First consider what, exactly, you’d be doing here.
Like a Smurf with a bass voice, according to Tim Leighton, a professor of acoustics at University of Southampton who has made it his mission to figure this kind of thing out, using physics and math combined with data about otherworldly atmospheres.
Venus’s atmosphere is much denser than ours, so vocal cords would vibrate more slowly there, yielding a lower voice—the opposite of what happens when you inhale helium. The speed of sound, though, is a lot faster on Venus than it is here, Leighton explains in a press release. He says that this can mess with how big we imagine the speaker to be: “This tricks the way our brain interprets the size of a speaker (presumably an evolutionary trait that allowed our ancestors to work out whether an animal call in the night was something that was small enough to eat or so big as to be dangerous).” So we might interpret that deep bass rumble as coming from a diminutive form.
Hot dogs are pretty bizarre already (proof: the infamous pink slime video). But they may take a turn for the weirder, should a new beef-fat substitute take off. It’s a gel made from ethyl cellulose that combines the physical properties of beef fat with the nutritional properties of a postage stamp.
The simulated eagle has finally landed, and today, two men have walked upon the red sands of fake Mars. This jaunt along a sandpit in Moscow, the latest episode in the Mars500 project designed to test human endurance, gives the cosmonauts a respite from their past eight months of windowless confinement.
As the BBC reports:
“We have made great progress today,” commented Vitaly Davydov, the deputy head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, who was watching a video feed of the two men. “All systems have been working normally.”
Organized by Russia’s Institute of Biomedical Problems and the European Space Agency, the Mars500 project seeks to better understand how humans would endure the psychological and physical effects of the isolation and confinement necessary for a real mission to Mars. The ’500′ in Mars500 indicates the mission’s time frame–the organizers estimated that it would takes 250 days to travel to Mars, and then allotted 30 days for surface exploration before a 240-day return trip. (Technically, the project’s name should be Mars520.)
If you were traveling to Mars solely by spacecraft, your health might take a serious hit during the 18-month or so round-trip journey–and you might not even be able to see your home by the time you got back. Throughout the journey, high-energy particles known as cosmic rays would course through your body, not only damaging your eyesight, but also increasing your risk of cancer by up to 20 percent.
Luckily, one scientist has an answer: Don’t fly a spaceship to Mars, hop on an asteroid instead.
Cosmic rays zing into our solar system from interstellar space; here on Earth our planet’s magnetic field protects us from them, and astronauts aboard the International Space Station are mostly protected by the Earth’s bulk and its magnetic field as well. But astronauts on a long-haul trip to Mars would be in more danger.
With less than 10,000 miles to go until they reach fake Mars, the fake mission to the Red Planet is going as planned. Which is to say, the space travel simulation project known as Mars-500 project is full of mishaps and surprises, as the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems tests the fake astronauts’ ability to handle anything outer space could throw at them.
The next milestone: the fake arrival in Mars orbit on February 1.
And for being confined to a 1,800-square-foot test module for 520 lonely days, the crew members are doing a stellar job. In their last update, published on the official Mars-500 website on January 14, they give a terse but positive appraisal of their condition:
226th day of the experiment. Scientific equipment is in operable condition. Clarification for implementation of special experiments is carried out. There are no alterations of health state which can interfere with participating in the experiment and realizing of scientific program.
Strap on your astronaut suit and hold on to your space shoes, because in 20 years, you could just be aboard Earth’s first mission to Mars. At least, that’s the hope of over 400 people who read the Journal of Cosmology’s special edition issue, The Human Mission to Mars: Colonizing the Red Planet, and volunteered to take part in a not-yet-scheduled trip to Mars.
The journal spills the details about the logistics involved in a privately-funded journey to the Red Planet–a book-length brainstorm by leading scientists. What, for example, happens if you get an infection on Mars? How do you have sex in space? And, most importantly, how long do you have to live on Mars before you get to call yourself a Martian? (Ok, I made that last question up, but aren’t you curious?)
Any journey to Mars–especially one with no scheduled return to Earth–is fraught with challenges. As Fox News reports:
“It’s going to be a very long period of isolation and confinement,” said Albert Harrison, who has studied astronaut psychology since the 1970s as a professor of psychology at UC Davis…. “After the excitement of blast-off, and after the initial landing on Mars, it will be very difficult to avoid depression…. Each day will be pretty much like the rest. The environment, once the novelty wears off, is likely to be deadly boring. Despite being well prepared and fully equipped there are certain to be unanticipated problems that cannot be remedied. One by one the crew will get old, sick, and die-off.”
