Quarterly Summary for 2015Q2

All:

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!!!”

Kurt

February 2015 Meeting

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.

In larger news, SpaceX made a precision soft touchdown, though weather prevented an actual first stage recovery of the Falcon 9, it looks like we are close to a decision to fund a Europa mission, and there is a cloud formation on Mars that is raising eyebrows.

See you Sunday!
Kurt

Monthly Meeting Oct 26 at 6:30PM

All:

Another month has rolled by, and it is time for our weekly meeting, 6:30 pm, at the Spaghetti Warehouse, Rt 75 and 15th St. in Plano.

A lot has happened on Mars lately, and as I type this the news is not in yet on the comet encounter, but I’m sure there is some unique data and another first in the Mars program.

Till Sunday!

See you there,
Kurt

Meeting Sunday, August 31st 2014

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.

See you Sunday!

Kurt

Meeting This Sunday, June 29, 6:30PM at Spaghetti Warehouse in Plano

All:

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.

See you Sunday!

Kurt

Meeting Sun April 27, 2014

All:

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.

In other words, lot’s to talk and discuss….

Hope to see you all Sunday!

Kurt

Meeting Sun March 30

All:

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!)

Aeola Mons Crater on Mars

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!

Kurt

2014 Science and Engineering Fair Results

All:

I’d like to give a quick re-cap of the 2014 Beal Bank Dallas regional Science and Engineering Fair. This is the 2nd year now that we participated as judges. Tom, Kris, and I were joined by our newest member, Irwin, who is moving to the Dallas / Fort Worth area from Boston. Once again, we were overwhelmed by the huge number and deep talent and dedication exhibited by the hundreds and hundreds of high quality exhibits. Even just concentrating on the Senior High division, there were nearly 1000 exhibits. It is really heartening to see, in an era where ‘they’ keep saying that our youth are unmotivated and lacking, so many students working so hard, and delving so deeply into so many complex and important subjects.

Even concentrating on subjects that were related to Mars exploration and settlement (spacecraft, space science, food preparation and preservation, and technologies of interest in closed environments) there were many great exhibitors that we interviewed and got to understand better. And this year, we had an project that was directly related to Mars!

Our Curiosity Prize went to project 923, ‘The Mars House’. Two students had developed and tested a concrete / brick method for making a mars settlement house that offered protection from UV radiation, heat, cold, and pressure (including a pressure test). They had clearly put thought into how this would be done in a Mars environment, and were the winners for us, being so closely related to Mars exploration.

We gave four honorable mentions – non-cash prizes, but the students can claim these prizes on their resumes and records.

Project 913, ‘Dark Matter’. at first we passed by this project, as, while Space related, it was not Space Exploration related, but in the end we circled back and were absolutely blown away. The young lady had done some very in-depth and original research into the nature of Dark Matter and the nature of the Universe. It was amazing how deep her knowledge was (at least the part that i could understand, which wasn’t much – most went over my head!).

Project 927, a project on the stability of rockets. These was a return team of two young ladies who we had seen last year, and they had really done a great job. They actually built a small wind tunnel and put rocket models in them to experimentally verify their stability levels, and compare it to theory, which matched very well. All in all, very impressive.

Project 746 was a different one, seemingly unrelated to Mars, and i wonder if the young man who did the project is scratching his head as to why the Mars Society gave him a prize. But hear me out. He had conceived of and built a purely hydro-mechanical, passive, device that would rotate a solar array to better track the sun. rather than using electric sensors and servo-motors, he built fluid flasks that would naturally re-balance their fluids in response to sunlight that would tilt a solar array to follow sunlight. he did his work with water and intended it to help in low-tech third world environments, but the same design could in principle be applied to solar panels on Mars. Of course you’d need a different fluid in the cold Martian environment (liquid methane?), but this could really be something useful.

Then we had project 940, where a team of young students had worked on using slightly burned banana leaves as a water filter that was actually quite effective at filtering polluted water. The ability to use one ‘waste’ products to better clean other waste, while intended for 3rd world farmers, would of course be valuable in a closed environment like a Mars colony.

All in all, very impressive work, and thanks again to Tom for setting up our judging, and to Kris and Irwin for helping out as judges.

See you Sunday,

Kurt

PS here is a link to a newspaper article on it. Our group can be seen in photo # 5.

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/white-rock-east-dallas/headlines/20140215-north-texas-young-scientists-show-off-projects-during-science-fair-at-fair-park.ece