Our next meeting is October 30th, this Sunday!
Same time and location as always: Spaghetti Warehouse, Plano, 15th Street and Rt 75, 6:30 PM!
I’ll have a rundown of the National Convention, our t-shirt sales, and all the goings on with national.
We’ll also have a report on our Oct 29th participation with the Frontiers of Flight museum with our Mars Yard.
In the meantime, we’ve had a lot of Space news:
- SpaceX announced their Mars settlement plans, and had a successful firing of their very advanced raptor methane engine down at McGregor.
- The President called for a human presence on Mars as the official goal of NASA, and momentum in Washington continues to build.
- Unfortunately, the Schiaparelli Mars Lander appears to have crashed, with a probably malfunction in the final few seconds of landing after traveling over a hundred million miles. Mars is hard, and we hope ESA better fortunes in the future.
See you Sunday!
Recently, the adult child of one of our members has made it to the latest round for the next NASA Astronaut selection! This is an intensely rigorous process, with over 99% of the applicants already having been weeded out. Now the process has moved to interviews and tests at JSC. We are all excited and proud of our extended family member making it this far.
This will be an especially exciting astronaut class as it appears that they may be from whom the first astronauts may be chosen who will leave near Earth orbit since 1972 – indeed, they may go farther into space than anyone has gone before. We should hear the final results early next year.
Till then fingers are crossed! Good Luck!
P.S. The member wants to keep the identity quiet for now – while an incredible accomplishment to make it this far, they prefer to be anonymous till it is known for sure one way or the other.
Ron and I went to see Charlie Duke, Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 16, at the Petroleum Club last Wednesday, June 29. Charlie is a very articulate speaker with a great sense of humor and humility at the incredible job he did as an Apollo astronaut and Moon-walker. There aren’t many Moon-walkers around, and it was a treat to see and meet one in person (I even got to ride the elevator up to the meeting with Charlie Duke – a long story I’ll tell at the next group meeting!).
Here is a picture of Ron from our group with General Duke.
Last month Ken Murphy gave an excellent and exciting talk laying out the case for returning to the Moon and the uses of cislunar space. Ken’s talk was articulate and compelling. While i am not ready to abandon going to Mars first (this is the Mars society, after all!) Ken did describe in detail the uses and gravitational advantages of cislunar space and Earth / Moon Lagrangian points.
It was a very different and invigorating talk, and i am glad a bunch of you made it out – and sorry that some had to miss it! Thanks again, Ken!
We have another meeting this Sunday, May 29! Same time and location (6:30pm, Spaghetti Warehouse, Plano, off of Rt 75 and 15th street)!
This time we need to buckle down on our planning for Moon Day 2016, which is only two meetings away. This will be the 40th anniversary of the Viking 1 landing, so we need it to be special!
- The rover field, including spare rover (tom)
- Any other WiFi rovers (Mark and Kris were planning?)
- The revised glove box (Dan)
- The Mars panel display – highlighting Viking (Curtis)
- The viking soil yard (Mark / Dan?)
- The 3-D Mars viewer using google glasses and an iPhone (Mark)
- Giveaway bling?
- Anything i forgot?
See you Sunday!
Another month has passed. We are meeting this week, Sunday, March 27 at 6:30pm at Spaghetti Warehouse at 15th street and Rt 75 in Plano.
I didn’t realize it but this is Easter Sunday when the schedule was set, and i do apologize for putting this on a holiday.
But we have a special treat! Ken Murphy, National President of the Moon Society, and our long time colleague at North Texas NSS, has agreed to come and address our group on ‘Why The Moon [or cis-lunar space] Should Come First’.
Ken is a very articulate spokesman and tireless advocate of space, and the moving force behind ‘Moon Day’ at the Frontiers of Flight Museum, and a great ally to the Mars Society. It is good to hear other viewpoints, so let’s have as many as possible come out to hear Ken!
In the meantime, we need to do our planning for Moon Day: it will be here faster than you think!
There is so much else going on in Space: ESA’s launch to Mars; Astronaut Scott Kelly came back form the ISS after a year in space set specifically to test the human body for endurance for trips to Mars; another SpaceX launch and attempted 1st stage recovery; and so much more.
See you all Sunday!
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!
See you Sunday!
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.
Even the department of energy got into the space act, with the first trial runs of Pu238 production in 30 years, in order to help NASA prepare for future deep space missions, including the 2020 Mars Rover.
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