I hope we all had a great Christmas break, and now it is a New Year!
And that means it is time to get back in the cycle of our monthly Mars Society meetings. We have a meeting this Sunday, Jan 31st, at the Spaghetti Warehouse, Rt 75 and 15th street, in Plano, at 6:30 pm.
Please note that this Sunday we have a guest speaker, Aylyffe Martin of Hilton Hotels, will be speaking about hotels in space! Aylyffe was going to talk to us at our last meeting in November, but unfortunately could not
attend due to a sickness in the family. So we have rescheduled, and Aylyffe has graciously agreed to to come to our January meeting. I hope as many as can will be able to come out and hear our guest Aylyffe.
Also, as we move forward this year, I want to talk about some changes. We’ve already discussed having more outings as a group, and we had our first last year, going to see the movie ‘The Martian’. I also have some info on star gazing with the Texas Astronomical Society of Dallas, and
Derek has graciously agreed to host us on a tour at SpaceX’s McGregor facilities at a time of mutual convenience.
In addition, i want to explore the possibility of bringing in some other guest speakers on different subjects to try and ‘spice things up’. We also have planning for the Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair, and, further on, our Mars exhibit for Moon Day.
In national news, SpaceX has stuck and almost stuck a first stage landing. Three commercial contenders were chosen for cargo delivery to the Space Station. More space hardware then even the height of the Space Race is taking shape across the country. These are exciting times!
Looking back, 2015 was an incredible year for Space and Mars. I think that one day people will look back at the current time in the 2010’s as exciting for Space as the 1960’s – but this time the development is deliberate and for the long haul. Heavy lift launchers (yes, plural) are being developed, manned spacecraft (also plural) are nearing flight, re-usable boosters (also plural) were launched and recovered, and discoveries were made across the solar system from Mars to Pluto.
SpaceX went from a loss to an incredible return to flight, all within a span of 6 months, ending with a historic return to base of a perfectly re-usable first stage. I think this is the space travel equivalent of the computer chip and the steamship in terms of cost reduction – an innovation that will change the economics of space flight from the realm of government programs to ordinary commerce.
I’ve been in the aerospace business for decades and seen many ideas of recoverable boosters come and go, and listened to how SpaceX’s ideas were “clever PowerPoint presentations that couldn’t be done” – but there it is sitting quietly on back on the pad in Florida! Unlike previous attempts at re-usability, such as the Space Shuttle, that required fleets of ships and armies of technicians to virtually rebuild the craft – and the engines – after each flight, the Falcon 9 booster was reportedly ready to fuel up and go again. This could get interesting.
NASA demonstrated what they do better than anyone – jaw dropping execution of deep space exploration – with flybys of both Ceres and Pluto – both dethroned planets. (Ceres used to be the ninth planet in old 19th century school books before Pluto was discovered). Pluto was amazingly complex for a “frozen world”, and the data gathered during the brief New Horizons flyby will take months to download.
And then in an unexpected turn, Congress even gave NASA $1.3 billion more than requested, to a total of $19.3 billion.
Closer to our hearts, liquid water was confirmed below the surface of Mars – close enough to the surface be observed from space. Given that no natural body of water on Earth is devoid of life, this raises some exciting possibilities. As we learn more about how widespread easily accessible water is on Mars, the more NASA is moving to in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) using groundwater directly rather than the use of hydrogen brought from Earth combined with the Martian atmosphere, the process Bob Zubrin first brought up in The Case for Mars – a change that uses the recent discovery of water on Mars to simplify mission architecture and vehicle size.
Lastly, the Mars Curse was broken! At last, a big budget, top notch, well done, popular movie about Mars exploration, “The Martian“, came to theaters to positive reviews and box office. And it even was realistic – no aliens, zombies, or chattering monkeys (Robinson Crusoe on Mars anyone?).
There were some disappointments – the delay of InSight due to a leak in its drill cover from the planned 2016 launch is a big one.
If there were no failures, we wouldn’t be trying hard enough.
Next Year promises to keep the pace moving forward: Juno will orbit Jupiter – the first deep space probe without nuclear power, the Falcon 9 Heavy is expected to make it to flight, and ExoMars will (hopefully) launch to Mars. We’ll see if SpaceX will re-fly a returned booster, and we will be very close to the first manned launch form US soil in a long time – SpaceX’s dragon is expected to fly manned in early 2017.
