Tag Archives: launch

A brief history of Martian exploration – as the InSight Lander prepares to launch



File 20180219 75967 1o8sc68.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
An artist’s rendition of the InSight lander – which will collect data on what’s inside the planet Mars.
NASA

Helen Maynard-Casely, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

Roughly every two years Mars and Earth wander a bit closer to each other, making the leap between these two planets a little easier. In July this year, Mars will only be about 58 million kilometres away – and NASA is set to take advantage by launching their next mission to the red planet in May 2018. The InSight Lander, will be the first Mars mission to investigate the planet’s “inner space”, and will listen for marsquakes to investigate the crust, mantle, and core.

InSight will join two rovers currently exploring the surface of Mars, and 14 spacecraft that are in orbit about it – albeit only six of which are currently sending us data.




Read more:
Ice mined on Mars could provide water for humans exploring space


Why does Mars, the red planet, have such a hold over us?

There are, after all, seven (or eight) other planets to explore – and yet we seem to have such a hang up on this one.

I guess it’s the tantalising nature of Mars. Here is a planet that we could conceivably walk on (unlike the gas giants), without being crushed by atmospheric pressure (like on Venus), having to deal with the radiation of being closer to the sun (Mercury) or just being far too far away (like Pluto). It calls to us through science fiction and fact, a planet that is so like our own Earth, but so unlike it at the same time.

Mars fly-over movie, made by visual artist Seán Doran, via NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.

The six current operational missions show that the fascination with Mars isn’t limited to one country, as European, Russian, American and Indian space agencies all have stakes in these crafts.

For comparison: our other nearest neighbour, Venus, only has one spacecraft currently in orbit about it, Akatsuki the spacecraft that wouldn’t quit. In fact, after the dramatic ending of the Cassini spacecraft, the only other planet currently being orbited by an Earth-built satellite is Jupiter, with the Juno mission.




Read more:
Juno mission unveils Jupiter’s complex interior, weather and magnetism


Water on Mars

But, while our progress to walking on Mars has been very slow, our progress in understanding our neighbour has been really quite impressive. When I started my planetary science degree in 2001, the course did not include sedimentology, the branch of geology that investigates how water has shaped rocks. It was deemed there was no point as no water has been seen on any other planet.

By the time I was in third year, the first years students behind me were getting well versed in how water could push around sand, silt and clay on other planets.

Finding water on Mars had been an obsession to many, and thanks to data from Mars rovers Spirit, Opportunity and latterly Curiosity we know that it’s there – just trapped in the rocks. A couple of years ago it was thought that we had even found water flowing on the surface of Mars, but that evidence is (ahem) drying up now.




Read more:
Dear diary: another day in the life on Mars


However, whether the water flows or is trapped in the rocks, the next question is where is the rest of it? If many of the rocks we see on Mars had been laid down by water – where is that water now?

The answer would be tangled up with the fate of Mars’s atmosphere. Though pitifully thin now, it must have been thick enough in the past to support flowing water on the surface. The mission of the spacecraft Maven (along with others) has been investigating this question – and all evidence is pointing to the Sun as the culprit for Mars’ missing atmosphere, with the solar wind gradually stripping it away.

Mars’ surface

It’s often touted that we know more about the surface of Mars than we do the bottom of our own oceans – and in terms of mapping resolution that’s true. Through the efforts of four orbiting missions we know how old most of the surface is, as well as how active it has been.

You can spend a joyful afternoon of procrastination flitting through HiRISE images that show sweeping dunes and pock-marked plains on Mars. With these images we can really apply our understanding of processes on Earth to what makes up the surface of Mars – from the formations of geological features, the movement of dust and sand and how the ice caps change through the seasons.

What’s inside Mars?

So we know there is water on Mars, we know where its atmosphere went and also the shifts of its sands – but there’s a missing piece of the puzzle. What’s on the inside?

To be fair, in this respect the interior of our own Earth is just as much of a mystery – but we have had centuries of seismic studies. From monitoring the passage of earthquakes through our planet we have built a picture of the layers that make up its interior. From that we’ve been able to undertake experiments that recreate the conditions and add more to that picture. At the moment we can only guess at the conditions within the interior of Mars – something that the InSight mission will answer.




Read more:
Before we colonise Mars, let’s look to our problems on Earth


After this, the next hurdle will be getting something back from Mars. We have a handful of meteorites that we know came from Mars, but having a sample that’s been collected and returned from a known location will priceless. NASA’s next rover, Mars 2020, will plan to do just this – but the return to Earth bit is still to be worked out.

The ConversationFrom sample return to human exploration is still a massive step, and will require a number of innovations to get there. But with the knowledge we’ve built from the missions over the last decade, it’s becoming more of a reality.

Helen Maynard-Casely, Instrument Scientist, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Article: Nuclear Attack on the Moon


The following link is to an article concerning a once planned nuclear launch on the moon.

