Today’s DeepSpace Extra

October 3rd, 2017

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Experts from the private sector as well as NASA are offering proposals to advance the human exploration of Mars.

Human Space Exploration

Is Mars habitable? With the right technologies, yes

Coalition Member in the News (Made in Space)

The Planetary Society (10/2): Mars could be made artificially habitable using red planet resources and Earthly technologies, according to Max Fagin, of Made in Space, Inc. Past robotic exploration has revealed subsurface ice at high latitudes, a resource that could be converted to drinking water and rocket propellants. Basalts and nitrates in the Martian soil could provide metals and greenhouse fertilizer if properly processed. Florine in the soil could be extracted to warm the Martian environment possibly making water stable on the surface as a liquid. Even perchlorate in the soil, destructive to organics, could be converted into solid rocket fuel, Fagin writes.

Lockheed Martin unveils details of their proposed base camp for Mars

Coalition Member in the News (Lockheed Martin)

Universe Today (10/2): Lockheed Martin elaborated on its proposal for a Mars Base Camp at last week’s International Astronautical Conference in Australia. As an orbiting space station around the red planet, the base camp proposal might complement NASA’s proposed Deep Space Gateway, a lunar orbiting station, and a Deep Space Transport, a spacecraft docked to the DSG for human missions to Mars and other deep space destinations. The Mars Base Camp, would permit astronauts and robots to explore the Martian surface from orbit. A proposed reusable Mars Lander would transport human explorers to the surface and back to the base camp. The Lockheed developed Orion crew capsule would be a critical component of the strategy as well.

Three spacewalks ahead for expedition 53 crew (10/2): NASA’s current International Space Station astronauts, Randy Bresnik, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba are lined up for three upcoming spacewalks. During the first planned for Thursday, Bresnik and Vande Hei are to replace one of the Latching End Effectors on the Station’s Canadian remote manipulator system, or 58-foot-long robot arm. One of the robot arm’s LEEs is used to grapple and berth resupply capsules as the space freighters rendezvous with the Station. However, both end effectors, one at each end of the arm, must function and one of the two stalled during August operations.


Space Science

Old Mars Odyssey data indicates presence of ice around Martian equator

Universe Today (10/2): Mars may have a source of water — a much needed resource for those in agencies like NASA or in the commercial arena preparing for future human exploration — in an equatorial region, according to a re-examination of data gathered by the Mars Odyssey spacecraft and analyzed by scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. The data was collected by the Odyssey’s neutron spectrometer instrument between 2002 and 2009. Previously, it had been thought that Martian water ice, a source of rocket propellants as well as drinking water and oxygen for breathing, was confined largely to the northern latitudes of the red planet. NASA’s Mars Odyssey launched and maneuvered into orbit around Mars in 2001. Its mission continues as a communications relay for surface rovers.

Methane made lakes on Mars, study claims

Cosmos (10/3): An analysis led by a University of Chicago researcher and based in part on data from NASA’s Curiosity rover suggests that Mars hosted surface lakes as recently as three million years ago. The right climate conditions were triggered by a shift in the planet’s axis, which destabilized subsurface ice sheets, and the release of methane gas from the soil, which warmed the atmosphere enough to make liquid water stable on the surface for a thousands of years.

Bus-size asteroid zooms by Earth in close (but harmless) encounter (10/2): Asteroid 2017 SX17, 26 feet wide, zoomed past the Earth well within the orbit of the moon, early Monday, according to the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The object was discovered on September 24 and may serve as a reminder that NEOs can present a surprise. Asteroid 2012 TC4, at 39 feet wide, is to also pass close to the Earth on October 12, but not impact.


Other News 

NASA plans to extend use of Bigelow’s BEAM on ISS (10/2): NASA disclosed Monday its intent to extend the stay of the experimental Bigelow Aerospace Expandable Module on the International Space Station, potentially for cargo storage. Launched as commercial cargo in April 2016, BEAM was berthed and extended weeks later to undergo a two year evaluation as a technology that might help to house future human deep space explorers. So far, the module has held up to radiation and orbital debris exposures with its proprietary fabric exterior that could make it possible to rocket launch future deep space habitats with a reduced volume. Space Station astronauts enter the module to collect data only, but NASA’s proposal would make it more accessible, while Bigelow’s research on the structure continues. The agency could enter a sole source contract by the end of December.

Sputnik remembered: The first race to space (part 1)

The Space Review (10/2): Wednesday will mark the 60th anniversary of the first satellite launch, Sputnik 1 by the former Soviet Union. Fordham University history professor Asif Saddiqi offers an in depth look at the forces, factors, personalities opportunities that led to the historic milestone credited with initiating the Space Age.

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