Category Archives: Mars

Review of “4th Rock from the Sun”


Book Reviews – “4th Rock from the Sun” eBook was published in 2017 and was written by Nicky Jenner ( This is Ms. Jenner’s first book.

I received an ARC of this novel through in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘G’. The book covers all things about and related to the planet Mars.

While there is some scientific data, most of the book deals with side stores related to Mars. I feel like it just rambles on about topics associated with Mars.

Sigh . . . I had higher expectations for this book. I read about 20%, but at that point I just had to give up on it. I won’t call a Rule of 50 on it, but it just isn’t a book of interesest to me. I think there will be many who like this book, but I am not one of them.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (

An Overview of the New space Race

Space – I came across the article “Private companies are launching a new space race – here’s what to expect” this morning. it gives a very good overview of the companies and governments that are currently pursuing space programs.

If you are interested in space exploration, as I am, you will find this article of interest. The next decade will see many significant events if todays forecasts can be believed.

Trailer for “Mars: Our Future on the red planet”

I came across this article today “HOW WILL WE GET TO MARS? NEW BOOK AND TV SERIES PROVIDE THE DETAILS” and now I am looking forward to the National Geographic series. This will be a six-part documentary series to be aired on the National Geographic Channel beginning November 14. The series is based on the book by space journalist Leonard David also titled, “Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet.”

The story being told is set in 2033 and tells of the fictional story of the first six humans and their mission to Mars. There is the drama of the three men and three women who take the journey to Mars interspersed with ‘flashbacks’ to the present with documentary footage on how technology evolved to enable the eventual mission to Mars.

This series will be of interest to any thinking about Mars and its eventual colonization. If you go to National Geographic Channel website you can watch the first hour and twenty minute episode of the series now.

SpaceX ITS -Colonizing Mars

Yesterday (9/27/16) SpaceX announced its Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). This spacecraft will be capable of ferrying up to 100 tons of cargo to Mars. It will be capable of carrying up to 100 passengers at a time. Elon Musk of SpaceX said that ITS missions to Mars might begin as early at 2024.

The plan for the ITS and Mars relies on substantially lowering the cost of transportation. Towards this end many components of the system are designed to be reusable. The goal is to get the cost of transporting a human to Mar at $200,000 or less.

Musk in his presentation also stressed that this effort was not without risk. He emphasized that the first group headed to Mars would likely fatal accidents.

Only time will tell whether or not SpaceX will be able to fulfill these goals. They have been remarkably on track since their creation in 2002. Regardless of their success, the efforts that SpaceX is undertaking will move commercial space operations forward.

Further reading:

  1. Elon Musk envisions ‘fun’ but dangerous trips to Mars
  2. Elon Musk’s grand plan to colonize Mars
  3. Elon Musk on going to Mars — ‘The probability of death is quite high’
  4. Elon Musk: To join SpaceX’s first mission to Mars, you have to be ‘prepared to die’
  5. SpaceX chief envisions 1,000 passenger ships flying to Mars
  6. Elon Musk’s Mars Mission Revealed: SpaceX’s Interplanetary Transport System
  7. Elon Musk: A Million Humans Could Live on Mars By the 2060s

Deep Space Travel: NASA Picks Six Companies to Build Habitation Modules

A good summary of the commercial vendors chosen by NASA to develop habitats for space exploration. It is good to see that there are a variety of alternatives. Particularly like the Bigelow approach. It will be interesting to see how the two year prototype evaluation turns out.


Traveling to distant planets can be tough on space travelers. Spacecraft are constantly bombarded with radiation, debris impact is an ever-present threat, and cramped confines can cause even the most steely-eyed astronaut to question his or her sanity. It’s no surprise that NASA is looking to a number of companies to design and develop ground-based prototypes for the first generation of deep space habitation modules.The companies range from young, post-startups to long established giants in the industry.

Bigelow Aerospace

Betting on what is called expandable module technology, Bigelow Aerospace has already designed what is sure to be one of the more innovative prototypes. Essentially, it’s an inflatable balloon of sorts that provides more usable space for less mass and launch space. Currently, NASA is testing a smaller prototype called the ‘Bigelow Expanded Activity Module’ – or BEAM – that is docked with the International Space Station (ISS). It was successfully attached…

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Space News #7


Many articles being published on space related topics. Here are a few that I thought were interesting.

