Russian Poison From The Sky

This time, it’s the Russian’s turn to randomly drop a spacecraft to Earth from orbit, only this one is loaded up with ten tons of highly toxic chemicals. When you duck, don’t forget your umbrella.

Toxic Russian Mars Probe Heads Back to Earth

It’s hard to believe that only last week we were getting excited for Russia’s first interplanetary mission in 15 years to launch. By now, we should be happy in the knowledge that the ambitious — and awesome — mission is powering through space, toward the Martian moon Phobos.

The reality is that we are now discussing uncontrolled reentry scenarios.

As if that wasn’t enough bad news, we are looking at an uncontrolled toxic reentry scenario. Phobos-Grunt — correctly written “Fobos-Grunt,” meaning “Phobos-Soil” or “Phobos-Ground” — is fully-laden with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide; that’s ten tons of fuel and oxidizer. The probe itself weighs-in at only three tons.

The majority of the fuel will likely vaporize during reentry, but everyone will be hoping for a splash-down in an ocean (which covers two-thirds of Earth, fortunately), as the wreckage will still be hazardous. There’s also a small quantity of radioactive cobalt-57 in one of the science missions housed in the probe — a fact that will most likely cause a media frenzy.

It is for these reasons that the Russian media is dubbing Phobos-Grunt “Most toxic falling satellite ever.”

See also:
Russia’s Phobos-Grunt Spacecraft Goes AWOL
Russian Mars Probe Will Likely Come Crashing Back to Earth
Toxic Russian Mars Probe Likely Heading Back to Earth
Mood grim over Mars probe faultRussia Running Out Of Time, As Mars Mission Seems Destined To Fail
Report: Russians Believe Martian Moon Probe is ‘Lost’
Source: Russian Space Probe Unlikely to be Saved
Phobos-Grunt Mars probe remains silent in Earth orbit
Now Russians can’t even contact their busted Mars probe
Contact with Russian Mars probe ‘unlikely’ – expert
Failed Russian space mission shows difficulty of exploring Mars
Salvaging Science from Stricken Mars Moon Probe: A Scientist’s View
Phobos-Grunt mission
Fobos-Grunt

Man, the Russians just can’t catch a break. This is their fourth launch failure just this year and now they’re 0 for 18 at Mars missions.

/and we trust the Russians with our U.S. astronauts, it makes me nervous

Gandhi On Mars

Here’s something you don’t see every day. Do you believe?

Mahatma Gandhi’s face etched on Mars

An Italian space buff has claimed to have spotted the face of Mahatma Gandhi etched into the the rocks of Mars while scanning through latest pictures of the Red Planet.

Matteo Lanneo was surveying the amazing pictures sent from Europe’s Mars Orbiter back to Earth when he came across this uncanny resemblance to the father of the Indian nation, Daily Mail reported.

The head appears to have a moustache and shaven head and prominent eyebrows, just like Mahatma Gandhi, it quoted Lanneo as saying.

See also:
‘Face of Gandhi’ Found On Google Mars
It’s Mars-hatma Gandhi! Father of India’s image is spotted on Red Planet
Mahatma Gandhi’s face seen on Mars!
Gandhi’s ‘face’ found on Google Mars
Face of Gandhi Found On Google Mars
The man on Mars is Gandhi!
Mahatma Gandhi’s face seen on Mars!
Is that Mahatma Gandhi’s face on Mars?
Gandhi Living It Up On Mars?

In the old days, people were content to find images of famous people in their food. Now, apparently, the new fad is to find them on Mars. Hey, whatever gets you your fifteen minutes of attention I guess.

/how long before someone finds the holy grail of pareidolia, an image of Jesus on Mars?

It Is Heavy And Obama Can’t Cancel It

Obama may have killed the Constellation program, but he can’t stop SpaceX.

Huge Private Rocket Could Send Astronauts to the Moon or Mars

A massive new private rocket envisioned by the commercial spaceflight company SpaceX could do more than just ferry big satellites and spacecraft into orbit. It could even help return astronauts to the moon, the rocket’s builder says.

SpaceX announced plans to build the huge rocket, called the Falcon Heavy, yesterday (April 5). To make the new booster, SpaceX will upgrade its Falcon 9 rockets with twin strap-on boosters and other systems to make them capable of launching larger payloads into space than any other rocket operating today.

But the Falcon Heavy’s increased power could also be put toward traveling beyond low-Earth orbit and out into the solar system, said SpaceX’s founder and CEO Elon Musk during a Tuesday press conference.

