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America has sent five rovers to Mars—when will humans follow? –



Radiation will also be challenging on the planet, because of its ultra thin atmosphere and lack of a protective magnetosphere, so shelters will need to be well shielded, or even underground

With its impeccable landing on Thursday, NASA’s Perseverance became the fifth rover to reach Mars—so when can we finally expect the long-held goal of a crewed expedition to materialize?

NASA’s current Artemis program is billed as a “Moon to Mars” mission, and acting administrator Steve Jurczyk has reiterated his aspiration of “the mid-to-end of the 2030s” for American boots on the Red Planet.

But while the trip is technologically almost within grasp, experts say it’s probably still decades out because of funding uncertainties.

Mars is hard

Wernher von Braun, the architect of the Apollo program, started work on a Mars mission right after the Moon landing in 1969, but the plan, like many after it, never got off the drawing board.

What makes it so hard? For a start, the sheer distance.

Astronauts bound for Mars will have to travel about 140 million miles (225 million kilometers), depending on where the two planets are relative to each other.

That means a trip that’s many months long, where astronauts will face two major health risks: radiation and microgravity.

The former raises the lifetime chances of developing cancer while the latter decreases bone density and muscle mass.

If things go wrong, any problems will have to be solved on the planet itself.

‘It’s the details’

That said, scientists have learned plenty of lessons from astronauts’ missions to the Moon and to space stations.

“We have demonstrated on Earth orbiting spacecraft the ability for astronauts to survive for a year and a half,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer for the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Astronauts bound for Mars will have to travel about 140 million miles (225 million kilometers), depending on where the two plane
Astronauts bound for Mars will have to travel about 140 million miles (225 million kilometers), depending on where the two planets are relative to each other

The general ideas of how to execute a Mars mission are in place, but “it’s the details” that are lacking, he added.

One way to reduce the on the journey is getting there faster, said Laura Forczyk, the founder of space consulting firm Astralytical and a planetary scientist.

This could involve using nuclear thermal propulsion which produces far more thrust than the energy produced by traditional chemical rockets.

Another could be building a spacecraft with water containers strapped to it that absorb space radiation, said McDowell.

Once there, we’ll need to find ways to breathe in the 95-percent carbon dioxide atmosphere. Perseverance has an instrument on board to convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, as a technical demonstration.

Other solutions involve breaking down the ice at the planet’s poles into oxygen and hydrogen, which will also fuel rockets.

Radiation will also be challenging on the planet, because of its ultra thin atmosphere and lack of a protective magnetosphere, so shelters will need to be well shielded, or even underground.

Risk tolerance

The feasibility also comes down to how much risk we are willing to tolerate, said G. Scott Hubbard, NASA’s first Mars program director who’s now at Stanford.

During the Shuttle era, said Hubbard, “the demand was that the astronauts face no more than three percent increased risk in death.”

“They have now raised that—deep space missions are somewhere between 10 and 30 percent, depending on the mission, so NASA’s taking a more aggressive or open posture,” he added.

That could involve raising the permissible level of total radiation astronauts can be exposed to over their lifetimes, which NASA is also considering, said Forczyk.

Musk has been developing the next-generation Starship rocket for the purpose—though two prototypes blew up in spectacular fashio
Musk has been developing the next-generation Starship rocket for the purpose—though two prototypes blew up in spectacular fashion on their recent test runs

Political will

The experts agreed the biggest hurdle is getting buy-in from the US president and Congress.

“If humanity as a species, specifically the American taxpayer, decides to put large amounts of money into it, we could be there by the 2030s,” said McDowell.

He doesn’t think that’s on the cards, but said he would be surprised if it happened later than the 2040s, a conclusion shared by Forczyk.

President Joe Biden hasn’t yet outlined his Mars vision, though his spokeswoman Jen Pskai said this month the Artemis program had the administration’s “support.”

