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Hopper Craft May Leap Instead Of Drive Across Mars

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HopperLet’s get one thing straight: the Curiosity Rover is bad-ass. It has uncovered all kinds of amazing evidence supporting the notion of water, and possibly even life, on Mars. Still, some scientists wonder whether roving is the best way to traverse the red planet. A proposal from Leiscester University and European space company Astrium, now funded by the ESA, involves a new design — a hopper.

True to its name, the vehicle would leap across the surface of Mars, thus eliminating the need for wheels. The advantage is that much of Mars’ surface is covered with boulders, hills, craters, and sand — in fact, the Curiosity Rover will have to deal with some pretty major sand traps on its way to Mount Sharpe. The leaping system makes it much easier for a vehicle to navigate this type of terrain.

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Curiosity Provides A Flood Of Information About Water On Mars

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The Curiosity Rover has had one hell of a ride on Mars. Unless you’ve been hiding under a Martian rock, you’ve probably heard of Curiosity’s myriad findings supporting the idea that Mars once was a wet planet. In fact, we earthlings may even owe our existence to Mars. Curiosity roves on, and as it does, it uncovers more and more information about the water that used to flow on the red planet. At the recent European Planetary Science Congress Conference, more specific details were revealed about Curiosity’s water-related finds, and about the rocks that suggest ancient Mars may have harbored primordial life.

Curiosity pebbles

Hottah

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Mars Colony Proposal Would Send Robots Ahead To Carve Out Underground Facilities

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SurfaceWe’ve heard a lot about Mars, and the dream of sending humans there, in recent years. The landing of the Curiosity rover put both the red planet, and space exploration in general, back in the headlines in a way it hadn’t been in a while. Hell, there’s even a reality show offering to make a select few volunteers the very first Mars colonists (although it’s a one-way trip). But while mankind has been dreaming of leaving human bootprints in Mars’ red soil for decades, figuring out the logistics of how to make it happen are challenging to say the least. Not only do you have to get people there safely, you have to ensure their survival once they get there. Now a group of German architects is proposing a clever way to create permanent buildings on Mars before any humans arrive. They’re heading underground.

ZA Architects’ vision of Mars settlement involves sending specialized robots ahead of any human missions. Once on Mars, the ‘bots would begin digging into Mars’ surface to create underground facilities, which would then be ready and waiting for astronauts/colonists to inhabit and finish out. The plan would take advantage of Mars’ soil, which is rich in basalt. As the architects’ website explains, “Basalt is good material to make a protectional cave on, to produce insulation, and basalt roving, which is stronger than steel.”

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Mars One Colonists Will Face Psychological As Well As Physical Challenges

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MarsOneBy now you’ve probably heard of Mars One, the Dutch nonprofit that aims to put colonists on Mars permanently by 2023, and intends to turn the selection, training, and colonization process into must-see reality television. The application process ended on August 31, at which point over 165,000 people from around the world had applied for the project. All of them insisted that they were ready to leave behind Earth and all the people they know forever to become red planet pioneers. Of course, even the boldest and most cocksure applicants can’t truly know what they might be getting themselves into. The problem is that Mars One may not know either.

The Mars One plan has drawn plenty of criticism: NASA, to whom money woes are all too familiar, doubts the feasibility of racking up enough funding for such a venture (that’s where the reality TV part comes in, ostensibly), and others worry about all the technical requirements of such a campaign. Can we really get a human crew to Mars without exposing them to scary levels of radiation? Will we be able to send and deploy all the necessary structures ahead of the colonists’ arrival? Will they have enough to eat?

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Solar-Powered Autonomous Greenhouse Could Produce Fresh Spinach On Mars

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Popeye on MarsAs plans for a Mars colony are underway, at least preliminarily and tentatively, scores of questions arise about the logistics of supporting such a colony. Will people live under a dome? (Yes, until/unless we terraform Mars) What about radiation? And, most importantly, what will the Mars colonists have for dinner?

The answer: spinach.

A team from Greece recently won NASA’s Deployable Greenhouse Space Apps challenge. The challenge was for teams to design a deployable greenhouse small and light enough to stow aboard a spacecraft, that would require as few resources as possible, could function at low pressure, and could store plant-generated oxygen. Ideally, the greenhouse would also have a growing system, a system for recycling water, and a thermal control system.

The winning greenhouse, called “Popeye on Mars,” has an aeroponic system that can operate autonomously for 45 days, which is all the time needed for it to produce spinach. It can stabilize its internal environment, store oxygen, and harvest the spinach at the end of the 45-day cycle. It’s powered by photovoltaic panels that convert that pesky solar radiation into electricity via semiconductors, and is protected against the extreme conditions on the red planet.

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Did Life Begin On Mars? New Evidence Suggests It Did

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moon craterSome people are very particular about where they come from. While I’m an American, and a Louisianan, I prefer to say I come from South Louisiana, as that definition excludes me from the ranks of all the stereotypical North Louisiana morons that are seen on reality shows. It’s a mostly useless description to anyone that doesn’t live here, but it’s a pride thing. However, it’s a moot point if it turns out we all come from Mars, as certain new evidence suggests.

Professor Steven Benner, of the Westheimer Institute of Science and Technology, recently presented this theory at the Goldschmidt Meeting in Florence, Italy. He poses the argument that Earth’s state three billion years ago was lacking the specifics needed to kick start complex organisms, and that it’s likely a meteorite broken off of Mars allowed for life to form in the way it did. Billions of years ago, the Earth was full of carbon-based primordial ooze, which just wasn’t capable of creating RNA (ribonucleic acid), which is thought to be the first form of genetic material to have formed. When heat or light hit the soup, it’s far more likely that instead of life, the only result would have been a goopy tar.