Extraterrestrial First Contact Protocol

Yes we haven’t seen any signs that there are extraterrestrials, but that has not stopped consideration on how we should proceed with that first contact. In “Extraterrestrial First Contact in Space Protocols” retired USAF Major General Ken Wisian, currently with Galactic Ventures LLC of Austin, TX, considers how we should proceed when/if we encounter aliens.

This lengthy academic paper lays out a suggested procedure we should follow if we encounter other intelligent life. Key to his recommendations are: Introduction – approaching without seeming hostile; Current human protocols – encounters between terrestrial vessels;  Human History – results of encounters with indigenous peoples; and What should be in this Protocol – predictability, no hostility and communication.

Needless to say the article has generated quite a bit of discussion in the comments.

Moon Outpost

If and when humans travel again to the Moon with the intentions of setting up a camp, habitat is going to be needed. NASA, the ESA as well as private organizations are looking at 3D printing as one solution. More options to the use of 3D printing are explained in “Want to build a moon base? Easy—just print it“.

Third parties propose orbital platforms for Moon and Mars

Lockheed Martin has proposed a Mars orbiting station that can be put in place by 2028. Their proposal would provide accommodations for six astronaut-scientists. The station would be build around a pair of their Orion spacecraft. More details can be read in “Lockheed Martin Outlines Plan to Send Humans to Mars Orbit by 2028“.

A similar proposal by Orbital ATK would place an outpost in Lunar orbit by the end of this decade. This proposal uses the Cygnus spacecraft that is already being used to ferry supplies to the ISS. More on the proposal can be read in “New Space Station Orbiting The Moon By 2020 Announced“.

In either of these proposals, astronauts could do extensive, remote controlled robotic exploration as there would be near real-time control. I hope that one or both of these get funded.

The next Mars Rover

The next rover is planned for Mars in 2020. NASA is well into the design of the new rover at JPL. The engineers are taking advantage of the Augmented Reality provided by Microsoft HoloLens to complete their work. Using the HoloLens, engineers can see a mixture of real-world and computer generated objects. Read more.

NASA Wants You!


NASA has released another set of posters. These are recruitment posters enticing viewers to join the mission to Mars. They are all reminiscent of World War II posters. All eight of these new posters can be downloaded from the NASA web site in resolutions suitable for full poster size printing.

I like that NASA has been taking this approach. I am also a fan of the all of the posters that they have released so far. Some of these may well find their way onto my office wall one of these days.

Space News #5


Here are a few more articles covering space that I thought were interesting.

SpaceX to use Most Powerful Rocket for Mars Shot

In early posts I have mentioned that SpaceX plans to send a Dragon module to Mars by 2018. The plan will be to use it to retrieve samples from Mars. They will be using the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, the big brother to the current Falcon 9. When put into use, the Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket in operation (The Saturn V used for the Apollo Moon missions was more powerful, but has been retired).

In recent tests the Falcon 9 surprised the SpaceX engineers by demonstrating enough thrust to launch over 50,000 pounds of payload into orbit (up from the previous maximum load of only 29,000 pounds). The Falcon Heavy will be able to carry almost 120,000 pounds into orbit. The Falcon Heavy is currently planned for a first launch late in 2016.

The planned soft landing on the surface of Mars using thrusters to slow the descent is untried so far. SpaceX will achieve a number of new firsts if they are able to pull this off. Read more here and here.

Three New Exoplanets Possible Homes for Life

Three exoplanets discovered by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) European Southern Observatory with its Belgian Trappist telescope are good candidates for life. These planets orbit a relatively small, cool star and may have habitable zones. They lie only 40 lightyears away, so are relatively close.  Between the proximity and dimness of the star, the atmospheres should be easier to analyze from Earth.

Boing CST-100 Starliner

While the Starliner was supposed to debut in 2017, it looks like it will now be 2018 before it’s first flight. The Boing entry was supposed to be the second space flight option to the SpaceX Dragon for transportation to the ISS and low Earth orbit.

