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Building The Blueprint For Life On Mars

What is needed to make life on Mars sustainable for a long time? The main essentials of human life include air, water, food, and shelter. However, people require more than just the basic essentials to live comfortably. The Mars One project is becoming a more discussed topic by the media and public in general by the day. One interesting discussion is the speculation of how the first Mars settlers will create a lasting community on the planet.

The supplies that will be transported from Earth are likely to run out – most of them will probably be used in the seven-month journey to the red planet. When those first citizens arrive on Mars, they will have to come up with systems and processes to ensure sustainable resources for their future. In a nutshell, this is what they may be required to have. Even though humans will be able to produce numerous renewable resources on Mars, they will still need consistent funding from Earth.

According to the Mars One project, the estimated initial cost of settling the first four Mars citizens is around six billion dollars. Cost overruns are also a huge possibility. Future funding of this plan would come from donations by private investors, more so because the U.S has proposed budget cuts to space exploration funding. What began, as a grassroots cause might become a fierce global marketing campaign to get steady financial support.

A small leak in cash flow may cause trouble.  Space travel comes with a ton of health risks. All astronauts go through a thorough medical screening before undertaking a mission and they are monitored from Earth the entire time. However, this close monitoring will not be enough for permanent life on Mars. It is essential for all citizens to be able to access modern medical care.

It is almost impossible to have physicians of every specialty on Mars. Medical robots could act as a good alternative to diagnose the IBM Watson prototype and other conditions. Preventive medical technology such as early-warning software to preempt strokes, heart attacks, seizures, and other events might help. The use of minimally invasive robotic surgery to treat some conditions is also another option. All of these choices still call for equipment, facilities, and expertise. Communication with Earth is vital because of safety, technical support, and research.

Nonetheless, as the Mars community grows, the citizens will need stand-alone channels of communication among themselves. Creating a network of underground cables for the Internet and communications would be costly. A better choice is satellite phone and Internet. Humans and structures have to be protected from the environment. Too much exposure to dust storms, severe climate shifts, and radiation are some of the factors that astronauts need to be concerned about.

Southwest Research Institute has proposed plastic shielding for protection against cosmic radiation as well as wearing lead protective clothing and thick insulation. For structures, a strong outer coating might do. There are so many things to be considered when it comes to life on Mars. Examining them and coming up with solutions increases the chances of dual-planet existence. How will humans live on the red planet? An MIT team created a design concept in answer to this question as part of an international competition, Mars City Design 2017. The competition concentrated on sustainable cities on the red planet to be built within the next century.

The winning urban design by MIT, titled Redwood Forest, built tree habitats or domes, each with a capacity of up to 50 people. These domes offer open, public spaces with plants and water, obtained from the northern plains. The tree habitats will sit on top of networks of roots or underground tunnels that will give access to private spaces and convenient transportation to the rest of the tree habitats in the community. The roots will not only offer connectivity, but also protect residents from extreme thermal variations, micrometeorite impacts, and cosmic radiation.

The MIT team consisted of Caitlin Mueller, assistant professor, and postdoc Valentina Sumini leading nine students from various research groups and departments. Speaking on the project, Sumini says that the city will functionally and physically replicate a forest, utilizing the local resources on Mars such as regolith (or soil), water, the sun, and ice to support life. The forest-like design is also a symbol of the potential of growth as Mars transforms into a green planet.

Each tree habitat consists of an inflated membrane structure and a branching structural system. Since the design workflow is parametric, each habitat is different and is part of a diverse forest. The team seeks to create a comfortable environment for colonists using system architecture and location focused on sustainability—a very critical element for any Martian community.

George Lordos MBA ’00, the man responsible for the Redwood Forest system architecture, talked about the crucial role of water in developing vibrant communities on the red planet. He said that, in the Redwood Forest, each tree habitat would use energy from the sun to process and distribute water to the tree.

Water enters the soft cells in the dome and provides the much-needed protection from radiation, supplies hydroponic farms, and manages heat loads. Solar panels generate energy to break up the stored water for rocket fuel production, oxygen and charging hydrogen fuel cells (these are necessary in powering long-range vehicles and also for backup energy storage when dust storms occur).

