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Voice of Russia says Indians Mars mission threatened by US Government Closure and.... ahum

There is absolutely no life on Mars and no reason to go digging around

Mars: the stages of space globalization

Photo: EPA

India is getting ready to become the fifth country to send a spaceship to Mars. The USA, Russia, the EU, China and Japan are working on their own programs of studying the Red Planet. And although it has already been proven that there is no life there, it does not make Mars any less interesting for people. To the contrary, a race of space projects to make colonies on Mars has started on Earth.

Generally speaking, the Indian program to study Mars is under threat of disruption. The start of the orbital mission is set for October 28. But the Indians will not be able to launch the spacecraft without the NASA’s help. Due to the budget crisis in the USA the employees of the American Space Agency have been sent on vacation. If the launch is not carried out in a certain period of time, the Indians will have to wait for favorable conditions for two years. The launch of the Russian-European orbital station to study Mars is planned for about the same time. And in 2018 a robotized spaceship is to be launched towards the Red Planet, which will eventually land on its surface. The best research institutions of Russia and the EU are working on the ExoMars project. The initiators of the project are planning to drill into the surface of Mars ten times deeper that the American Mars rover – up to 50 cm. About 400 million euro have already been invested in the project, while its total cost is to amount to 1.2 billion euro, as was earlier reported by the European Space Agency. And all this is just supposed to confirm what has been known for over 40 years, specifically: there is no life on Mars in our understanding of the word. Here is the commentary of Ivan Moiseyev, head of the Institute of Space Policy.

“Let's not fool ourselves. It is clear that there is no life anywhere else in our solar system other than on Earth. It is already clear. If we look at all these planets, their origin, it becomes clear there could have been no life born there. They are not suitable for life”.

On the other hand, even if there is no life there, it can be brought there. Projects to colonize Mars are already being developed. Architects from the Russian-German design bureau ZA Architects are proposing to send to Mars a team of robot builders, which will be operated with the help of solar batteries. Those robots are to prepare housing for humans – they would dig large caves in the surface of Mars and prepare them for living. Then humans would arrive there. What the robots will be unable to do, will be done by humans – it will be printed on 3D printers. The Martian soil will be used as material for the printers. It sounds like science fiction. But what are humans to dream of if not of Mars, says Alexander Zheleznyakov, an academician at the Russian Tsiolkovsky Academy of Space Exploration.

“No matter how you look at it, Mars is the only planet located in the vicinity of the Earth where humans can form colonies. That is why it has been and will be attracting our attention. Perhaps now it is fiction. But if we look into the more distanced future, not dozens or hundreds, but hundred of thousands of years, humankind will be forced to look for some other planet, where it could settle down and increase its habitat. At this stage Mars is perceived as the only possible planet where humans from the Earth can live despite certain difficulties.”

The moon can help overcome the difficulties. That little friend of the planet Earth is close, but at the same time it is located beyond the laws of physics of the Earth. It would be easier for the humans to settle down there than anywhere else in space, thinks academician Alexander Zheleznyakov.

“For one thing, the moon is a unique testing grounds for space equipment – equipment that already exists as well as developed in the future. Secondly, it is an ideal scientific base to study deep space. A telescope located on the other side of the moon alone is worth a lot! That is why we cannot do without it. But to divide this program into stages – first the moon and then Mars – is not reasonable. It is better to actively explore the moon and gradually study Mars than just focus on one object.”

Not too long ago a model program was implemented in Russia called Mars-500, which was dedicated to humans' stay in a mockup of an interplanetary spaceship. Now a team is being gathered for a real flight. In Russia scientists believe that the first stay of the humans on Mars should last only a few days. The Americans are playing a big game: they have announced the preparation for a piloted expedition lasting for 501 days.

The issue is how to house humans outside of the usual Earth environment. The question of oxygen can be resolved, but the issue of food is more complicated. Experiments have revealed than nothing grows on the moon. Cucumbers and tomatoes have grown on the soil from Mars, but they turned out to be inedible – they were poisoned by heavy metals. Another option is to print food on 3D printers as well. But such prospects could scare away volunteers who agreed to travel to Mars. Besides the need to say good-bye to their close ones and be forced to listen to birds singing only on records, they would also be doomed to eat synthetic food all the time.

Natalia Kovalenko


Space radiation results should spark manned Mars mission debate

Nasa data shows radiation doses would be so high on a mannedMars mission that we must now debate the ethics of deep space exploration – or wait decades to develop safer technology




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Artist's impression of geologists at work on the surface of Mars. Getting to Mars carries a significant radiation risk. Photograph: Nasa

It is time for idealism about missions to Mars to end. Going there with current technology would carry a significant risk of harmful radiation exposure.