Space News #4

I haven’t been keeping up very well with Space related news, so some of these articles date back to April. I think that they are still relevant though.

Alien Life

As we look for possible homes for live in the universe, we are biased towards life taking on the aspects we know well of life here on Earth. “How alien can a planet be and still support life?“. Astronomers have primarily focused on those exoplanets in the ‘Goldilocks’ zone as being the most likely to be the home to some sort of life.

Just being in the ‘Goldilocks’ zone does not mean that the planet will host life. In our own planetary system both Venus and Mars could fall within the ‘Goldilocks’ zone. Neither, so far, have shown any sign of harboring life. The theory is raised that plate tectonics may be an additional requirement for life.

This article gives some additional background as to what my be needed for an exoplanet to develop and support life.

Ion Engine

In “THIS FUTURISTIC ION ENGINE COULD CARRY OUR LUGGAGE TO MARS” the Ion Engine that NASA is planning to use to supply the early Mars missions is discussed. This engine will harvest the abundant solar energy using it to expel xenon gas as the propellant. This system will be 10 times more efficient that conventional chemical rocket motors.

Chemical rockets can generate more thrust, but the ion engine can generate continuous thrust. The chemical propulsion systems also require considerable space for storing the necessary fuel. NASA hopes to launch a mission to the asteroid belt, capture an asteroid and then return it to orbit the Moon by 2026.

Inertia Could Explain EM Drive

A new theory of inertia could explain the EM Drive’s anomalous thrust” tries to explain how the EM Drive may be able to work. The EM Drive is still deeply controversial, with most physicists stating that it simply cannot work. That said, as I have noted in previous posts, there is some scientific evidence that it may be able to generate thrust.

In this article, a new theory of inertia is used as a possible explanation. This theory of inertia could explain the thrust generated inside the EM Drive.

Lots of theory here. Time will tell if the theory has any merit and it the EM Drive is more than just a hope.

More on the EM Drive

Another view of the EM Drive and the physics behind it is provided in “EM Drive Rises Despite Pathoskeptic Dirge“. This article also mentions the new theory of inertia and Unruh radiation as an explanation.

Finding Life

The article “SEARCHING FOR LIFE IN ALL THE RIGHT PLACES” describes a methods astrobiologists plan to follow to find extraterrestrial life. In summary these efforts are:

  • Drilling into the ice in Antarctica to look for extreme forms of life
  • Bringing samples home from Mars for further analysis
  • Scanning exoplanets for signs of life
  • Searching for more exoplanets

Not a lot of details, more of an overview of efforts planned

SpaceX Headed to Mars

SpaceX has plans (“SpaceX plans to send a Red Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018“) to send an unmanned spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018. This would be using their current Dragon module that is being used to resupply the ISS. Because of the limited size of the Dragon, it is ill-suited for long duration missions. Sending it to Mars though would be a proof of concept flight in preparation for later manned missions.

Drake Updated

The Drake Equation was updated in light of exoplanet discoveries by NASA by University of Rochester scientists. you can read “Are we alone? Setting some limits to our planet’s uniqueness” for more details, but the gist is that life out there somewhere is more likely today than thought in Drake’s time.

The New Space Race: Elon Musk Will Beat Everyone to Mars

I agree with Mr Beyer that SpaceX seems to have the edge on the race to Mars. At the very least, the SpaceX announcements have spurred others to focus more seriously on Mars missions.

I think that we are once again entering an exciting time for space exploration.


A few weeks ago, Elon Musk announced his ambitious plan to have SpaceX send an unmanned Red Dragon capsule to Mars in 2018. Yesterday, he upped the ante, saying that he anticipates sending the first manned mission in 2024, which would arrive in 2025. There is still much that is unknown about Musk’s plans. All we know right now is that he is shooting for that 2018 launch when Earth and Mars are closest, then another mission every 26 months. The overall architecture for the venture might be revealed as early as September – one thing is for sure: the 21st century version of the space race is on…

Who is SpaceX Racing Against?

marsone3 copyA Dutch non-profit company called Mars One is also planning for a colony on Mars. Their road map calls  for crew training to begin next year with their first unmanned mission launching in 2020. A rover mission would…

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