According to the designers, most of the features in the Redwood Forest design could also be used on Earth. For instance, electric vehicles using underground multi-level networks might help with the congestion in cities in America. The tree habitat idea could help in creating working and living spaces in very harsh environments such as the sea floor, deserts, and high latitudes. Hydroponic gardening underneath cities could offer a steady supply of fresh vegetables; fish and fruits with lower transportation and land costs. Other member of the MIT team include AeroAstro PhD students Matthew Moraguez,

Alejandro Trujillo and Samuel Wald, Alpha Arsano SM ’17 (Architecture PhD student), Kamming Mark Tam MEng ’15 (research fellow), John Stillman and Meghan Maupin (Integrated Design and management Program graduates) and Zoe Lallas (Civil and Environmental engineering undergraduate). There is an easier way to launch humans to the red planet—the Martian mission could refuel on the moon. This is the suggestion of an MIT study.

Past studies have shown that water ice and lunar soil in specific craters of the moon can be mined and made into fuel. Assume that the necessary technologies are developed when the mission to Mars is set to take place; the MIT team has discovered that a detour to the moon for refueling would cut the mass of the mission by 68%. The team built a model to figure out the best route to the red planet, with the assumption that fuel-generating infrastructure and resources are available on the moon.

They determined that the most mass-efficient path would involve launching a crew with fuel, just enough to get it into orbit around Earth. Tankers of fuel would then be launched into space from a fuel plant on the moon. The Mars-bound crew would pick up the tankers, go to a nearby fueling station and refuel before going on their way. This plan is different from NASA’s direct route. It is against the common idea of how to get to Mars, where you have to go straight, carrying everything with you.

This new detour idea is unintuitive. However, from a big-picture view, it could be the most affordable option. Space exploration programs have employed two major strategies in providing resources to mission crews: the carry-along strategy, where all resources and vehicles accompany the crew at all times and the resupply strategy, which involves replenishing the crew with resources on a regular basis. However, the more humans go beyond Earth’s orbit in exploration, the more these strategies become less sustainable. The destinations are far away and budgets are limited.

The team suggests that missions to distant destinations will have a lot to gain from an “in-situ utilization” supply strategy; where resources and provisions such as fuel, oxygen, and water are produced and collected on the way. The resources generated in space would be used in place of those that would otherwise come from Earth. Ishimatsu came up with a network flow model for various routes to the red planet to see if manned missions would benefit from infrastructure and fuel resources in space. The routes range from a direct flight to those with several pit stops on the way.

The purpose of the model was to reduce the mass launched from Earth. The model focuses on a future situation in which fuel can be produced and distributed from the moon to certain points in space. According to the model, fuel depots are situated at specific gravitationally bound places in space, known as Lagrange points. Ishimatsu argues that this research highlights the importance of having a resource-producing structure in space. He goes on to say that it may not be necessary for the first mission to Mars but its presence will make repeated trips easier and more sustainable. Although the goal is to create a self-sustaining colony on Mars, a ‘road in space’ will make interplanetary travel more affordable. 

Elon Musk revealed a new plan to colonize Mars with giant reusable spaceships

Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX, has presented an updated plan for colonizing Mars with 1 million people.

The International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, hosted Musk’s presentation on Friday, and SpaceX streamed video of the event via a YouTube Live feed. (You can replay the 42-minute talk here.)

Musk tweeted on Monday that he’d unveil “major improvements” and “unexpected applications” in the talk, which is an update to his one-hour presentation at last year’s IAC in Guadalajara, Mexico — where he revealed his initial plans to build gigantic ships to reach Mars.

“The future is vastly more interesting and exciting if we’re a space-faring civilization and a multiplanet species than if we’re not,” Musk said on Friday. “I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there among the stars.”


Image result for Elon Musk revealed a new plan to colonize Mars with giant reusable spaceships — here are the highlights

Musk said lower cost was the biggest update

“I think the most important thing I’m going to convey in this presentation is that I think we’ve figured out how to pay for it,” he said, referring to the launch system.