We’re seeing a growing consensus that manned Mars missions are not only the logical ultimate destination of America’s space program, but a realistic near term one, and one we need to start preparing for… now! We could have at least four orbit capable US made manned space vehicles (Orion, Dragon, Dream Chaser, and the CTS-100) coming online, a continuous manned presence on the ISS, two heavy lift launchers (SLS and Falcon 9 Heavy) in development, several man-rated US designed rocket engines in production or development (as opposed to zero for the last few decades), instrumentation for the Mars 2020 lander – which will be part of the Mars Sample Return, as well as a Europa orbiter in development. Curiosity, Opportunity , MRO, and all of its friends are still on station and in operation. What will the find in 2016?
It is a good time for space…..
Closer to home, the National Mars Society had a great convention in DC, and seems to have settled on the location (the National Catholic University) as we will have it there next year – I think the first time we will ‘double up’ on locations. The date will be later in the year in order to better suit students (and bring cooler weather!). It was a great convention, with top-line speakers and debates ranging from Mars One to Viking data results. It was good to see April and the crowd from McClellan again!
Our Moon (Mars) Day exhibit was another popular hit with another record attendance – and we expect 2016 to be even more so. Looking forward to working all the ideas to make it even better.
The University Rover Challenge had another record setting year, with 40 teams registering and over 20 showing up. This year we have over 60! URC is expanding across the globe, and for the first time we will split the competition into two classes to handle the crowd. We need more volunteers not only to go to Hanksville but to help during the year (hint hint!).
The Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair was fantastic, as it always is, and we had a first group outing to see the Martian together. Overall, it was an active and productive year!
Besides all the ideas for group outings, we may bring in more ‘outside’ speakers to our meetings – don’t miss this January’s meeting (Jan 31) for a discussion on ‘Hilton Hotels in Space’.
May this year be even better than the last!
Webmaster’s note: I also updated the theme of the website and improved the commenting system with Disqus. – Greg
I know many will be traveling and more will be comatose from over eating, but save some time and energy for our last meeting of the year!
We are meeting this Sunday, November 29, 2015 at 6:30pm. Location is Spaghetti Warehouse off of 15th St and Rt75 in Plano!
This is our last meeting of the year,so we can go over all our accomplishments as well as plans for next year. From successful activities ranging from the Dallas County Science Fair to a record breaking URC, to a great national convention and a record setting Moon Day show, we had a great year, and we plan to make it even better next year!
Nationally, we saw the SLS pass critical design review, the confirmation of liquid water just below the surface on Mars, the huge hit movie ‘The Martian’ popularize near term Mars Exploration, an incredible flyby of Pluto, and NASA announced that in December they will be seeking astronaut candidates for potential deep space missions (no, I’m not kidding, so get your resumes ready!). Space has not had this much excitement since the 60’s!
BUT! There’s more! We have a special guest this Sunday. Aylyffe Martin, who works for Hilton Worldwide, will be presenting her ideas on building a Hotel in Space. This has gotten some interest at Hilton Hotels, and was presented to our local friends at NSST. Please come out and hear what Alyssa has to say! (Thank you, Don, for helping to set this up!)
See you Sunday!
Note from the Editor: I offer my apologies for taking so long to update the web site. Life intervenes from time to time, but please don’t worry for the future of DallasMars.org. We do plan to keep it going. – Greg
While we have been active as a group, I have been remiss in summarizing all that we are doing to the broader audience. So Kris and I have written a summary of our activities year to date for all. I hope this is helpful in keeping everyone ‘in the loop’. we plan to put these out on a approximately quarterly basis.
Our group continues to have a high pace, with regular meetings, outreach, and activities. We’ve been meeting monthly, with 6 – 10 members, at the Spaghetti Warehouse in Plano , TX . We meet the last Sunday of the month at 6:30 if anyone would like to join us. We’ve discussed a wide range of topics and ideas dealing with the latest findings on Mars, Space and Mars exploration, and our own group’s plans for outreach.
