Archive for May, 2016

Like the Rest of Us, Buzz Aldrin Wants the Presidential Candidates to Consider Going to Mars

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

This year’s United States presidential race has been an … interesting one, and what it means for outer space has been no exception. The candidates have varying views on the importance of space programs and at least one of them wants us to know the truth about space aliens, but an actual space man has a more concrete goal for them: Mars.

Of course, Buzz Aldrin doesn’t mean they personally should go, though there would probably be strong support for that among voters. He doesn’t even necessarily think anyone will get their during their presidency, but he doesn’t want them to lose sight of that goal as they build ridiculous walls or whatever else they’re going to spend the next four-to-eight years doing.

After all, if we want to build things on Mars, there aren’t any Martians to threaten with picking up the bill, so at the very least, the president needs to make sure space program funding, which has been under siege, doesn’t falter. At the Humans to Mars Summit on May 17 in Washington, D.C., Aldrin—who has some experience with presidents setting goals for far off space locations—urged the candidates to stick up for exploration, saying (as reported by,

“A president who appeals to our higher angels and takes us closer to the heavenly body we call Mars will not only make history—he or she will [also] be long remembered as a pioneer for mankind to reach, to comprehend and to settle Mars. I appeal to you to take up the challenge—president, candidates—and bring us all along from the wild, blue yonder with giant leaps to this waiting island in the blackness of space.”

Not quite, “Make Mars great again,” but inspiring words nonetheless. Government-run space programs aren’t the only ones aiming for the Red Planet, though. SpaceX is still preparing for their 2018 field test of Mars mission tech, and other Mars science is still happening, with fascinating views of the planet, news of ancient giant tsunamis, and possible locations to look for evidence of ancient life—not to mention the planet will be the closest to Earth it’s been in 11 years on May 30. That’s a whole lot of Mars, so let’s hope whoever wins in November is paying attention.

“Low Blow” to Bigelow Module Plans

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Efforts were called off today to fully deploy the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) from the International Space Station.

The wave-off came after several hours of attempts to introduce air into the module.

Flight controllers informed NASA astronaut Jeff Williams that BEAM had only expanded a few inches in both length and diameter at the time the operation ceased for the day.

Engineers are meeting to determine a forward course of action, with the possibility that another attempt could be made as early as Friday morning.

Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). Credit: Bigelow Aerospace
Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM).
Credit: Bigelow Aerospace
BEAM is billed as a vital pathfinder for validating the benefits of expandable habitats, for use in low Earth orbit, cislunar space, as well as for Moon and Mars surface missions. The ISS-attached BEAM is headed for a two-year demonstration period.

Deployment sequence

Launched to the ISS by a SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon, the BEAM was packed in the trunk of the Dragon spacecraft. Once the craft was attached to the ISS, the Canada Arm removed BEAM from the Dragon spacecraft and berthed the module to the Tranquility node (Node 3) of the ISS.

Credit: Bigelow Aerospace
Credit: Bigelow Aerospace

Astronauts initiated an automated deployment sequence, allowing the BEAM to start its expansion to full volume – but that plan was not fully realized.

Once expanded, the BEAM is to be monitored for pressure, temperature, radiation protection, and micro-meteoroid/debris impact detection. Astronauts will periodically enter the BEAM to record data, and perform inspections of the module.

Bigger plans

BEAM is a precursor to the Bigelow Aerospace B330, a much larger expandable space habitat privately manufactured by Bigelow Aerospace. The design was evolved from NASA’s TransHab habitat concept.

Dual B330s in lunar orbit. Credit: Bigelow Aerospace
Dual B330s in lunar orbit.
Credit: Bigelow Aerospace
As the name indicates, the B330 will provide 330 cubic meters (12,000 cubic feet) of internal volume and each habitat can support a crew of up to six.

The craft can support zero-gravity research including scientific missions and manufacturing processes. Beyond its industrial and scientific purposes, however, it has potential as a destination for space tourism and a craft for missions destined for the Moon and Mars.

US will land on Mars within 2 decades: Buzz Aldrin

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Buzz Aldrin, Walked on the moon in 1969 with Neil Armstrong, joins Closing Bell to explain the future he see’s for space. Also, his political views on the next president.

Q&A: Buzz Aldrin on the Mars Cycler and poor funding for space exploration

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Buzz Aldrin, moonwalker, author, and advocate for manned space exploration, discusses his Mars Cycler and a broken piece of plastic that almost prevented him and Neil Armstrong from leaving the moon. He will speak on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at Highland Park Methodist Church.

Decades ago you came up with a concept for interplanetary travel called the Aldrin Mars Cycler. It uses the gravitational forces of Earth and Mars as a kind of gravitational slingshot, and would involve a spacecraft cycling between Earth and Mars indefinitely on very little propellant. You’ve been working with Purdue on to get the bugs out, correct?

