Only six more space shuttle launches to the end of the program that commenced launching in April 1981. Watching the space shuttle and the orbiting space station together this next week is a real possibility with clear weather conidtions. Check your location for viewing here. This video is a high-speed sample.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Marc Bowman told an international aviation and space conference in Moscow that the Mars mission should take advantage of the achievements made by the International Space Station and use a multinational crew.
"All aspects of the launch were normal, but the satellite exceeded its planned orbit and reached an altitude of 360km," said Education and Science Minister Ahn Byong-man. The satellite should have separated at around 302km. Despite the satellite failing to reach proper orbit, the KSLV-1 launch should be seen as a "half success" since the rocket functioned without a glitch. More from the BBC, SpaceflightNow, and Yonhap News.
Meanwhile, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Discovery space shuttle was delayed for the launch to the International Space Station due to inclement weather conidtions notes space commentator William Harwood. The flight is expected to launch at 1:10 AM EDT early Wednesday morning.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
'PLEASE' take the time to vote your judgment as the poll will conclude August 29. At the conclusion of the poll, this Blogger will post a new scenario relating to the Chinese space program so it may be fully vetted among the 400 subscribers, followers and general space niche community.
'Thank you' for your attention and, reading support.
The European Advanced Reentry Vehicle is proceeding through the development cycle. It is based on an evolution of the ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which has shown its capabilities for logistics supply to the International Space Station.
ARV would provide ESA with the means of undertaking complete space transportation missions, from launch to landing, using the International Space Station (ISS) as its initial destination. Launched on an Ariane 5, the ARV would have a forward section to return payloads to Earth. This concept could then be used as a basis for . More from the ESA.
In 2012, Vega will carry ESAs Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle into space. The vehicle will then return to Earth to test a range of enabling systems and technologies for atmospheric re-entry. Vega is targeting a market for small satellite launches.
'White-Paper' proposals submitted at this date indicate the planetary science community has significant interest in missions to the gas giant planets and a few of their moons, Mars and Venus, dwarf planets, NEO asteroids, comets, and interplanetary dust. But conspicuously absent from the Decadal Survey list is the Earth's Moon.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
The Chinese have already orbited six taikonauts or yuhangyuans in the past few years. India is expected to launch humans to space sometime about 2015. Both China and India seek international recognition of their national techno-capabilities through their human space programs.
The fledgling Chinese and Indian space powers desire access to the International Space Station expected to be finished next year with the last flights of the space shuttles in 2010. Each of the two nations appear willing to pledge much-needed financial support to keep the orbiting laboratory in space for the next several years and involve their respective space flyers.
But the decision to permit utilization by the Chinese and Indian government space programs will be left to the sixteen (16) nation partnership represented by the American National Aeronautics and Space Agency, the Austrian Space Agency, the Belgian Space Agency, the Brazilian Space Agency, the British National Space Center, the Canadian Space Agency, the Danish Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the French Space Agency, the German Aerospace Center / German Space Agency DLR, the Italian Space Agency, the Japanese Space Agency, Netherlands Space Agency, the Norwegian Space Agency, the Russian Space Agency, the Spanish Space Agency, and the Swedish Space Agency. The collective wisdom of the multinational space effort must sort-out Chinese and Indian participation since the two have the bona fides of spacefaring nations. It needs to be considered sooner rather than later.
Over the past decade, the American political establishment has denied any willingness to enable the Chinese access to the space station for fear of technology transfer while India is seeking readiness to fly human-rated space vehicles. The time has come nontetheless to begin to give serious consideration to the Chinese space flyers visiting the ISS in 2014. While there is reluctance in the West to offer the rising Asian nations access to the $100-billion space station, the Obama Administration should offer the Chinese access to ISS upon the demonstrated willingness for transparency within the Chinese human spaceflight program and despite it being a product of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
Chinese transparency may begin in many ways but the first is very apparent: enable American government and non-government delegations to visit the Jiuquan Space Launch Center / human spaceport in the Gobi desert to witness the launches of Project 921-2 and Shenzhou 8, Shenzhou 9 in 2011 and human-rated Shenzhou 10.
If the Chinese government 'net surfers just so happen to read this BLOG, please contact this Blogger to begin the necessary arrangements to enable American witnesses of Project 921-2 launches. From that point, let the People-to-People diplomacy begin!