For more visit:
http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/10/the-united-states-once-planned-on-nuking-the-moon/


Today in History: 15 April 1912


The Titanic Sinks

On this day in 1912, the luxury liner and so-called unsinkable Titanic sank in the North Atlantic after hitting an iceberg.

 

ABOVE: RMS Titanic

ABOVE & BELOW: Launch of the Titanic

ABOVE: Grand Dining Room of the Titanic

ABOVE: Cross Section of the Titanic

ABOVE: Illustration of the Scene of Disaster

ABOVE & BELOW: The Titanic Sinking

The article below deals with some myths surrounding the Titanic:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17515305

The link below is to an article with some rare photos of the Titanic:
http://www.buzzfeed.com/thefalafel/11-never-seen-before-pictures-of-the-titanic-4x8q

A letter from one of the victims, penned before he boarded the Titanic has been found. The letter by Robert Douglas Norman can be read at the link below:
http://www.deadlinenews.co.uk/2012/04/09/titanic-discovery-victims-letter-discovered-in-national-archive/

Historic records can be viewed online for free until the 31st May 2012. For more information visit:
http://www.scotsman.com/news/records-of-the-tragedy-free-to-view-online-1-2224066

ABOVE: Captain of the Titanic – Captain E. J. Smith

ABOVE: Titanic Lifeboat

ABOVE: The Carpathia Rescued Survivors and
BELOW:
Titanic Lifeboat Alongside the Carpathia

ABOVE: Titanic Survivors – Ida & Jean Hippach

ABOVE: J Bruce Ismay, Chairman of the White Star
Line
who Survived

For more on those who died on the Titanic and those who survived visit:
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Seven-Famous-People-Who-Missed-the-Titanic.html
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/0409/1224314547372.html

Here’s an article on pets on the Titanic:
http://www.neatorama.com/2012/04/11/the-dogs-aboard-the-titanic/

The video below is a simulation of how the Titanic is believed to have sunk:

For more, visit:
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Why-the-Titanic-Still-Fascinates-Us.html

http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/
http://www.titanic.com/
http://www.titanic1.org/
http://www.titanic-titanic.com/
http://www.the-titanic.com/Home.aspx
http://www.titanicinquiry.org/

A museum exhibit on the Titanic has opened. See the link below for more info:
http://www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=54653

Marking the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the feature film ‘Titanic’ is being released in 3D.

There is also a memorial cruise being organised.

For news on the cruise visit:
http://news.uk.msn.com/odd-news/titanic-memorial-cruise-sets-sail-4
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nation-world/sns-rt-us-britain-titanicbre8370bx-20120408,0,1524453.story
http://www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=54652
http://www.bedfordshire-news.co.uk/News/UK-and-world-news/Titanic-memorial-cruise-sets-sail-602490.xnf

The book, ‘The Titanic for Dummies,’ by Stephen Spignesi was released in January 2012. For more on the book visit:

http://www.courant.com/features/hc-titanic-for-dummies-0407-20120406,0,1506075.story


Today in History – 28 April 1789


William Bligh: Mutiny on the Bounty

William Bligh was born on the 9th September 1754 to Francis and Jane Bligh in St Tudy, Cornwall. He was signed up for a career in the Royal Navy when aged 7 in 1761.

In 1776, Bligh was with Captain James Cook as Sailing Master on the Resolution for Cook’s third and final voyage during which Cook was killed. Following this Bligh served on various ships and saw military action at a number of locations including Gibraltar in 1782.

In 1787 Bligh was made commander of the Bounty. On this day in 1789, the mutiny on the Bounty took place. The mutiny was led by Fletcher Christian, Master’s Mate. Bligh and a large number of the crew were provided with a ship’s launch and a small amount of provisions and Bligh made for Timor (from near Tonga). The journey was completed in 47 days and covered a remarkable distance of 6 700km.

It is thought that the mutiny took place in order to escape from the hardline discipline of Bligh and to escape to the island pleasures of Tahiti. Evidence would suggest that Bligh was far more easy going than other captains, though the future ‘mutiny’ in Sydney (see below) would suggest otherwise. Bligh was treated well in the court-martial and was acquitted.

From the Bounty, Bligh served in various roles, including Governor of New South Wales from the 13th August 1806 to the 26th January 1808. His post ended with the Rum Rebellion, which essentially was an on land mutiny by the New South Wales Corps under Major George Johnston. He succeeded Philip Gidley King and was replaced by Lachlan Macquarie.

Bligh’s rise through the ranks of the Royal Navy continued until he was appointed Vice Admiral of the Blue in 1814, though he never again received an active command. He died on the 7th December 1817.

As an interesting side point, the current premier of Queensland (Anna Bligh) is a descendant of William Bligh.

 


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