Still, the agency is facing budget constraints and is not expected to meet its goal of returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, which would also push back Mars.

SpaceX wildcard

Could NASA be beaten to it by SpaceX, the company founded by billionaire Elon Musk, who is targeting a first human mission in 2026?

Musk has been developing the next-generation Starship rocket for the purpose—though two prototypes blew up in spectacular fashion on their recent test runs.

These might look bad, but the risks SpaceX is able to take, and NASA as a government agency can’t, gives it valuable data, argued Hubbard.

That could eventually give SpaceX an edge over NASA’s chosen rocket, the troubled Space Launch System (SLS) which is beset by delays and cost overrun.

But not even one of the richest people in the world can foot the entire bill for Mars themselves.

Hubbard sees a public-private partnership as more likely, with SpaceX providing the transport and NASA solving the many other problems.

Explore further

NASA test of mega Moon rocket engines cut short

© 2021 AFP

America has sent five rovers to Mars—when will humans follow? (2021, February 20)
retrieved 20 February 2021

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Apollo 15's fiftieth Anniversary: ​​Moon Touchdown Observed In Shocking Element – TheNewsTrace



New Pictures Launched to Fox Information Display the Apollo 15 moon touchdown in exceptional element 50 years later.

The footage, remastered through “Apollo Remastered” writer Andy Saunders, display the Lunar Roving Car (LRV) because it was once managed through astronauts Commander David Scott and Lunar Module Pilot Jim Irwin on this planet surfaced for the primary time.

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Scott and Irwin landed the lunar module Falcon on July 30, 1971, in keeping with a file of the occasions through NASA.

A landscape of the primary use of the Lunar Roving Car (LRV) at the moon and the 14,000-foot-high Mount Hadley
(NASA/JSC/ASU/Andy Saunders)

The venture was once introduced from Cape Canaveral, Florida 4 days previous and entered orbit on July 29.

Irwin and Scott then separated the Falcon from fellow astronaut Alfred Worden, who remained in orbit aboard the Undertaking.

Commander Dave Scott at the Lunar Roving Car (LRV)
(NASA/JSC/ASU/Andy Saunders)

Scott and Irwin landed at Hadley-Apennine and performed 4 spacewalks and 3 box journeys the usage of the LRV, for a complete of nineteen hours and 17.5 miles.

The pair accumulated 170 kilos of lunar subject material, together with: rock and soil samples, whilst Worden additionally took images and performed an intensive collection of observations from above.

A plaque at the Lunar Roving Car (LRV)
(NASA/JSC/ASU/Andy Saunders)

About 57 hours later — after dozing fairly undisturbed at the moon, save for a imaginable oxygen leak — Scott and Irwin were given in a position to rejoin Worden.

On August 2, the Falcon took off from the moon – observed at soil the primary time by means of an LRV tv digital camera — and the spacecraft docked with Undertaking because the module launched into its fiftieth lunar orbit.

A “prior to and after” symbol taken from the Lunar Roving Car (LRV) with the lunar module “Falcon”
(NASA/JSC/ASU/Andy Saunders)

Changing into on August 5 changed into the primary human to accomplish a deep area EVA (extravehicular job), go out the spacecraft, climb to the again of the carrier module and take away movie cassettes from the cameras and go back in lower than 20 mins.

At 4:46 p.m. ET on August 7, Apollo 15 crashed into the Pacific after a venture of greater than 12 days.

The team was once rescued from the waters north of Honolulu through the USS Okinawa.

Apollo 15 set a number of data for manned spaceflight, together with the heaviest payload in lunar orbit, most radial distance traveled at the moon from the spacecraft, maximum EVAs at the lunar floor, and longest period for EVAs at the lunar floor, the longest lunar orbit, the longest manned lunar venture, the longest Apollo venture, the primary deep area and operational EVA, and the primary first satellite tv for pc orbiting the moon through a manned spacecraft.

