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…

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