Musk previously called it the Interplanetary Transport System, but this year he readopted an older name: the BFR, which is short for “Big F—ing Rocket.”

“We’re still sort of searching for the right name,” he added.

Musk said the goal of the BFR was to “cannibalize” and replace all of SpaceX’s existing launch and spaceflight systems, including its 229-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket, the coming Falcon Heavy rocket, and Dragon (its spaceship for NASA).

“If we can do that, then all the resources that are used on Falcon 9, Heavy, and Dragon … can be applied to this system,” he said.

SpaceX is actively building and testing parts of the BFR

Earlier this year, SpaceX built a 39-foot-tall fuel tank for the spaceship made out of carbon fiber.

Engineers then put it on a barge, towed it into the ocean, and pressure-tested it to see whether it could handle the strain of holding 1,200 tons of liquid oxygen.

The test was successful — but Musk said they pushed it as far as it could go to see when it’d burst.

Image result for Elon Musk revealed a new plan to colonize Mars with giant reusable spaceships — here are the highlights

“It shot about 300 feet into the air and landed in the ocean. Then we fished it out,” Musk said.

He added that a working carbon-fiber tank — the core of the BFR spaceship — is essential to keeping the spacecraft lightweight and efficient.

Musk also recapped SpaceX’s progress on its giant Raptor rocket engines.



3D printing homes for Mars

A team competing in NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge worked with Techmer PM to develop materials that could one day be used to house human visitors to Mars.

Teams of citizen inventors are participating in the competition to innovate technology to support deep space exploration and also advance Earth-based construction capabilities. A partnership between freeform 3D printing startup Branch Technology and architecture firm Foster + Partners, collaborating with Techmer, won third place in the most recent level, which involved 3D printing a structural beam using plastics and simulated Martian soil.

The team also took first place in the previous level, creating a truncated cone and cylinder from the material they developed. Next, they will be tasked with printing a dome structure for mechanical testing.

The idea is to enable customizable habitat options using locally available materials and potentially recycled plastics.

“If you think of a place like Mars — but also it could be remote places on this planet — if you try to build a structure, you’d have to send all these tools and materials and so on,” said John Manuck, Techmer’s CEO. “But if you could 3D print the structure, of course the 3D printer, you’d have to send that there, and some of the raw material, but then it can produce a whole range of products.”




Designing the hanging gardens of Mars

NASA is all about solving challenges, and the goal of having a prolonged presence in space, or a colony on Mars or some other world, is full of challenges, including the necessity of growing food. Scientists at Kennedy Advanced Life Support Research are working on the Prototype Lunar/Mars Greenhouse Project to try and meet that challenge.


The Prototype Lunar/Mars Greenhouse Project (PLMGP) is all about growing vegetables for astronauts during extended stays on the moon, on Mars, or anywhere they can’t be resupplied from Earth. Beyond growing food, the Project aims to understand how food-growing systems can also be a part of systems.

We’re working with a team of scientists, engineers and small businesses at the University of Arizona to develop a closed-loop system. The approach uses plants to scrub carbon dioxide, while providing food and oxygen,” said Dr. Ray Wheeler, lead scientist in Kennedy Advanced Life Support Research.

The prototype itself is an inflatable, deployable system that researchers call a bioregenerative life support system. As crops are grown, the system recycles, water, recycles waste, and revitalizes the air.

The system is hydroponic, so no soil is needed. Water that is either brought along on missions or gathered in situ—on the moon or at Mars for example—is enriched with nutrient salts, and flows continuously through plant root systems. Air in the system is recycled too. Astronauts exhale carbon dioxide, which plants absorb. Through photosynthesis, the plants produce oxygen for the astronauts.


“We’re mimicking what the plants would have if they were on Earth and make use of these processes for life support,” said Dr. Gene Giacomelli, director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center at the University of Arizona. “The entire system of the lunar greenhouse does represent, in a small way, the biological systems that are here on Earth.”

