Congressional Testimony Says NASA Has No Plan For the Journey To Mars ( 306

MarkWhittington writes: Testimony at a hearing before the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space suggested that NASA's Journey to Mars lacks a plan to achieve the first human landing on the Red Planet, almost six years after President Obama announced the goal on April 15, 2010. Moreover, two of the three witnesses argued that a more realistic near term goal for the space agency would be a return to the moon. The moon is not only a scientifically interesting and potentially commercially profitable place to go but access to lunar water, which can be refined into rocket fuel, would make the Journey to Mars easier and cheaper.

Russia Begins Work On a Lunar Lander ( 89

MarkWhittington writes: Whether and when Russia will try to send cosmonauts to the moon is an open question. The Putin government has heavily slashed spending on the Russian space program, a measure brought on by declining oil and gas revenues. But, as Popular Mechanics reports, Russian engineers have gone ahead and have started to design a lunar lander for the eventual Russian lunar surface effort. When money is going to be forthcoming for such a vehicle is unknown, though Russia could partner with another country with lunar ambitions, such as China or the European Union.

Elon Musk To Unveil Mars Spacecraft Later This Year, For 2025 Flight ( 101

frank249 writes: Fox News is reporting that Space X and Tesla CEO Elon Musk expects to unveil plans for the spacecraft that would send humans to Mars within a decade. Speaking at an event in Hong Kong, Musk said he was 'hoping to describe the architecture' of the spacecraft at the International Astronautical Conference in Mexico in late September. "That will be quite exciting," Musk said. 'In terms of the first flight to Mars, we are hoping to do that around 2025.' As for his plans to go into space, Musk said he was hoping to reach the International Space Station 'four or five years from now.'

NASA's Deep Space Habitat Could Support the Journey To Mars and a Lunar Return ( 43

MarkWhittington writes: Back in 2012, when NASA first proposed building a deep space habitat (DSH) beyond the moon, the Obama administration took a dim view of the idea. However, fast forward over three years, and the idea has become part of the Journey to Mars program. According to a story in Spaceflight Insider, the deep space habitat will be deployed in cis-lunar space in the 2020s to test various technologies related to sending humans to Mars. The DSH could also be part of an infrastructure that would support a return to the moon should the next administration decide to go that route.

NASA Safety Panel Finds Concerns With the Journey To Mars ( 155

MarkWhittington writes: NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel issued its annual report on various space agency programs. The panel found a number of areas of concern surrounding the Journey to Mars program, virtually all of them stemming from inadequate funding. It suggested that NASA's plan to launch the first crewed mission on the Orion, which would use the heavy lift Space Launch System to go around the moon, in 2021 was unrealistic given current, anticipated funding. The panel also suggested that lack of a clear plan for the Mars program is compromising its viability. It also suggested that the decision not to return to the moon should be revisited in view of the desire of international partners to do so and the need of low gravity surface experience in advance of going to Mars
The Almighty Buck

How Russia May Send Cosmonauts To the Moon After All ( 143

MarkWhittington writes: When Russia decided to abandon its drive to land cosmonauts on the moon, the reasons were not so much political than they were fiscal. The low price of oil and the costs of Vladimir Putin's imperial adventures in the Ukraine and Syria had crowded out funding for Russia space missions. It did not help matters that the Russian Space Agency was rife with corruption and mismanagement that seems to prevail across much of Russian society. However, Popular Mechanics suggests that Russia is still thinking of landing cosmonauts on the moon when that country's fiscal situation improves.

Planetary Exploration In 2016 ( 27

An anonymous reader writes: Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society blog has put together a post about all of the space missions set to return data from planets, moons, and other bodies in the solar system this year. She's also assembled some cool visualizations of when the missions are active at their locations of interest. In summary: "Akatsuki is at Venus, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and two Chang'e missions at the Moon, two rovers and five orbiters are active at Mars, Dawn is at Ceres, Rosetta is at 67P, Cassini is at Saturn, and although New Horizons is far past Pluto, it'll be sending back new Pluto science data for most of the year, so I'm counting that as still doing science. Another two missions (Hayabusa2 and Juno) are in their cruise phase; Juno arrives at Jupiter in August. Two (ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and OSIRIS-Rex) or three (if you count the Schiaparelli lander separately) will launch this year, with their science starting after 2016."

Now NASA Wants To Grow Potatoes On Mars For Real ( 95

MarkWhittington writes: In the hit movie, "The Martian", NASA astronaut Mark Watney survives by planting potatoes in one of the modules of the Mars base who is stranded at. The plot device received a great deal of praise from space agriculture experts, according to a recent story in Popular Mechanics. Of course, future space farmers would be advised to grow a variety of crops in order to diversify their diet, not an option for Watney. In any case, according to a story in ZME Science, NASA is partnering with Peru's International Potato Center (CIP) to do what Watney did and grow potatoes on Mars.

NASA Has Suspended Its Next Mission To Mars ( 46

sciencehabit writes: NASA has suspended its next mission to Mars after problems with a French-built seismological instrument could not be fixed in time for the scheduled launch. The mission, a lander called InSight that was to listen for tremors on Mars as a way of understanding the planet's interior, will not launch in March 2016, the agency said today. NASA has not announced a new launch date, but because of the relative orbits of Mars and Earth, the agency will have to wait at least 26 months before it can try to launch again. The troublesome instrument is called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure; the Max Planck Institute, one of the instrument's developers, has a nice page outlining SEIS's construction and function.

