NASA manned Mars mission details emerge

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A 400,000kg (880,000lb) Marship would be assembled in orbit using the Ares V cargo launch vehicle for a 900-day mission to the red planet, according to details that have emerged about NASA’s new Constellation programme’s manned Mars mission.

The spacecraft would take a “minimal crew” to Mars in six to seven months, with the crew spending up to 550 days on the surface, according to the programme’s design reference architecture 5.0, currently in development.

Each of the three to four Ares V rockets used to launch the Marship elements into low Earth orbit would need a 125,000kg payload capacity and use a 10m (32.7ft) fairing.

Crews would be sent every 26 months, will need up to 50,000kg of cargo, use an aerodynamic and powered descent method and the 40min communications delay between Earth and Mars would require autonomy or at least asynchronous operation with mission control.

Notionally launched in February 2031, the first crew’s flight would be preceded by the cargo lander and surface habitat being sent in December 2028 and January 2029, respectively using two Ares V launches.

The lander will arrive around October 2029 and the habitat November the same year. Nuclear power is the preferred surface energy source. The crew will arrive in August 2031.

A second mission’s habitat and lander will be launched by two Ares Vs in late 2030/early 2031 to reach Mars at the same time as the first crew. In the first quarter of 2033, the second mission’s crew will leave Earth to arrive at Mars by December, while the first crew leaves Mars in January 2033 after a 17-month stay, to reach Earth by September.

The details were included in a presentation at “Enabling Exploration: The Lunar Outpost and Beyond“, the October meeting of NASA’s Lunar exploration analysis group.

It also states, “Conjunction class missions (long-stay) [have] fast inter-planetary transits. Successive missions provide functional overlap of mission assets,” referring to the presence of a following mission’s habitat and cargo lander being on Mars when its preceding mission’s crew are there already.

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Former pilots and officials call for new U.S. UFO probe

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Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich may have been ridiculed for saying he had seen a UFO, but for some former military pilots and other observers, unidentified flying objects are no laughing matter.

An international panel of two dozen former pilots and government officials called on the U.S. government on Monday to reopen its generation-old UFO investigation as a matter of safety and security given continuing reports about flying discs, glowing spheres and other strange sightings.

“Especially after the attacks of 9/11, it is no longer satisfactory to ignore radar returns … which cannot be associated with performances of existing aircraft and helicopters,” they said in a statement released at a news conference.

The panelists from seven countries, including former senior military officers, said they had each seen a UFO or conducted an official investigation into UFO phenomena.

The subject of UFOs grabbed the spotlight in the U.S. presidential race last month when Kucinich, a member of Congress from Ohio, said during a televised debate with other Democratic candidates that he had seen one.

Former presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter are both reported to have claimed UFO sightings.

Most turn out to be misidentified aircraft, satellites or meteors. A panelist who once worked for Britain’s Ministry of Defense said 5 percent of incidents cannot be explained.

But the sightings are often dismissed by authorities without proper investigations, UFO activists say.

“It’s a question of who you going to believe: your lying eyes or the government?” remarked John Callahan, a former Federal Aviation Administration investigator, who said the CIA in 1987 tried to hush up the sighting of a huge lighted ball four times the size of a jumbo jet in Alaska.

The panel, organized by a group dedicated to winning credibility for the study of UFOs, urged Washington to resume UFO investigations through the U.S. Air Force or NASA.

“It would certainly, I think, take a lot of angst out of this issue,” said former Arizona Gov. Fife Symington, who said he was among hundreds who saw a delta-shaped craft with enormous lights silently traverse the sky near Phoenix in 1997.

The Air Force investigated 12,618 UFO reports from 1947 to 1969 in what was known as Project Blue Book. Investigators concluded that the incidents posed no threat and there was no evidence of space aliens or a super technology in operation.

“Since the termination of Project Blue Book, nothing has occurred that would support a resumption of UFO investigations,” the Air Force said on its Web site.

Symington: I saw a UFO in the Arizona sky

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Former Arizona Governor Fife Symington will be moderating a November 12 event at the National Press Club where he will discuss the Phoenix Lights incident. He says he will be joined by 14 former high-ranking military and government officials from seven countries who will share evidence from what they call their own UFO experiences and investigations.