A key part of a system like this is knowing what astronauts will have to bring with them, and what resources they can find at their destination. This includes which type of plants and seeds will be needed, as well as how much water might be available once astronauts reach their destination. Methods of extracting water on Mars or the moon are also being researched and developed.

Even if the necessary water can be found in situ on Mars and the moon, that hardly means those are easy places to grow food. Astronauts have to be protected from radiation, and so will crops. These greenhouse chambers would have to buried underground, which means specialized lighting systems are also required.


“We’ve been successful in using electric LED (light emitting diode) lighting to grow ,” Dr. Wheeler said. “We also have tested hybrids using both natural and artificial lighting.” Solar light could be captured with light concentrators that track the sun and then convey the light to the chamber using fiber optic bundles.


Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-04-gardens-mars.html#jCp

Mars exploration dreams get closer as NASA tests HUMANOID ROBOTS to explore the Red Planet

Days after the US President released details on the space agency’s new budget, developments of the robots with “highly-level” capabilities emerged.

NASA has developed four six-foot robots named Valkyrie to build the necessities for humans before their arrival on the Red Planet.

The robots, costing around £1.6 million ($2 million) each, will also be able to help the colonization of Mars by assisting astronauts with tasks in space.

A spokesperson for NASA’s tests in the summer said: “In the not too distant future, R5 [the robot] will arrive on Mars along with supplies ahead of a human mission.

The University of Edinburgh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northeastern University in America were institutions chosen to refine the robots NASA developed.

Researchers were required to test how the robots operate in hostile environments and extend their capabilities.


A PhD student at Northeastern University told TechCrunch that their developments have enabled the robots to “autonomously make decisions, move around and accomplish tasks”.

Trump vowed to “unlock the mysteries of space” in his inauguration speech and called on NASA to focus on space exploration not climate change during the election campaign.

Last month, the Trump administration ordered NASA to research whether it is possible to fly astronauts on the debut flight of the agency’s heavy-lift rocket, a mission currently planned to be unmanned and targeted to launch in late 2018.

Trump recently set out £15.4billion ($19.1 billion) for Nasa research to get to Mars. Although it is slightly smaller than Obama’s last year, it is still a substantial amount of funding for the space agency.

NASA’s goal is to send humans to the Red Planet by the 2030s – a goal authorised in 2010.

Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company, predicted that a base camp will be built around Mars by 2028.

The company added: “Mars. It’s humanity’s next giant leap. And we’re closer than we’ve ever been.”




Lockheed Martin Martian to Launch Mars Base Camp in 2028

Another private spaceflight company, Lockheed Martin, unveiled its plan to help conquer Mars. Unlike SpaceX, the company plans to establish a base camp on the red planet in 2028.


The company wants to account for most questions asked regarding living and working on Mars. In order to make the mission possible, a habitable base camp should be made in the fastest, most affordable way possible.

The new Mars Base Camp is the company’s vision for 2028 in order to make sending humans to the red planet possible come 2030. NASA’s mission to Mars is set to send a team of highly trained astronauts to physically explore the planet for the first time ever and to perform scientific experiments on site.

The Mars Base Camp directly supports NASA’s mission to Mars. The camp is designed to help aid astronauts perform their scientific duties and to maximize the potential of the mission in terms of scientific investigations.


The concepts with which the Mars Base Camp patterned after are highly depended on safety, affordability, and plausibility. According to Lockheed Martin, today’s advancements in technologies influenced the Mars Base Camp concept such as the Orion spacecraft, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), habitats in space, and the solar electric propulsion.


“They’re safely shielded from radiation,” Rob Chambers, Orion spacecraft production lead engineer at Lockheed Martin said in an interview with Inverse. “This is where the crew spends most of their waking hours. This is where the high integrity life support is.”

However, contrary to popular belief, the base camp won’t be touching the Martian ground. It will be based around the Orion capsules. It is expected to provide additional living and working space on the red planet and can hold about six astronauts at a time, according to a report.

The base camp would be integrated with two Orion capsules that won’t be able to touch down due to the thin atmosphere on Mars. This means a different landing technology will be developed to help an actual Martial landing. This may also mean, that there would be no human landing on the Red Planet since the crew will remain inside the basecamp. But the camp will provide new information and it can be used to search for potential landing sites for future manned missions to Mars.



