Lockheed Martin Unveils New Space-Themed STEM Resources


Concerned the United States will lack a workforce capable of sending astronauts to Mars, Lockheed Martin has unveiled new resources to encourage students to study relevant STEM fields.

The additions to the company’s Generation Beyond program including a space-themed curriculum and new app that simulates what it’s like to explore the surface of Mars.

The expansion of the program follows a poll that shows low interest among students in studying STEM fields.

“According to the national survey of 1,000 teachers (conducted by Morar Consulting from April 5 – 11, ± 3.1% MOE), while just 38 percent of teachers report that a majority of students seem naturally interested in STEM, 83 percent see discussing space-related careers as a potential way to increase student focus on STEM,” Lockheed Martin said in a press statement.

“America’s hardworking teachers do an amazing job preparing students for success, and we owe them our support and partnership,” said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “The new Generation Beyond curriculum connects students to the real-world exhilaration of space exploration to ignite their interest in STEM. It’s incumbent on all of us to help teachers inspire the next generation of innovators and engineers.”

Lockheed Martin partnered with Discovery Education to create the Generation Beyond curriculum resources. They are available at generationbeyondinschool.com. The Mars Walk can be download for iPhone or Android phones.

Elon Musk’s Ambitious Mars Plan Now Online

A view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

If you liked the talk, you’re going to love the paper.

New Space journal has published an article by SpaceX Founder Elon Musk in which he puts down in writing the presentation he gave in Mexico last year about his company’s plan for a human transportation system to Mars.

You can read the paper here.

China Looks for Commercial Lunar, Mars Participation

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

China is looking to get more commercial companies involved in lunar and Mars exploration.

Tian Yulong, secretary general of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), said that commercial aerospace programs had been carried out in low Earth orbit (LEO), but those in deep space exploration would be a challenge, at the Global Space Exploration Conference, which lasts from Tuesday to Thursday.

“In deep space exploration, we need to provide a favorable environment for middle and small-sized enterprises,” he said….

Tian said many Chinese companies showed enthusiasm for taking part in space exploration. In the last two years, more than 10 enterprises have been engaged in microsatellite research and development and about 100 have worked on the development and use of satellite LEO data.

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ESA Completes Inquiry into ExoMars Schiaparelli Failure

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. The zoomed insets provide close-up views of what are thought to be several different hardware components associated with the module’s descent to the martian surface. These are interpreted as the front heatshield, the parachute and the rear heatshield to which the parachute is still attached, and the impact site of the module itself. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The inquiry into the crash-landing of the ExoMars Schiaparelli module has concluded that conflicting information in the onboard computer caused the descent sequence to end prematurely.

The Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator module separated from its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, as planned on 16 October last year, and coasted towards Mars for three days.

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GAO: Improvements in NASA Cost & Schedule Performance Might Not Be Sustainable

The LEMNOS project will provide laser communications services to NASA’s Orion vehicle, show in this artist concept. (Credit: NASA)

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that NASA while has continued to improve its cost and schedule performance on major projects, the space agency might not be able to sustain the trend much longer due to projects such as the Space Launch System and Orion.

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Explore Mars Issues Report with Findings & Recommendations

The Humans to Mars Report 2017

Explore Mars, Inc.
Full Report (PDF)

Findings

  • The wide range of architectures for the exploration of Mars and the credibility of the institutions and companies producing them demonstrate both the wide interest in Mars exploration and the positive opinions of the viability of current technology to achieve it.
  • Mars exploration architectures must consider and address affordability, including how the architecture will return appropriate value to its stakeholders, as a fundamental requirement for credibility.
  • Sustainability is also a fundamental requirement and will be driven by, besides affordability, international and commercial partnerships. To effectively engage these partners, clear consideration of their contributions and objectives must be made.
  • A well-defined set of accepted scientific objectives will anchor coordination between the human spaceflight and science communities and ensure the widest possible support for human exploration of Mars.
  • Timely identification of strategic knowledge gaps and a robust technology demonstration program is needed to mature systems for Mars explorations. Testing systems at the International Space Station and in cislunar space would provide valuable operations experience for Mars systems.
  • Robotic reconnaissance of Mars from orbit and on the surface is needed to finalize selection of landing sites and inform technology development and system design.
  • The ongoing discussion and development of systems and architectures for deep space exploration is valuable with each idea contributing new perspectives and possibilities. Architecture choices must be rational and transparent to maximize participation. Open and wide ranging discussion will produce the strongest possible Mars architecture.
  • Mars is achievable.

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SpaceX Weighing Sending 2 Red Dragon Missions to Mars in 2020

Red Dragon enters Mars atmosphere. (Credit: SpaceX)

NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green said on Tuesday that SpaceX plans to launch two Red Dragon missions to Mars during the 2020 launch window.

“Every 26 months, the highway to Mars opens up, and that highway is going to be packed. We start out at the top of that opportunity with a SpaceX launch of Red Dragon. That will be followed at the end of that opportunity with another Red Dragon. Those have been announced by SpaceX,” Green said during an appearance at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, DC.

The Red Dragon is a modified version of the Dragon spacecraft SpaceX uses to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. SpaceX will send these automated vehicles to the surface as a precursor to human missions it wants to fly in the 2020’s.

SpaceX has announced that it will send a Red Dragon to the surface in 2020.  However, Elon Musk’s company has said nothing publicly about a second spacecraft. Red Dragons are designed to perform automated descent, entry and landings on the martian surface.