This was made clear at last Thursday's teleconference of results from the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) onboard Nasa's Curiosity rover.

During the rover's cruise to Mars between December 2011 and July 2012, RAD showed that an astronaut would clock up the same radiation dose in a day that the average American receives in a year. If you exclude medical dosages, it would be 10 times more than the average American.

Taking these numbers at face value, the radiation from a 500-day round-trip to Mars would exceed Nasa's current safety guidelines.

The data also highlights that the radiation comes in two forms.

Firstly, there are the solar storms. Five times during the cruise, RAD detected precipitous rises in the amount of radiation due to solar flares. However, these turned out to be the least of an astronaut's problems. Although such storms can be dangerous, the particles released accounted for just 5% of the total radiation measured by RAD.

By far the greatest dose came from a second source: the natural bombardment of galactic cosmic rays. These are produced mainly in the dying remnants of exploded stars that litter our galaxy.

Galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) usually carry more energy than particles ejected by the Sun, so thicker shielding is required to stop them. And they are constant: day in, day out they will strike the spacecraft and the astronauts inside.

Whereas solar particles could effectively be blocked by the spacecraft'swater tanks or special suits that the astronauts could put on, metres of dense shielding would be needed to provide any barrier against the GCRs. Such extreme shielding is not possible on today's spacecraft because it would make them too heavy to launch. So how do we progress?

Either we develop new propulsion technology to get to Mars faster, or we develop lighter shielding. Both approaches are being worked on at Nasa but they will take time.

Better propulsion could come in the form of Nuclear Thermal Propulsion. Better shielding is also being designed.

Nasa says that by planning trips to Mars in the mid-2030s, these technologies have time to develop. So, what should we make of entrepreneurial plans to send humans to Mars sooner?

The Dutch organisation Mars One says its wants to put humans on the surface in 2023. The Inspiration Mars Foundation plans to fly astronauts to Mars and back on a 500-day mission in 2018.

During Thursday's press conference, the experts said that the radiation data would be made fully available to everyone. Beyond that, they would not be drawn into saying whether such missions were safe.

However, it is now impossible to ignore the fact that a trip to Mars carries a radiation exposure risk higher than current guidelines recommend. So, do we abandon the current guidelines and let astronauts take their chances? After all, the links between tobacco and cancer are well known yet people still choose to smoke.

One thing is certain: there can be no more romantic idealism. No amount of wishful thinking, or crowdsourcing, or press releasing can circumvent this problem. Space radiation is dangerous, potentially deadly. Manned missions to Mars with current technology will carry significant exposure risks.

At what price ethically do we want the Red Planet?


'Planetary protection' concerns hinder Mars life search

June 28, 2013 at 1:28 PM ET

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope snapped this shot of Mars on Aug. 26, 2003, when the Red Planet was 34.7 million miles from Earth. The picture was taken just 11 hours before Mars made its closest approach to us in 60,000 years.

Current policies designed to safeguard Mars against biological contamination from Earth are hampering exploration of the Red Planet and should be relaxed, some scientists say.

These "planetary protection" requirements impose heavy financial burdens on Mars missions, partially explaining why no robots have searched for life on the Red Planet's surface since NASA's twin Viking landers ceased operations three decades ago, researchers Alberto Fairen of Cornell University and Dirk Schulze-Makuch of Washington State University write in a commentary published online Thursday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Further, such restrictions are unnecessary, because Earth life has doubtless made it to the neighboring Red Planet already inside chunks of rock blasted off our planet by asteroid strikes, the scientists say. [The Search for Life on Mars (A Photo Timeline)]

"If Earth micro-organisms can thrive on Mars, they almost certainly already do; and if they cannot, the transfer of Earth life to Marsshould be of no concern, as it would simply not survive," Fairen and Schulze-Makuch write in the commentary. "We cannot see how our current program of Mars exploration might pose any real threat to a possible Martian biosphere."

Sterilizing spacecraft
NASA and other space agencies abide by planetary protection guidelines when drawing up missions to solar system bodies such as planets, moons, comets and asteroids.

For example, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity was sterilized before launch, to ensure that it carried a total of no more than 300,000 bacterial spores on any surface that could allow transfer to the Martian environment. (Getting rid of every last Earth microbe would be pretty much impossible, researchers say.)

Such rigorous spacecraft cleaning is time-consuming and expensive, especially for missions that aim to search for signs of life on Mars. For instance, sterilization procedures accounted for more than 10 percent of the Viking mission's overall $1 billion budget, Schulze-Makuch said.

