Top 10 questions to NASA’s Chief Technologist Mason Peck

Mason Peck Official Portrait Mason Peck, NASA’s Chief Technologist, was on Reddit a few days ago gamely fielding questions from all sides. The story trended near the top spot and was dominated by questions about Mars, including a fascinating discussion about radiation shielding. Here are the top 10 question and answers from that chat (with thanks to Reddit).

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Our strange and beautiful world as photographed by Chris Hadfield

You’ve seen the “Major Tom” video, followed the tweets and like me probably lament that it all had to end. So here I’ve put together more than 100 of my favorite photos taken by Commander Hadfield while aboard the ISS. After looking through the images let me know how you first discovered Chris Hadfield. Was it from Twitter, TV, YouTube, blogs, word of mouth? For me it was the famous “Captain Kirk” tweet from William Shatner on January 3rd, for me the world’s best ever Twitter conversation. What about you? It’d be fascinating to discover the moments of inspiration. read more…

Is it time for NASA’s nice guy Charles Bolden to quit?

Charles F. Bolden, Jr. This month marks four years since Charles Bolden was nominated to head up NASA; in the past 25 years only Daniel Goldin has served longer as administrator. But has time run out for Charles Bolden? He seems a nice enough guy, personable, friendly, a Marine general, an impressive career as an astronaut, a respected open-door manager, yet it seems there have never been so many questions asked about where NASA is headed, what are its real goals, and arguments over what it should or could be doing. It’s all happened on Bolden’s watch and he’s done little to end the uncertainty, satisfy the critics or inspire the public. read more…

NASA administrator Charles Bolden’s full speech to the Humans to Mars Summit

Here’s the full text of Bolden’s address to the Human to Mars Summit at George Washington University. Two minor points of interest: his embarrassingly stupid basketball metaphor in the introduction and his repeated, clumsy attempts to somehow make the plan to land on a rock in 2025 the vital precursor to a Mars mission. Sorry, we’re not buying it Charles. But here’s the real puzzler: While flattering all the Mars enthusiasts at the summit by claiming that: “Our entire exploration program is aligned to support this goal” (ie: the crewed exploration of Mars) you’ll nowhere find this stated on the NASA website or other documentation. What planet is Bolden living on? (Oh, Earth, that’s right because NASA can’t put anyone in orbit anymore). But judge for yourself: Is Bolden talking nonsense here? read more…

After 50 years of probes & rovers on Mars it’s time for the humans (part two: The private space industry)

spaceX dragon NASA has been sending probes to Mars for the past 50 years, but they won’t get the first humans to Mars. Maybe they’ll tag along after the Chinese in the 2040s, or perhaps they may partner with a private mission and buy a few seats. But first, by themselves, unlikely. They haven’t got the mandate or, it seems, the organizational energy. Their current mission is to land on a rock. Maybe it’s good science, but it hasn’t captured the imagination of the wider public. The Land On A Rock mission mission feels like one of those “it sounded good at the time” moments. NASA chief Bolden has ruled out a Moon landing and says we won’t live to see humans on Mars either if priorities keep changing. That sounds like a threat, and I’m still not convinced. read more…

After 50 years of probes and rovers on Mars, it’s time for the humans (part one)

marsRemember the Viking landers of the mid-70s and the Mariner probes of the 1960s? Half a century later and we’re still gathering data. Enough. It’s been fun but Stage One is complete. The recon mission is over. We know plenty about Mars and more data is constantly streaming in from Mars Odyssey; the remains of Opportunity; Mars Express; the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Science Laboratory. There’s been 44 Mars missions so far, about half of which have succeeded. We’ve got more planned: MAVEN, the ESA’s ExoMars Orbiter and Rover and in 2020 yet another rover designed to “meet our nation’s scientific and human exploration objectives”. What?! Haven’t they all been doing that? It’s time for the humans. Let’s see which countries* are ready to get serious. read more…

Waterworld fun for colonists on Kepler 62e and Kepler 62f

The “two Earth” system of Kepler 62 has been hailed as the best candidate yet for human habitation: Twin worlds Kepler 62e and Kepler 62f in the horribly named “Goldilocks zone” (not too hot, not too cold) of hominid-friendly conditions. Ignoring for a moment the inconvenient 1200 light year distance, what might our brave colonists encounter? How accurate a briefing could we offer? The sun is smaller and cooler, gravity may be as friendly as 1.4G or as crushing as 40G. We’ve no idea about the atmospheres and the planets may be entirely covered in water. The colony ship is going to have to pack a lot of gear for contingencies. read more…

Mars One: Is this really how the human colonization of space will begin?

Mars One concept artWill history record that a reality TV show was the catalyst for human colonization of the cosmos? Not the nobility of discovery, the quest for knowledge, the need to know whether we are alone, not even the simple pursuit of mineral wealth. Might it really be TV ratings? Mars One has begun to take video applications for trainees for its Mars colony. The first batch of one-way colonists are scheduled for lift-off in September 2022. The company says it will have a pool of 40 astronauts. The first four will land in 2023, the second group of four (the “intruders”?) in 2025. Yet perhaps TV ratings are not such a bad a motivation – there are precedents. read more…

You will Go To The Moon (and other disappointments)

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B0014LBY6I” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51P3dslyE4L._SL160_.jpg” width=”116″]”You Will Go To The Moon” – this isn’t a question, or a suggestion, it’s a statement, presumably of fact. If you’re old enough you may even recognize the phrase as the title of a popular children’s book. In the pre-Apollo era and even in the immediate years afterwards it was inspiring children around the world. Backed up with televised Moon landings and enthused media conjecture about where we’d be living in the 21st century, the book was a promise. I was reminded of the promise just a few nights ago when talking with a fresh aerospace engineering graduate at a dinner party.
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