By Peter Rakobowchuk, The Canadian Press - Friday, May 10, 2013 - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – Andrew Rader has always wanted to be an astronaut and he’s ready…
MONTREAL – Andrew Rader has always wanted to be an astronaut and he’s ready to do anything to get into space — even spend the rest of his life on Mars.
The Ottawa native is one of at least 35 Canadians to apply for a mission to the Red Planet in 2023.
The Mars One project, the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Landorp, plans to send a few willing pioneers on a one-way trip, with no chance of returning to Earth. The $6 billion project will use existing technology and be funded through sponsors and private investors.
Two weeks after the call for applicants went out, about 80,000 people from 120 countries have already responded in the hope of becoming one of the first four Martian settlers.
The Canadian applicants range in age from 18 to 47, with the majority of them in their 20s. While most are men, as of Thursday at least four Canadian women have applied. Continue…
By Kate Lunau - Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
John Grotzinger talks about once-flowing rivers, the drinkable water—and when we’ll walk on the red planet
On March 12, John Grotzinger and a team of NASA scientists made a stunning announcement: Mars once had the right conditions for life, with flowing surface water so benign we might drink it. This finding comes courtesy of the Curiosity rover, which drilled and analyzed a rock sample from an ancient stream bed at Gale Crater on Mars. It’s the first habitable environment we know of, other than on Earth. As the first primitive forms of life were emerging here, it now seems possible life might have been taking hold on Mars, too. John Grotzinger is chief scientist on Curiosity, which has been exploring the Martian surface since Aug. 5, 2012.
Q: Scientists have found evidence of water on Mars before. What about this new finding tells you life could have existed there?
A: We’re excited because we’re getting a peek at what we call “grey Mars,” instead of red Mars. [Curiosity’s drill cuttings were green-grey in colour, not red like the surface of Mars, which is highly oxidized.] We’re seeing not just the presence of water, but water with a chemical composition that looks friendly toward microbial life. This is the kind of water that, if you drank a glass, you wouldn’t keel over and curl up, although I’m not sure I would want to plumb it into an urban district. We also see a diversity of minerals, which vary in their oxidation state. We think of these minerals at Gale Crater as though they were little batteries [which can give energy to microbes].
By Scott Feschuk - Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
Being locked in a space capsule for 501 days, says Scott Feschuk, can give you the ‘us time’ you’re craving
Looking for a fun getaway with the man or woman you love? Consider a trip to Mars! It’s a journey you’ll cherish until the day you die—which, for the record, will be when you both incinerate on re-entry.
But let’s not dwell on the many completely fatal potential downsides of this romantic jaunt. The privately funded Inspiration Mars Foundation is determined to send a married couple on a non-stop, “state-of-the-art” trip around the red planet for some reason. And why shouldn’t it be you?
Being shot toward a distant sphere would give you and your spouse the “us time” you’ve both been craving—the chance to leave behind the stresses of daily life and do something fun together, like stare for months into unending black, grow progressively more insane and sit helplessly as your bones and muscles deteriorate from the ravages of microgravity. Sounds better than Disney already, right?
By macleans.ca - Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 5:34 PM - 0 Comments
Here’s a collection of some of the most striking shots that the rover has captured so far
After landing on Mars earlier this week, NASA’s Curiosity rover—a one-ton robotic explorer searching for signs of life—is beaming back its first images. NASA’s now released several of them, including the first colour panorama of Mars. Curiosity now sits on a large flat plane at the bottom of Gale Crater, where it landed; Aolis Mons (also known as Mount Sharp) is in the distance. Seen through Curiosity’s eyes, Mars is a reddish, dusty landscape—one that fully comes to life in these stunning pictures.
By Kate Lunau - Monday, August 6, 2012 at 9:45 AM - 0 Comments
And the most advanced robot ever build has already begun it’s search for life on the Red Planet
On Monday at 1:32 a.m. Eastern time, NASA’s Curiosity rover touched down on Mars to begin its two-year hunt for signs that the red planet once hosted life—or any indication that life could, one day, survive there. It’s the culmination of years of work by hundreds of scientists, finished off in a breathtaking landing. Curiosity’s safe arrival on the surface of Mars has scientists crying tears of joy, and everybody else wondering what this robotic explorer could find.