See also:
SpaceX Unveils Plans for Falcon Heavy, World’s Largest Rocket
SpaceX announces Falcon Heavy: a low-cost, heavy-lifting, 22-story rocket
SpaceX unveils plans for Falcon heavy lift rocket
Space privateers to launch biggest rocket since 70s
SpaceX preps world’s largest rocket. It’s low cost, too
The Tech Behind the New SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket
SpaceX’s ‘Falcon Heavy’ Most Powerful Private Rocket Ever
SpaceX shoots for ‘next big thing’
SpaceX unveils heavy launcher
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation
SpaceX
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation – Falcon Heavy
Falcon Heavy

If the Falcon Heavy becomes operational and performs as expected, this rocket will be able to lift a heavier payload into space than any other rocket ever built, other than the Saturn V behemoth.

/Wernher von Braun would be proud

You Can’t Go Home Again

Do we really need to put a man on Mars this badly?

Scientists Propose One-Way Mars Spaceflights

Two U.S. scientists have proposed a unique and somewhat controversial solution to the challenges presented by a potential mission to Mars–they suggest making it a one-way trip.

In their article “To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission To Mars,” which has been published in the latest edition of the Journal of Cosmology, authors Dirk Schulze-Makuch of Washington State University and Paul Davies of Arizona State University propose that nixing a return flight “would cut the costs several fold but ensure at the same time a continuous commitment to the exploration of Mars in particular and space in general.”

“It would also obviate the need for years of rehabilitation for returning astronauts, which would not be an issue if the astronauts were to remain in the low-gravity environment of Mars,” they added, arguing that equipment from the Constellation project–a scrapped return mission to the moon–could be used to send two spacecraft, each containing two astronauts, a landing unit, and enough supplies to establish an outpost, to Mars.

See also:
To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission to Mars
Scientists Propose One-Way Trips to Mars
Mars Exploration Should be Done in a One-Way Trip, 2 Scientists Say
How to make boots on Mars affordable – One way trips
The fastest way to send humans to Mars is to not worry about bringing them back
Dirk Schulze-Makuch, WSU Professor, Proposes One-Way-Trips to Mars
Will the First Mars Explorers Be the First Mars Settlers?
Scientists propose one-way trips to Mars
Scientists propose one-way trips to Mars
Wanted: Pioneers to take a one-way trip to Mars
A One-Way Trip to Mars

In some ways, this plan appears to have some merit, although it just doesn’t seem to fit with America’s history of space exploration, always planning for the safe return of our astronauts.

/I suppose though, if we plan on continuing manned space exploration to ever more distant destinations, eventually the distances and time involved will make a return trip impractical, if not impossible

The Little Rover That Could

Opportunity makes the most of its opportunity.

NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity Sets Longevity Record

Nov. 11, 1982 was a bittersweet day on Earth. It was Veterans Day; the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington would be dedicated that weekend. And at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., engineers made a mistake.

They were trying to nurse along the Viking 1 lander on Mars, which had touched down there in 1976 — and surprised them by surviving in the eternal cold there for six years, three months, and 22 days. They transmitted new commands to the ship’s computer so that its batteries would hold a charge better. By accident, they erased data that helped the lander aim its antenna to Earth. Viking 1 was never heard from again.

But its record for longevity has stood. Until now.

Today the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which landed on Mars on Jan. 25, 2004, becomes the longest-lasting earthly visitor ever to the Martian surface. It is still going after 2,247 “sols,” or Martian days. It was designed to last for 90.

“Remember, 90 days is when the warranty runs out,” said Steve Squyres, the principal investigator for Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, after they landed three weeks apart. “It’s not when the wheels fall off.”

Opportunity’s six wheels have occasionally gotten stuck, and one of them will no longer steer. Its circuit boards have had to withstand the subzero temperatures of Martian winters, and another is beginning. Its solar panels, at times, have been covered with fine red silt, which made them almost useless for gathering sunlight to make electricity. Life on Mars is tough.

But the solar panels have mercifully been blown clean every time by gusts of wind, much to the relief of NASA engineers. Careful maneuvering has gotten Opportunity out of the sand — once after six weeks of trying. Today they celebrated Opportunity’s record by doing what they’ve been doing since 2008 — keeping the rover on a forced march to a large crater called Endeavour, now eight miles away on the horizon.

See also:
New Record Set for Longest Mission on Mars
Mars Rover Surpasses Viking 1’s Longevity Record
Longevity Record on Mars for a NASA Space Rover
Mars Rover Sets Endurance Record
Mars rover surpasses Viking 1’s longevity record
NASA Mars rover Opportunity breaks longevity record
Opportunity rover breaks Mars longevity record
Mars Exploration Rover Mission: Home
Mars Exploration Rover

/now that’s what’s called bang for the buck, if only Congress were this efficient with our tax dollars

It’s Fallen, But Can It Get Up?