Yes. We called it Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars, and now it’s been abbreviated as just Cycling Pathways to Mars, CPM. I think that gets the point across, especially when there’s a definition of a cycler as being a spacecraft in a permanent orbit around one or more gravitational fields. The spacecraft arrives, gets things done, and then departs to do other tasks. You’d have a Cycler in low earth orbit, one in lunar orbit, and of course the two that will transport crew members and supplies to Mars.

Would NASA incorporate the Mars Cycler into their plans?

I certainly hope so. They’ve been informed of these in conceptual form, and they’ve appointed a group to make a more complete design. The study this year at Purdue concentrated on the lunar portion of the concept, and we’ll be combining those two into a completely integrated plan.

How do you respond to critics who say man has no business in space, since it’s so dangerous and so expensive, and that space exploration should only involve robots on unmanned missions?

There were parades for Al Shepard [the first American in space] and John Glenn [the first American to orbit the Earth], and I’m sure there were parades and celebrations in Russia for Yuri Gagarin [the first man in space, and the first to orbit the Earth]. But to my knowledge, there haven’t been any parades for a robot. The enthusiasm and the ability of a nation to inspire its people by adapting planetary objects and the space in between to the habitation of human beings is the sort of thing that civilizations have always dreamed of.

Serious space exploration costs a tremendous amount of money expended over a long period of time, so you’ve got to get the public enthused about it.

Just as a comparison, what percent of discretionary funds of the U.S. budget were the peak funding for Apollo, in 1967, to develop the equipment that was needed? Of course, it dropped by the time of the first landing, and further on down between 1969 and the end of 1972, when we had six out of seven missions that each sent two people to the surface of the Moon. Since that time, December 1972, there have been no humans beyond low earth orbit. That’s what we received for an investment, at the peak, of four percent. Over the last 15 years, we’ve been getting just one half of one percent. So it’s rather difficult to conceive of how we can do more ambitious activities further out at Mars and possibly over much, much longer periods of time there, up to permanent settlements. You just can’t do that with the space system right now, where the U.S. is being overloaded with three different costly activities, the International Space Station, the Orion spacecraft, and the Space Launch System.

One of my favorite stories in your book involves the circuit breaker you broke while you were on the Moon. You were trying to sleep on the floor of the lunar module, and you noticed a black piece of plastic that looked as if it had broken off something. It turned out to be important.

Yes, it had to be engaged for the ascent engine to fire so we could leave the Moon. There wasn’t a rewiring that Mission Control could determine that would fix that. I didn’t want to put my little finger in there, or a metal ball-point pen, but we did have a plastic felt tip pen. So I pushed it in and it tripped the circuits and springs and such behind it. Mission Control could tell that there was a completed circuit, so that when it came time for the computer to turn the engine on, it would do so. That took care of the job very nicely.

This Q&A was conducted and condensed by Dallas writer and book agent Jim Donovan. Email:

Lockheed Martin – Mars Base Camp

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Mars. It’s humanity’s next giant leap. And we’re closer than we’ve ever been.
What will a human Mars mission look like? How can we keep astronauts safe, healthy and productive for a three-year journey into deep space? What can they discover when they get to Mars? How do we build a road map from today’s low-Earth orbit missions to our first interplanetary journey?
Mars Base Camp is Lockheed Martin’s vision for sending humans to Mars by 2028. The concept is simple: transport astronauts from Earth to a Mars-orbiting science laboratory where they can perform real-time scientific exploration, analyze Martian rock and soil samples, and confirm the ideal place to land humans on the surface.
Mars Base Camp is a concept for an orbiting science station envisioned to launch in 2028 that sets the stage for a human landing mission in the 2030s.

The Mars Base Camp concept is built on a strong foundation of today’s technologies – making it safe, affordable and achievable:
Orion: The world’s only deep-space crew capsule, built with deep space life support, communications and navigation. This is the mission Orion was born to do.
Space Launch System: Super heavy lift designed to send critical labs, habitats and supplies to Mars.
Habitats: Building on our NextSTEP research, deep space habitats will give astronauts room to live and work on the way to Mars.
Solar Electric Propulsion: Based on technology already in place on satellites, this advanced propulsion will pre-position key supplies in Mars orbit.

How does Mars Base Camp work?
The major components of the architecture will be launched separately. Some are pre-positioned in Mars orbit ahead of time. Others are assembled in cis-lunar space for the journey to Mars. Six astronauts will launch on Orion, which serves as the heart of the Mars Base Camp interplanetary ship.
Mars Base Camp

What is the mission timeline?
This notional timeline lays out the major stepping stone missions that will refine and test the technology to make Mars Base Camp possible.
Mars Timeline
Since the first Viking lander touched down on Mars 40 years ago, humanity has been fascinated with the Red Planet. Lockheed Martin built NASA’s first Mars lander and has been a part of every NASA Mars mission since. We’re ready to deliver the future, faster.
The Mars Base Camp concept builds upon existing deep space technologies in development today and provides a blueprint for NASA’s journey to Mars. This plan provides the opportunity for significant scientific discovery, can be evolved to accommodate specific mission objectives, and ensures the safety of our astronauts.
Mars is closer than you think. We’re ready to accelerate the journey.