In 1997, during my second term as governor of Arizona, I saw something that defied logic and challenged my reality. I witnessed a massive delta-shaped, craft silently navigate over Squaw Peak, a mountain range in Phoenix, Arizona. It was truly breathtaking. I was absolutely stunned because I was turning to the west looking for the distant Phoenix Lights.

To my astonishment this apparition appeared; this dramatically large, very distinctive leading edge with some enormous lights was traveling through the Arizona sky.

As a pilot and a former Air Force Officer, I can definitively say that this craft did not resemble any man-made object I’d ever seen. And it was certainly not high-altitude flares because flares don’t fly in formation.

The incident was witnessed by hundreds — if not thousands — of people in Arizona, and my office was besieged with phone calls from very concerned Arizonians.

The growing hysteria intensified when the story broke nationally. I decided to lighten the mood of the state by calling a press conference where my chief of staff arrived in an alien costume. We managed to lessen the sense of panic but, at the same time, upset many of my constituents.

I would now like to set the record straight. I never meant to ridicule anyone. My office did make inquiries as to the origin of the craft, but to this day they remain unanswered.

Eventually the Air Force claimed responsibility stating that they dropped flares.

This is indicative of the attitude from official channels. We get explanations that fly in the face of the facts. Explanations like weather balloons, swamp gas and military flares.

I was never happy with the Air Force’s silly explanation. There might very well have been military flares in the sky that evening, but what I and hundreds of others saw had nothing to do with that.

I now know that I am not alone. There are many high-ranking military, aviation and government officials who share my concerns. While on active duty, they have either witnessed a UFO incident or have conducted an official investigation into UFO cases relevant to aviation safety and national security.

By speaking out with me, these people are putting their reputations on the line. They have fought in wars, guarded top secret weapons arsenals and protected our nation’s skies.

We want the government to stop putting out stories that perpetuate the myth that all UFOs can be explained away in down-to-earth conventional terms. Investigations need to be re-opened, documents need to be unsealed and the idea of an open dialogue can no longer be shunned.

Incidents like these are not going away. About a year ago, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport experienced a UFO event that made national and international headlines.

What I saw in the Arizona sky goes beyond conventional explanations. When it comes to events of this nature that are still completely unsolved, we deserve more openness in government, especially our own.

China: Satellite Enters Moon’s Orbit

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A Chinese satellite successfully entered lunar orbit Monday, a month after rival Japan put its own probe into orbit around the moon, but Chinese officials denied there was any competition between the two nations.

Chinese space officials said the Chang’e 1 satellite, part of the country’s ambitious space exploration plans, entered lunar orbit after completing a planned braking operation.

China plans to keep the Chang’e 1 – named after a mythical Chinese goddess who flew to the moon – there for one year, about the same length of time as Japan’s probe. China launched its satellite late last month, while Japan put its into space in September.

The timing of the launches raises the prospect of a space rivalry between the two Asian nations, with India possibly joining in if it carries through on a plan to send its own lunar probe into space in April.

But Long Jiang, deputy commander of spacecraft systems of China’s lunar exploration program, said Beijing wanted to use its space program to work with other countries.

“We are willing to cooperate with the rest of the world to the benefit of humankind, but as to what kind of cooperation, it depends on specific circumstances,” Long told a news conference.

The Chang’e 1 blasted off on top of a Long March 3A rocket on Oct. 24 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province in southwestern China.

“All of the subsystems of the Chang’e 1 are in normal operation so far,” said Pei Zhaoyu, spokesman for the China National Space Administration.

The Chang’e 1 has survived the most critical part of its journey, Pei said. It had to enter the moon’s orbit at the right time and speed, otherwise it could have hit the moon or flown by it.

He said the satellite’s success was a sign of China’s advanced engineering. “The project is a comprehensive demonstration of China’s economic, scientific and technological power.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is on a two-day visit to China, commended China’s Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan over the lunar mission.

“I congratulate him and the people of China on this achievement. It’s clearly a credit to Chinese industry and innovation,” Gates said.

The lunar mission adds depth to a Chinese space program that has sent astronauts orbiting the Earth twice in the past four years.