NASA Is Creating a Virtual Reality Mission To Mars ( 24

An anonymous reader writes: The Mars 2030 Experience' is part of NASA's ongoing efforts to build public support in a real manned mission to the Red Planet. Partnering with FUSION to produce the experience, NASA wants the mission to simulate life as one of the first astronauts on Mars. Incorporating research directly from NASA and MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics PhD candidate Sydney Do, the VR experience will take users on an 'extravehicular activity' and put them in the Z-2 spacesuit, a real prototype currently in development at NASA. There are also plans to add multiplayer functionality to the game and launch with support for the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard in 2016.

Ask Slashdot: Resources For Explaining Statistics For the Very First Time? ( 90

theodp writes: Teaching multivariate statistics to college students, writes AnnMaria De Mars, was a piece of cake compared to her current project — making a game to teach statistics to middle school students who have never been exposed to the idea. In the interest of making a better game, De Mars asks, "Here's my question to you, oh reader people, what resources have you found useful for teaching statistics? I mean, resources you have really watched or used and thought, 'Hey, this would be great for teaching?' There is a lot of mediocre, boring stuff on the interwebz and if any of you could point me to what you think rises above the rest, I'd be super appreciative." Larry Gonick's The Cartoon Guide to Statistics is pretty amazing, but is it a little too advanced for this age group? Anyone have experience with the Khan Academy Data and Statistics offerings? Any other ideas?

Should a Mars Colony Be Independent? ( 295

An anonymous reader writes: The BBC has an article about a recent essay (PDF) from researcher Jacob Haqq-Misra, who argues that any future colonies established on Mars should be independent from nations or corporations on Earth. He suggests that such colonists be entirely disentangled from Earth, to the point of revoking their Earthbound citizenship. Haqq-Misra also thinks we should establish laws on Earth to prevent governments, companies, and individuals from interfering with the politics or economics of Mars. That might be harder to do; clearly, even innocent communications between family members can have an effect, and surely there will be a continuous flow of supplies to help support a colony. Where would we draw the line? It may be hard to secure investments for a Mars colony if it is guaranteed to cut ties with those spending the resources to build it. At the same time, enforcing a relationship seems impossible at interplanetary distances. Still, we're starting to ramp up our Mars exploration plans, and it's a good idea to start debating these issues now.

Andy Weir, Author of 'The Martian,' Is Writing a Novel Set On the Moon ( 73

MarkWhittington writes: Readers wondering where Andy Weir, whose book The Martian featured a NASA astronaut stranded on Mars, will take us next need wonder no longer. According to a story in the Huffington Post, Weir's next novel will feature a woman living in a city on the moon. The novel is due to be out in late 2016 or early 2017.

Weir, naturally, is cagey about plot details. But it's likely he will pay as strict attention to the science in his new story as he did in The Martian. There's no word yet about possible movie deal, but considering the success of The Martian, it's a safe bet someone will want to bring Weir's lunar adventure to the big screen.


The FAA To Facilitate American Commercial Participation In the ESA Moon Village ( 31

MarkWhittington writes: While NASA remains fixated on its Journey to Mars, quietly, the FAA is positioning itself as the lead United States Government agency for a return to the moon. According to a story in Space News, "FAA's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) unanimously approved a recommendation that the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation begin discussions with ESA on ways American companies could participate in what's known as 'Moon Village.'" The "Moon Village" is a European concept for an international moon base where various countries and private entities would collocate habitats for mutual support and benefit.

Mars Colonies and Class Warfare ( 414

MarkWhittington writes: An argument about class warfare has broken out over the notion of a commercial Mars colony. It started when Elon Musk, who is said to be planning to retire on the Red Planet, mused that World War III could ruin his plans to settle Mars by destroying the Earth or at least damaging civilization sufficiently that space exploration has to be put off indefinitely, Newsweek, taking up the theme of another sort of planetary disaster, accused Musk and other space-minded billionaires of plotting to abandon the planet to the ravages of global warming while they go to Mars to live the good life.

Video NASA Needs Astronauts 2

NASA is recruiting astronaut applicants for trips to the ISS and Mars. Do you qualify?

MST3K Breaks Kickstarter Record 31

the_Bionic_lemming writes: Raising over 6.3 million dollars in just one month MST3K fans helped push the new 14 episode series past the Official Kickstarter Veronica Mars total of $5,702,153 by raising $5,764,229 On Kickstarter. $600,000 + Was added to the total from the Add on store at . And what's more, they did it with only 48,270 backers compared to 91,585 Veronica Mars backers.

Spike TV Is Turning Red Mars Into a TV Series ( 39

An anonymous reader writes: Kim Stanley Robinson's popular trilogy Red/Green/Blue Mars is going to see its first book turn into a TV series produced by Spike TV and is slated for release in 2017. The episodes will be an hour long, and their writing will be led by J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of Babylon-5. According to Variety, "the series will follow the first settlers charged with terraforming a mysterious planet, all of whom have competed to be a part of the mission."

Russian Moon Landing May Take As Many As Six Launches ( 242

MarkWhittington writes: Russia has made no secret of its desire to land cosmonauts on the lunar surface sometime in the late 2020s. As the United States, at least for the current administration, has decided to bypass the moon in favor of Mars, Russia could move to wipe out the humiliation it suffered at the hands of NASA when it lost the 1960s race to the moon with the landing of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. However, a story in TASS suggests that a Russian moon landing effort would be complex, requiring up to six launches of its Angara rocket.

MST3K Kickstarter Poised To Break Kickstarter Record ( 104

New submitter the_Bionic_lemming writes: Recently Joel Hodgson, the creator of Mystery Science 3000 -- which had a successful run of over 197 shows -- has after 15 years launched a kickstarter to relaunch the series. In just over two weeks Joel has been wildly successful in not only having over 25000 fans contribute, but actually scoring the second-highest show kickstarter on record — he has just under two weeks to shoot past the Number 1 kickstarter, Veronica Mars.

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