Mars News Roundup. 1-1-2020!

Mars News Roundup. 1-1-2020!

Happy New Year! Lets round up some space nuggets!

Found this cool video showing ExoMars (wiki) parachute testing. Crazy to think about the forces involved at ‘only’ 200kph.

Sorry to hear about Schiaparelli EDM, Sorry to hear about your rover, but you did get your 1gb or so of data on the decent, and well, mars is notoriously unforgiving. Well done fella’s, here’s to good fortune on the Rosalind Franklin!

However, one thing bothers me, and its communication.

Quoting from the wiki entry :

“Since the rover communicates with the ground controllers via the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), and the orbiter only passes over the rover approximately twice per sol, the ground controllers will not be able to actively guide the rover across the surface.”

Only twice per sol? Sounds like a lot of data being lost. There are many existing satellites already in orbit, why not some crude form of networking? Plus reliance on one form of communication? No form of direct to earth UHF or something? Probably is, maybe I missed that part somewhere..

Driving autonomy is cool and all that, useless when you have a data bottleneck. Then I realized, I was an armchair fool. Then I realized my mistake and the true complexity of talking to mars as a whole.

Hence a look at just Curiosity (wiki) rover alone. If you want to place a call to Mars, you need a big antenna. And by big we mean the Deep Space Network. (wiki).

I found a nice article describing the DSN and communications with mars. Long story short, everyone gets a time slice. Maybe it’s time to invade Mars with those annoying little cube-sats and set up proper networking! Very impressed with the Data Rates/Returns section at the end. Didn’t think Odyssey could talk that fast.

Spirit, we haven’t forgotten you.

Moving on..

This Slashdot article caught my eye about the little mentioned Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission!

(useless..for the moment). Use MSR wiki entry for more facts. Now THIS is really cool, ambitious, and shows some people at NASA can really dream. All sorts of ideas for a return trip.

In more Earth based news, big applause for Boeing (wiki) and their successful landing. Boeing has been getting bad press lately on the airline side, however we forget to give kudos when its due.

For those not following the news – Boeing is catching up fast to private competitors. They have the massive collection of experience and manufacturing capacity and capital to win space, as they did they air. The recent setback of the Orbital Flight Test (wiki) was actually quite a success.

Quoting from the wiki,

“On 22 December, Starliner was cleared to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere. After deorbiting, Starliner reentered the Earth’s atmosphere before successfully deploying all sets of parachutes. Starliner deployed airbags and successfully touched-down at White Sands Missile Range at 7:58 AM ET.”

Yea, it did perform as planned! Sure a busted clock messed with the orbit, but hey – The crash test dummies survived! If they were human, it would have of worked! “This ain’t our first rocket!”

But alas, blasted as failure in the news..

The big point of all this, is that its LANDED SAFE. Not bad for a pre-human rated test. UPDATE, they got their data and Rosie survived just fine. From Spacenews comes this :

“Once returned to Florida, the Starliner named Calypso will be refurbished for Boeing’s first post-certification, or operational, mission to the ISS. That mission will carry Williams and fellow NASA astronaut Josh Cassada along with two astronauts yet to be assigned from other ISS partners.”

Also more from Starliner themselves.

We also must not forgot to include their progress on the Dragon series of crew capsules. Kinda 2001 Kubrick in a way.. I expect big things to come from Boeing quite quickly as they ramp up into the space race.

And yea, also one more thing, Boeing brings the rockets.

Now, Let not count out SpaceX. Their Falcon series are proven. You want it in orbit, they will do it. They have proven history.

Hence I had to laugh at bit about Elon’s big shiny rocket, born strait from 1950’s sci-fi space lore!

Then I watched this enlightening video about steel vs aluminum vs current meta materials. Steel actually is a better material after a certain sized rockets. I never knew why some rockets had to be kept pressurized or they collapse. Nonetheless, waste some time on this great video explaining all sorts of cool rocket material physics and design and why the steel rocket..

One space company doesn’t get much press these days, and that’s Bigelow Aerospace. You can find the (wiki here). Now that’s a really good thing. If you follow their timeline, they have been quite busy! Right now, I would invest in Bigelow. If you read the wiki, you notice the emphasis on private. I think they are gathering the investors and then they will launch an instant space station over a few well timed series of launches to replace the ISS. Bold move, if that is the plan. Consider it folks, Bigelow might end up being the biggest hotel in the sky. Overnight.

The inflatable habitat modules have been tested and proven, I think it’s only a matter of time before they deploy the first ring habitat with 1 rpm artificial gravity. When the space station deorbits, they might be the only room in town.

They already are testing the BEAM module (wiki) on the ISS for some time now. Inflatable modules will become a HUGE niche for space industry. Launch a few conservative packages to the moon, and instant base for a crew of 6 or so. Follow up with some robots mining and burying the structure. I see a surface deployment similar to Pathfinder’s airbags, (official) , then origami expand it. Instant base? Yes, actually, in a way. I found this excellent article that explains the concepts a bit clearer, as some of the players. (worth the click if you like concept art) I think Bigelow wins.

As far as an orbital habitat? A simple inflatable Stanford Torus (OK, maybe *not* that large) centered on a Lagrangian point. The main ring could be expanded, then begin construction of the 2nd wheel, then attach them to some axle. From all standpoints, its pretty efficient. Of course we will see LEO versions first, but I think along with the moon and mars, a proper outpost off earth must be established.

I think the Lunar Gateway will be a substantial destination for all off world manned missions.

Get your tickets here. Rooms furnished by Bigelow Aerospace, 2 million dollars per night, per person!

I leave you a thought about those 5 Lagrangian points. They may be valuable real estate to someone, someday.

Lastly, we should not ignore NASA, as a force. After all, they started all this. One could post thousands of links to the mass of knowledge that is NASA.

However one good place to start since we are on rovers, is the Mars 2020 mission. (Wiki here). The rover is quite a machine, almost like Rover 4.0.

Not a lot of news yet, but this yahoo news article is what caught my attention.

Now, for example. Here is a nice consolidation of what they are currently up to.

I find the Artemis program interesting because its a bit more comprehensive. Now here is where NASA will shine again. NASA, and the importance of a Lunar Gateway are a huge stepping stone. The real problem we have is where to put it and who owns its. We have the habitats, the landers, the rockets, crew modules, etc. One odd thing missing, the lack of working space suits. Yea, its a thing.

Till, next time, folks.