Humans Will Walk on Mars in Less Than 18 Years

The 5th Annual Humans to Mars Summit (H2M) will be held from May 9-11, 2017 at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. H2M is the largest conference in the world focused on the goal of sending humans to Mars and will feature some of the most prominent and influential people in business, government and academia. The conference will explore critical policy goals and technology solutions required for the human exploration of Mars and the significant progress that has been made since the first H2M was held in 2013.

“Children born in 2017 are more likely than any generation before them to witness, before their 18th birthday, humans walk on another planet for the first time,” said Explore Mars, CEO Chris Carberry. “For more than five years, the Humans to Mars Summit has been at the forefront of policy and technology decisions that have had a major impact on U.S. space policy. Today we have unprecedented support for Mars exploration from Congress, industry, and the general public. If we make the right decisions, humans will be on the surface of Mars within the next two decades, and the economic and scientific benefits to our country and the world will be unprecedented.”

H2M 2017 will be a platform for discussion on major technical, scientific, and policy challenges that need to be overcome in order to send humans to Mars by the early 2030s. The Summit will also feature topics such as international partnerships and cooperation, the impact on small business and innovation, Hollywood and the Mars story, risk tolerance in space exploration, the role of the Moon in sending humans to Mars, and space diplomacy.

Confirmed speakers include: Buzz Aldrin (Apollo XI, Gemini XII), William Gerstenmaier (NASA: Associate Administrator, HEO), Penny Boston (NASA: Director, Astrobiology Institute), Steve Jurczyk (NASA: Associate Administrator, STMD), Clementine Poidatz (National Geographic Series, Mars), John Grunsfeld (former NASA Associate Administrator and astronaut), Artemis Westenberg (President, Explore Mars, Inc), Thomas Zurbuchen (NASA: Associate Administrator, SMD), Abigail ‘Astronaut Abby’ Harrison (Student; The Mars Generation), Jim Cantrell (CEO of Vector Space Systems), James Green (NASA: Director, Planetary Science), Janet Ivey (Janet’s Planet), Joe Cassady (Aerojet Rocketdyne: Executive Director, Space), Mat Kaplan (Planetary Radio, The Planetary Society) and Ann Merchant (Science and Entertainment Exchange).

Said Explore Mars President, Artemis Westenberg, “H2M will host substantive NASA workshops on policy, STEaM competitions for our youth and important debates on strategies for space transportation and human habitats. This is the single best opportunity for all of us to come together and advance the mission that will one day make humans a two-planet species.”

For registration information visit http://h2m.exploremars.org. To become an event sponsor, please contact carberry(at)exploremars(dot)org.



Elon Musk Has a New Timeline for Humans Living on Mars

Do we really need to explore Mars? According to tech innovator Elon Musk, it’s not just a choice we have to make, it’s a necessity. “We will stay on Earth forever, and eventually there will be an extinction event…and the alternative is to become a spacefaring and multiplanetary species—That’s what we want.”

But when exactly are we getting there? Originally, SpaceX’s first foray to Mars, via a lander called Red Dragon, was expected to happen by 2022—which was considered a fairly feasible timeline. However, bolstered by numerous successful launches and Musk’s powerful vision, SpaceX moved their target date up to 2018. Now, a new announcement from SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell confirms that they are changing the timeline yet again. A mission, named Red Dragon, to Mars is now set to launch in 2020 so that SpaceX can focus on other equally ambitious projects like their commercial crew program and Falcon Heavy programs.

“We were focused on 2018, but we felt like we needed to put more resources and focus more heavily on our crew program and our Falcon Heavy program. So we’re looking more for the 2020 time frame for that,” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said at a recent pre-launch conference.

Earlier this year, Musk stated that SpaceX’s manned missions to Mars could begin as soon as 2022, which is a full three years sooner than his previous estimate of 2025. However, given this latest development, it seems that humans will have to wait a little bit longer to walk on the Red Planet.

However, if Musk’s previous accomplishments are any indication, it will only be a little bit longer.




