September 2, 2013

Mars Landslides Spawned By Weird Double-Layered Craters (Source: Huffington Post)
Scientists are a step closer to solving a 40-year-old mystery about some unusual looking craters on Mars. These features are called double-layered ejecta (DLE) craters, and attracted research attention because their debris patterns do not match the typical understanding of how craters are formed.

There are more than 600 craters on Mars that have two layers of this debris. A new study suggests a glacial landslide would have created the second layer. The first DLEs came into view during NASA's Viking missions to Mars in the 1970s. Click here. (9/2)

Spaceworks Envisions Astronaut Stasis Pods (Source: Space Safety)
Spaceworks Engineering is studying a concept that would put astronauts into a deep sleep (hibernation or torpor) for long-duration space missions. John Bradford of Spaceworks says medical progress is advancing our ability to induce deep sleep states with significantly reduced metabolic rates for humans over extended periods of time.

Because astronauts would not be awake and moving around, the habitat volume needed for long missions could be significantly reduced. The slower metabolic rate would reduce life-support requirements as well. Spaceworks has received a $100,000 Phase I award from the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts to design a torpor-inducing Mars transfer habitat and assess its effect on Mars exploration architectures. (8/2)

If Life Traveled From Mars To Earth On A Rock, Who Are We? (Source: NPR)
This week Steven Benner, president of the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, told the annual Goldschmidt Conference in Florence, Italy, that "the evidence seems to be building that we are actually all Martians; that life started on Mars and came to Earth on a rock." Click here. (9/2)

Study Links Prehistoric Climate Shift, Cosmic Impact (Source: Dartmouth Now)
For the first time, a dramatic climate shift that has long fascinated scientists has been linked to the impact in Quebec of an asteroid or comet, Dartmouth researchers and their colleagues report in a new study funded by the National Science Foundation. The event took place about 12,900 years ago, at the beginning of the Younger Dryas period.

It marked an abrupt global change to a colder, dryer climate, with far-reaching effects on both animals and humans, the scientists say. In North America the big animals, including mastodons, camels, giant ground sloths, and saber-toothed cats, all vanished. Their human hunters, known to archaeologists as the Clovis people, set aside their heavy-duty spears and turned to a hunter-gatherer subsistence diet of roots, berries, and smaller game. (9/2)

NASA Veteran Chris Kraft Upfront with Criticism (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA says it's going places, that its plan to develop a new space capsule and rocket will take human astronauts places they've never been before - asteroids and eventually Mars. But many former NASA officials are deeply skeptical about the plan espoused by the space agency, at the direction of the Obama administration. Among the critics is the legendary Chris Kraft, NASA's first manned spaceflight director.

"The problem with the SLS is that it's so big that makes it very expensive. It's very expensive to design, it's very expensive to develop. When they actually begin to develop it, the budget is going to go haywire. They're going to have all kinds of technical and development issues crop up, which will drive the development costs up. Then there are the operating costs of that beast, which will eat NASA alive if they get there. They're not going to be able to fly it more than once a year, if that, because they don't have the budget to do it."

"In the private sector we've got an Atlas and a Delta rocket, and the Europeans have a rocket called the Ariane. The Russians have lots of rockets, which are very reliable, and they get reliable by using them. And that's something the SLS will never have. Never. Because you can't afford to launch it that many times... Why can't you use what you've got and put your vehicles into space in pieces, like you did with the space station?" Click here. (9/2)

Comparing the Magnificent Spaceships of Orbital Sciences and SpaceX (Source: WIRED)
We have a space station in permanent orbit ... but not a lot of rockets that can get there. On the assumption that the free market can blast us to the ISS on the cheap, NASA has awarded resupply contracts to two private companies, Orbital Sciences and SpaceX. But the two space ferries have some key differences, and the competition between them is shaping up to be a dogfight between reliable spaceships of the past and slick ones from the future. Click here. (9/2)

NASA is Turning Science Fiction Into Fact (Source: New Scientist)
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is a $250-million mission to probe the moon's exosphere and learn how it would be affected by increased human activity. It is also a low-cost modular probe, which will serve as a test bed for future cheap space missions.

We are soon going to be moving objects in the solar system around to protect the planet from being hit by asteroids. There is nothing cooler than that! Carl Sagan once said, "If the dinosaurs had had a space programme, they would not be extinct." Click here. (9/2)

NASA Funds Bi-Directional “Flying Wing” Aircraft with $100,000 (Source: Space Industry News)
Gecheng Zha from the University of Miami’s SBiDir-FW  has gained $100,000 of NASA funding and will get another $500,000 if the aircraft's early development is up to spec. The craft is very unique, not just because it looks like a ninja throwing star, but because it will produce very little to no sonic boom.  The plane will travel over 3,000 miles an hour. Click here. (9/2)

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