Archive for September, 2015

Buzz Aldrin Interview: Thoughts on NASA’s Mars Water Findings and Colonizing the Red Planet

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Born January 20, 1930, in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., became an astronaut in 1963 and was chosen as a member of the three-person Apollo 11 crew that landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, fulfilling the mandate of President John F. Kennedy to send Americans to the moon before the end of the decade. Aldrin was the second American to set foot on the lunar surface, following mission commander Neil Armstrong. He also established a new record for extravehicular activity, spending five and a half hours outside the spacecraft after he and command pilot James Lovell were launched into space in Gemini 12. In addition, Aldrin lectures throughout the world on his unique perspective of America’s future in space.

In June 2014, Aldrin wrote an opinion that was published in The New York Times, supporting a manned mission to Mars. He is an author of several books including his autobiography entitled Magnificent Desolation and continues to inspire today’s youth with his illustrated children’s books: Reaching for the Moon and Look to the Stars. Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration was published in 2013, and it outlines his plan to get us beyond the moon and on to Mars.

“I’m sorry to say, but it is the public apathy that results in insufficient funding from our government that is interested in short-term interest rather than the fulfilling of the dreams of the young people of today who wish to see a return to the excellence that we had. The United States was a leader, but it is not anymore. We have found other interests in video games, smart phones, television and ‘what’s in it for me right now’ instead of ‘what is the best investment for the future.’”

On September 1, 2015, Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet was published. As a rocket scientist who developed the orbital rendezvous technique critical to America’s moon landings and the Aldrin Mars Cycler, Aldrin plots out, in this children’s book, the path he proposes into an amazing future. Aldrin’s co-author, Marianne Dyson, is an award-winning author and became one of NASA’s first women flight controllers during the early Space Shuttle program.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Dr. Aldrin, it’s an honor and pleasure to speak with you. How are you?

Buzz Aldrin: Very good. I’m in sunny Manasquan, New Jersey, out at the Jersey shore a few days before I take off for South Korea. Where are you?

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I live just a couple of hours away from the Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Dr. Wernher von Braun was instrumental in the development of the Center, of course, and In The Huntsville Times on May 15, 1950, the headline read: “Dr. von Braun Says Rocket Flights Possible to Moon.”

Buzz Aldrin: Yes. He helped us with the experience of the V-2 rockets, and he helped the Army missile center there in Huntsville and put together a great team that came up with eventually the Saturn V rocket that was so ably able to get us to the moon.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I was in my early teens in 1969 when my family and I gathered around the television to watch you walk on the moon.

Buzz Aldrin: It’s the ten-year-old, young, energetic people of today who will hopefully be landing on Mars to stay within decades of when Neil and I first landed on the moon. By 2040, hopefully you’ll still be around and watching it all happen.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I hope so. Why were you interested in writing children’s books?

Buzz Aldrin: I felt I needed to take advantage of people who knew how to write much better than I did, so I embarked on an autobiography, and that made it into a movie of the week called Return to Earth. I thought, “Well, this is fairly easy.” Then I moved on to several other books and a couple of children’s books, Reaching for the Moon and Look to the Stars, that were quite artistic in their rendition of attractiveness for elementary school types and wonderfully technically appealing because of the depth yet in understandable language that Marianne has been able to put into the vision that I have. It’s as if Marianne and I are there already, and we’re welcoming these people and telling them what they’re going to see as the early inhabitants of Mars.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I thought the book was well written and understandable for school-age children and above.

Buzz Aldrin: Marianne snuck in a number of things that surprised me like how you get the right things into space or orbit with international cooperation and then venture outwards, learning at the moon the bare essentials and the mechanical things we need to know to set up housing and support people. It may be several years before we even send people to the moons of Mars to make the final assembly and connections so that perhaps they can make a descent and be able to occupy and wait for a number of others to come in shortly afterward.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You spoke in the 1960s about a mission to Mars, so why has it taken so long to seriously discuss it just within the past few years?

Buzz Aldrin: I think our system of elected government brings in a new executive branch every four or eight years, and they need to reappraise what’s happened in the past and put their objectives in force. Of course, developing space activities is not a short-term activity. The Congress, in making a career out of political life, began to learn how to orchestrate back and forth and respond to the desires of their constituency and bring jobs back to their state or district by doing what you’d expect them to do to take care of the constituents in their location.