Our group remains active at the local and national level. Activity by members included:
A talk on ‘Mars – the Next Frontier’ as a speaker at both the gifted girls and gifted boys at SMU. These 7th graders came from gifted student programs throughout the Metroplex to hear talks on a variety of topics. Both sets of talks were attended by over 60 students.
Our group awarded prizes for the best Mars and Space related projects for the 3rd year in a row at the Dallas County Science Fair at Fair Park , sending three members as judges. We saw an amazing variety of science projects from the Dallas area. There were approximately 1000 teams in total in junior and senior high categories, each already a winner from their school. We gave out the ‘Curiosity Award’, our top award with a cash prize, to a project on detecting star brightness using amateur telescopes. We were really struck by the winner’s enthusiasm, technical clarity, and the project’s relevance to space exploration. In addition we gave several honorable mentions. One went to a pair of students who worked on a helicopter vortex lift loss experiment – the experiment was excellent and the presentation exceptionally clear. Another honorable mention went to a student who had worked on a novel way to filter clean water using used cloth instead of heavy sand. While the idea came from the student’s personal experience in a 3rd world country, filtration of clean water with light weight filters is of great interest for manned space exploration. We also gave an honorable mention to a junior high team for work regarding crater patterns from meteorite impacts.
The University Rover Competition is preparing for a record turnout in late May, which our group helps volunteer with. Approximately 40 teams applied, and prepared both an initial proposal and a critical design review proposal and video, from which the top 23 teams were selected to compete at Hanksville. This should be an incredible year!
The whole Dallas Mars Society team is gearing up for an even more incredible Moon Day (Mars Day!) at the Frontiers of Flight Aviation Museum. Our popular rover course will be back, with a refurbished rover, and modified crater obstacle. A new glove box is in the works to give a feel for working with astronaut gloves. We are working on a 3-D printed rover, giveaways, and more!
There has been such a flurry of activity, it is hard to keep up with the space and Mars related news.
SpaceX got closer (but still not there yet!) on its 3rd attempt to land and recover the Falcon 9 first stage. Economically recoverable space launch hardware has been a goal of space flight since Von Braun, but now it looks like we may be on the cusp of it actually happening! Best of luck with the next one!
SpaceX is also on the brink of the abort system test for its manned version of the Dragon capsule. There are now four manned space vehicles in development in the US (SpaceX, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Blue Origin), two of which, SpaceX’s Dragon, and the NASA / Lockheed Martin Orion, are explicitly designed to enable manned missions beyond earth orbit and to Mars.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted what may be evidence of near surface liquid water on Mars – kept liquid by the perchlorate salts in the soil. Curiosity may have seen first hand close up evidence of it right on the surface.
NASA flight tested above Earth an inflatable re-entry shield explicitly designed to land the heavier payloads onto Mars needed for manned exploration. This was championed by Bobby Braun when he was chief technologist at NASA – long time members may remember Professor Braun came and talked at our Mars Track at the Dallas ISDC a few years back.
Messenger wrapped up its mission around Mercury, and New Horizons is nearing Pluto. We’ve had a flyby of Ceres, and a landing on a comet.
NASA has a Mars Sample Return as their number one deep mission space priority, and the latest proposed deep space mission for the SLS was a sample return from one of the moons of Mars – a step closer than the asteroid redirect mission. How far we have come!!
Even controversial stories such as a recent paper published about the adverse affects of cosmic radiation on the brain centers on a common theme: people are talking seriously about sending people to Mars!
I’ll try to give an update about every 3 months – the next one should be after the URC, Moon Day, and Convention, so stay tuned!!!”
Yes, February is a short month. This coming Sunday we will meet, same time and place (6:30, Spaghetti Warehouse, Plano, off of 15th St and Rt 75).
We will have reports on the SMU gifted students Girls and boys presentations, as well as the Dallas Country Science Fair results – fresh off the press from Sat 21st! URC announced a total of 41 teams passed to CDR, with 22 to be selected at CDR to compete at Hanksville.
Yes, it is a long month, and the last Sunday lands right on the last day of the month, so it is a bit later in the month than usual, but we have our usual monthly meeting this Sunday, Aug 31, at 6:30PM, at the Spaghetti Warehouse, off of 15th street and Rt 75 in Plano.
Same bat time, same bat location…..
