Understanding Musk's plan for colonizing Mars

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Over at National Geographic, Nadia Drake's feature on Elon Musk's plan for millions of people to live on Mars is the best explanation (and contextualization) of this far out vision that I've read. From Nat Geo:

The rocket would deliver the crew capsule to orbit around Earth, then the booster would steer itself toward a soft landing back at the launch pad, a feat that SpaceX rocket boosters have been doing for almost a year now. Next, the booster would pick up a fuel tanker and carry that into orbit, where it would fuel the spaceship for its journey to Mars.

Once en route, that spaceship would deploy solar panels to harvest energy from the sun and conserve valuable propellant for what promises to be an exciting landing on the Red Planet.

As Musk envisions it, fleets of these crew-carrying capsules will remain in Earth orbit until a favorable planetary alignment brings the two planets close together—something that happens every 26 months. “We’d ultimately have upward of a thousand or more spaceships waiting in orbit. And so the Mars colonial fleet would depart en masse,” Musk says.

The key to his plan is reusing the various spaceships as much as possible. “I just don’t think there’s any way to have a self-sustaining Mars base without reusability. I think this is really fundamental,” Musk says. “If wooden sailing ships in the old days were not reusable, I don’t think the United States would exist.”

"Elon Musk: A Million Humans Could Live on Mars By the 2060s" by Nadia Drake (National Geographic, thanks Tom Andres for the video tip!)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Views Spectacular Layered Rock Formations of “Murray Buttes”

This view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) in NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows an outcrop with finely layered rocks within the "Murray Buttes" region on lower Mount Sharp.

Reports NASA today, “The layered geologic past of Mars is revealed in stunning detail in new color images returned by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, which is currently exploring the 'Murray Buttes' region of lower Mount Sharp. The new images arguably rival photos taken in U.S. National Parks.”

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This Podcast Was Written by an AI

Today we do something weird, in honor of the end of the second season of Flash Forward! Instead of coming up with a future and then finding experts to talk about it, I asked an AI to write a future for us. And the AI apparently wants us to talk about space travel, witches, and the occult.

Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon | Reddit

In this episode we feed all the past Flash Forward episodes to a neural network, and ask it to write a script for us. And that script is full of space travel, Mars conspiracy theories, future witches, and a whole lot of theories about cutting someone’s hands off.

▹▹ Full show notes

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Inside a Martian house on Earth

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For a year, six people lived inside a small dome on the desolate side of a volcano on Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The aim of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) was to approximate life on Mars (albeit with much more surface gravity). This week, the team stepped out of the dome and National Geographic's Nadia Drake took a tour:

Inside the 1,200-square-foot habitat, they dealt with a 20-minute communications delay, limited water supplies, and a few strict house rules. But as we saw on a recent tour, this habitat is the lap of luxury for Martian hopefuls. And if this two-story house were on the earthbound market, it would be a total steal, considering that room, board, and utilities are all free....

Itching for some entertainment? The living room has a bookshelf full of Russian language guides, DVDs, astronaut jigsaw puzzles, and board games, which are perfect for a wild night on the mountain with your five favorite roommates. There’s also a virtual reality setup where you can explore 30 different environments, in addition to creating your own personal getaway.

Finally, Wi-Fi is already installed. Although there’s that pesky 20-minute delay, you can send emails, texts, and video messages, completely Comcast-free.

"Take a Look Inside a House Meant for Mars" (Nat Geo)

photos above and below by Nadia Drake

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Test for Damp Ground at Mars' Seasonal Streaks Finds None, Reports NASA JPL

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A Mars science news update from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California.

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NASA publishes 44,000 Mars surface images

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The HiRise imager in orbit around Mars shoots a continuous stream of data about its surface our way. Nasa's posted 44,000 images so far, each available in all sorts of formats and projections. You could have one a day as your desktop background and never run out.

Gullies in Dunes Dubbed Kolhar.

Yardangs South of Olympus Mons

Crater-Exposed Rocks of Yalgoo Crater in Isidis Basin Read the rest

Europe and Russia just launched a Mars space mission to sniff out signs of life

REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

A European-Russian spacecraft headed out from our humble little planet to space today, in search for life on Mars.

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Ordnance Survey map of Mars

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Ordnance Survey, Britain's official mapping agency, has made available for download a massive map of Mars in its classic style.

The planet Mars has become the latest subject in our long line of iconic OS paper maps. The one-off map, created using NASA open data and made to a 1:4,000,000 scale, is made to see if our style of mapping has potential for future Mars missions.

Sadly, they're not selling it in foldable print map form. They should!

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Why are there no bearded astronauts?

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To mark the January 12 Blu-ray and DVD release of The Martian, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has created the 'Life in Space' video series, a lighthearted look at the burning questions troubling all space fans. Read the rest

How far away is Mars?

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Mars is currently 2.24 astronomical units away.

We tend to think of places as being a fixed distance from one another, and this works on scales terrestrial (it's 3,459 miles from London to New York) and cosmic (it's 4.36 light years to Alpha Centauri). But within the solar system, things change quicker. John D. Cook offers the code to let you calculate Mars' distance from Earth at any given time. [via Hacker News]

Some interesting take-home facts for the laymen among us: the two worlds orbit anticlockwise; Martian years last 687 days, and the is Earth traveling about 20% faster to boot; and there is no evidence that Mars needs women, though it does show evidence of running water.

Here's code for all the planets, sans the useful explanation.

Make it easy on yourself with this solar system visualizer. Read the rest

Water on Mars, NASA reveals

Dark narrow streaks called recurring slope lineae emanate from the walls of Garni crater on Mars. [NASA]

NASA says these streaks are proof that water flows on Mars. NASA

Well, this is big. NASA today revealed that new findings from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide “the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.” Read the rest

Yet another Martian UFO found, say UFO enthusiasts

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Mars Curiosity Rover has spotted many interesting things on its mission, like this UFO, a tiny Millennium Falcon type star freighter, heavily modded for use on Mars. Read the rest

Photo of ancient wheels and axle found on Mars

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Earlier this morning David posted a photo of a woman on Mars. We now know why she's there. Her 4-wheeled pareidoliaopede broke down and she is walking home. This is a photo of the axle and two wheels that broke off.

Here's the original photo at NASA's site. Read the rest

Humanoid figure photographed on Mars

ship, figure, UFO, UFOs, sighting, sightings, alien, aliens, ET, rainbow, star wars, 2015, news, earth, volcano, mexico, bicycle, lady, deathstar, woman, jennifer, aniston, water, life, mars12 copy

This mysterious humanoid figure was photographed on the red planet by the Mars Curiosity Rover. Read the rest

The mysterious Face on Mars was first spotted in 1959

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Comic master Jack Kirby showed us the mysterious "Face on Mars" decades before it was imaged by the Viking 1 orbiter in 1976 and ultimately became an iconic example of pareidolia or proof of an ancient civilization on the red planet. Read the rest

NASA completes rocket design review for future Mars journey

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NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS) is about to go into full-scale fabrication after a detailed review. SLS Block 1, which just passed a design review milestone, will go to an asteroid placed in lunar orbit, and eventually to Mars. Read the rest

Time-lapse: 11 years of the Opportunity Mars Rover's collision-avoidance camera

The brave little robot's covered 42.2km on its suicide mission to the Red Planet; this footage spans Jan 2004 to Apr 2015. (Thanks, Robbo!)

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