Chang’e 1 is the first step of a three-stage moon mission. In about 2012 China plans an unmanned lunar landing with a rover. In the third phase, about five years later, another rover is to land on the moon and be returned to Earth with lunar soil and stone samples.

China plans a new generation of more powerful Long March 5 rockets able to lift more weight to the moon – and possibly a manned mission – but Pei told the news conference these wouldn’t be used until after 2012, missing the second phase.

According to Japanese news reports last week, Japan plans to send an unmanned probe to land on the moon by 2015.

It would cost about $437 million and consist of an unmanned lander, a rover to study the lunar surface and a small satellite to transfer data, according to the Asahi and Mainichi newspapers.

Chang’e 1’s goal is to analyze the chemical and mineral composition of the lunar surface. It will use stereo cameras and X-ray spectrometers to map three-dimensional images of the surface and study the moon’s dust.

The 5,070-pound satellite is expected to transmit its first photo back to China late this month.

China sent its first satellite into Earth orbit in the 1970s but the space program only seriously took off in the 1980s, growing apace with the country’s booming economy.

In 2003, China became only the third country in the world after the United States and Russia to put its own astronauts into space.

But China also alarmed the international community in January when it destroyed an old satellite with a land-based anti-satellite missile.

20 Things You Didn’t Know About Living In Space

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Nearly every astronaut experiences some space sickness, caused by the wildly confusing information reaching their inner ears. In addition to nausea, symptoms include headaches and trouble locating your own limbs. Just like college, really.

And those are the least of your worries. In weightlessness, fluids shift upward, causing nasal congestion and a puffy face; bones lose calcium, forming kidney stones; and muscles atrophy, slowing the bowels and shrinking the heart.

At least you’ll be puffy, constipated, and tall: The decreased pressure on the spine in zero-g causes most space travelers to grow about two inches.

Lab rats sent into space during midpregnancy, while their fetuses’ inner ears are developing, spawn some seriously tipsy babies (pdf).

No humans have yet been conceived in space, so we can only imagine.

6  So that’s what it takes: A 2001 study showed that astronauts who snored on Earth snoozed silently in space.

But astronauts sleep less soundly; 16 sunrises a day throws a major wrench into their circadian rhythms.

8  And Ziggy played guitar. At the start of the workday on the space shuttle, mission control in Houston broadcasts wake-up music, usually selected with a particular astronaut in mind. On the all-work, no-play International Space Station, crews wake to an alarm clock.

If you are ever exposed to the vacuum of space without a suit on, don’t hold your breath: Sudden decompression would cause your lungs to rupture.

10  In addition, water on the tongue, in the nose, and in the eyes would boil away. This actually happened in 1965, when a space suit failed during a NASA experiment and the tester was exposed to a near vacuum for 15 seconds.

11  Contrary to Hollywood, though, you wouldn’t explode. Lack of oxygen in the blood is what would kill you, but it would take about two minutes.

12  More explosion paranoia: Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s space-tourism company, reportedly considered barring women with breast implants due to fears that they might blow up.

13  John Glenn found it hard to choke down his food, but not because of the lack of gravity: Early astronauts relied on aluminum tubes of semiliquid mush, food cubes, and dehydrated meals.

14  Today astronauts can spice up their meals with salt and pepper—in liquid form. Sprinkled grains would float away, tickling noses and clogging vents.

15  Missing something? Those vents on the space shuttle and International Space Station serve as the lost and found, sucking up anything that’s floating about unsecured.

16  The shuttle commode requires that astronauts align themselves precisely in the dead center of the seat. A mock-up of the shuttle toilet, complete with built-in camera, is used to train them how to position themselves.

17  NASA tried building a bathroom into its space suits—a fitted condom attached to a bladder for men, a molded gynecological insert for women—but gave up and passed out diapers to all.

18 Returning astronauts report extreme difficulty moving their arms and legs right after touchdown, one reason why they call landing “the second birth.”

19  But some long-duration cosmonauts report that the hardest thing to readjust to about life on Earth is that when you let go of objects, they fall.

20  Better just to stay up there? Eighteen people have died on space missions, but never in space—always on the way up or the way down.