Whilst many American citizens bear in mind Apollo 11 — the primary spaceflight to land people at the moon — and the near-fatal Apollo 13 venture, Apollo 15 and the LRV stay historic symbols of the USA area program’s lunar program.

Saunders Pictures — together with frames shot with a Hasselblad digital camera — had been merged into panoramas and come with each pictures shot at the lunar floor and of the Endeavour, which might be highlighted in a YouTube video.


Along with lunar panorama photographs, Saunders has remastered footage of the primary tracks taken through the LRV, the Apollo Lunar Floor Experiments Bundle (ALSEP) setup, and a photograph of Irwin saluting the American flag.

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People first drove on the Moon 50 years ago today – Yahoo Movies Canada



NASA just celebrated another major moment in the history of Moon exploration. The New York Times noted that July 31st, 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the Lunar Roving Vehicle’s first outing — and the first time people drove on the Moon. Apollo 15 astronauts Dave Scott and Jim Irwin took the car on a stint to collect samples and explore the lunar surface more effectively than they could on foot.

Scott and Irwin would eventually drive the rover two more times (for a total of three hours) before returning to Earth. The Apollo 16 and 17 missions each had an LRV of their own. There was also a fourth rover, but it was used for spare parts after the cancellation of Apollo 18 and further missions. All three serving models remained on the Moon.

Early development was problematic, in no small part due to the lack of real-world testing conditions. They couldn’t exactly conduct a real-world test drive, after all. The team eventually settled on a collapsible design with steel mesh wheels that could safely handle the Moon’s low gravity, lack of atmosphere, extreme temperatures and soft soil.

The LRV was modest, with a 57-mile range, four 0.19kW motors and an official top speed of 8MPH. It was also expensive, with cost overruns bringing the price of four rovers to $38 million (about $249 million in 2021 dollars). It was key to improved scientific exploration during the later stages of the Apollo program, though, and it was also an early example of a practical electric vehicle — humans were using a battery-powered ride on the Moon decades before the technology became mainstream on Earth.

We wouldn’t count on humans driving on the Moon any time soon, although that reflects the progress made in the 50 years since. NASA and other space agencies are now focused on robotic rovers that can explore the Moon without worries about crew safety. Those humans that do go on rides will likely use autonomous vehicles. Think of this anniversary as celebrating a first step toward the technology you see today.

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Russia reports pressure drop in space station service module – Yahoo News Canada



MOSCOW (Reuters) – The head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency said on Saturday that pressure in a Russian service module on the International Space Station had dropped as a result of an air leak.

Pressure had fallen over a two-week period before a Russian research module, the Nauka, threw the station out of control when its engines fired shortly after docking on Thursday, but Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said the two events were not linked.

The fall in pressure was a result of a known minor air leak in an isolated transfer chamber of the Zvezda service module and pressure will be raised in the next 24 hours, Roscosmos said in a statement.

“It was an expected and not a ‘sharp’ drop in the still problematic Zvezda and it is not linked to the research module,” Rogozin tweeted in response to media reports.

Pressure in the service module dropped on July 29, the day the Nauka research module docked, to about one third of its level on July 14 but would be increased, Rogozin tweeted.

The air leak in the Zvezda module, which provides living quarters for crew members and life support systems, was detected last year. It poses no danger to the crew but persists despite attempts to fix it by sealing cracks.

Russia said on Friday that a software glitch, and possible lapse in human attention, were to blame for an emergency caused by inadvertently reignited jet thrusters of the Nauka research module.

On Saturday, Russian crew entered the research module after the air was tested and cleaned, Rogozin tweeted.

Russia held a scientific council meeting on Saturday to discuss the future use of the Russian segment of the space station, which was sent into orbit in 1998 and is supposed to work until 2028.

“The chief constructors council noted after considering the current condition of the Russian ISS segment that the use of the Russian ISS segment after 2024 creates additional risks due to the ageing of equipment,” Roscosmos said.

(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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