Some six weeks away from the “seven minutes of terror” that will precede the entry, descent, and landing of NASA’s most ambitious robotic Mars mission ever attempted, it’s worth a look back at what we learned from NASA’s very first Mars flyby which launched some 56 years ago last month.
NASA’s Mariner 4 spacecraft, launched from Cape Canaveral on November 28, 1964, became the first successful flyby of the red planet, returning the first close up pictures of Mars from space. But what its 21 crude images relayed to an eager team of scientists back on Earth was that Mars was far different than initially imagined. And that it bore little resemblance to the planet which up until the late 19th century had been envisioned as brimming with flowing water, perhaps even canals constructed by an intelligent civilization.
Mariner 4’s amazing flyby, some seven and a half months after launch, instead revealed a planet that was more arid than Arizona and likely incapable of harboring any sort of surface life. The 575 lb. spacecraft took measurements of cosmic dust, solar plasma, trapped radiation, and cosmic rays. But its transcendent claim to fame is that it took and subsequently sent back the first grainy black and white images of another planet from deep space.
This was a feat that would not have been possible without NASA’s nascent deep space network, now a mainstay of all of the space agency’s deep space communications with its planetary probes.
As for NASA’s Mars Perseverance mission?
After its February 18th landing, NASA says its six-wheel, car-sized rover will begin scouring Mars’ Jezero Crater in an effort both to better understand the area’s geologic history but to also search for traces of ancient microscopic life. During wetter times billions of years ago, Jezero is believed to be the site of an early Martian lake. Thus, Perseverance will devote a lot of its time there collecting and caching Martian dozens of drill core sediments. The rover will seal and deposit the samples in tubes on the surface that will eventually be collected for return to Earth by future missions, says NASA.
As for Mariner 4 and its legacy?
The spacecraft flew past Mars on July 14, 1965, collecting the first close-up photographs of another planet at a minimum distance of some 6200 miles, says NASA. The pictures, played back from a small tape recorder over a long period, showed lunar-type impact craters, some of them touched with frost in the chill Martian evening, the agency notes. In addition to providing key information about how to safely deliver future missions to the Martian surface, says NASA, the spacecraft far outlasted its planned eight-month mission.
The mission’s measurements indicated that the solar wind may have direct interaction with the Martian atmosphere, and that the atmosphere and surface are fully exposed to solar and cosmic radiation. We now know from NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft just how extreme this direct interaction with Mars’ current and ancient atmosphere actually is and was.
This early mission and others in the Mariner program like it proved that interplanetary missions were feasible with the technology of the era and could be developed within a few short years.
In contrast, at the time of the Mariner 4 1965 flyby, we had no clue that Mars’ climate history would be so frustratingly complicated to decode. A frozen desert world that shows signs of past hydrology, there’s a running joke among planetary scientists that almost everyone has ‘discovered liquid water on present-day Mars at least once. But even now, more than a half century after Mariner 4 surprised us; that’s a point that’s actively debated. Does Mars have liquid water on the surface? Or in its subsurface?
We’re still puzzled by gaps in our understanding of Mars’ climate, even as NASA’s Mars MAVEN mission has provided a wealth of extraordinary data showing how dramatically the planet lost its atmosphere and water.
But Mars science’s defining question still remains whether the red planet once harbored some sort of microbial life. And for the truly optimistic, whether Mars might still be hanging onto life deep within its subsurface.
Fifty-six years after Mariner 4’s historic flyby, we can be thankful that 2021 will see missions arriving at Mars from NASA, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and China. All of which will continue chipping away at Mars’ remaining mysteries.
First Private Crew Will Visit Space Station. The Price Tag: $55 Million Each – KCCU
A crew of private astronauts will pay around $55 million each to spend about eight days at the International Space Station next January in what would be a new step for joint private-public space missions. Axiom Space, a Houston company, says the trip will be led by former NASA astronaut and space station commander Michael López-Alegría.
The proposed Ax-1 mission will use a SpaceX rocket to put three paying customers — American Larry Connor, Canadian Mark Pathy and Israeli Eytan Stibbe – into low-Earth orbit on the space station. All of the trio are wealthy entrepreneurs and investors. The group will be under the command of López-Alegría, who is now an executive at Axiom.
It would be the first time an entirely private mission sends astronauts to the International Space Station. Russia sold the first ride to the station to a private citizen, American businessman Dennis Tito, in 2001.