Already, Curiosity is beaming back images of the Martian surface.
Curiosity, which launched on Nov. 26, has been hurtling through space for eight months to reach its final destination: the foot of Aeolis Mons, a mountain almost 5 km high, where layered rocks seem to suggest water might have once flowed, a sign it could have been hospitable to life.
Curiosity is the most advanced robot ever built. Plutonium-powered, roughly the size of a minivan, the one-ton rover was designed for rugged terrain: it has six-wheel drive, and can roll over obstacles up to 65 cm high.
Landing such a giant vehicle on the surface of Mars was, of course, no easy feat. After Curiosity came screeching through the Martian atmosphere, a humongous parachute (the largest ever used on another planet) popped open to slow it down. A “rocket backpack” was then deployed, lowering the robot from a cable in a highly risky maneuver. The cable was finally severed as the robot came safely to the ground, and the robot took off to crash itself elsewhere on Mars.
The whole process took a breathtaking seven minutes, from entry to touchdown—dubbed “seven minutes of terror” by NASA officials. Rejoicing at Curiosity’s safe landing on Mars, NASA associate administrator for science John Grunsfeld said those seven minutes “turned into seven minutes of triumph.” NASA scientists and engineers whooped, high-fived, and even shed tears.
Now that it’s on the surface, Curiosity can begin to explore. It’s loaded with cameras and other instruments, including some of the most high-tech tools ever designed. Its ChemCam laser can vapourize rock from up to 30 feet away; Canada’s sent along an Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer, an instrument that analyzes rock and soil samples. Curiosity, which is controlled remotely from Earth, will be a slow and meticulous worker: it can only travel about 200 m per day. Its main mission is slated to last two years, but then again, Spirit and Opportunity—Curiosity’s predecessors—were designed for three months, and Opportunity is still going strong (Spirit lasted six years).
With the future of NASA’s Mars program in doubt, Curiosity’s mission to search for signs of life is more important than ever. And although it’s impossible to predict what sorts of stuff this rover could find, getting a minivan to land on Mars is an incredible feat.
Here’s a video courtesy of NASA detailing how the landing works.
By Trevor Melanson - Friday, March 2, 2012 at 6:19 PM - 0 Comments
The idea isn’t as far-fetched as you think—well, okay, just slightly less far-fetched
Let’s say we want to colonize Mars. Or better yet, let’s say we need to colonize Mars. After all, world-renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking—a rather smart fella, if ever there was one—has said humanity will face a choice between space colonization and extinction. Speaking to Canadian Press in November, Hawking said that because our genetic code carries in it selfish instincts, which made sense for survival thousands of years ago, it willl be difficult “to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million.” In short, we’ve outpaced evolution and we’ve got all our eggs in one basket: Earth.
But why Mars? For one, it’s close by, comparatively speaking. Mars’s surface area may only be a third that of Earth’s, but keep in mind two-thirds of our planet is covered by water. Mars also has an atmosphere, albeit a thin one. Indeed, the red planet is generally considered the most Earth-like in our solar system. Even the days are only 40 minutes longer than ours.
But is it really doable? Continue…
By Kate Lunau - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 11:35 AM - 0 Comments
Researchers seek to prove that travel to Mars is possible
On Nov. 4, six figures emerged pale and blinking from a windowless module stationed in a Moscow parking lot. These men—three Russians, one Chinese, a Frenchman and an Italian—spent 520 days locked up inside, simulating a flight to Mars and back, an experiment run by Russia’s Institute for Biomedical Problems and the European Space Agency. Upon emerging, French crew member Romain Charles said the Earth-based mission proves that “a human journey to the red planet is possible”—or, at least, that surviving the isolation of long-distance space travel could be.