The Viking figures are in 1970s-era dollars. The costs would be even higher today for missions to Martian locales thought to be capable of supporting microbial life ("special regions" in planetary protection parlance).

"Bottom line is that a thorough cleaning of a spacecraft aimed to in situ search for life on a special region of Mars today would easily cost around $500 million," Schulze-Makuch told via email.

"With that amount of money, you can entirely finance a 'Discovery-type' mission to Mars, similar to Pathfinder or InSight," he added. "Therefore, if we'd relax planetary protection concerns in a Viking-like mission today, we could add another low-budget mission to the space program."

Revising the protocols
Fairen and Schulze-Makuch argue for a general rethink of the sterilization protocols for Mars-bound spacecraft. (Their commentary in Nature Geoscience does not address planetary protection guidelines for other solar system bodies, most of which have not traded material over the eons the way Earth and Mars have.)

Sterilization should be waived for Mars orbiters and surface craft on geological missions, they say. Life-hunting landers and rovers should still be cleaned, but only to make it easier to determine if the microbes they spot are native to Mars (as opposed to hitchhikers from Earth). The protocols for such missions should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Fairen and Schulze-Makuch don't expect their opinion piece to spur immediate and drastic policy changes, but they do hope it stimulates discussion about Mars exploration and planetary protection requirements.

"Changes in space policies and regulations are made slowly and with the greatest possible consensus, and that's good," Fairen told via email. "We simply thought this is an interesting debate and this was a good moment to open it."

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwalland Google+. Follow us@Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published

Is it time to create a Mars Exploration Mission Directorate?

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The Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) reviewed over 400 proposals earlier this year aimed at continuing our highly successful Mars Exploration Program. MPPG released a summary of its report on September 25 (the full report will be released soon) that provides several options for Mars exploration in the next decade.

Perhaps the time has come to contemplate the creation of a Mars Exploration Mission Directorate or at least some kind of mechanism to formalize a coordinated Mars exploration effort.

The most significant aspect of the MPPG may not be the potential missions that it outlines, but rather that it represents a more coordinated approach to Mars exploration than many previous mission planning exercises. Specifically, the MPPG was designed to coordinate the efforts of the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), as well as with the Offices of the Chief Technologist and the Chief Scientist. Coordination of this kind is essential for the future of Mars exploration.

Perhaps the time has come to contemplate the creation of a Mars Exploration Mission Directorate or at least some kind of mechanism to formalize a coordinated Mars exploration effort. If our policy is to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, we should pursue Mars exploration in as unified a manner as possible. Such an approach can create efficiencies that could save money in both the short and long term by ensuring that missions support one another, similar to how Mercury and Gemini missions supported Apollo goals.

Many times in the past, SMD and the human spaceflight directorates have seemed to be competitors for funding rather than partners for the future. And, while there is unquestionably still budgetary competition, there appears today to be much more unity of direction between these two directorates than in the past. This unity also extends well beyond the MPPG. It is clear that individuals at SMD and HEOMD want to expand cooperative efforts, specifically with regards to Mars exploration. What is needed is a formal mechanism to maximize the impact of joint SMD/HEOMD missions.

If our official space policy is to send humans to Mars in the next couple of decades, one would hope that a unified approach to making this happen would be appealing to our policy makers in the White House and Congress.

If we are committed to getting humans to Mars in the next 20 years, a coordinated approach is essential. This will require a more formal, long-term structure that not only better integrates efforts within NASA, but is also able to coordinate with other vital players such as commercial/industrial entities, international space agencies, and academia. If managed properly, it will create greater efficiency within NASA that is highly desirable in times of extreme budgetary pressure.

This is not something that NASA can decide on its own. It is something that will require support and buy-in from policy makers. If our official space policy is to send humans to Mars in the next couple of decades, one would hope that a unified approach to making this happen would be appealing to our policy makers in the White House and Congress.

Despite intransigence on Capitol Hill on virtually every major national issue, space exploration has historically been a non-partisan issue. If Congress and the administration would agree on a more unified approach to Mars exploration, we could be landing humans on the surface of Mars by 2030.

A Next Decade Mars Program


Posted: 08/28/2012 7:16 pm React Amazing

The flawless landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars has re-energized discussion about the exploration of the Red Planet -- and what is planned next. Currently there are two small missions planned: a Mars orbiter called MAVEN in 2013 and a lander called InSight in 2016. These projects are good science but do not advance the strategic research recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. For that science there is nothing yet in the pipeline. This sad state of affairs is the result of a massive cut (40%) in the Mars budget as proposed in the president's FY2013 budget.