That doesn’t always provide the best long range plans for the United States because, understandably so, the political leaders are looking at their careers and getting re-elected, leaving a legacy behind. That’s not quite their requirements for a gradually expanding nation, attaining a status of leadership in the world, and then maintaining that status.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What do you think of President Obama cancelling the return-to-the-moon program?

Buzz Aldrin: I think the return-to-the-moon program was somewhat ill conceived right at the beginning. I tried to suggest that might happen as the results of the Shuttle Accident Board, and some of their recommendations that led to an action on the part of the country to make use of rockets that have been used in the space shuttle program and other implements to come up with a launching of the crew on a spacecraft that was being built by a company that had not built human spacecraft before.

The result was that the weight growth of that spacecraft forced a reappraisal of the rockets to put into space, and that those rockets didn’t quite satisfy us. But this is a good bit before the change of leadership, and so the constellation program was rather ineffective as the election of 2008 proceeded. After the election, President Obama looked at some of the disarray that existed in well-meaning efforts by President Bush, but they just didn’t pay out. So in cleaning that up, he made a statement that the moon was not our objective, but Mars was, and that might happen in our lifetime.

He specifically wanted to send a crew to an asteroid in 2025. Well, that’s the sort of thing I had submitted a year earlier as part of a growing plan toward Mars, but NASA, on some advice, decided, “Maybe that’s not the way to do it. Let’s bring a big rock back to the earth’s vicinity.” That resulted in an asteroid re-direct mission which is not looked upon by Congress as a very productive next step, and many of us agree. I came up with a substitute.

Instead of just criticizing something, you should come up with a way to do things better, and that’s been sort of the plan behind my what is now called “Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars.” It starts in 2018 by putting a readily available inflatable habitat into orbit that can grow to be a new commercial station as the International Space Station ages and is terminated. Then establish stations on either side of the moon and help other nations by assembling habitats as they’ve landed and hooking them together because that’s what we need to know how to do at Mars.

We’ll practice that on the big island of Hawaii and distribution around the different missions to international countries will be well on our way, not competing with people, but bringing them together as only the United States is able to do.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s the biggest obstacle to overcome in order to colonize Mars?

Buzz Aldrin: I’m sorry to say, but it is the public apathy that results in insufficient funding from our government that is interested in short-term interest rather than the fulfilling of the dreams of the young people of today who wish to see a return to the excellence that we had. The United States was a leader, but it is not anymore. We have found other interests in video games, smart phones, television and “what’s in it for me right now” instead of “what is the best investment for the future.”

The navigation of space was developed in the 60s and 70s by the groundbreaking technology that was explored then, but unfortunately that’s not resulting in a resurgence in human space flight, and human space flight leads to development of science and commercial activities and provides for the security of the nation.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What are your comments concerning NASA’s recent confirmation of liquid water flows on Mars?

Buzz Aldrin: While the study does not prove that there is water at lower latitudes, it is certainly a strong indicator. I have long advocated for establishing a permanent human presence. In order to have people on Mars, we will have to have reliable sources of water on Mars. While there are clearly sources of ice on the poles, the presence of water at lower latitudes will make it much easier to establish permanent bases at scientifically and economically important locations at lower latitudes.

In my plan, I envision robotic systems would explore these water sources under the control of astronauts and perhaps taikonauts from a base on Phobos. This would enable us to establish with certainty that there was sufficient water to sustain human presence at specific locations, prior to using Cycling spacecraft to deliver astronauts and perhaps taikonauts to Mars at two-year intervals.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Many Americans in the 60s felt that there was too much money spent on the space program. Do you think that attitude was formed because of an inability to see the big picture?

Buzz Aldrin: Well, I think we did see the big picture, the United States and the Western world anyway. Faced with the threats of the Cold War, mutual assured destruction (MAD), we needed to enhance our technology, and as a result, there was a so-called “race into space” which the United States succeeded in winning and then developed things that could invite the Soviet Union for a U.S. joint mission with the Cosmonauts in 1975. That, of course, developed into years later, the International Space Station, and shared activities.