All of the private astronauts for the upcoming mission are far older than the average NASA astronaut’s age of 34. The space agency does not have age restrictions for astronaut candidates, who generally range from 26 to 46 years old. At 70, Connor is surpassed in age only by John Glenn, who flew on the space shuttle when he was 77.
Under NASA’s rules for private astronaut missions, Axiom must ensure its astronauts meet the space agency’s medical standards. They must also undergo training and certification procedures required for crew members of the International Space Station.
While the paying customers represent a new era of space tourism, they will also perform research as the space station whizzes over the Earth.
Connor will work with the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic on research projects, Axiom says, while Pathy will collaborate with the Canadian Space Agency and the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Stibbe plans to do experiments for Israeli researchers, working with the Ramon Foundation and Israel’s space agency.
“We sought to put together a crew for this historic mission that had demonstrated a lifelong commitment to improving the lives of the people on Earth, and I’m glad to say we’ve done that with this group,” Axiom Space President and CEO Michael Suffredini said as the company announced the crew.
Similar missions are planned for the future, Suffredini said. Axiom hopes to arrange up to two trips per year — and the company also wants to build its own privately funded space station. Under that plan, its modules would be attached to the space station as soon as 2024. And when the space station is retired, the Axiom modules would break off to continue in orbit on their own.
NASA announced its plans to open the International Space Station to commercial activities in June 2019, saying it wants businesses to use innovation and ingenuity to speed up development of “a thriving commercial economy in low-Earth orbit.”
The space agency has a plan to recoup the steep costs of a private citizen visiting the space station. Its pricing policy lists expenses such as a daily fee of $11,250 per person for “regenerative life support and toilet” and $22,500 per person for crew supplies such as food and air. The price sheet also includes a data plan, priced at $50 per gigabyte.
New app makes figuring out CBRM solid waste collection schedule easier – CBC.ca
Residents of Cape Breton Regional Municipality will now have an easy way to find out what day their solid waste collection falls on.
A new app has been developed that allows residents to enter their address and find the specific day and time their garbage or recycling should be sitting at the end of their driveway.
The CBRM solid waste department had been working for months with an app developer who has made similar apps throughout North America.
Francis Campbell, the solid waste manager for CBRM, said one of the best parts of the app is the database that allows residents to search for what to do with specific waste materials.
“The search tool will educate residents in how to recycle or properly dispose of materials, and it’ll provide the curbside drop-off locations,” said Campbell.
The app sets up reminders through the calendar on a person’s phone so they will be reminded the night before to put out their garbage, recycling or green bin.
It also will be able to quickly let residents know if there is a cancellation or delay on a collection day, as well as post holiday cancellations.
Earlene MacMullin, the deputy mayor of CBRM, said she downloaded the app while getting the presentation on it and already found it useful.
“This is already fantastic and it seems very simplistic. I know deep down it isn’t, but in my first three minutes of using it, I encourage residents to check this out,” said MacMullin.
There will also be a web-based version along with online information regarding waste collection on the CBRM website. This will be coming when the app is fully launched in a few weeks time.
Coun. Cyril MacDonald said he is glad that people who do not have access to a smartphone can still have access to the information.
“We’re not removing a service. You’re still able to get your calendar printed off, so I think this is great,” said MacDonald.
People who may not have access to a computer or a smartphone will still have the option to call the CBRM solid waste hotline to find out the information they need.
Mayor Amanda McDougall said she is happy she has an easy way to never forget what waste is being collected each week.
The app is now available for download through smartphone app stores.
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Limited COVID-19 data until Friday as Middlesex-London Health Unit moves to new database – Globalnews.ca
The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) says it will only be able to provide limited COVID-19 information for the region over the next few days as it implements a new database for its website.
After using an internal case and contact management tool to collect local COVID-19 data, MLHU will now switch to Salesforce, a database system that’s already being used by the Ontario government.
Migrating to the new database means the health unit will be able to provide only limited information about case numbers, recoveries and deaths during daily updates for Wednesday and Thursday on MLHU’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Regular updating of the dashboard is set to resume on Friday, but MLHU notes some data fields may be missing in subsequent updates as staff adjust to the new database.
The health unit adds that it intends to have any potential missing information filled in once the new database is fully implemented.
Along with aligning the regional health unit with the province’s database, Salesforce will also allow the health unit to provide virtual notifications to those diagnosed with COVID-19.
The notifications will be sent via text message and will notify recipients of their test results, provide them information about self-isolating and prompt them to provide information about their symptoms and close contacts.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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