SpaceX had planned to launch the first Red Dragon mission in 2018. However, the effort was pushed back two years due to the company’s other commitments, which include commercial cargo and crew missions for NASA and a backed up launch manifest caused, in part, by two Falcon 9 failures.

The inaugural flight test of the Falcon Heavy booster that will launch the Red Dragon spacecraft has also been delayed for more than four years. That test is currently scheduled for the third quarter of 2017.

NASA is providing about $30 million in in-kind support for the first Red Dragon flight in exchange for entry data. The space agency’s support includes trajectory analysis and tracking and communications via the Deep Space Network.

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Pioneer Astronautics Selected for NASA Small Business Award

Bob Zubrin’s Pioneer Astronautics has been selected for a NASA small business award to begin development of a system to extract soil from martian soil.

“The Advanced Mars Water Acquisition System (AMWAS) recovers and purifies water from Mars soils for oxygen and fuel production, life support, food production, and radiation shielding in support of human exploration missions,” the proposal states. “The AMWAS removes water from Mars soils using hot, recirculating carbon dioxide gas to provide rapid heat transfer. The AMWAS evaporates water from ice and salt hydrates, leaving dissolved contaminants in the soil residue.”

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NIAC Phase I Award: Turbolift

Turbolift to assist astronauts on long duration space exploration missions. (Credit: Jason Gruber)

Turbolift

Jason Gruber
Medical Solutions Group
Tampa, Fla.

Value: Approximately $125,000
Length of Study: 9 months

Description

Long duration space exploration missions cause astronauts to experience physiological deconditioning, including bone loss, muscle atrophy, cardiovascular deconditioning, sensorimotor/balance impairment, and vision changes.

For a crewed Mars mission, where microgravity and reduced gravity (e.g. 0.38 G on the Martian surface) exposure may occur for 2+ years, deconditioning impacts the astronauts’ health, well-being, effectiveness, and safety.

Here, we propose a novel linear artificial gravity (AG) technology designed to counteract these deleterious effects on the astronauts. Previous “centrifuge” AG systems have negative impacts due to the constant rotating environment:

1) Coriolis forces, which may be confusing and limit concurrent exercise or lead to injury,

2) vestibular crosscoupling illusions, which are highly provocative and cause motion sickness, and

3) gravity gradients, where the loading varying along the length of the astronauts body. Alternatively, our linear AG technology (termed “Turbolift”) suffers from none of these confounding problems, particularly during the acceleration/deceleration “loading” phases.

Briefly, the conceptual paradigm is as follows: the astronaut is linearly accelerated at 1G for ~1s, then is rotated 180 degrees to prepare for a 1G deceleration for ~1s. This process is repeated to create intermittent AG where the force is always headward similar to standing here on Earth.

The experience is likely to be analogous to bouncing mildly on a trampoline. The intermittent loading is intended to reduce or eliminate the physiological deconditioning in a comprehensive, multi-system manner.

To evaluate the linear AG technology, we aim to perform an engineering design analysis to quantify the required size and mass of the system. We also aim to design a scale model of the system to test its feasibility, such that it can be properly evaluated as countermeasure system to enable long duration crewed exploration missions.

Full List of 2017 NIAC Awards

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NIAC Projects Target Mars, Venus & Pluto

Pluto Hop, Skip, and Jump mission. (Credit: Benjamin Goldman)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

An airship for Mars, two spacecraft capable of exploring the hellish environment of Venus, and a fusion-powered orbiter and lander for Pluto are three of the planetary-related research projects recently funded by theNASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

In all, NIAC funded eight advanced projects focused on Mars, Venus and Pluto in its latest annual funding round. The space agency also funded two proposals aimed at identifying and extracting resources on planets, moons and asteroids.
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NASA Selects Honeybee Robotics for Six Small Business Awards

The green oval highlights the plumes Hubble observed on Europa. The area also corresponds to a warm region on Europa’s surface. The map is based on observations by the Galileo spacecraft (Credits: NASA/ESA/STScI/USGS)

Honeybee Robotics will begin developing new technologies that would allow a lander to drill into the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa and collect samples for analysis with the help of a pair of NASA small business awards.

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NIAC Phase I Award: Detoxifying & Enriching Martian Soil for Agriculture

Synthetic Biology Architecture to Detoxify and Enrich Mars Soil for Agriculture (Credit: Adam Arkin)

A Synthetic Biology Architecture to Detoxify and Enrich Mars Soil for Agriculture

Adam Arkin
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, Calif.

Value: Approximately $125,000
Length of Study: 9 months

Description

Although the theoretical case for space biological engineering is convincing, since recent studies on the use of biology in space showed substantial payload minimization over abiotic approaches even before any engineering, the functioning of these biological technologies has yet to be proven in a space-like environment.

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NIAC Phase I Award: Phobos L1 Tether Experiment

Phobos L1 Operational Tether Experiment (Credit: Kevin Kempton)

Phobos L1 Operational Tether Experiment (PHLOTE)

Kevin Kempton
NASA Langley Research Center
Hampton, Va.

Value: Approximately $125,000
Length of Study: 9 months

Description

A sensor package that “floats” just above the surface of Phobos, suspended by a tether from a small spacecraft operating at the Mars/Phobos Lagrange 1 (L1) Point would offer exciting opportunities for science (SMD), for human exploration (HEOMD) and for advancements in space technology (STMD).

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