Unfortunately, we’re the one nation that got in the way of having China be a participant in the International Space Station. I think some of my recent discussions with the first Chinese in space can help lead toward a cooperation, a limited cooperation, with the Chinese in low earth orbit and beyond for human space flight for peaceful purposes. I believe that kind of cooperation can filter down and spread to the many terrestrial differences of objectives that are troubling to us today. We’ve got a whole lot of those with Russia, Chinese activities in the South China Sea and the Jihadism that is evolving in the Middle East.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did your interest in space begin as a child?

Buzz Aldrin: I certainly guess it did in a rather distant way with some of the science fiction stories about Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. My father was an aviation pioneer, and I had my first ride in an aircraft at age two with my father. Aviation was going to be my career. Following World War II as a teenager, I elected to go to the United States Military Academy at West Point and from there into flying at a time when, as an Air Force jet pilot, I was in the Korean War.

That was followed by a period at the new Air Force Academy which began operations in 1955, and I flew in Germany with advanced aircraft on nuclear alert in Europe in 1958-59 just after Sputnik. I followed that with studies at MIT where my father had received his doctor’s degree, and I wrote a thesis on “Manned Orbital Rendezvous” and developed the technique for piloted rendezvous of two spacecraft in orbit. These rendezvous techniques were looked upon favorably by NASA.

The next thing was that after being rejected once, I was accepted into NASA and flew my first mission in 1966. I trained in space walking by neutral buoyancy underwater because I was an avid scuba diver. The successes of that put me in position after the tragic Apollo fire which took the life of my very good friend from West Point, Ed White, and that developed into Neil Armstrong and me backing up Apollo 8, the first flight that went to the moon at the end of 1968.

Fortunately, the lunar module was reduced in weight so that when we were assigned to Apollo 11, it was qualified to make a landing. That is what Neil and I were able to do, with the help of Mike Collins in Columbia, so the Eagle of the United States made the first landing on the moon.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was your scariest moment in all of your years as an astronaut?

Buzz Aldrin: Well, it was before I was an astronaut when I was in Korea and could’ve been intercepted as I went for home after shooting down my second MiG-15. That was scary because I realized that I was all alone, and other aircraft could’ve easily caught up with me. Fortunately, they didn’t.

There are a number of things that can happen in aircraft and in spacecraft. We learn to be very alert as fighter pilots to not allow fear to become a mentally crippling emotion that would keep us from concentrating on the positive to look for the successful outcomes. We were very conscious of the hazards of immediate liftoff from the earth. The rocket could stray and run into the tower and really make some difficult recovery options right there at the launch site.

Then I guess the failure of engines to put us into the proper orbit could’ve happened. Once in orbit, it was up to the landing craft, and then the computer control if Neil and I were to make the first successful landing. But we did get rather low on fuel. We both did not want to have to abort, so we did successfully land with fifteen seconds of fuel left. I guess that was a tense moment. We congratulated ourselves and went on from there.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): A tense moment indeed. I didn’t realize that you had a religious communion on the moon. Why couldn’t you make that public at the time?

Buzz Aldrin: I think the whole world felt that in 1968, referring to the beginnings of the earth as revealed in the versions of the Old Testament in Genesis, was an appropriate thing to do on Christmas Eve with Apollo 8. However, that created some concern. The Eagle of our country carrying the olive branch of peace, approaching a landing on the moon, was our symbol of Apollo 11, but even further, it was the landing on Tranquility Base at the moon and then leaving a plaque that said, “We came in peace for all mankind.”

To anticipate success and to give thanks, I felt that a spiritual symbol of that in my life up to that point, would be celebrating communion. I was advised to make it not controversial and to not talk about it, but to just ask people of the earth to consider the moments of the last couple of hours and give thanks in their own individual way. Later on when I felt that this story was known, I revealed the details of it to Guideposts magazine.

That is the sense that I had in those years of a symbolic “giving thanks.” It would be understood by most of the world, but of course, I was thirty-nine years old then. All of us were born in 1930, but a good number of maturing has taken place in the lives of all of us including me, so I’m not the same person that I was growing up as a younger, a teenager and then as a mature person landing on the moon.

