Spacecraft to carry library to Mars

By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - When NASA's newest Mars lander departs Earth this weekend, it will be carrying the words and art of visionaries from Voltaire to Carl Sagan.

The "Visions of Mars" mini-disk secured to the lander will be the first library on Mars — a gift from past and present dreamers to possible future settlers.

"I'm glad you're there and I wish I was with you," Sagan said in a recording made for the mission before his 1996 death. An excerpt from his book "Cosmos" is also on board.

Other musings, in written and audio format, come from Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Percival Lowell and Kim Stanley Robinson.

"For any science fiction writer," Robinson said Friday on the eve of launch, "it's really a thrill." "Green Mars," the second novel in his classic trilogy, is on the disk.

The Phoenix Mars Lander was scheduled to blast off before sunrise Saturday aboard an unmanned rocket. Its journey to Mars will take nearly 10 months and cover 422 million miles.

NASA is aiming for a landing within Mars' Arctic Circle next May. The three-legged Phoenix is equipped with a long digger that will penetrate the red soil and underlying ice, and tiny ovens that will bake dirt and ice samples.

If any traces of organic compounds are found, it could indicate an environment conducive to life. Previous Mars missions have pointed to liquid water in the long-ago past, already raising the possibility of life.

That's what red planet enthusiasts have been envisioning for decades — life on Mars, both native and human. Robinson foresees permanent Martian colonies with hundreds and even thousands of people within 100 years, similar to the Antarctic stations.

"I believe in it. I think it's coming," Robinson said.

The Planetary Society's silica-glass DVD, just 3 inches in diameter, contains Asimov's "I'm in Marsport without Hilda" and "The Martian Way," Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles," Arthur C. Clarke's "Transit of Earth" and "The Sands of Mars," Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels," Alexei Tolstoi's "Aelita," Voltaire's "Micromegas" and an excerpt from Kurt Vonnegut's "The Sirens of Titan."

The disk also includes 19th century Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli's report on Martian channels, or canals, and an excerpt from mathematician's Percival Lowell's follow-up treatise in 1908, "Mars as the Abode of Life." It maintained the canals were built by some form of intelligent life for irrigation.

In all, 84 written texts are on the disk, as well as 63 Mars-related works of art and three radio broadcasts, including the 1938 recreation of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" and the 1940 discussion between Wells and Orson Welles, who directed the panic-inducing drama. The disk also holds more than 250,000 names of Planetary Society members and others who submitted their names for the one-way ride.

"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century, particularly with respect to Mars," Sagan, a co-founder of The Planetary Society, explained on the disk.

Attached to the top platform of the lander, the disk is designed to survive at least 500 years on the red planet's surface. Its label urges, "Attention Astronauts: Take This with You."

This is its second incarnation; the original "Visions of Mars" disk ended up at the bottom of the Pacific when Russia's Mars 96 spacecraft failed shortly after launch. The library was subsequently updated, but it stuck with technology from the early 1990s when the original was compiled.

In fact, only a few machines on Earth are capable of playing this somewhat antiquated disk, said Amir Alexander, a writer and editor with The Planetary Society. The group is hoping future settlers will have the advanced technology to handle the standard codes. "We have to count on that, we really do," Alexander said.

It's conceivable alien life could beat humans to the disk, under one of many science fiction scenarios.

Robinson noted there already might be life on Mars, albeit bacterial and nearly a mile beneath the surface. He recalled joking in his Mars trilogy about this civilization of little red people.

"You have to imagine a very, very miniaturized sentient civilization living underground and they, I suppose, could crawl up onto this disk and have it be like a gigantic flat room that they could wander around in and attempt to decode," he said. "In that sense, the aliens might already be there."

Mars500 crew 'walk on Mars' on simulated mission
By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News

Suits In training: Orlan spacesuits are worn by real cosmonauts

Two men wearing spacesuits have walked across a sandpit at a Moscow institute in a simulation of a mission to Mars.

The pair - both volunteers - have spent eight months with four other men locked away in a series of windowless steel tubes representing a spacecraft.

The Mars500 project is trying to find out how the human mind and body would cope on a long-duration spaceflight.

Russian Alexander Smoleevskiy and Italian Diego Urbina planted flags on their pretend planet.

One flag was for Russia, another for China and a third for the European Space Agency (Esa).

They then undertook some virtual experiments with the assistance of a robot rover, with the whole activity overseen by Mission Control Moscow which normally deals with events on the International Space Station (ISS).

