What Happened To the Martian Ocean and Magnetic Field? ( 125

schwit1 writes with this story at The Atlantic that explores what may have destroyed the Martian atmosphere and ocean. The question of whether there is life on Mars is woven into a much larger thatch of mysteries. Among them: What happened to the ancient ocean that once covered a quarter of the planet's surface? And, relatedly, what made Mars's magnetosphere fade away? Why did a planet that may have looked something like Earth turn into a dry red husk? “We see magnetized rocks on the Mars surface,” said Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator of the InSight mission to Mars, which is set to launch in March. “And so we know Mars had a magnetic field at one time, but it doesn't today. We would like to know the history—when that magnetic field started, when it may have shut down.”

A Remarkable Number of People Think 'The Martian' Is Based On a True Story ( 321

MarkWhittington writes: The Martian is a smash hit movie that made $100 million worldwide during its first weekend. The science and engineering depicted was, with certain notable exceptions, near perfect. The cinematography and special effects were so well done that one could almost imagine that Ridley Scott sent Matt Damon and a film crew to Mars to shoot the movie. In fact, perhaps the film was a little too good. Buzzfeed took a stroll through social media and discovered that many people think that The Martian is based on a true story.

Review: The Martian Screenshot-sm 240

I was both pleased and disappointed, as always, when I heard that a book I enjoyed was being made into a movie. Andy Weir's The Martian was the best new book I'd read in years. It was written for nerds, by a nerd — by somebody with an obvious love for NASA, science, and spaceflight. How could it possibly be condensed into the format of a Hollywood blockbuster? Well, director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Drew Goddard figured out how. The Martian is an excellent film, well worth watching. Read on for my review (very minor spoilers only), and feel free to share your own in the comments.

An Ice House Design Concept For Mars Bets Long On Liquid Water 63

The Times of India reports that NASA has awarded a $25,000 first prize to Space Exploration Architecture for their design, called "Mars Ice House," of a habitat suitable for Mars. The concept relies on the (predicted) availability of Martian water, as well as on 3-D printing; according to the text accompanying the design. The 5-cm thick shell of ice which would serve as both skin and support structure for the shelter "protects against radiation without compromising life above ground." Two other teams (Gamma and LavaHive) were awarded second and third-place prizes, respectively.

Inside the Spaceflight of 'The Martian' 121

benonemusic writes: Science writer Michael Greshko partnered with a team of scientists and engineers to explore the spacecraft and mission plans in The Martian (novel and movie), down to the rescue plan itself. Incorporating the help of Andy Weir, the novel's author, he comes up with a calendar of events for The Martian, explores the hazards of going back to save Mark Watney, and explains how a real world interplanetary spacecraft would pull off a rescue maneuver.

The Case For Going To Phobos Before Going To Mars 149

MarkWhittington writes: The current NASA thinking concerning the Journey to Mars program envisions a visit to the Martian moon Phobos in the early 2030s before attempting a landing on the Martian surface in the late 2030s, as Popular Mechanics noted. The idea of a practice run that takes astronauts almost but not quite to Mars is similar to what the space agency did during the 1960s Apollo program. Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 each orbited the moon but did not land on it before the Apollo 11 mission went all the way to the lunar surface, fulfilling President John. F. Kennedy's challenge.

Mars Mission: How Hard? NASA Astronauts Weigh In 41

astroengine writes: In an interesting interview with Discovery News, retired NASA astronauts Clay Anderson (Expedition 15/16) and Steve Swanson (Expedition 39/40) discussed their views on how the US space agency should select the first Mars-bound astronauts — a mission that is slated to commence in the late 2020's. While Swanson thinks that the current NASA astronaut selection process should suffice for a long-duration foray to the Red Planet, Anderson isn't so sure, saying, "(Mars) doesn't require a jet fighter pilot. It doesn't require a Ph.D. astronaut — although those people would be just fine, but I think that it's going to take people that are very good generalists, that can do many things." As depicted in the upcoming Matt Damon movie, "The Martian," Mark Watney (Damon) is thrown into an unexpected, life-threatening situation, requiring him to use his general skill set to survive on the barren landscape until he's rescued. As the first manned missions to Mars will likely throw unforeseen challenges at the explorers, it will probably be a good idea to have a crew that are adept at thinking on the fly and skilled in many different areas rather than being a specialist in one.

Snowden Joins Twitter, Follows NSA 206

wiredmikey writes: Edward Snowden joined Twitter Tuesday, picking up more than a quarter of a million followers on the social network in just over two hours. Snowden followed a single Twitter account: the U.S. National Security Agency, from which he stole electronic documents revealing the agency's secret surveillance programs. "Can you hear me now?" he asked in his first tweet, which was quickly resent by Twitter users tens of thousands of times. In his second, Snowden noted the recent news about the planet Mars and then quipped about the difficulty he had finding asylum after the U.S. government fingered him as the source of the NSA leaks. "And now we have water on Mars!" he wrote. "Do you think they check passports at the border? Asking for a friend."

