May 8, 2013

NASA To Pursue Manned Mars Mission – The Daily Orbit

A manned mission to Mars coming soon? Maybe.

NASA is looking a little green.

They’re coming! Who’s that exactly? We’ll let you know.

And two is better than one on today’s Daily Orbit!

Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.

Our favorite Martian Man is at again, talking about well, Martian men or men on Mars at least. At the Humans to Mars Summit at George Washington University on Monday, Charles Bolden spoke about the growing interest to send humans to Mars by the 2030s, saying NASA’s entire program is “aligned to support this goal.” They are using the space station as a testing bed for technologies and systems for future manned Mars missions. Thinking about your own cosmic career? NASA had the second highest number of applicants ever last year with over 6,300 aspiring astronauts. Only 20 will make the cut and from that three will be trained for long duration space flight i.e. one to Mars. Sorry Bolden, but SpaceX’s Elon Musk plans to one up—sending to people to Mars in the 2020s. Sounds like a great Celebrity Death Match to me!

NASA is going green! NASA announced it plans to switch to a greener, environmentally-benign rocket fuel by 2015. Hydrazine has been the propellant of choice due to its ability to produce lots of energy and hot gas from little liquid, but it’s highly toxic, highly volatile, and has limited capacity. So NASA is refining a new energetic ionic liquid propellant, or EIL, known for thermal stability and extremely low vapor pressure—making it good for rocket fuel. Scientists with NASA say that as EIL-propellants are developed, they will provide lower cost and safe propulsion systems operations along with greater mission flexibility and faster mission response times.

“It’s the year of the cicadas!” Everyone keeps saying this to me since my recent move to the East Coast. “What is that?” They’ve been sleeping for 17 years and they’re ready to rise and storm the East Coast from Georgia to Connecticut. There’s no escape from these relatively harmless, cricket-like insects that are expected to outnumber us humans 600 to one. They will be leaving their hiding places once the ground reaches precisely 64 degrees F, to procreate and alas die, leaving a horde of carcasses behind. The mating song will fill the air with loud buzzing. This group’s name “Brood II,” is one of seven different species of periodical cicadas. So watch out “they’re coming.”

Two is better than one, don’t you think? And that’s definitely the case when NASA maps volcanoes. The agency’s Landsat Data Continuity Mission satellite’s two instruments—the Operational Land Imager and Thermal Infrared Sensor were able to work in concert to provide insight on the Pacific’s Paluweh volcano in mid-eruption. The Imager also picked up the white-hot speck in the volcano’s caldera, which shows the volcanic activity. Scientists were able to image very diverse thermal activity with great detail. One researcher said, “Each instrument by itself is magnificent but when you put them together”…”it’s greater than either could do by themselves.”

Didn’t you think we’d be cruising around George Jetson style by now? Yeah, me too! Well, maybe we’re getting closer. The company Terrafugia already developed the world’s first flying car years ago although it’s not yet in production. They are now moving on to the possibility of a four-seat, vertical takeoff and landing hybrid-electric flying car called the TF-X. It kinda resembles a helicopter and employs state-of-the-art intelligent systems, fly by wire controls and currently available technology to increase simplicity and safety in personal aviation. The company says it is nearing production of its first flying car, the Transition, which already has 100 orders at $279,000 a pop. So if the TF-X is a hybrid, can I park it at a meter for free? If so, I’m in—I can’t get any more parking tickets!

And that does it for the Orbit today Orbiters!

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