Russia Ignores Fears, Reaches Out Towards Phobos (Mars)

Posted by on Sep 27, 2011 in Asteroids, Mars, Russia | 1 comment

Despite being inactive in the whole “deep space exploration” hobby (at least with humans), Russia is determined to once again reclaim their place among the stars by planning a trip towards the Martian moon of Phobos.

Although the purpose of the expedition is to collect soil samples from Phobos (not an easy task as the Japanese can tell you), Russia is apparently visiting the asteroid moon to potentially solve another mystery.

“Our country is about to return to planets and stars. We must learn how to fly to deep space, to Mars, after a 20-year break,” Khartov told the Interfax news agency.

 

He admitted the Phobos mission would be “very risky”, but said “the first step must be made”.

 

Russia had spent about 5 billion rubles (161 million U.S. dollars) preparaing for the three-year mission, which would include drilling Phobos’ surface and returning 200 grams of soil back to Earth in 2014, he said.

 

The mission would also collect bacteria samples for two Russian and one U.S. biological experiments. (Xinhua News Agency)

Thanks to a steady diet of cosmic (as well as solar) radiation, scientists will probably find microbes to be in short supply (although a find upon the surface would be extraordinary).

While drilling for life may yield zero results, understanding the soil upon Phobos is valuable as the lunar space rock might be humanities key towards conquering the red planet.

Russia will probably need the assistance of NASA and Japan to successfully extract soil from the lunar asteroid (especially when it comes to funding the mission), but despite the challenge it’s great to see the nation that introduced humanity to the stars regain their passion for the cosmos.

(Image Credit: European Space Agency, hat tip: Mars Daily)

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The Key Towards Mars Is Deimos?

Posted by on Apr 20, 2011 in Asteroids, Mars | 0 comments

Orbiting under 24,000 kilometers from the crimson world’s surface, the Martian moon Deimos isn’t exactly a beauty to behold up close in the celestial sky.

Despite it’s eyesore appearance (a common theme among asteroids), this ugly space rock could be the key towards humanities quest to conquer the red planet in the semi-distant future.

A site near the “arctic circle” on Deimos offers 10 months of continuous sunlight during Martian summer, enabling the use of simple solar power systems.

Astronauts also would have direct line-of-sight to Earth and to rovers on the surface of Mars, simplifying communication, according to the Lockheed Martin fact sheet.

During Martian winter, a similar site in the southern hemisphere is continuously sunlit. A cryogenic propulsion stage for Earth return could be stored in the cold shadows of a large south pole crater on Deimos. (Space.com)

Although similar outposts could be developed upon Deimos’s larger sibling Phobos, the latter resides much deeper within Mar’s gravity well, which may not appeal to space faring nations strapped for cash (due to fuel costs).

Deimos could also serve as a haven for future explorers seeking shelter from the wrath of Mars via global dust storms.

While Phobos will play a critical role in helping humanity settle the surface of Mars, the asteroid moon of Deimos will enable us to establish a stronghold in the planetary system (without having to immediately land upon the red planet).

Note: Promo video from Lockheed Martin (and a trip down memory lane of what was).

Image and Video Credit: Lockheed Martin

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Asteroid Mining Is Nothing But A Pipe Dream?

Posted by on Jan 26, 2011 in Asteroids | 7 comments

(Image Credit: How Stuff Works)

If there was one future space industry with the potential of making space affordable it was asteroid mining.

With many of these space rocks harboring untold riches via (rare earth metals), it was assumed that mining these planetoids could help fund our trek into the final frontier without us having to resort to immediately stripping the Moon’s surface for helium-3.

Unfortunately it looks like our quest to harvest these metallic mountains may not yield the profits we were hoping for, which means that humanity may need to look for another lucrative alternative soon.

With the costs of rare earth metals on the rise, why can’t space entrepreneurs mine asteroids for platinum and other REM’s and return the materials to earth? Shouldn’t finding so many near earth asteroids make the problem even easier to solve (less delta-v to reach these nearby asteroids)? [...]