To kill time, the crew performed experiments and stayed in touch with loved ones, although communications were delayed, like on an actual mission. August was the toughest, says a blog post from Charles; family and friends were on holiday, and the best food had been consumed. But the men, who were paid about $100,000 each (China didn’t reveal a price), came out undeterred. As Charles said, “We’re ready to embark on the next spaceship going there.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 2, 2011 at 11:57 AM - 3 Comments
Rock suggest planet may have had conditions for life
NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover, which has been exploring Mars since 2004, has finally reached a distant crater named Endeavour—and the first rock it examined there already has scientists cheering. The rock contains zinc and bromine, which on Earth would suggest geology formed by heat and water, the New York Times reports. In a telephone conference, principal investigator of the rover mission Steven W. Squyres said the rock “doesn’t look like anything else we’ve seen before.” Opportunity, and its twin rover Spirit, have already found evidence of liquid water that may have made ancient Mars intermittently habitable, although that water was highly acidic, like sulfuric acid. Scientists will want to get a look at clay deposits on the planet, since clay forms with liquid water.
By macleans.ca - Friday, July 22, 2011 at 11:22 AM - 0 Comments
Curiosity to continue search for signs of life
NASA has chosen a landing site on Mars for its Curiosity rover, which is set to launch later this year and will continue the search for signs of whether Mars was ever inhabitable. On Friday, NASA scientists announced the rover—roughly the size of a small car—will touch down at the foot of a layered mountain inside Mars’ Gale crater, which is about the combined area of Connecticut and Rhode Island. The landing site was chosen among 30 potential sites which have been considered since 2006; in 2008, that number was whittled down to four. NASA reports the chosen site, named for Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale, has an alluvial fan that was likely formed by sediments carried by water, and layers at the base of the mountain contain clays and sulfites, both of which are known to form in water. Curiosity is carrying instruments that can identify other ingredients of life, such as organic compounds. Curiosity’s mission is scheduled to last nearly two Earth years.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 4, 2011 at 12:14 PM - 28 Comments
Marc Garneau proposes a mission to Mars.
I’m talking about a robotic mission. Except for the launch part. We would need another nation’s involvement for the rocket part and we would share the information obtained in exchange. But wouldn’t it be great if an all-Canadian payload was launched to Mars to do some first-class science? The Americans are the only ones who’ve ever done it successfully. Canada could do that. It would be a great challenge because we’ll need more robotic missions before we send humans. Canada has the capability and this could be really inspiring … I can tell you, being a politician and being an ex-president of the Canadian Space Agency, I would take the CSA very seriously. And I would promote it because it’s a winner, it’s a money-maker. It’s an area where Canada is strong technically and it’s underexploited. And we can do great things. We can inspire.
By Kate Lunau - Friday, September 17, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Human explorers will set foot on the red planet one day. And it might be sooner than most of us realize.
Viewed through a telescope on a clear night, the planet Mars glows a soft, dullish red. It seems foreign and strange, but familiar, too: like Earth, Mars has polar ice caps, clouds drifting in its thin atmosphere (even snow), and changing seasons. Its day is just 40 minutes longer than our own. And even though it’s now a freeze-dried wasteland, a growing body of evidence suggests Mars was once wet and warm, and might have harboured life around the same time life sprung up here. Human explorers are bound to set foot on Mars one day. And it might be sooner than most of us think.
But our neighbouring planet, fourth from the sun, is also unimaginably remote: at its closest point in orbit to Earth, which happens only once every 26 months or so, Mars is still about 200 times farther away than the moon. At best, it would take a manned spacecraft roughly six months to reach it. By comparison, “the moon is three days away,” says Bret Drake, who leads mission planning and analysis for the Constellation Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “You can go any time, and if things go wrong, you can return any time.” Once a spaceship left Earth’s orbit for Mars, there’d be no turning back.
By Andrew Potter - Thursday, July 30, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 16 Comments
The space race was always a creature of the Cold War. With Communism gone, there’s nothing noble about our goals up there.
The news media reported last week that NASA’s robot rover Spirit, stuck in the Martian equivalent of a ditch, is still spinning its wheels in the deep powder like some suburban doofus trying to free his SUV from a snowbank.
NASA scientists have been working hard trying to figure out some way of rocking the space buggy free, and they hope to give this a shot in a few weeks. But in the meantime, the trapped robot explorer serves as a perfect metaphor for humanity’s entire extraterrestrial ambitions. Continue…