"We have made great progress today," commented Vitaly Davydov, the deputy head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, who was watching a video feed of the two men. All systems have been working normally."

The Mars500 venture is being run by the Institute for Biomedical Problems, with the participation of Esa.

Smoleevskiy and Urbina were said to have "landed" on the Red Planet on Saturday.

In reality, they had merely moved to another compartment in the cramped modular buildings set up at the institute.

A Chinese national, Wang Yue, had joined them, and he will perform one of two further surface walks planned in the coming days.

Three other volunteers - Russians Alexey Sitev and Sukhrob Kamolov, and Frenchman Romain Charles - are said, in the context of the experiment, to be still in orbit above Mars. Again, in reality, they are just a few metres away in the series of interconnected tubes.

The life the six men are experiencing is quite different from that on the ISS where vehicles and their passengers come and go. The station is a busy place and communication with the ground is also possible in real-time for its residents.

On the Mars500 ship, however, life is much more restricted. The messages these pretend explorers send to the scientists outside their simulation craft have a 20-minute delay on them to mimic the sort of time lag radio signals would build up as they crossed the vastness of space between Mars and Earth.

The landing operations are brief moments of excitement for the team. The Orlan suits are of the type worn by real cosmonauts. In this bulky gear, the Marswalkers have drill to get below their simulation surface and do virtual analyses on the samples they pull up.

Mars500 is so called because it follows broadly the duration of a possible human Mars mission in the future using conventional propulsion: 250 days for the trip to the Red Planet, 30 days on the Martian surface and 240 days for the return journey, totalling 520 days. (In reality, it would probably take a lot longer than this.)

A real mission to Mars is still decades away. The challenges involved are immense, both technologically and in terms of the budget required. It would probably cost tens of billions of dollars to mount such an endeavour.

Scientists would need to find a way of protecting the crew from space radiation. On the ISS, this is not so much of a problem because the Earth's magnetic field helps shield the orbiting platform from damaging, high-energy particles emanating from the Sun and deep space.



    * Aim is to gather knowledge and experience to help prepare for real Mars mission
    * This means probing the psychological and physiological effects of extended isolation
    * Project simulates outward cruise, landing operations and return journey to Earth
    * Over 100 experiments planned; crew partake in a series of medical studies
    * Resources restricted at departure; crew has to manage food consumption
    * Text communications only are possible with the ground; 20min delay in signal

Meho Krljic:
Kad smo već kod Marsa, Rusima se nije posrećilo
      Russian Probe Mission To Mars Moon Fails
--- Quote ---
    A Russian mission to fly a probe to one of Mars' moons and bring back samples of its soil has failed.
The craft was successfully launched towards Phobos from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday night.
But after the Phobos-Grunt probe separated from a Zenit-2 booster rocket, its engines failed to fire up and the planned journey to the Red Planet ended.
Russia's Federal Space Agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said neither of the two iginitions worked, probably due to the failure of the craft's orientation system.
Russian news reports quoted Mr Popovkin as saying that space engineers have three days to reset the craft's computer programme to make it work before its batteries die.
The embarrassing failure is the latest in a series of problems that have raised concerns about the condition of the nation's space industries.
The \$170m (£105m) Phobos-Grunt would have been Russia's first interplanetary mission since Soviet times.
It was originally set to blast off in October 2009, but its launch was postponed because the craft was not ready.

The 13.2 metric ton (29,040lbs) craft is the heaviest interplanetary probe ever, with fuel accounting for most of its weight.
Its manufacturer, NPO Lavochkin, was also responsible for a failed robotic mission to Mars in 1996.
On that occasion the probe crashed into the Pacific Ocean following engine failure.
NPO Lavochkin's chief Viktor Khartov described the current mission as essential to maintain the nation's technological expertise in robotic missions to other planets.
"This is practically the last chance for the people who participated in the previous project to share their experience with the next generation, to preserve the continuity," Khartov said before the launch, according to the Interfax news agency.
Scientists hoped that studies of the Phobos soil could help solve the mystery of its origin and shed more light on the genesis of the solar system.
Some believe that the crater-dented moon is an asteroid captured by Mars' gravity, while others think it is a piece of debris resulting from Mars' collision with another celestial object.
--- End quote ---

Kad im već ništa ne ide od ruke, zašto su toliko angažovani na iznošenju tuđih tereta na orbitalne stanice?

Evo NASA upravo postavila "Insight" probe na Mars


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