Monthly Meeting May 26, 6:30PM at the Spaghetti Warehouse in Plano

All,

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!

See you Sunday!

Kurt

Microgravity, Artificial Gravity and Blue Dragon

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Under normal gravitational forces…

More (Mars Settlement)…

Curiosity Data Shows Mars Surface Cosmic Ray Radiation Dose Rates Acceptable for Human Explorers

Measurements by the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) instrument aboard NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover Curiosity show that the galactic cosmic ray (GCR) radiation dose rates on the surface of the Red Planet are about half those that RAD measured during its interplanetary cruise.

Interplanetary GCR dose rates were previously measured by the MARIE instrument aboard the Mars Odyssey spacecraft during its cruise to the Red Planet in 2001 and shown to be about twice that experienced in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).  Thus, in combination, the MARIE and RAD results show that Mars surface GCR dose rates are about the same as those experienced by astronauts in LEO. This mean that GCR doses will not be a show-stopper for the human exploration of Mars.

To view a graph of radiation measurements published by the Curiosity RAD team, please click here.

Please note that the MARIE authors report interplanetary GCR dose rates ranging from 0.28 Sv (28 rem) to 0.73 Sv (73 rem) per year.  Taking the 50 rem/year average of these figures as an interplanetary dose baseline, it can be estimated that a human Mars mission which spends 6 months flying to Mars (as Odyssey did in 2001), 18 months on the Martian surface, and 6 months flying back to Earth would receive a total GCR dose of 88 rem.  Such a dose is estimated to represent a statistical risk of about a 1 percent chance of getting a fatal cancer sometime later in life, assuming no advance in medical technique and would therefore represent a modest portion of the risk faced by astronauts on a human Mars mission.  Furthermore, it has already been received by a number of astronauts and cosmonauts working on the ISS or Mir space stations without incidence of cancer among any of them.

It is therefore now confirmed that hypothetical radical new propulsion systems enabling much faster transit times to Mars and/or the ability to leave the Red Planet regardless of launch windows will not be needed to enable human Mars exploration.  With its first important results, Curiosity has slain the mythical radiation dragon previously barring the way to Mars.

The Mars Society
www.marssociety.org
@TheMarsSociety

SpaceX Falcon 9 Has Wings

If you’ve been paying any attention, you probably already know
that SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9/Dragon to the
space station this morning. If all continues to goes according to
plan, the Dragon will rendezvous and dock with the station on
Friday.

For what it’s worth I did stay up late and live tweet the Falcon
launch for DMS on our twitter page (was glad to do it:)

http://www.twitter.com/dallasmars

Mark

Cameron and Google Founders to Mine Asteroids

An interesting proposition. Ironically, as resources are harvested the market value drops enough to make these high-capital projects unprofitable. A space-faring civilization is founded on technology and intellectual property, not physical resources.

Why we shouldn’t wait to go to Mars

Editor’s note: Robert Zubrin, an astronautical engineer, is president of The Mars Society and author of “The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must,” recently updated and republished by Simon & Schuster.

In the opinion piece “Mars can wait. Oceans can’t,” published recently on CNN.com, Amitai Etzioni says that we should defer Mars exploration because the seas have a higher priority. While I have the highest regard for ocean exploration, the fact of the matter is that there are numerous agencies – including the U.S. Navy, the navies of other countries, academic institutions, research organizations, corporations and James Cameron personally – that are more than adequately financed and equipped to carry it out.

The idea that we need to suspend space exploration in order to provide the necessary resources to probe the oceans is categorically absurd. So let’s call it like it is: The argument that we should explore the oceans instead of space is not a call to search the seas, but simply a disingenuous way to give up our effort to reach the Red Planet.

But why should we try? There are three reasons.

Full Story

ZUBRIN: Obama shoots down Mars exploration

Space community outraged as real missions are replaced by simulated science

In its budget submitted to Congress Feb. 13, the Obama administration zeroed out funding for NASA’s future Mars exploration missions. The Mars Science Lab Curiosity is en route to the red planet, and the nearly completed small Maven orbiter, scheduled for launch in 2013, will be sent, but that’s it. No funding has been provided for the Mars probes planned as joint missions with the Europeans for 2016 and 2018, and nothing after that is funded, either. This poses a crisis for the American space program.

Continue Reading at Washington Times

Urgent Call to Save the Mars Missions

Dear Friends:

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has zeroed funding for NASA’s future Mars exploration missions. The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity is en route to the Red Planet, while the small MAVEN orbiter is scheduled for launch in 2013, but that’s it. No funding has been provided for the Mars probes planned as joint missions with the Europeans for 2016 and 2018, and nothing after that is funded either.  This poses a grave crisis for all of us hoping for a human future in space.

