I want to extend our congratulations to NASA and JPL for the successful orbiting of the Juno probe around Jupiter on our Nation’s Birthday, July 4th. Many of us older folk remember that the Viking 1 lander, nearing its 40th anniversary, was planned to land on July 4th, 1976, but was delayed due to dust storms to July 20th – an equally momentous date in Space history!
Juno is a remarkable machine with an assignment in one of the harshest possible environments in the solar system: an orbit close to Jupiter’s massive radiation and magnetic fields.
Juno will now begin its mission of examining the structure of the ‘gas giant’, whose internal dynamics remain poorly understood. Hopefully this will also give design insight to support the upcoming Europa orbiter / lander mission, currently in its planning stage, and second only to a Mars sample return in terms of NASA priority.
Juno is also the deepest space probe to use solar, rather, nuclear power, a testimony to the increasing efficiency of solar power panels, itself a remarkable achievement with many potential benefits to life here on Earth.
PRESS CONTACT: Chris Carberry
CEO, Explore Mars Inc.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 23, 2016 – Explore Mars, Inc., a non-profit educational and research organization committed to the goal of sending humans to Mars, today released the results of a national public opinion poll on attitudes and support for the U.S. space program and deep space exploration. This scientific survey was designed to elicit at least 1,067 responses to ensure a representative sampling of the U.S. population that provides statistically accurate results at a 95% confidence level and an error rate of ±3%.
84% of Americans agree or strongly agree that America leads the world in space exploration (regardless of education level)
64% of Americans agree that the U.S. should send humans to Mars
Regardless of demographics, all groups overwhelmingly support the statement that “Exploration is critical to prosperity and progress.”
62% of those surveyed believe humans are necessary for space exploration (versus robots)
“This data clearly shows that the American public is firmly behind sending humans to Mars,” commented Chris Carberry, CEO of Explore Mars. “A groundswell of public support for Mars exploration has been building for the past few years, and we hope the next administration will review the results of this poll and accelerate our goal of sending humans to Mars.”
“It should come as great news to those two-thirds of Americans who want to see humans on the surface of Mars that NASA and its partners are steadily building and testing the rockets and other hardware that will put humans on Mars by the mid 2030s,” said Artemis Westenberg, President of Explore Mars.
This survey was commissioned by Phillips & Company of Austin, Texas.
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
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!!!”
It’s fairly well researched & much more scientifically plausible
than Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Also, it’s already been optioned by
20th Century Fox, so it may end up on the big screen someday (I bet
the title will be changed, if it does).
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.
Yes, another month has gone by, and our next monthly meeting is coming up. We will meet at the Spaghetti Warehouse at 6:30pm in Plano this coming Sunday, May 26 – same as usual!
We have a number of activities and news to discuss;
The URC is coming up that week! I leave May 28 to volunteer. We have a record number of teams and the new obstacle course! it should be the most exciting and best URC yet!
Mark hit 10,000 re-tweats for the Dallas chapter!
The Mars Society national convention, to be held in Boulder in August, is lining up an incredible array of speakers. Those who are planning to go, make your plans!
Moon day is coming upon us quickly, and Tom has a number of exciting ideas to make our presence even better than last year.
Speaking of conferences, it is coming time to talk about our T-shirt order. We decided at the last meeting to use the convention logo for our design. Now Mark needs to turn it into an actual T-shirt design, and we need to think about how many to order. April A said that she should be at the convention with some students, and they can help us man the T-shirt table in turn for help selling some MDRS cookbooks. Deal!
In national news, both Opportunity and Curiosity safely made it past conjunction and regained contact. Opportunity, deep into its 10th year on Mars, has logged over 22 miles, surpassing the 40 year old distance record of Apollo 17 (which they did it in three days, but…). (The lunakhod 2 lunar rover still holds the extra-terrestial record of 23 miles)
And, closer to home and nearer to Mars, the Explore Mars ‘Humans 2 Mars’ summit held May 6-8 had a variety of major space figures openly calling for NASA’s main manned space priority to be a manned mission to touch down on Mars within 20 years. This is the first time that a time-bound manned mission to Mars was discussed as NASA’s next main goal so openly by such senior government policymakers. We are getting closer all the time to national policy finally coming around to where it belongs: mankind’s next step is Mars!
One of the most hotly debated topics related to sending humans to Mars is the health effects of prolonged exposure to microgravity and how these might be mitigated.
Prolonged exposure to microgravity (a.k.a. “zero gravity”) has several serious effects on the human body:
Without the need to support the weight of the body, the musculoskeletal system atrophies and weakens. Bone and muscle mass tend to decrease at a significant rate. Bone mass can decrease at 1-1.5% per month.