Tag Archives: NASA

First Flight on Mars

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The first image from Ingenuity’s historic flight on Mars, showing the helicopter’s shadow.
 Source: NASA / JPL

Today, on April 19th NASA has achieved a historic feat. They have performed the first flight off the Mars’ surface. In fact it was the first powered and controlled planet flight on another planet ever. It was performed by NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, and lasted 39 seconds. The helicopter doesn’t have any scientific instruments onboard. Its sole purpose was to demonstrate whether such thing was possible on the Red Planet. It was challenging, because although Mars has lower gravity – 1/3rd of that on Earth, it also has much thinner atmosphere – roughly 1% pressure of that near Earth’s surface. To be able to lift off the Mars’ surface it had to spin its blades at over 2500 rpm, when typically helicopters on Earth spin their blades at 500 rpm. During the test flight it reached the altitude of 10 feet and was observed and recorded by Perseverance rover, which it was brought with, 173 million miles from the Earths surface. They landed on the Mars’ surface on February 18th and the Ingenuity helicopter was detached from the Perseverance rover on April 3rd. The initial date of the test flight was April 11th but it was delayed after the engineers encountered a glitch while performing pre-flight tests, and they needed to reupload the entire flight software.

GIF of the first flight of the Ingenuity helicopter. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech


The place where the flight took place was named the Wright Brothers Field. NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen explained: “Now, 117 years after the Wright brothers succeeded in making the first flight on our planet, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has succeeded in performing this amazing feat on another world, […] While these two iconic moments in aviation history may be separated by time and 173 million miles of space, they now will forever be linked. As an homage to the two innovative bicycle makers from Dayton, this first of many airfields on other worlds will now be known as Wright Brothers Field, in recognition of the ingenuity and innovation that continue to propel exploration.”

Sources:

https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/19/22391496/nasa-ingenuity-helicopter-mars-flight-success

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-ingenuity-mars-helicopter-succeeds-in-historic-first-flight

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How to build a house on Mars

Reading Time: 3 minutesNeedless to say that modern technologies keep developing so fast and rapidly that colonization of Mars is around the corner. The main trailblazer in discovering this mysterious planet is Elon Musk with his SpaceX, he claims that humans will travel there in 10 years. SpaceX is already developing a spaceship named Starship and training future astronauts, but it hasn’t been decided yet where and how first Mars discoverers are going to live. It’s an extremely significant decision to make because astronauts will have to stay on Mars for quite a long time to finally figure one of humanity’s main mysteries. In this article, I would like to present a vision of possible accommodation on Mars.

Unlike the Earth, the red planet has no bricks and the materials used have to be durable. In 2018 NASA conducted a contest where participants had to present their prototypes of a house that can be built on Mars. There were many wonderful and unconventional projects, but the most capturing among others tends to be the Marsha prototype. The house shape reminds of a cylinder and was developed considering Mars’s features. But the main question is what materials to use in the construction of it? As I have mentioned, it’s unable to produce ordinary materials like bricks on Mars. Possible you thought that materials carried on the spaceship are the solution, but I’d say it’s almost impossible. The way to Mars is not days or months, it’s years long. That is why food and other life resources are more preferable. Although it could be some space left for constructing materials, it’s far less than required. That is why scientists started to look for natural materials of the red planet to produce durable material for accommodation.

They concluded that it’s easier as it may seem. 

What materials can be used to build houses on Mars was discussed in the scientific journal Public Library of Science One. The surface of Mars is covered with soil weathered over millions of years, so-called regolith. To create at least some semblance of bricks out of it, water is needed, and scientists haven’t yet been able to find its obvious sources. Besides, now people can form materials suitable for building houses only under terrestrial conditions. And on Mars, it is necessary to come up with a way to create artificial stones and their analogs.

Recently, an interesting solution to this problem was proposed by scientists from Singapore. They suggested that the regolith could be made more flexible by mixing it with chitosan. This is the name of the substance that can be obtained from the material, which is the main component of the shells of shrimp, crabs, and some insects. The final material was named biolite. From it, scientists tried to create a smaller version of the Marsha house that I’ve mentioned before, but it was not created from scratch. Three components were 3D printed and then glued together using biolite. It turned out quite well, so we can assume that the houses of the future colonists of Mars will look like this.

Back in 2018, NASA researchers realized that some structures could be built from mushrooms. First, people build a primitive frame and then grow a special type of mushrooms under it, which wraps around the structure and takes its shape. When the structure takes its final form, the mushrooms can be heat treated and made clean and dry. In the picture, you can see that things made of mushrooms look disgusting and scary. Scientists want to make “mushroom houses” out of 3 layers. The first is mushrooms, the second is out of bacteria and the last one is ice. But they didn’t mention where to take so much water on Mars and how to prevent ice from melting.