Assumptions:

  • Mission: Mine platinum on NEOs and return the processed ore to earth for sale and consumption. Sale of platinum sole revenue source for the mission.
  • Mining Efficiency: for every one kilogram of mining equipment launched, the machinery could mine 100 times that amount of NEO material (2500kg mining device could mine 250,000kg of NEO material)
  • Mining Device mass: 2500 kg
  • Platinum concentrations on the NEO: 0.3%
  • Price of Platinum per kilogram: $58,500
  • Mission Cost: $600M

Based on these assumptions, the sale of the platinum mined on the asteroid would cover 7% of the mission costs. This business plan stinks. Not 7%, that seems too small. Really? Only 7% of mission costs could be covered with the assumptions above? (Space Business Blog)

Be sure to read Colin Doughan’s entire article, which delves into possible ways for asteroid firms to break even (the best scenarios being that we find asteroids rich in platinum or discover ways to drastically reduce costs).

If asteroid mining is proven to be a “pipe dream,” it may make more financial sense to mine Mercury instead of attempting to make a profit off of a random space rock (at least those that reside near our home world).

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Will The Dawn Space Probe Unlock The Secrets Of The Asteroid Belt?

Posted by on Dec 1, 2009 in Asteroids, Blog, Ceres, NASA, Vesta | 0 comments

Last month Dawn, a space probe sent to analyze the mega asteroid Vesta and its bigger brother Ceres officially entered the asteroid belt.

Contrary to what you might have seen on Star Wars, it’s very unlikely that Dawn will run into an over sized boulder, let alone a large pebble as it travels its way between the inner and outer planets.

Despite the fact that Dawn is about 600 days away from its first destination (that would be Vesta), its analysis could determine whether or not establishing mining colonies within the asteroid belt is worth the hassle.

Dawn’s final destination is Ceres, a world that may hold promise for water ice, making it a valuable asset (at least as far as space real estate goes).

NASA still has not determined what it will do after Ceres, although hopefully they will consider exploring other promising asteroids (like Pallas, Juno and Hygiea).

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The 7 (Future) Wonders Of The Solar System

Posted by on Nov 20, 2009 in Asteroids, Blog, Callisto, Future, Ganymede, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Moon, Pluto, Saturn, Solar Essay, Titan, Uranus | 5 comments

solarsytemmontage

Two hundred years after the first man and woman graced the plains of Mars, humanity is still isolated to just one star system.

Despite an intense campaign by the Alpha Centauri Society, humans overall have little desire to travel between stars due to cost and technology.

Although this rowdy species has yet to claim their interstellar inheritence, they have transformed their solar playground around them, producing seven wonders that will go down in galactic history.

The Silver Stripes of Mercury

Originally conceived as a penal colony, industrial corporations decended upon Mecury after discovering large deposits of minerals and metals upon its surface.

While its close proximety to the Sun has made Mercury famous for its Magsail races, it’s the billions of solar panels that encircle the planet on the surface (in “neat” rows varying between 1-10 km wide) that make this world an engineering wonder.

The planets 100,000 residents use the energy produced during the Mecurian day to power the ores and cities on the dark side of the planet when it’s safe to work above ground (due to the Sol Star’s radiation).

The Bio Gardens of Luna Maria

terraformedmoon

(Image Credit: Daein Ballard)

Officially designated Luna Maria after the failed Lunar revolution (condemned by government and religious leaders on Earth), Luna Maria has transformed its appearence from a white barren wasteland into a “second Eden,” which now boasts 60 million residents.

After generating enormous wealth from exporting oxygen throughout the Sol System, Luna Maria has erected hundreds of thousands of enormous, interconnected biospheres upon 87% of its surface, giving Luna Maria the appearence of a miniture Earth from space.

Luna Maria’s artificial planetary magnetic field (the only one in existance due to cost) has allowed the moon to use bees instead of ants to pollinate its crops, producing gardens unrivaled throughout the star system (due to it’s 16.7% Earth norm gravity).

The Phobian Skyhook (Or Martian Space Elevator)

marsspaceelevator

(Image Credit: Steve Bowers)

After failed attempts to construct a space elevator on Earth (due to infrequent yet devestating global wars), humanity was finally able to construct a skyhook on the Martian moon of Phobos.

This engineering feat has enabled Mars to inexpensively export its vast supply of water throughout the asteroid belt and inner Sol System, bringing mixed prosperity to the 8 million residents of Mars.

While the red planet’s globacanes prevent a space elevator touching the ground from ever being built, the Phobian Skyhook is an impressive site to see when orbiting this crimson world.

