Mars Curiosity captures the hurtling moons of Barsoom

Curiosity must have a pretty good eyeball on her, the little mobile probe phoned home with this overhead dance of the two Martian moons passing quietly in the dead of night. In fact, judging by the illumination, where half the moons are lit, that was near Martian midnight. It must have been colder than the South Pole, with stars clearer than in the skies above the highest desert in Wyoming, when those images were taken. [Read more...]

Size does matter in space exploration: smaller might be way better

There are more than one-hundred sizable objects in our solar system with ice or liquid water, each reachable and explorable with present day technology

There are more than one-hundred sizable objects in our solar system, many of them with ice or liquid water, including planets, moons, asteroids, and KBOs, each reachable and explorable with present day technology

Small probes the size of a human hand or smaller could be a big help to planetary exploration. Moore’s Law and tightening budgets could team up to make that technological leap sooner rather than later. In particular, small probes packed with microelectronics and advanced software capable of learning on the alien spot might bring the deep subcyrosphere of moons like Europa or Saturn’s Dionne under scrutiny: [Read more...]

Mars flyby conference streaming live at 12 Noon central time — Now

From the press kit, an artists'c conception of the fly-by vehicle.

From the press kit, an artists’c conception of the fly-by vehicle.

Link is here, not sure if you can see it without  registering press creds, I hope to have video and transcripts shortly. … There are candid details about the inherent risks, challanges, and mission architectures. But my favorite speaker so far has been Dennis Tito, the driving force behind this team. An example, paraphrasing to the best of my recollection:  ‘This is a “non profit mission,” meaning if it goes off as planned, “I will be much poorer,” but my grandchildren and yours will be much richer …’

Jane Poynter adds the sobering assesment “This will be like being crammed into a modest RV for a year and a half. With three thousand pounds of dehydrated food hydrated with recycled water … the crew will have to be doing hours of exercise every day while working on their life support system “. Full press kit and release below the fold. [Read more...]

Mars flyby and other links

This was supposed to be a secret until this coming Wednesday, and it was secret, right up until someone spilled the beans almost a week early:

Buzz is building about a planned 2018 private mission to Mars, which may launch the first humans toward the Red Planet. A nonprofit organization called the Inspiration Mars Foundation — which is led by millionaire Dennis Tito, the world’s first space tourist — will hold a news conference on Feb. 27 to announce the 501-day roundtrip mission, which will aim for a January 2018 launch.

Yes, there are many unresolved questions. But these people are not flakes; they are serious veteran space travel professionals. I think they’re really thinking about doing this. There will be more info soon. [Read more...]