Speculation about the reason for the cut has been widespread. Based on public statements by representatives of both the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) it would appear that the decision was largely motivated by fear that the next decade program -- a campaign to understand the possibility of past life by returning samples from Mars -- will balloon in cost and threaten NASA's other missions.


It is my strong conviction that such fears by OMB, OSTP and some members of Congress are quite unwarranted.


The scientific exploration of Mars has been a line item in the U.S. budget since Fiscal Year 1994. However, after the success of Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor in 1997 came the twin losses of Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander in 1999. It was at that point that I got the extraordinary opportunity to completely redesign a decade's worth of Mars missions including Mars Science Lab/Curiosity.


This last decade was no haphazard collection of missions. Rather, the Program was designed as an interrelated set of projects aimed at understanding Mars as a system and particularly the potential for past life on Mars. The summary organizing principle was "Follow the Water." However, as was planned, the missions were also intentionally crafted to prepare for a Mars Sample Return in the following Decade.


It is no accident that the National Academy of Sciences recent 10 year prospective "Decadal Survey for Planetary Science" named understanding the habitability of Mars via a sample return as the highest priority for a strategic mission. Humanity is tantalizing close to finding out whether Mars was ever an abode for life.


So why is sample return so important to the quest for life? Bringing samples back to Earth is critical for three reasons that have stood the test of time: utilizing instruments that cannot be shrunk to spacecraft size; engaging hundreds of scientists across dozens of laboratories; and most importantly, being able to follow the pathways of discovery as new experiments are conducted. As capable as Curiosity is, the instrument suite is fixed.


As explained by the National Academy in painstaking detail, the next step in understanding and verifying Mars' habitability is to bring back samples from places identified by Curiosity and other past missions.


But, it is argued, isn't bringing back samples a daunting task with enormous risk? I agreed with that statement 12 years ago as the first "Mars Czar" and as a consequence canceled the Mars sample return project then being studied. But built in to the decade we restructured (2000 -- now) was a stepwise attack on the scientific, technical and cost risk.


There was one huge scientific risk in 2000: No consensus existed in the science community, especially the astrobiology (life in the Universe) field, about where to go and how to select compelling samples that were worth the cost and effort.


There were also 4 major technical challenges in 2000: No validated "Earth entry return vehicle," no demonstration of on-orbit autonomous rendezvous needed to get the samples to a return vehicle, no "Mars Ascent Vehicle," a rocket to launch the samples from the surface of the Red Planet and finally no demonstrated end-to-end sample handling capability to ensure the protection of Earth until samples are proved harmless.


Today the scientific and sample acquisition risk has been largely set aside. The science community has concluded that we can identify and carefully select samples that will provide compelling evidence of past habitability. The last decade of Mars orbiters and landers have provided the knowledge to find the areas of most interest. The deliberate stepwise improvement in landing accuracy and capability of missions from Pathfinder to Curiosity have provided us with the tools to go where we want and the capability to select the samples.


Two NASA missions, Stardust and Genesis, have proven the existence of a robust entry vehicle. A Dept. of Defense program called Orbital Express has demonstrated autonomous on-orbit rendezvous. The Mars Phoenix mission has shown how to develop a "bioshield" for planetary protection. The Mars Ascent Vehicle does still need work, but there are promising new technologies that can be tested here on Earth.


Finally, "What about cost" say the skeptics? Couldn't a sample return mission get out of hand and create a budget spike that torpedoes the rest of NASA science? Clearly a very detailed independent cost analysis is required. However, during the work 12 years ago, sample return was already a constant driver, so in our studies we separated a notional single mission into a campaign of three projects. This approach allowed for an essentially flat funding profile and spread out the risk of any new elements into more tractable pieces. I believe it is possible to show that these elements are not Battlestar Galactica missions.


In my opinion, Mars exploration is ready to plan for the next steps in understanding Mars as a possible abode of life. We should restore the program to its 2011 budget of roughly $550 million/year and begin to plan for a reasonably priced mission in 2018 or 2020 that would use all the information from Curiosity and its predecessors to travel to the best possible spot on Mars to get samples we will bring back in the future. International collaboration can lower the U.S. cost even further.


Let us continue to be bold in our endeavors, acting as practical visionaries where we have confronted and minimized unnecessary risk.


Scott Hubbard is a professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University, former Director of NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and the first NASA "Mars Czar" (Mars Program Director). His new book: Exploring Mars: Chronicles From a Decade of Discovery details the effort described above.