The Jovian Jewel Callisto

Coruscant_guilpan

(Image Credit: Thomas Guilpain)

Originally established as a way station world during the Helium-3 rush (in which thousands sought to harvest the isotope for profit), Jupiter’s moon Callisto attracted millions of residents after being declared the safest radiation world after Earth.

Using its brother moon Ganymede as an agricultural world (due to it’s natural magnetic field), Callisto developed the means to feed its enormous population of 750 million, who built cities covering 96% of the entire surface.

Using robots to harvest radioactive materials from both Io and Europa to power its cities (as they are too dangerous to be visited by humans), Callisto brilliantly shimmers in the dark whenever it falls underneath Jupiter’s shadow.

The Beacon Towers Of Titan

Often declared as “an astronomer’s hell” due to it’s cloudy covering, Saturn’s moon Titan is considered a musicians heaven due to the richer sound that’s a result of it’s atmospheric presure and composition.

While Titan eventually became wealthy by exporting methane and ethane to the Sol System, the cloudy moon was extremly difficult to navigate as its crust rested upon a methane/ethane mix, causing it to “slightly drift” and rotate due to the worlds strong winds.

Since traditional forms of GPS were utterly useless, numerous 1.5 kilometer tall Beacon towers (beaming out intense radio waves) were constructed thoughout the moon, giving its 4 million residents a faux GPS system (making travel and commerce throughout the world a lot easier for all).

The Floating Cities Of Uranus

cloudcitystarwars

(Image Credit: Star Wars, original artist unknown)

Originally built by various Terrian corporations to harvest methane and helium-3 within the clouds of this ice giant, these floating cities soon became tourist attractions for the more affluent seeking to escape the low gravity life of lunar worlds orbiting gas giants.

These giant orbital space stations boast near Earth gravity, and mimic the daylight cycle on Earth by floating around the enormous ice giant which its residents call home.

While estimates put the total population between 80,000 wealthy souls, these floating cities are known to have hundreds of thousands of visitors pass through their space ports each standard year, many of them heading towards the Neptunian Lagrange asteroid fields.

The Plutonian Ice Bridge (aka Solar Bridge of Pluto And Charon)

Boasting no more than 50,000 brave souls, this world was originally settled upon by government scientists from various Terrian, Martian and Callistian nations seeking to conduct experiments considered too hazardous (and/or controversial) on their respective home worlds.

While the world and its smaller moon hold little value (both visually and economically), one interesting feature of this binary system is the solar bridge connecting both Pluto and Charon together.

This engineering feat was originally built to reduce the cost of travel between both worlds via rockets although conspiracy theorists have their own conclusions for its existence (none of which will be cited here).

What about Earth?

Although the human race has made great strides in establishing colonies throughout the Sol System, most of its 20 billion individuals reside on the birth planet Earth.

While Earth is still home to some of the greatest scientific discoveries known to man (and women), there are no great engineering wonders to speak of, aside from the beautiful beaches, mountains and vast blue oceans that distinguish our home world from every other sphere that orbits our star.

Update (11/24): Corrected grammatical errors. Thanks!

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Chinese-Russian Probe To Explore Red Planet, Radiation And Phobos

Posted by on Jan 5, 2009 in Asteroids, Blog, China, Mars, Russia | 0 comments

After establishing an alliance between each other, it looks as if the two major eastern space powers will be exploring “all things Mars” by sending a probe to analyze not only the Martian weather, but its asteroid moon as well.

(Mars Daily) The first joint Chinese-Russian mission to Mars is set to take off in October and reach the red planet in August 2010, an exploration project designer said.

A Russian Zenit rocket will launch a Chinese Yinghuo-1 satellite and a Russian Phobos-Grunt unmanned lander, Chen Changya, chief designer of the China-Russia Mars exploration project, told Hong Kong’s Wen Wei Po newspaper.

Phobos-Grunt is expected to study Mars from orbit, including its atmosphere and dust storms, plasma and radiation, before landing on Phobos, one of Mars’ two small moons.

Phobos is one of the prime locations in our solar system, and any nation (or group of nations) that is able to secure this tiny satellite will probably end up dominating the Martian planet as a future space power.

Political ambitions aside, the Phobos-Grunt should help provide more information regarding how much radiation impacts the red planet, as that could determine just how safe living on Mars may be.

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