Future Mars rovers or moon buggies might be riding the wings of Goodyear spring-based tires. This high-tech tire just won a 2010 R&D 100 award, also known as the “Oscar of Innovation,” from the editors of R&D magazine.
The tire was invented last year in a joint effort between NASA and Goodyear, and was tested out on NASA’s Lunar Electric Rover at the Rock Yard at the Johnson Space Center. The spring tire builds upon previous versions of the moon tire, and the improvements enable it to take larger (up to 10 times) rovers up to 100 times further, NASA scientists explained to Gizmag:
“With the combined requirements of increased load and life, we needed to make a fundamental change to the original moon tire,” said Vivake Asnani, principal investigator for the project at NASA’s Glenn Research Centre in Cleveland. “What the Goodyear-NASA team developed is an innovative, yet simple network of interwoven springs that does the job. The tire design seems almost obvious in retrospect, as most good inventions do.”
The tire is made up of 800 helical springs, which simulate the flexibility of an air-filled tire. Because there are so many springs, the tire can’t completely fail all at once, like a punctured air-filled tire would, Asnani said in the Goodyear press release:
Want to see your tax dollars at work? There’s a more exciting way to do it than watching a road crew pour asphalt for the latest highway expansion. Now you can watch the next Mars rover being built in a clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, thanks to a well-positioned webcam.
Curiosity rover, also known as the Mars Science Laboratory, is a hulking beast compared to its smaller cousins, Spirit and Opportunity. The six-wheeled Curiosity is about the size of a car and weighs 2,000 pounds. The rover is scheduled to blast off toward Mars in the winter of 2011, and to reach the planet in August 2012. Its mission: to probe rocks, take pictures, and generally cruise around looking for signs of life, past or present.
The “Curiosity Cam” went live today. It will typically show technicians working from 8 in the morning until 11 at night, Monday through Friday, but the bunny suit-clad engineers sometimes disappear from the shot when their work draws them to other parts of the building. (During their lunch break today one commenter groused that it was boring to stare at an empty room.) Right now the technicians are working on the rover’s instruments, tomorrow they’re scheduled to put the suspension system and wheels on. Be sure to tune in!
80beats: It’s Alive! NASA Test-Drives Its New Hulking Mars Rover, Curiosity
80beats: James Cameron to Design a 3D Camera for Next-Gen Mars Rover
80beats: Spirit Doesn’t Return NASA’s Calls; Rover Might Be Gone for Good
80beats: Mars Rover Sets Endurance Record: Photos From Opportunity’s 6 Years On-Planet
Image: NASA / JPL
When organizers at the American Museum of Natural History in New York decided to set up a debate on the future of manned space exploration, President Obama had not yet announced plans to cancel the NASA program designed to carry astronauts to the moon by 2020 and Mars by 2030. That recent development only served to spice up the proceedings at last night’s Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, moderated by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
The main theme guiding the night’s proceedings was supposed to be “Where next?” But based on NASA’s recent change of course, much of the night focused on how to kick the human exploration into gear.
Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society, was the idealist and dominant personality on the panel, claiming “we’re much closer sending men to Mars now than we were sending someone to the moon in 1961.” He noted that when factoring in inflation, NASA has about the same budget for manned spaceflight as it did during the Apollo years. He encouraged a bold deadline for reaching Mars to motivate current scientists and inspire future ones.
Yet the Apollo comparisons can only go so far. “We don’t have the Cold War infrastructure that helped build Apollo,” said Paul Spudis, the panel’s moon expert. And during the Q&A session, audience member Miles O’Brien (a space blogger and formerly CNN’s science correspondent) plainly stated, “The nostalgia of the Space Race is not coming back. You can’t just recreate that.”
Only two days after the LHC became the world’s fastest particle accelerator, the agency running the operation, CERN, had to temporarily flip the off switch on part of the giant machine.
As reported by The Register:
It appears that a failure occurred at 01:23 Swiss time this morning in an 18,000-volt power line at the Meyrin site above the mighty collider’s subterranean circuit. This caused a power cut across the site, shutting down the main computer centre among other things and causing an abrupt cessation of operations.
The latest fail is not really that big of deal according to CERN, since the LHC’s cryogenics, which keep the collider’s magnets nice and cold (1.9 degrees above absolute zero to be exact), weren’t affected and no catastrophic damage was reported. Also, no baguettes have been found. While the glitch may have some wondering whether bad luck from the future is afoot, CERN scientists hope to have the proton beams flowing again later today.