NASA’s Mars exploration program has been brilliantly successful because, since 1994, it has been approached as a campaign, with probes launched every biennial opportunity, alternating between orbiters and landers. As a result, combined operations have been possible, with orbiters providing communication links and reconnaissance guidance for surface rovers, which in turn can conduct ground-truth investigations of orbital observations. Thus, the great treks of the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, launched in 2003, were supported from above by Mars Global Surveyor (MGS, launched in1996), Mars Odyssey (launched in 2001), and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO, launched in 2005). But after serving 10 years on orbit, MGS is now lost, and if we wait until the 2020s to resume Mars exploration, the rest of the orbiters will be gone as well. Moreover, so will be the experienced teams that created them. Effectively, the whole program will be completely wrecked, and we will have to start again from scratch.

Furthermore, if the OMB cuts are allowed to prevail, we will not only destroy America’s Mars exploration program, but derail that of our European allies as well. The 2016 and 2018 missions have been planned as a NASA/ESA joint project, with the Europeans contributing over $1 billion to the effort. But if America betrays its commitment, the European supporters of Mars explorations will be left high and dry, and both the missions, and the partnership, will be lost.

America’s human spaceflight program is currently completely adrift. Unless it is reorganized as a mission-driven directorate committed to efficiently achieving important objectives within a meaningful timeframe, it may well prove to be indefensible in the face of the oncoming fiscal tsunami. But the Mars program is defensible. It has real and rational objectives, reasonable costs, and a terrific track record of success. It can and must be saved.

There is no justification for the proposed cuts. The U.S. federal government may be going broke, but it’s not because of NASA. Since 2008, federal spending has increased 40 percent, but NASA spending has only increased 5 percent. Trillions of dollars of out of control entitlement spending cannot be remedied by cuts in NASA, or even in the entire discretionary budget, defense included. Rather, the financial bleeding needs to be staunched where the hole is, and nowhere else.

In any case, cost is not the issue. With the Europeans putting up their share, a matching $1 billion contribution from NASA spread over the next six years would be sufficient to fund both the 2016 and 2018 missions at a level of a billion dollars each. This would require less than 1 percent of NASA’s current budget. There is no excuse for not doing this.

The Mars program is not being terminated to make funds available for future missions to other planets. In fact, there is no money in the OMB plan to fund any of them, either.

America’s planetary exploration program is one of the great chapters in the history of science, civilization, and of our country. Its abandonment represents nothing else than an embrace of American decline. This is unacceptable.

Mars is key to humanity’s future in space. It is the closest planet that has all the resources needed to support life and technological civilization. Its complexity uniquely demands the skills of human explorers, who will pave the way for human settlers. It is, therefore, the proper goal for NASA’s human spaceflight program, and the proper priority for its robotic scouts. The human spaceflight program may be in disarray, but the scouts have been making progress, and are set to make more, if only we continue with them.

If we allow the OMB to shut down the Mars exploration effort, NASA will lose its most effective endeavor – one of the few that delivers the goods that justify the entire space program as a national enterprise, the nation will lose one its crown jewels, the scientists will lose their chance to find life beyond Earth, and humanity will lose the one significant effort that is making real and visible progress towards opening the frontier on another world. We can’t let that happen.

So friends, here is where we need to make a stand. There is no excuse for wrecking the Mars program. The nation can afford it, and walking away from it is walking away from success, from our allies, from science, from greatness, from the pioneer spirit, and from our future.  Everyone needs to mobilize now to save the 2016 and 2018 Mars missions!   Write your congressman, or better yet, call up his or her local office and set up a meeting.  Have a talk with your Senators’ local staffers as well.  Write the White House, and let the people there know what you think.  Write to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.  He needs to hear from you too.

This is a fight we can and must win. It’s time to speak up!

Robert Zubrin

President, Mars Society

Listen to Audio Recording of Mars Society/Planetary Society Capitol Hill Forum

The Mars Society, together with the Planetary Society, held a special forum yesterday on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to discuss the current crisis facing America’s space program.  Entitled “NASA at a Turning Point: Vibrant Future or Close Up Shop”, the discussion focused on the severe challenges facing NASA’s space exploration, space astronomy and human spaceflight programs.

Participating in the mid-day program were four prominent space policy experts – Dr. Robert Zubrin, Mars Society President, Prof. Jim Bell, Planetary Society President, Prof. Scott Hubbard, former Director of NASA Ames Research Center, and Dr. Heidi Hammel, Executive Vice President of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy.

To listen to the full audio recording of the Capitol Hill forum, please click here.

The Mars Society would like to express its appreciation to Adam Keiper of The New Atlantis for providing a copy of the audio recording.

NASA at a Turning Point: Vibrant Future or Close Up Shop