After landing the world’s first rover on the far side of the Moon early this year, China already has far more ambitious plans in the works: sending a rover to Mars.
“Over the past 60 years, we’ve made a lot of achievements, but there is still a large distance from the world space powers,” chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program Wu Wiren said ahead of the opening of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, CNN reports. “Next year, we will launch a Mars probe, which will orbit around the Mars, land on it and probe it.”
Race to Mars
China’s space program has rapidly picked up pace. Its Yutu 1 rover landed on the Moon in 2013. A second rover landed on the far side some six years later, and a third rover will follow at the end of this year, with the goal of returning to Earth with at least four pounds of lunar soil and rock samples.
But increasingly, China’s space agency has been focusing its efforts on the Red Planet. This weekend, China opened its first Mars simulation base in Qinghai Province at a location known to have similarities to the Martian surface. The base can house 60 people in its futuristic capsules.
China won’t be the first nation to explore Mars. NASA, for one, has a considerable head start: Its Jet Propulsion Lab has so far sent four remotely operated rovers to the Martian surface to look for signs of life gather scientific data about the distant world.
Both NASA and the European Space Agency each plan to send new rovers to Mars as soon as next year. But China is making a substantial effort to catch up.
READ MORE: China plans to send a rover to explore Mars next year [CNN]
Martian sand dune looks like Starfleet logo
New images taken by NASA’s MRO HiRise camera show a sand dune formation with a rather familiar shape.
The photographs, which were captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, have prompted some rather tongue-in-cheek references to Star Trek’s iconic insignia.
“Enterprising viewers will make the discovery that these features look conspicuously like a famous logo,” the HiRise team at the University of Arizona wrote in a Tweet.
Star Trek references aside, this intriguing formation and others like it have been helping scientists to learn more about the Red Planet’s atmosphere, temperature and topography.
This, in turn, will also help NASA to better plan out future manned missions.
Caption Spotlight (12 Jun 2019): Dune Footprints in Hellas
Enterprising viewers will make the discovery that these features look conspicuously like a famous logo.
— HiRISE (NASA) (@HiRISE) June 12, 2019
Why Lockheed Martin Is Designing A Tiny Home To Orbit The Moon
NASA wants to build another space station, but this one won’t live in a close orbit around Earth. Within the last year, NASA has begun planning for a much smaller astronaut outpost in orbit around the Moon, a new destination dubbed the Gateway. The idea is for this space station, which will be a fraction of the size of the International Space Station, to serve as a place for astronauts to live and train for excursions to and from the lunar surface.
A crucial piece of hardware needed for this Gateway will, of course, be habitats — spaces for a handful of astronauts to do research, exercise, sleep, and eat. But what exactly does it take to build a habitat for deep space? NASA has tasked six companies with figuring that out, through the space agency’s NextSTEP program. Through a public-private partnership, companies like Boeing and Bigelow Aerospace are creating and executing their own designs for modules that could house astronauts in the environment around the Moon.
Another one of those companies is Lockheed Martin, a longtime contractor for NASA located in Colorado. Lockheed is currently working on a cylindrical deep-space habitat that will provide about 882 cubic feet of livable space, which is about the size of a bedroom for up to four astronauts to roam around in.
And just like designing a tiny home, Lockheed has gotten creative with storage. For instance, the design calls for water to surround the hull of the habitat, to be used as drinking water but also to be used as shielding for deep-space radiation. The habitat also has a treadmill on its ceiling; but, in orbit around the Moon, the microgravity environment means there is no ceiling. So every bit of exposed wall is used for a different purpose. The habitat will also include a workstation, as well as sleeping bags for the crew and storage for food and other essential living materials.
In the third episode of Space Craft season 2, we got to visit a mockup of Lockheed Martin’s deep-space habitat at the company’s headquarters in Denver. However, what we saw was just for show: a glimpse of what the final design might look like. We also were able to use augmented reality and virtual reality to get a better feel of what the final look of the habitat will be like. Currently, Lockheed Martin is building its first prototype of the habitat in Florida, so that NASA can analyze its design by 2019.
Meanwhile, Lockheed is also building another key piece of spacecraft hardware for NASA, one that will be used to potentially transport astronauts to and from this deep-space habitat. It’s a capsule called Orion, and it’s become a big part of NASA’s plans for the future. We also got to test out a simulation of what it might be like to dock the Orion capsule to the habitat — what future astronauts will do to get to their deep-space home.
Your name can be on Mars in the year 2021
NASA has launched a campaign for anyone who wishes to send their name to Mars, in the form of a boarding pass digitized on a chip incorporated in the next Mars 2020 mission.
«Do you want to accompany me on Mars? Send your name to the surface of the red planet with the next rover of NASA, Mars 2020 », published the Twitter account of Curiosity, which explores our planetary neighbor since 2012.Ver imagen en Twitter
The tweet is completed with a link to a website that offers the form to fill out for the issuance of the personalized boarding pass. For example, we have completed ours, and Mystery Planet will be included among the names that will appear on the chip of the new rover to explore Mars.The ticket also includes “frequent flyer points”, which add to the previous ones if you were attentive and participated, for example, in similar initiatives for other NASA missions, such as InSight and Parker Solar Probe al Sol (in our case we have accumulated more than 614,000 million kilometers!).
To send your name CLICK HERE . You have time until September 30.
The Mars 2020 mission is scheduled to be launched in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral, and its arrival is expected in February 2021 in the Jezero crater.
The rover, which weighs about 1,000 kilograms, will look for signs of microbial life, as well as make climatic and geological investigations, collect samples and pave the way for future human exploration and colonization.
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