curiosity’s travel plans. It’s also worth pointing out the rover’s journey will soon hit the 10 mile mark, which is an impressive achievement. Curiosity is attempting to climb an area of Mount Sharp so as to help scientists back on Earth figure out how the climate changed a few billion years ago. In order to fulfill its current destination goals, Curiosity needs to travel at least another 3.7 miles. In order to limit further damage to the wheels, NASA is attempting to map the rover’s route around hazardous terrain whenever possible. Even so, Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says that the latest breaks show the left middle wheel is “nearing a wheel-wear milestone.” If everything goes to plan, Curiosity will fulfill all of its current goals and still have some life left in its wheels to do further tasks. But at some point one or more of the wheels will break completely, turning Curiosity into a stationary Mars monitor that hopefully one day an astronaut can walk up to and get rolling once again.

Trump Signs Bill Securing NASA Funding, Plans to Reach Mars

President Donald Trump signed a bill on Tuesday securing funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), with the aim of sending a crew to Mars within 20 years. Bill S.442, named the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017, was co-sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), provides NASA with $19.5 billion worth of funding for the 2018 fiscal year, with the aim of sending a “crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s.” The bill also urges NASA to “extend human presence, including potential human habitation on another celestial body and a thriving space economy in the 21st Century.” The level of funding is above what Trump outlined in his first White House budget, which called for $19.1 billion investment in NASA programs. It is the first NASA authorization bill to be signed in seven years. On signing the bill, Trump remarked that “America’s space program has been a blessing to our people and to the entire world.” “Almost half a century ago our brave astronauts also planted our American flag on the moon. Now, this nation is ready to be the first in space once again. Today we are taking the initial steps toward a bold and bright new future for space exploration,” he continued. Trump also praised the new high paying jobs the bill will create, as part of his plan to radically reduce unemployment.

This is excellent news!!  It’s nowhere near enough.  But, kudos to Sens. Cruz and Rubio (R), and to Pres. Trump for signing this hugely important bill into law.  Outstanding!!    🙂

Mud cracks on Mars suggest a watery ancient past

NASA’s Curiosity rover has photographed shallow crevices on Mars that may have formed from ancient mud cracks, yet more evidence that the planet had a watery past. The photos, taken Dec. 20 and unveiled Tuesday (Jan. 17), show a site called “Old Soaker” on Mars’ lower Mount Sharp. Scientists think the cracked layer likely formed more than 3 billion years ago, as a result of wetting and drying cycles, NASA officials said. Previously, the Curiosity rover found evidence of ancient lakes in older, lower-lying rock layers and in younger mudstone above Old Soaker. However, the recent photos of Mars may be the first evidence of ancient mud cracks — also called desiccation cracks — confirmed by the Curiosity mission, according to a statement from NASA. “Mud cracks are the most likely scenario here,” Nathan Stein, a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology who led the investigation of Old Soaker, said in the statement. “Even from a distance, we could see a pattern of four- and five-sided polygons that don’t look like fractures we’ve seen previously with Curiosity. It looks like what you’d see beside the road [on Earth] where muddy ground has dried and cracked.” Old Soaker’s appearance suggests that over time, the cracked layer was buried by sediment, creating stratified rock, NASA officials said in the statement. Wind erosion later exposed this layer, and left behind raised ridges of sand and dust that filled in the cracks but is more resistant to erosion than the surrounding mudstone. Evidence of underground fractures from the pressure of overlaying sediment was found at Old Soaker, they added. “If these are indeed mud cracks, they fit well with the context of what we’re seeing in the section of Mount Sharp. Curiosity has been climbing for many months,” Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity project scientist, said in the statement. “The ancient lakes varied in depth and extent over time, and sometimes disappeared. We’re seeing more evidence of dry intervals between what had been mostly a record of long-lived lakes.” In addition to the network of cracks observed on Old Soaker, scientists have found evidence of interspersed layers of sandstone and mudstone, as well as cross-bedding — a pattern of rock layers created when water passes over a loose bed of sediment. “This pattern can form where water was flowing more vigorously near the shore of a lake, or from windblown sediment during a dry episode,” NASA officials said in the statement. Further observations of Mount Sharp will help scientists determine how and when Mars became a dry planet.

And that’s really the question.  The question about whether or not Mars had water on it has been resolved, and confirmed numerous times.  To see some photos and a video, click on the text above.   🙂

Did NASA Mars Rover find a signature of past life?

During its wheeled treks on the Red Planet, NASA’s Spirit rover may have encountered a potential signature of past life on Mars, report scientists at Arizona State University (ASU). To help make their case, the researchers have contrasted Spirit’s study of “Home Plate” — a plateau of layered rocks that the robot explored during the early part of its third year on Mars — with features found within active hot spring/geyser discharge channels at a site in northern Chile called El Tatio. The work has resulted in a provocative paper: “Silica deposits on Mars with features resembling hot spring biosignatures at El Tatio in Chile.” As reported online last week in the journal Nature Communications, field work in Chile by the ASU team — Steven Ruff and Jack Farmer of the university’s School of Earth and Space Exploration — shows that the nodular and digitate silica structures at El Tatio that most closely resemble those on Mars include complex sedimentary structures produced by a combination of biotic and abiotic processes. “Although fully abiotic processes are not ruled out for the Martian silica structures, they satisfy an a priori definition of potential biosignatures,” the researchers wrote in the study. Spirit landed on Mars in January 2004, a few weeks before its twin, Opportunity, touched down in a different part of the Red Planet. Both golf-cart-size rovers were tasked with looking for signs of past water activity during their missions, which were originally planned to last three months. Spirit encountered outcrops and regolith composed of opaline silica (amorphous SiO2nH2O) in an ancient volcanic hydrothermal setting in Gusev crater. An origin via either fumarole-related acid-sulfate leaching or precipitation from hot spring fluids was considered possible. “However, the potential significance of the characteristic nodular and [millimeter]-scale digitate opaline silica structures was not recognized,” Ruff and Farmer noted in the new study.

Fascinating!!   🙂