We mature in our thinking considerably, but I’m not at all encouraged to try and spread around my thinking at this point. I’ve got many other things to motivate people for, and that is the engineering, the confidence, the optimism and inspiring nature of venturing outward to include landings on Mars.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you believe that there are living creatures on other worlds in space?

Buzz Aldrin: The probabilities of the conditions that have existed here on earth following a formation of our solar system a little over five billion years ago in a universe that’s thirteen billion years old and with the billions of opportunities and galaxies of stars, it would be foolish to conclude that conditions here on earth evolved in such a special, unique way that intelligence to grow out of that evolution would be singular in the entire universe.

As Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” There is no extraordinary evidence of life outside of what we have on earth, but there just must be, according to probabilities. Not little green men probably, but evidence of the early creations of the building blocks of life may exist in our solar system. At Mars, indicating many years ago, there was more life sustaining conditions, but there also may be under the deep, deep ice around other moons around bigger planets.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you know what you’ll be doing on July 20, 2019, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing?

Buzz Aldrin: I thought for a while that I’d be sipping lemonade on some lovely South Pacific island just having been scuba diving, but I think there are some other things that I may do while my son carries on my activities in the organizations I’ve set up. But there are some international countries that I think are getting started in their activities, and I think my creativity, my “out of the box” thinking, just might be helpful to nations like India and South Korea. They’re beginning to develop things that they see are around them by technically advanced nations.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Forty-six years later, are you still amazed that your footprints were actually on the moon?

Buzz Aldrin: Wow. Yes. And it’s so symbolic. When I first saw the distinctness of our boot prints on the regolith or lunar dust, I felt, “Gee, I’ve got to take a picture of that.” And yes indeed, I feel that my life has been very fortunate. My mother, Marion Moon, was born the year the Wright Brothers first flew. With an aviation background and the development of aviation, I just knew I would be flying airplanes in some way. That matured into opportunities to go higher, faster and further.

It opened up the challenge to be a part of, in a contributing way, the human space flight program at just the right time to accomplish the dreams of centuries. Now how fortunate could I be to take my creativity and be planning with that experience and open-mindedness, the potential of humans landing and beginning to occupy Mars after I have passed on?

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Buzz Aldrin: Water on Mars Is Another Small Step for Humankind

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

For future Martians there was great news this week.

Mars researchers revealed the strongest evidence yet that liquid water is flowing on the Red Planet. That prospect can help sustain humanity’s presence there and establish a growing settlement on that world.

Water is the elixir of life. And using this vital resource further bolsters my plan to establish Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars.

So the good news is that there’s water.

But the bad news is that it’s poisonous water.

The running water on Mars is briny, rather than pure, and loaded with deadly perchlorates. Nevertheless, the treatment and processing of that water—as well as making use of subsurface reservoirs of ice and tapping possible underground aquifers—that all adds up to the ability of humans to live off the land: Marsland.

A water supply on Mars could enable the growing of vegetation and edible foods, and perhaps the cultivation of protein-rich fish.

So this revelation about water and the Red Planet makes a lot of things possible. Furthermore, I’m positive that other exciting findings about Mars are in the offing. One of which is that, perhaps, the planet is today an extraterrestrial address for microbial life.

The evidence of water on the surface of Mars has many implications. In fact, the finding is a wellspring, a gusher of good news to make possible the creation of a permanent settlement outpost on the Red Planet.

Still, back here on Earth, we need to face the ebb and flow of politics and budgets. It’s time to rebuild and sustain America’s space program that makes the vision of our future on Mars valid.

No dream is too high for those with their eyes in the sky!

Buzz Aldrin, best known for his Apollo 11 moonwalk, holds a doctoral degree in astronautics and continues to wield influence as an international advocate of space science and planetary exploration. Aldrin and co-author, Leonard David, wrote Mission to Mars – My Vision for Space Exploration, published in 2013 by the National Geographic Society. Aldrin’s new children’s book, Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet, co-authored with Marianne Dyson, was published in this month.

Buzz Aldrin Wants Humans On Mars By 2040

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

According to Buzz Aldrin, the first human who steps on the surface of Mars won’t see the same kind of “magnificent desolation” that Aldrin saw when he became one of the first people to walk on the moon.