Scientists Have Spotted the Signs of Flowing Water On Mars 260

New submitter universe520 writes: Using neat imaging technology that allows them to determine the chemical compound of a substance by looking at the light reflected from it, scientists have spotted the traces of flowing water on Mars. By looking at the dark streaks on some photos of Mars, Lujendra Ojha from Georgia Tech has found compounds that are made in liquid water—meaning that water may be trickling down those streaks when the climate is just right. From the linked Economist piece: Details remain to be worked out, including where the water in question originates. Possibly, it derives from subsurface ice. Or it might condense out of Mars’s thin, dry atmosphere. Wherever it does come from, though, the amounts in question are modest in the extreme. But even modest amounts of water are intriguing to biologists. If Martians evolved during their planet’s earlier, wetter phase, the continued presence of water means it is just about possible that a few especially hardy types have survived until the present day—clinging on in dwindling pockets of dampness in the way that some “extremophile” bacteria on Earth are able to live in cold, salty and arid environments.

ISRO Launches Astrosat, India's First Dedicated Space Observatory 40

vasanth writes with a link to the Hindu, which reports: A few days after it celebrated the successful completion of a year around the Red planet by its first inter-planetary mission — the Mars Orbiter, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Monday launched its first dedicated multi wavelength space observatory into space, besides six satellites for Canada, Indonesia and the United States. Though the national space agency has launched satellites for Indonesia and Canada earlier, this is the first time ISRO is launching satellites for the United States. ASTROSAT's sensors will provide coverage in optical, Ultraviolet, low and high energy X-ray ranges, rather than the concentrating on a narrower range. Major institutions all over India will take part in the new craft's observations.

How Can NASA's Road To Mars Be Made More Affordable? 211

MarkWhittington writes: The Houston Chronicle's Eric Berger published a piece that touched on one of the most vexing issues surrounding NASA's "road to Mars," that being that of cost. How does one design a deep space exploration program that "the nation can afford," to coin a phrase uttered by the old NASA hand interviewed for the article? The phrase is somewhat misleading since one of the truisms of federal budgeting is that the nation can afford quite a bit. A more accurate phrase might be, "that the nation is willing to spend."

Why NASA's Road To Mars Plan Proves That It Should Return To the Moon First 194

MarkWhittington writes: published the results of current NASA thinking concerning what needs to be launched and when to support a crewed mission to Phobos and two crewed missions to the Martian surface between 2033 and 2043. The result is a mind-numbingly complex operation involving dozens of launches to cis-lunar space and Mars using the heavy lift Space Launch System. The architecture includes a collection of habitation modules, Mars landers, propulsion units (both chemical rockets and solar electric propulsion) and other parts of a Mars ship.

Who Will Pay For a Commercial Space Station After the End of the ISS? 211

MarkWhittington writes: While NASA is planning its road to Mars, a number of commercial interests and place policy experts are discussing what happens after the International Space Station ends its operational life. Currently, the international partners have committed to operating ISS through 2024. Some have suggested that the space station, conceived by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, could last as long as 2028. But, after that, there will still be a need for a space station of some sort, either in low Earth orbit, or at one of the Lagrange points where the gravity of the moon and Earth cancel one another out.

What Ridley Scott Has To Say About the Science In "The Martian" 163

An anonymous reader writes: Sciencemag has an interview with the people behind the movie The Martian. Director Ridley Scott, author Andy Weir, and Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary science and an adviser on the film talk about the technology and the science in the movie. Scott says: "Almost immediately [after] I decided to do it, we started to have conversations with NASA about process, the habitats, the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), the suits and everything. And they sent us pictures, almost like photographs, of what they hoped it would all be. If there had been anything in [the screenplay] that actually was suspect—they are not shy—they would have said so."

Launch Manifest For NASA's "Road To Mars" Takes Shape But Questions Remain 130

MarkWhittington writes: reported that NASA's so-called "Road to Mars" is starting to take shape. The deep space program that would conclude with human astronauts departing for the Red Planet in 2039 would require just over 40 launches of the heavy-lift Space Launch System, including an uncrewed flight in 2018 and one flight a year to cis-lunar space starting in 2021 lasting until 2027. A flight in 2028 would launch something called the Pathfinder Entry Descent Landing Craft to Mars as a precursor for a human landing. Then the Mars program begins in earnest with a mission to Phobos in 2033 and missions to the Martian surface in 2039 and 2043.

