Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The twins head to Mars and other tales of Space Journeys


First we start with a journey just underway – the TGO (trace Gas Orbiter) and its twin the lander they call Schiaparelli are the first of the two-part Exo-Mars program. Never heard if it? It’s a joint Russia-ESA program that plans to hunt for life. It is also a first – if it lands and transmits safely it is the first of the Russian vehicles to attain interplanetary success AND the ESA has just sent one other to date, the Mars Express (launched in 2004).


The twins, TGO and Schiaparelli, will separate from each other on Oct. 16 during their approach to Mars. TGO will enter orbit eventually attaining a circular orbit at an altitude of 400 kilometers. That will be the beginning of a 5 year mission that starts in 2017. TGO's chief task is to hunt for methane and its degradation products in Mars' air.


When Schiapelli touches down the cheers will likely be heard the world over. Reason? The ESA has never successfully landed on the surface of another planet. So what will she do when she’s there? Not much really. Actually a lot of it she will have done on the way in! While she has plenty of instruments onboard, they will likely operate for only a few days before her batteries run out. BUT her primar purpose has to do with the entry, descent, and landing – that data will be collected and sent back home. 

More MARs news? : NASA has tested the rockets that were designed to send man to Mars


The Space Launch System which is a heavy lift rocket – it uses a quantity of four RS-25 rocket engines. NASA turned the ignition and ran the SLS for 500 seconds – that’s 8.3333 minutes to you and me! And there you go. The next time they fire there will be humans straped in for a journey into Deep Space. (FYI - Four RS-25 rocket engines will be joined with a pair of solid rocket boosters to create the configuration for the first SLS flights.)


 Are we building a deep space habitat - by 2018 no less, at congresses urging?



  We know how they are traveling, or at least we think we do. Really the only way they are not using Orion is if we suddenly finish the FTL drive or Vasimir Rickets – actually the Vasimir is possible in the long range plans we have but not possible enough to count on as the main method of travel. But it seems we aren’t really sure of how we’re going to survive the long journey or set up camp once we get there.


The Orion spacecraft? It’s about the size of a pickup truck, a pickup truck that will be on the road for six months with no bathroom breaks. So why not stop off somewhere where they can stretch out a little bit, a space habitat. Private quarters, exercise equipment, space…Pretty cool, right?


The recent omnibus spending billhas allocated funds for just that – a cool deep space habitat, made so the Orion could just pull up and park. What’s the price tag? At least $55 milion. AND guess when they want a prototype – 2018.


NASA is pleased with the time frame because that means that it can be tested out on the moon. But of course that a big challenge – or is it? Bigelow does space stations and such, perhaps they could be the answer or just the inspiration! Below are some possible looks based off of Mars One’s lanned trip to Mars that was going to utilize both an inflated portion and SpaceX.


NASA’s Deep Sleep Option for crew on Mars Mission


Bet you didn’t know we figured it out – okay, we really didn’t. Actually there is work being done on a method that puts you to sleep by invoking the oddest combination you could think of – researchers in Boston have managed to slow the respiration of mice by administering small doses of hydrogen sulfide. Anyone know where we get that? It is the foul smelling toxic gas produced by rotting eggs and sewage. But that’s not the plan. The plan involves using something that has been around for more than 35 years – therapeutic torpor – used in hospitals for use with critical care trauma patients. Inducing therapeutic hypothermia (when used in a hospital) to keep the alive until ‘they’ can get the treatment ‘they’ need. Add to that an intravenous feeding tube, theoretically a crew could be placed into hibernation for the time it takes to get to MARs. Of course here on Earth the time is usually limited to a week. Let’s see a week versus 180 days….hmm, not sure.

Of course think of what that means for the space ship – no galley, no extra space so the crew doesn’t get claustrophobic. The cool thing is there is one design (in a study funded by NASA) that spins so that the body experienced a low gravity environment, helping the bone tissue and muscle mass. AND there is a money saving as hibernating astronauts need less a lot; from pressurized volume to food and drink.


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