Instead of a dusty landscape, he said, the Mars astronauts will be greeted at the bottom of their landing capsule ladder with an environment full of everything needed to support life.

“They will see many habitats that have been deployed years before they first set foot on the surface of Mars, along with a number of others, to begin to occupy permanently,” said Aldrin in an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio.

In other words, the first people on Mars won’t be returning to Earth. Similar to the pilgrims on the Mayflower, said Aldrin, they will be prepared to call Mars home.

Aldrin is one of the biggest advocates of colonizing Mars, and has been working for years to help realize those first steps of landing humans on the red planet. As part of a colonization plan that he’s developing with experts at the Florida Institute of Technology, Aldrin has advocated for putting humans on Mars’ surface by the year 2040.

Some proponents of space colonization say finding an alternative to planet Earth could balance the risk of crises like climate change. However, when Aldrin argues for colonizing Mars, he doesn’t speak in those terms. In fact, he has been skeptical about the degree to which humans have caused climate change, or whether it’s actually permanent.

“If it’s warming now, it may cool off later,” Aldrin said in a 2009 interview. “I’m not in favor of just taking short-term isolated situations and depleting our resources to keep our climate just the way it is today.”

Rather, Aldrin’s argument for settling the red planet has more to with exploration for the sake of exploration — a trajectory that he said has always pushed humans farther afield.

“Countries, humans will move outward in space, will be in orbit, will be on the moon, and will be at Mars. And if the United States wants to sit back and watch that happen, that’s fine,” he said. “It only took us 4 percent of discretionary funding in 1967, and we succeeded in putting two people for a day or two on the moon. And we did that six out of seven times by the end of 1972.”

While the government, through NASA, was responsible for taking him into space in the 1960s, Aldrin is in favor of private-sector pioneering on the path to Mars. He compared the role of the private sector in space colonization to its role in the growth of aviation: Flight, he noted, evolved from a government operation during World War I into the private commercial enterprise it is today.

At the same time, though, he said he thinks the government could be doing more. Currently, about 0.5 percent of the federal budget goes toward funding NASA. Of that, about 22 percent goes toward space exploration.

While Aldrin acknowledged there are other important things the government needs to focus on, he still sees space exploration as a valuable investment.

“Now, certainly our young people, to be inspired, would like to be among the first people to journey to Mars and become the pilgrims permanently building up colonies on the surface of Mars,” he said.

Until then, pioneering first steps like Aldrin’s will remain a memory.

“I got down to the bottom of the ladder and stepped on the moon, and I was just amazed at, the boot prints were just so firm,” Aldrin said, recalling his journey on Apollo 11. “And yet it was a dusty surface, and I used the words ‘magnificent desolation’ to refer to the magnificence of human beings on this planet Earth improving our transportation systems up to the point where we could land two people for a day or so on the surface of the moon.”

Rob Ferrett
Buzz Aldrin
Galen Druke

Exclusive: Buzz Aldrin says ‘The Martian’ is ‘superior’ to ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek’

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

The upcoming movie “The Martian” starring Matt Damon is getting a lot of buzz, and we mean that quite literally.

Legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second human to walk on the moon, revealed to From The Grapevine that he’s extremely excited to see the new film. “I’m arranging to see a preview of it, hopefully, just before it comes out,” he said.

The movie is about an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars for four years and is forced to improvise ways to survive until a rescue crew can arrive on the Red Planet. The film has been described as both “MacGyver on Mars” and “Castaway” meets “Apollo 13.”

For Aldrin, the topic is personal. He has spent the past year talking in front of audiences from London to Washington, D.C., about the need for humans to colonize Mars. Shortly after the film debuts Oct. 2, Aldrin will be delivering the keynote address at an international conference of space experts being held in Israel Oct. 12-16. The topic of his speech? Living on Mars.

New Mars Evidence Revealed: Flowing Liquid Water

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Mars researchers offered today the strongest proof yet that there is “intermittent flowing liquid water” present on the Red Planet.

That prospect bolsters the chance that Mars may well be an extraterrestrial address for life. Furthermore, it offers future human explorers sites to look for Martian life and might help expeditionary crews sustain their presence on the planet.

