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Posts Tagged ‘space exploration’

So, Mars. For the NASA mission, today is the day! I posted on Mars yesterday to give you time to download any apps, plan your landing watch party (socially distanced, of course!), and look up your nearest Krispy Kreme.

Are you ready? Curiosity is! Look at the little guy waving;)

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Mission home: Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover – NASA Mars

Where to watch: Watch Online: Mars Landing – NASA Mars

Fingers crossed, but no matter what happens, it’s an exciting day in space!

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Why is Mars red, anyway?

For the same reason that so many of our barns are red: iron oxide. It’s a common compound, both here and on Mars. We use it for paint and our planetary core, among other things, but Mars is a little different. First, of course, there’s no Sherwin-Williams on Mars, but also:

Whereas the bulk of Earth’s iron sank to its core when the planet was young and molten, NASA scientists think Mars’ smaller size (and weaker gravity) allowed it to remain less differentiated. It does have an iron core, but abundant iron exists in its upper layers, also.…The planet’s bloody tinge — visible even from millions of miles away — got it strapped with the name of the Roman god of war, while other civilizations also named the planet for what was once its main distinguishing feature. The Egyptians called it “Her Desher,” meaning “the red one,” while ancient Chinese astronomers went with “the fire star.”

— Why Is Mars Red? | Space

More fun Mars Facts: Mars Facts | All About Mars – NASA’s Mars Exploration Program

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I remember these books. We’ve come a long way, baby.

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This is quite a month for Mars missions. NASA’s Curiosity rover has been on the planet since 2012, toddling around mountains and craters (ahem, doing serious science, but it’s so cute!), far beyond its expected lifetime.

Now if all goes well, it will get a little company.

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Due to good planetary positioning*, three spacecraft launched from Earth last July. Amal, the spacecraft helmed by the UAE, is now in position for orbital observations. China’s Tianwen-1 is orbiting now in preparation for a summer rover landing, and NASA’s Perseverance is slated to (fingers crossed!) land tomorrow February 18th around 3:55 p.m. ET.

I’m serious about the fingers crossed but though, because Perseverance is trying something dramatic, parachuting down to the surface, firing rockets for stability, then dropping cables to the surface. Here’s a video illustrating the process, aptly dubbed “7 Minutes of Terror,” of Entry, Descent, and Landing. 


Have I mentioned there’s an eleven-and-a-half minute comms delay? That’s the scary part. Once they put the quarter in, they just have to let the whole song play out.

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Want all the fun and none of the terror? Live near a Krispy Kreme shop?** Then February 18th is your lucky day! Krispy Kreme is offering a one-day only promotion

The Mars Doughnut: A Chocolate Kreme-filled doughnut dipped in caramel icing with a red planet swirl and sprinkled with chocolate cookie crumbs. This limited-edition doughnut is available in shops and online for one day only.

Mmmmmmars.

Buy these tomorrow or, if you were one of the many, many people who submitted your name for NASA’s “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign (me! oh wait, still no doughnut shop), print out your boarding pass and get a free doughnut.

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Want to get a better feel for what it’s like to actually drive a rover on the surface of Mars? There is a free augmented reality app lets you turn your backyard, or living room, or wherever into Mars. You can walk, drive the rover, explore or do science:

This New AR App is the Coolest Way to Learn About Mars

It’s definitely time to rewatch The Martian!

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* For more on how to calculate this, see Basics of Space Flight and Let’s Go to Mars! Calculating Launch Windows, or just rewatch The Martian. You know you want to!
** Like I used to, once upon a time!

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via io9, a call for creative new ways to get the heck off this rock:
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is planning ahead — way ahead. The agency wants you to email ideas for how “the Administration, the private sector, philanthropists, the research community and storytellers” can develop “massless” space exploration and a robust civilization beyond Earth.
Tell me that this challenge isn’t exactly in our wheelhouse, people. Hard sci-fi writers, mechanical and other engineers, and practical dreamers of all stripes, your skills are needed!

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Planet boredom
On Mars I learned that boredom has two sides – it can either rot the mind or rocket it to new places…

This essay provides a fascinating look at the HI-SEAS (Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) Mars training mission from the inside. Written by Kate Greene, a science and technology journalist (i.e. not an astronaut), the piece gives a great inside look at what a trip to Mars might be like. For speculative fiction writers, this sort of research provides terrific insight into what life in space would actually feel like to those living it.

Short answer? Boring. Longer answer? Sometimes boring can be a good thing…

Find the full essay at aeon Magazine. For more on the pitfalls of life on Mars, you could also check out Andy Weir’s recent novel The Martian.

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ISS HD Live Streaming Earth
Sometimes the cameras are off, but when they aren’t… wow.

Viewing Notes:

Black Image =  International Space Station (ISS) is on the night side of the Earth.
Gray Image = Switching between cameras, or communications with the ISS is not available.
No Audio = Normal. There is no audio on purpose. Add your own soundtrack.

For a display of the real time ISS location plus the HDEV imagery, visit here: http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/ForFun/HDEV/

On watching orbital sunrise, from NPR:

Circling Earth at 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 kilometers per hour) every 92 minutes, the crew members aboard the International Space Station “experience 15 or 16 sunrises and sunsets every day,” NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) Project Office describes.

“The whole station glows with the light of dawn,” Canadian astronaut and former ISS commander Chris Hadfield told NPR in a recent interview. “You can see the dawn come across the world towards you.”

“Then you go back to work and wait another 92 minutes, and it happens again. It’s not to be missed, and I tried to watch as many sunrises and sunsets as the work would allow,” he said.

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As a followup to my last post on Reading for Generation Mars, I’d like to reference this piece by Becky Chambers at the Tor.com blog. She wrote it after meeting a (real! live!) astronaut and realizing that what she does is important to science and progress too, and not in an abstract way.

The fact is that if space exploration—in whatever form—is going to continue onward, it needs all the support we can muster. We need public outreach, like what the astronaut was doing, to be aware of the work that’s already being done, and to spark the next generation to follow in their footsteps. We need quality education, and a larger emphasis on scientific literacy, both in the classroom and beyond.

And we need science fiction. Now, more than ever.

We need to consider which futures are worth pursuing, which ideas we’ve outgrown, and what dangers (both practical and ethical) could be lurking along the way. Science fiction is the great thought experiment that addresses all of these things, and there is no branch of it that is not hugely relevant today. We need stories based around existing technologies, to help us determine our immediate actions. We need near-future stories that explore where our efforts might lead us in our lifetime. We need stories that take the long view, encouraging us to invest in better futures for distant generations. We need space operas, to remind us to be daring. We need apocalypses, to remind us to be cautious. We need realistic stories, and ridiculous stories, and everything in between, because all of these encourage us to dream (perhaps the ridiculous ones most especially). We need all of it.

I found this to be a really nice summary of so many of the reasons why fiction, and science fiction in particular, is important. Sure, it’s just one element in a matrix of education, outreach and exploration, but it’s in there.

Now I’m going to go write something:)

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