Let's Not Go To Mars 684 writes: Ed Regis write in the NYT that today we an witnessing an outburst of enthusiasm over the literally outlandish notion that in the relatively near future, some of us are going to be living, working, thriving and dying on Mars. But unfortunately Mars mania reflects an excessively optimistic view of what it actually takes to travel to and live on Mars, papering over many of the harsh realities and bitter truths that underlie the dream. "First, there is the tedious business of getting there. Using current technology and conventional chemical rockets, a trip to Mars would be a grueling, eight- to nine-month-long nightmare for the crew," writes Regis. "Tears, sweat, urine and perhaps even solid waste will be recycled, your personal space is reduced to the size of an SUV., and you and your crewmates are floating around sideways, upside down and at other nauseating angles." According to Regis every source of interpersonal conflict, and emotional and psychological stress that we experience in ordinary, day-to-day life on Earth will be magnified exponentially by restriction to a tiny, hermetically sealed, pressure-cooker capsule hurtling through deep space and to top it off, despite these constraints, the crew must operate within an exceptionally slim margin of error with continuous threats of equipment failures, computer malfunctions, power interruptions and software glitches.

But getting there is the easy part says Regis. "Mars is a dead, cold, barren planet on which no living thing is known to have evolved, and which harbors no breathable air or oxygen, no liquid water and no sources of food, nor conditions favorable for producing any. For these and other reasons it would be accurate to call Mars a veritable hell for living things, were it not for the fact that the planet's average surface temperature is minus 81 degrees Fahrenheit." These are only a few of the many serious challenges that must be overcome before anyone can put human beings on Mars and expect them to live for more than five minutes says Regis. "The notion that we can start colonizing Mars within the next 10 years or so is an overoptimistic, delusory idea that falls just short of being a joke."

Former NASA Mission Controller James Oberg Lauds 'The Martian' 55

At IEEE Spectrum, James Oberg gives high praise to the upcoming film The Martian (release date: October 2). Oberg doesn't have much to say about the acting; he concentrates on the physics and plausibility of the plot and the technology portrayed, which beat those of most Hollywood space epics, and notes in particular "There’s no cheating on even highly-technical spaceflight topics, as shown in the treatment of the so-called “Rich Purnell maneuver,” wherein the Hermes slingshots past Earth back to Mars for a desperate pickup attempt. ... The basic strategy of the Rich Purnell maneuver is not fictional—a crippled Japanese Mars probe named Nozomi actually used a similar Earth-flyby scheme to set up a second chance for its own faltering unmanned Mars mission a dozen years ago." Oberg's background gives his appraisal some weight -- he's a former NASA mission controller who specialized in orbital rendezvous maneuvers. He has some quibbles, too, with the way mission personnel are depicted, and notes one excursion into "fantasy mode" near the fim's close, but concludes that it's a fair trade for the overwhelming sense of realism.

Book Review: Abusing the Internet of Things 26

New submitter sh0wstOpper writes: The topic of the Internet of Things (IoT) is gaining a lot of attention because we are seeing increasing amounts of "things", such as cars, door locks, baby monitors, etc, that are connected and accessible from the Internet. This increases the chances of someone being able to "attack" these devices remotely. The premise of Abusing the Internet of Things is that the distinction between our "online spaces" and our "physical spaces" will become harder to define since the connected objects supporting the IoT ecosystems will have access to both. Keep reading for the rest of sh0wstOpper's review.

NASA Delays Orion's First Manned Flight Until 2023 115

The Verge reports that the first manned flight planned for the Orion crew capsule has been delayed, and is now slated to take place in 2023, rather than the previously hoped-for 2021. The delay is based on both budget and design considerations; Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration at NASA, said at a press conference yesterday that several changes have been made to save weight in the capsule, including reducing the number of panels that make up the craft's cone. The article notes So far, Orion has met most of its major milestones. The spacecraft made its first uncrewed test flight in December 2014. The engineering team also recently demonstrated the Orion could land safely despite the failure of two of its parachutes. NASA hopes to eventually launch the Orion on top of the Space Launch System (SLS) — a giant rocket the space agency is currently building to go beyond lower Earth orbit. The plan is to send astronauts on the Orion to Mars sometime in the 2030s.
The Internet

A More Down-To-Earth Way To Bring the Internet To the Rest of the World 60

An anonymous reader writes: Elon Musk wants to bring the internet to less-developed countries using satellites. Facebook wants to use drones. Google's betting on balloons. These crazy high-tech solutions are interesting, but are they really needed? Mark Summer doesn't think so. His company focuses on building out internet infrastructure the old fashioned way: trenching pipes, raising cell towers, and getting local governments to lease what they've already installed. "A major problem in emerging countries is that when Internet access is available, it's often expensive. That's due in part to a lack of competition among providers ... While the costs of terrestrial Internet connections are high, they're relatively predictable. And the business model is proven around the world."