Martian Spring

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Mars has captured humanity’s imagination since prehistory - and now it may be in our grasp.


Mars has captured humanity’s imagination since prehistory - and now it may be in our grasp. Notions of human exploration and settlement are being taken more seriously than ever. Taking the next giant leap forward starts with small steps here on Earth. We intend to take an active role in enabling these steps. There are countless paths to reaching Mars.

Some near term goals are as follows:
- Raise the technological readiness levels (TRL) of Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) technologies
- Investigate potential of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) and closed/regenerative ECLSS technologies
- Determine fundamental engineering requirements and implementation strategies for exploration and settlement
- Determine quality-of-life requirements and implementation strategies for exploration and settlement


I ran across this ( blog post, which presented a design for a spacecraft capable of generating a magnetic field big enough to protect all of Mars from solar particle radiation. The design uses a 415 megawatt nuclear reactor to power a 57 ton copper solenoid. Since I am working on a proposal for a mission to demonstrate a powerful magnetic sail technology, (called a plasma magnet) I went ahead and did a back-of-the-calculator estimate on what it would take to get similar performance. If scaling relations for the plasma magnet hold up to thousands of kilometers, then a set of coils 14 meters in diameter, made of aluminum, with about 1 ton of mass would only need 600 kilowatts of electrical power to create a Mars-sized magnetosphere. This is only 12 times what the ISS solar array would produce at Mars. The only problem I can see is that a magnetic sail this large would generate almost 300 kilonewtons of thrust. You’d probably have to attach it to a small asteroid to keep it balanced on the Lagrange point. If it really is possible to give Mars a magnetosphere with currently existing technology and a few BFR flights (and my cubesat mission would go a long way towards showing that), then would it be worthwhile for a colonization project to do this early on? I’ve seen conflicting opinions on how dangerous solar activity is for people on the surface.
This past week (July 23-29, 2018) has displayed a wealth of Mars News. Leading off the week was a US Congressional hearing about the “Journey to Mars.” The big scientific news from Mars was the discovery of what appears to be an underground lake 20 km long, which if it proves true, would amount to the first confirmed liquid water on Mars. In addition, Mars is passing through opposition with the Earth (on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun), in its closest pass in 15 years. And Elon Musk. What is perhaps most interesting in the news coverage is in the great diversity of the story angles. Putting Boots on Mars Requires a Long-Term Commitment, Experts Tell Senators UPI: Experts, lawmakers: NASA should focus more on Mars, less on moon Prof. Dava Newman (MIT), former NASA Associate Administrator, gives a powerful presentation in the video. Washington Post Experts explain the importance of exploring Mars Peggy Witson, former Astronaut with the most time in space of any woman, gives a solid presentation. Dava Newman is magnificent. THE UNDERGROUND LAKE ON MARS raises the prospect of many interesting explorations and discoveries ahead. It suggests that Mars may be layered with a subterranean, er, "submartreanean" water table. There may be underground "canals," indirectly fulfilling the "canali" fantasies of the 19th century astronomers Schiaparelli and Lowell. These bodies of water may harbor signs of life past or present. Reuters: Underground lake found on Mars, raising possibility of life Scientific American: Deep within Mars, Liquid Water Offers Hope for Life Radar observations have revealed what appears to be a buried lake on Mars, the first-ever stable reservoir of liquid water found on the Red Planet This article by Dennis Overbye in the NYT hits all the recent Mars stops: exploration, the lake, close approach to the Earth (opposition), Giovanni Schiaparelli's canali, Percival Lowell's "canals," and even Elon Musks wish to die there. NYT: Mars is Frigid, Rusty and Haunted: We Can't Stop Looking at It An oasis in the sky inspires our imagination. A series of discoveries refreshes our yearning for the red planet.®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news CNN: Don't pack your bags for Mars just yet This article presents a note of caution with the skeptical view of the significance of the lake of liquid water—it is at least a km or more below the surface and probably saltier than seawater on Earth. MARS AT ITS CLOSEST OPPOSITION (APPROACH) TO THE EARTH IN 15 YEARS. Mars at Opposition 2018: How to See It and What to Expect Samantha Matthewson performs a STEM public service by labelling Mars' close approach to Earth by its correct astronomical term: Opposition LA Times: Mars Makes Closest Approach to the Earth In contrast with, which said it correctly, the LAT makes it sounds like than Mars is sidling up to the Earth—— and then what? UPI: Hubble Snaps Photos as Mars Makes its closest Approach to Earth The UPI commits the same error as the LAT, but redeems itself somewhat with a practical angle: NASA took advantage of Mars opposition to take some pictures. ELON MUSK QUOTES Finally the San Jose Mercury News, the "paper of record" for Silicon Valley compiled some Elon Musk quotes, including nuking Mars to make it "warmer." SJMN: Seven of the Wildest Things Elon Musk has Said

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