Missions to Mars would ideally be launched every 26 months when the planet is aligned with Earth. The 2020 planned lander will be critical for future possible manned missions as it will test technology required to land heavy equipment on the Martian surface—a task that, given Mars’ unfamiliar terrain and thin atmosphere, could be difficult to execute. Heavy payloads entering Mars won’t have the planet’s atmosphere to cushion their landing and so there is the risk of very abrupt and hard landings.

What sets Red Dragon apart from other Mars landers is its use of a supersonic retro-propulsion—which means it will use rockets embedded in the hull to allow for larger spacecraft to land safely. Should the technique prove to be successful, this lander will be the biggest vehicle to land on the planet thus far.

Moving the launch to 2020 also means that SpaceX will be able to join several other Mars-bound expeditions stemming from government agencies and private outfits. NASA is expected to launch its next Mars rover within the same year. The ExoMars mission, a joint initiative from the Roscosmos and European Space Agency (ESA) who originally planned its second phase to take place in 2018, has also been moved to the end of the decade. There’s also talk of the United Arab Emirates sending an orbiter to the red planet by then, along with China who has expressed its intent to reach Mars by 2020.

If all these missions make their targets, it will indeed be a busy 2020 for the red planet.



Put People on Mars by 2033—for the Good of the Nation

COULD AMERICA BE the first country to put humans on Mars? Should it be? And is it a race we can win?


As President Donald Trump takes office, that’s one of the many questions facing him and leaders in Congress about the future of our human spaceflight program and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

We believe the answer is—and must be—a resounding yes.

Human space flight is difficult, and space flight to Mars and back would be even more so. But successfully sending an American to Mars must be the centerpiece of NASA’s human spaceflight program.

With great pride and confidence, our new President and Congress should commit together to NASA sending Americans to Mars by 2033—a realistic goal consistent with the demands of both rocket science and political science. This date is also consistent with celestial mechanics, physics, engineering challenges that can be met, the support of key stakeholders in the public and private sectors, and a reasonable expectation of the investments Congress can provide.

When we Americans sent our countrymen to the Moon more than 50 years ago, leaders at NASA wanted the next destination in our solar system to be Mars. A human mission to Mars was proposed by NASA as the logical follow on to Apollo, but cost considerations and the fractious politics of the Vietnam Era put an end to that dream, temporarily.

Since then, the world watched as we flew our space shuttle for decades and then retired the program.

The world saw us play a central role in building and operating the International Space Station. The world saw us foster the rise of new entrepreneurial space companies that are now routinely delivering cargo to the International Space Station and are on track to send Americans to low Earth orbit in the next few years.  

We hope the world will watch us be the first to send Americans to Mars and bring them home safely.

There are three clear reasons why Americans should explore Mars. For science, the now well-established presence of water and early habitability of Mars offers the chance to help answer a fundamental question: “Are we alone?” Finding even extinct Martian life would forever change the way we view ourselves. Second, a national push to go to Mars would require new technologies, goods, and services that would yield an enormous return on investment to our economy. With such an effort, the American space program could generate considerable economic activity and create many US-based jobs.

Third and most importantly, the European Space Agency, Russians, and Chinese continue to accelerate their human spaceflight programs. Americans must not cede the finish line. Our country should not wait until we receive the news that someone else has won the race to Mars for our leaders in Washington to ask, “How’s our space program doing? Why didn’t we get first place?” It will be too late. We must ask those questions now.

After all, history shows us that nations that fail to explore succeed in becoming stagnant.

America must explore.

And exploring Mars is achievable under reasonably expected future budget allocations for NASA. During the space race under President Kennedy and then President Johnson’s leadership, NASA claimed 4 percent of the overall federal budget. Today, NASA’s budget is 0.5 percent of the federal budget; the agency receives about $19 billion per year, of which about $8 billion is spent on human space flight. With the right approach and planning, including a potential handoff of the International Space Station to a commercial entity, these funds could be redirected for a successful human mission to Mars. Our leaders in Washington could speed up the timeline for a successful mission, and national victory, with additional investments.