The convention was awesome! We had a noticeably, and substantially, larger, younger, and more energetic crowd than my last convention (two years ago). We had many youths and younger folks from April’s college, the student design competition, and the Mars One Colonist finalists. People came from all over the world, with the strongest attendance of Europeans and Asians I have ever seen at the Mars Society. This is becoming a World Endeavor!
Another exciting thing for me were talks describing the coming NASA and private company space hardware – the Space Launch System, larger than the Saturn V, the Orion, following in the footsteps of the Apollo, and the Inspiration Mars closed loop life cycle systems – all are moving into detailed designs, actual hardware, and reality. It is not just pictures and talk. The hardware to send humans to Mars is moving from the drawing boards to the factory floor!
It gave me something to reflect on when I sneaked off for an afternoon (!) to the Houston Space center. The astronaut training floor now has, besides the usual ISS modules, Orion AND SpaceX Dragon training mockups replacing the now retired Shuttle mockups. We are moving to a beyond low earth orbit manned space program! Looking at the old, but still awe inspiring Saturn V, sitting silently on its side. I thought it is time to move on, and create our own history on the shoulders of those who traveled before us.
Oh, and yes, we sold out all of our T-shirts! We got many compliments on Mark’s great artwork. It was fantastic to have so many folks from the local chapter present, see old friends, and see the future unfold.
Many things to talk about, reminisce, and contemplate for next year.
The month is coming to a close, and it is time for another meeting! We are back at the Spaghetti Warehouse this month, so see you there at 6:30 pm on Sunday (the Spaghetti Warehouse is off 15th Street and Rt 75 in Plano, just for the record..)
This is the last meeting before the Moon Day, so this is the time for last minute planning.
The rover, field, craters, bling, cameras, screens, computers and laptops, power cords, duct tape, and posters that make it happen!
Of course, the volunteers! all hands on deck! moon day has been growing each year, and this promises to be the best and biggest yet!
Also, National Mars Society convention planning.
T-shirts (have we chosen a new vendor? number?)
Registration (we’re all going, right?!)
I’ll have a report on the URC, which was far and away the most intense yet with 23 teams on the field, more than twice any before. It was exhausting and rewarding all at the same time!
And news from around the world and the solar system – From Curiosity exploring Gale Crater to Cassini making another pass at Titan, new and serious work on a 2020 Mars Sample Return precursor mission (the ‘Mars gathering for a future sample return’ mission) to the usually quiet world of rocket engine design hitting the national news….a lot is happening.
Same bat-time, same bat-place! (I bet I dated myself with that reference…)
6:30pm, Spaghetti Warehouse, Plano, 15th St and Rt 75, this Sunday night, April 27. This is the last meeting before the University Rover Competition, which looks to be a blowout year at full capacity.
Moon Day is coming up, and Tom is organizing our effort, but we will need an all hands on deck volunteer turnout!
The national convention is sooner than you think, and it is time to start consider how many will attend, do we want to share rides, and do we want to volunteer down there. I expect we will have a good showing!
T-shirt time is upon us again, and we need to decide vendors, price, quantity, and design.
Did anyone catch the lunar eclipse? We’ve had so much rain (!! – a good thing, overall) but this also was Mars Closest Approach and Mars Opposition – home future sweet home is the bright red star right above the moon. Better catch it before it fades away again for another 26 months!
MSL is doing some serious science, and getting ready for the ‘big push’ up the mountain in Gale Crater.
A long month, but it is time again! This Sunday, I hope to see you all at the Spaghetti Warehouse at Plano, 6:30 pm, Sunday, March 30th (yes, I know it is the season finale of the Walking Dead, but sacrifices must be made!)
Curiosity is working its way towards the final push up Aeolis Mons in Gale Crater. New data is out on radiation exposure on and on the way to Mars. And we have seen new impetus towards US based launch vehicles due to world events, even as the ISS operations stays above (figuratively as well as literally) above the fray.
Closer to home, we have convention and Moon Day planning, URC coming up, T-shirt ideas (yes, that time of year again)… For the T-shirts I think we need to have some internal discussion about alternate vendors or price hikes, as we barely broke even last year.
There is a lot to talk about, and lots to do! See you Sunday!