 

As you can see, humanity is preparing to move to Mars. But before that, the planet must be carefully studied. In my opinion, every effort is valuable and I would never criticize a single try to invent or discover something new, especially connected to space because that moves the progress.

Sources:

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/ames/myco-architecture

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0238606

https://www.aispacefactory.com/marsha

NASA-awarded ‘marsha’, a 3D-printed vertical martian habitat by AI spaceFactory

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Crew Dragon’s last straight

Reading Time: 2 minutesNasa conducted a test of the Crew Dragon crew capsule, made in collaboration with SpaceX and Boeing. The agency wanted to check key emergency procedures for crew safety. It was spectacular.
The emergency in-flight abort system has just been successfully demonstrated.
On January 19th a thrice-flown Falcon 9 sent an uncrewed Crew Dragon 12 miles into the sky and after about 84 seconds after launch, the rocket shut off its engines, and the vehicle’s own SuperDraco engines turned on, separating Crew Dragon from Falcon 9 at Mach 2.2 and getting a mile away in a matter of seconds.
It was a key test of safety procedures for the Crew Dragon capsule. It is a project whose point is to re-supply people to space regularly. This is the first action of that kind that can be repeated since the suspension of space shuttle missions.

The test that has been made on 19th January at the afternoon of polish time and has gone as planned. Its purpose was to simulate irregularities during take-off. The mission’s task was to perform a controlled disconnection of the Crew Dragon capsule from the Falcon 9 rocket, which carried the capsule into space.
Disconnection took place about a minute and a half after take-off. Fifteen seconds later, due to strong vibrations, the Falcon 9 rocket exploded spectacularly. However, the mission command center provided for this possibility. It was even said that there is a small chance that the rocket would survive the test.

However, it survived the most important part of the mission, the capsule disconnected from the rocket without problems and began a short flight on the engines built into it. Less than 6 minutes after take-off, four new-generation parachutes emerged from the vehicle, which were designed to slow down the capsule flight and make its launch not particularly uncomfortable for the potential crew. After 9 minutes, Crew Dragon fell into the ocean about 30 km from the start. Rescue teams started their work, whose task was to train the procedures of getting the crew out of the capsule.

Sources:

https://www.technologyreview.com

https://www.space.com/spacex-crew-dragon-in-flight-abort-test-photos.html

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Our biggest enemy in space conquest is… humanity itself

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I bet that 90% of people reading this article wished to become astronaut back in their childhood. To be honest, that was my wish too! Sadly, this article won’t be about bright future of space conquest, but rather grim reality of work in space sector.

Since beginning of space race, humanity has launched around 8100 satellites of which some 5000 remains in orbit. As you can imagine, Earth’s orbit has plenty of space and 5000 satellites should be as “big” concern as 5000 cars for a small town, so basically none. But… there are several circumstances that makes it a little bit more complex! Every artificial satellite needs to be delivered to space, which demands a big rocket that can get it into our orbit, then some parts must detach, and so on. Every step in orbit will leave new parts, and these parts will fly at speed of several thousand kilometers per second, and guess what. If you would get hit by screw at speed that high, it would be like you were hit by bolt of plasma, and same goes for every object in space.

As you may see in the picture above, this is what happens when spacecraft is hit by small debris. You might think that “come on there can’t be enough debris made by launching some satellites” and to be honest you are kind of right. Problem is that more than 95% of current object in orbit are so called zombies, serving no purpose, floating in space, waiting for impact with other body. When this happens, hundreds of small pieces burst into all directions, posing enormous threat to everything else. Sometimes government come up with “brilliant” ideas, for example Chinese government decided to test if their rockets can shoot down their own satellites – Turns out they can, however test also created enormous amount of space garbage. We could go on and on to see new examples, but let’s get to the point.

Everyday U.S. Military issues 21 warnings about space collisions. That is US alone, we can only guess that everyday there is more than one hundred warnings about space collision, so during whole year, there is at least more than 36 thousand warnings! This shows exactly how dangerous it becomes to travel into our orbit. Some specialist claims that every year we are getting closer to point of no retreat, and that means that Earth will become our jail, because we won’t be able to get safely into space.

But how can we fight with this threat you may ask? That is what you will find out in my next article!

Sources:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-quest-to-conquer-earths-space-junk-problem/

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-06170-1

 

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