NASA hopes to free Mars rover from ‘sand trap’

After months of tests and analysis, engineers plan to beam commands to NASA’s Spirit Mars rover Monday, kicking off a long-awaited attempt to free the hardy craft from the talcum powder-like soil of a hidden crater that trapped it last April.

“Spirit’s facing the most challenging situation it’s seen yet on the surface of Mars,” Doug McCuistion, director of NASA’s Mars exploration program, said Thursday. “We know a lot of people around the world…view Spirit with great affection, exploring the Red Planet along with it, experiencing the excitement, seeing new and exciting vistas, seeing new landscapes, uncovering some incredible new knowledge about our sister planet.

. . .

“I’d like everybody to be hopeful, but I’d also like them to be realistic,” he said. “If Spirit cannot make the great escape from this sand trap, it’s likely that this lonely spot, straddling the edge of this crater, might be where Spirit ends its adventures on Mars.”

. . .

Last April 23, the six-wheel Spirit was slowly rolling backward on the western side of a feature known as “Home Plate,” heading toward the south and a pair of volcanic structures that scientists wanted to examine. The rover was driving backward because its right front wheel stopped working in 2006.

The ground to the south of Spirit looked normal, but as it rolled along, its wheels broke through an upper-crust-like layer of soil and into a softer, unseen material.

“Essentially, the rover was driving on what we call a dirt crust,” said John Callas, the project manager of the Mars exploration rovers at JPL. “It was a hard surface that we broke through, and underneath this material, camouflaged underneath, was this loose, fine material where the rover is challenged right now.”

Scientists later determined that Spirit’s path was straddling the rim of an ancient, 26-foot-wide crater just beneath the surface. The crater was filled in with sulfate sands that formed layers with different compositions.

Initial attempts to drive out in a crablike fashion by turning the front and back wheels in the same direction only made matters worse.

See also:
NASA to try to free stuck Mars rover Spirit
NASA unveils plan to free sand-trapped Mars rover
Engineers desperate to move plucky Mars rover
NASA to power Mars rover out of sand trap
Unsticking Spirit
NASA Unveils Plan To Unstick A Mars Rover
NASA tries to dig out its stranded Mars robot
Spirit Rover Wiggles Her Wheels
Mars Exploration Rover Mission
Spirit rover

Well, this seems to be quite the heroic rescue attempt for a rover that’s already five years past its three month life expectancy. Go NASA!

/what’s really amazing is that Obama hasn’t canceled this project yet, it must be costing quite a bit of money that he could be wasting on pet Democrat social boondoggles like ACORN instead

Launch It Quick, Before Obama Cancels It

NASA’s Ares 1-X Rocket: Space Shuttle Replacement?
Or Rocket to Nowhere? NASA Preps for Test, Though Obama Could Cancel Program

This isn’t your daddy’s space ship — but it is something your grandfather might recognize. The Ares 1-X rocket sitting on the launch pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center is ready to go, scheduled for launch Tuesday morning, if the weather holds.

It won’t go far on this trip, but NASA hopes it will eventually take astronauts beyond low Earth orbit and — someday — on to Mars.

This launch follows a less-than-wholehearted endorsement by the Augustine Commission, the presidential panel that spent this past year reviewing the future of the U.S. space program.

The Ares is supposed to replace the 30-year-old space shuttle, which is scheduled to quit flying by the end of 2011 after six more missions. Ares, the commission concluded, will cost too much and take too long to really be a practical replacement. The plan was to have it ready to fly by 2015, but 2017 is more realistic. NASA’s only option, meanwhile, to get astronauts to the space station is to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz.

Augustine Commission: NASA’s Plans ‘Unsustainable’

To get to the moon and then eventually go on to Mars will take much more money and technology than the U.S. space program has now, according to a report released today by an independent panel convened, at White House request, under former aerospace executive Norman Augustine.

The Augustine Commission made several recommendations today for NASA:

. . .

The panel said it might be an option to scrap the Ares 1 booster, and use other rockets instead.

See also:
Ares I-X Liftoff Set for Tomorrow Morning
Ares 1-X test flight cleared for launch Tuesday morning
NASA Unveils Ares 1-X Rocket for Historic Test Flight
The NASA Ares 1-X rocket is set for launch — but watch those clouds!
Will Weather Ground Ares 1-X Rocket Test Launch?
Nasa unveils Ares 1-X rocket amid doubts over future funding
Ares 1-X Rocket Scheduled To Launch
Obama Considering Ares Cancellation, Orion Scale Back
Obama May Cancel Space Shuttle Replacement
Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee
Ares I-X

So, we’ve got six more shuttle flights to go and Obama’s thinking of cancelling the replacement program. Priorities, Obama can spend a trillion dollars on Democrat pet projects and call it “stimulus”, but he can’t seem to finde a few billion dollars for NASA.

/be sure and watch tomorrow’s launch, future American space flight could become a rarity