The new evidence comes from work led by Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology. A group of experts made use of instruments onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO): the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) and the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

Focus of attention: RSL

The focus of attention for the orbiting gear was recurring slope lineae or RSL for Mars short-hand.

RSL form and snake down steep slopes on the planet during warm seasons when temperatures exceed -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 degrees Celsius). They disappear at colder times during the Martian year.

Measured were spectral signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where the puzzling RSL are found on Mars.

Ojha reported today that spectral signatures of hydrated salts were visible in many RSL if they were relatively wide in diameter. The clincher came when the researchers looked at the same locations when RSL weren’t visible and the hydration signatures had disappeared.

Briny, rather than pure

“Something is hydrating these salts, and it appears to be these streaks that come and go with the seasons,” Ojha stated in a university press release.

“This means the water on Mars is briny, rather than pure. It makes sense because salts lower the freezing point of water. Even if RSL are slightly underground, where it’s even colder than the surface temperature, the salts would keep the water in a liquid form and allow it to creep down Martian slopes,” Ojha explains.

The researchers believe that the signatures are caused by previously discovered hydrated minerals called perchlorates. This new study, however, detected perchlorates in entirely different areas from where earlier landers explored. This is also the first time perchlorates have been identified from orbit.

“This is the first spectral detection that unambiguously supports our liquid water-formation hypotheses for RSL,” Ojha adds.

Contemporary Mars

The Mars RSL team also includes researchers from NASA Ames Research Center, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Arizona, Southwest Research Institute and Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique.

Their collective work appears in the paper, “Spectral evidence for hydrated salts in recurring slope lineae on Mars,” published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

“Determining whether liquid water exists on the Martian surface is central to understanding the hydrologic cycle and potential for extant life on Mars,” they write in the research paper.

“These results strongly support the hypothesis that seasonal warm slopes are forming liquid water on contemporary Mars. The spectral identification of perchlorate in association with RSL also suggests that the water is briny rather than pure,” the paper notes.
Additionally, the paper calls for “further astrobiological characterization and exploration of these unique regions on Mars.” However, the scientists do caution that while there are transiently wet conditions near surface on Mars, the water activity in perchlorate solutions “may be too low to support known terrestrial life.”

What next?

So given this new research, what next?

James Wray, Georgia Tech assistant professor and advisor to the university-led work, told Inside Outer Space:

“Personally, I think we could learn a lot about RSL from landing ‘near’ them…far enough away that they’re outside the landing uncertainty ellipse…and then driving close enough to image, but not to touch.”

Wray said that from orbit there’s no way to watch a given RSL evolve from one hour to the next, day after day, to determine when they are active.

“We could do this easily on the ground, even from a stationary lander,” Wray said. “Of course, eventually we will want to know more about their chemistry and organic content, if any, which would likely require contact science using a sterilized probe.”

Human exploration sites

Next month, the “First Landing Site/Exploration Zone Workshop for Human Missions to the Surface of Mars” is being held at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas.

One favorable zone advocated for human exploration is Eastern Melas Chasm. In work spearheaded by Alfred McEwen at the University of Arizona, that locale meets a number of criteria, including access to RSL.

Still to be determined, however, is whether or not RSL can produce useable water for human crews, McEwen and his colleagues explain. If Eastern Melas is considered a promising region for astronauts to inspect, then more CRISM and HIRISE coverage by MRO is warranted. A future orbiter could provide important new observations as well, they suggest.

Major priority

Similarly, Hale crater is being proposed, primarily because of the ease with which liquid water can be extracted from recurring slope lineae found on the slopes of its central peak complex.

According to lead author of that exploration zone paper, David Stillman of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado: “The search for extant life within RSL should be a major priority.”

Stillman notes that the RSL in Hale crater must be so briny – very low water activity values — that no known terrestrial life can respire there. This reduces the impact of cross-contamination by terrestrial life, he and colleagues suggest, therefore that reduces planetary protection worries.

“However, Martian life may have either evolved a way to live in such an environment, or may be living within the depths of the RSL source regions,” Stillman and his co-authors conclude.

For more information, go to:

Mineralogical Confirmation for Liquid Water on Present-day Mars