Friday, August 21, 2009
President Barack Obama is not expected to significantly boost the projected funding profile for NASA's manned spaceflight program in the next few years, despite warnings from a blue-ribbon panel that the U.S. space agency needs between $3 billion and $4 billion more annually to send astronauts back to the Moon, according to sources with ties to the administration, reports Amy Klamper for SpaceNews.
Instead, White House and NASA officials are scrubbing NASA's 2010 budget proposal, and the assumptions made by the blue-ribbon panel it underpins, for potential cost savings over the next decade that could help fund some means of sending astronauts beyond low Earth orbit as soon as 2020. One possibility being weighed by the administration is abandoning the idea of astronaut landings on the Moon in favor of missions that would take astronauts on close flybys of heavenly bodies such as asteroids. More reported by NBC News video.
- Spend some $2.5 billion over the next five years to develop a commercial crew transportation system to low Earth orbit with the $2.5 billion proposed for commercial crew transportation potentially being tapped from existing manned exploration budgets over the next five years;
- Shifting NASA's acquisition strategy for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle from a traditional government procurement to one that is commercial in nature that could yield significant savings in the near-term;
- Hand space station operations over to a private contractor, potentially saving $500 million to $1 billion per year; and,
- Lift options being weighed include a shuttle-derived vehicle — other than Ares 1 and Ares 5, both of which are shuttle-derived — or a commercially developed rocket fueled by kerosene.
The White House is expected to submit an amended 2010 budget request for NASA's exploration program by mid-September, 2009. Space industry workers and space advocates within the United States and around the world await the important presidential exploration decisions soon forthcoming. UPDATE: Wall Street Journal report.
The liftoff was originally set for Wednesday but was called off after the automatic launch sequence detected a drop in pressure inside a helium tank that controls various valves less than 8 minutes before launch. Experts have since said that there were no mechanical problems in the rocket and that the countdown was halted because sensor software misinterpreted data.
Two rural Central Appalachian Mountain public school teachers from the western tip of Virginia, that appears more akeen to a scene from Homer Hickam's 'October Sky' coal town, will be named Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 at one of the public schools in the Town of Big Stone Gap, VA. The two named public school teachers will fly in the Saturday, October 3, 2009 ZeroGravity flight departing on parabolic spaceflight training from Dulles International Airport in Nothern Virginia.
The Powell Valley Masons and the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council each funded the $5,000+ adventures to demonstrate how classroom teachers may help inspire the next generation as to possibilities in space and space commercial ventures. The next step each of the two organizations will undertake is to hold a competition for at least two of the region's students to fly in ZeroGravity beginning in 2010 so as to ignite interest among students and teachers alike - a similar storyline to what happened in Coalwood, West Virginia with Homer Hickam.
One of the central figures in the development of the nexus between southwestern Virginia public school teachers and the ZeroGCorporation flight has been Fairfax County 5th grade public schoolteacher, SFF board member teachers in space advocate, and former Wise County native Megan Seals who was recently featured in The National Education Association (NEA) Journal.
Countdown to the launch of the Discovery STS-128 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) begins at 11 p.m. EDT Friday. Liftoff of Discovery is set for 1:36 a.m. Tuesday Aug. 25. Space shuttle Discovery will carry the Leonardo supply module to the ISS during STS-128, along with a new crew member for the station, Nicole Stott, to be a part of the ISS Expeditions 20 and 21.
Both spacecraft are equipped with a NASA Miniature Radio Frequency (RF) instrument that functions as a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), known as Mini-SAR on Chandrayaan-1 and Mini-RF on LRO. The experiment uses both radars to point at Erlanger Crater at the same time. The experiment was conducted late Thursday afternoon. LRO listened while Chandrayaan-1 transmitted. The data were downloaded from LRO to ground stations Thursday night. It will take some time to process the data and evaluate the results to determine if their is lunar ice at Erlanger Crater. More from NASA and The Times of India.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, operated by the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, is making several new improvements at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in preperation for many new exciting commercial space launches beginning in 2011 from Wallops Island, VA. View the TV report.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
This three-day Conference (plus one day for technical visits) will welcome all papers related to Moon exploration - (science and exploration, technology and resource utilization, infrastructure, legal aspects, culture, economics…).
BE SURE TO PARTICIPATE in the reader poll survey to the right on Chinese human spaceflight.
The Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) launch scheduled for 5 AM US EST was 'scrubbed' due to automatic launch sequence technical problems less than eight minutes before liftoff reports The Korea Herald, The Korea Times, AP and the BBC. This will mark the seventh launch delay of the KSLV-1. No new launch date has been set yet.
Earlier reports from The Korea Times, The Washington Post, MSNBC, Yonhap News, and Bloomberg said the launch of South Korea's first rocket with a satellite would have been 5 PM South Korea time. South Korea plans to launch a second KSLV-1 rocket in April 2010, with work to begin on developing an engine with 75 tons of thrust. In the long run, the country aims to build an unmanned space probe that can reach the moon by 2025.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Realization of EA’s project with technical assistance from NPOM will allow regular access to and from space. This project joins Russian space technology expertise with an international private enterprise to create a commercial offering of orbital spaceflight services for global customers [hardware photos].
EA plans to offer week-long orbital space flights beginning as early as 2013 – taking a big leap beyond the sub-orbital flight market targeted by most other private space companies. In addition to NPOM, other leading aerospace firms in the U.S., Europe and Japan will provide technical support for EA’s space flight operations.
The original Almaz space system technology, comprising reusable reentry vehicle (RRV) and space station, was successfully tested in flight by NPOM. Working with NPOM and its international contractors, EA is now updating the spacecraft to conduct crew and cargo space missions for private individuals, corporations, academic institutions and national governments.
EA Founder and CEO Art Dula said, “Through cooperation with NPOM and with the support of leading space contractors around the world and an exceptionally strong management and advisory team, EA is in a unique position to initiate a new era of private orbital space exploration.”
EA plans for its spacecraft to be compatible with a number of launch vehicles and capable of being launched from worldwide sites. See the full EA press release PDF and reports from SpaceflightNow, and Space.com.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
For Burning Man 2009, that wacky event taking place in the Nevada desert each year, a group of about 60 artists, scientists and engineers is working on a large, stylized rocket ship called the RayGun Gothic Rocketship. Intended to invoke the romantic notion of space travel before it became reality, the rocket is meant to look like a 1940s-era spacecraft. The artists have been building it in Oakland, Calif., and it will be installed at Burning Man, in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Late in the event, there will be a "launch," and thousands of participants are expected to be on hand to watch what happens. In this artists rendering, the 40-foot-tall rocket is seen as it will look, on the Black Rock Desert, alongside its 25-foot-tall gantry.
The designers say The RayGun Gothic Rocket is a "rococo retro-futurist, future-rustic vernacular between yesterday's tomorrow and the future that never was." Adding it is "intended to creatively explore our ideas about evolution and technology as they relate to our notions about progress and The Future. This project exists at the blurry edge where science and fiction blend and become both our reality, and the stories we tell ourselves about that reality."
The RayGun Gothic Rocket launch should be an interesting cultural commentary event.
As the human race, our nations have built a many ground-based telescopes and a few space-based telescopes now in-orbit --- all looking about the universe providing knowledge as to the vast and unfathomable immensity of space. Yet as humans in the Age of Space, our footsteps have not yet left the Earth's gravity well of our own Moon and even then - that was decades ago. The human race appears too busy with wars, 'Cap and Trade,' and health care to explore and expand the human footprint beyond our figurative lunar front prorch.
As China's noted Ouyang Ziyuan, academician at China Academy of Sciences and chief scientist of China's moon exploration project, stated the past week: "the US' Project Apollo - which gathered around 400,000 people, about 20,000 firms and more than 200 universities - cost $25.6 billion. But it guided almost all the cutting-edge technologies in the 1960s and 70s, and has created an economic value amounting to 17 times the cost."
Netural public policy observers might realize the dividends that flow from exploration are great and solve many problems of the human race. Yet we seem to languish in "the backwash of space."
Saturday, August 15, 2009
The North Las Vegas, Nevada-based commercial space firm has designed a new space capsule referred to as "Orion-lite" that would be a stripped-down version of the current NASA version designed to carry humans to the Moon - if ever. The Bigelow capsule is designed to be much lighter weight with fewer systems complexities for LEO to space station operations.
Bigelow has spent the past two years working with Denver-based United Launch Alliance to study a human-rated version of the Atlas 5-402 rocket. Bigelow's crew capsule design is modeled on the Orion vehicle that Lockheed Martin — one of United Launch Alliance's corporate parents— is developing for NASA, reports Amy Klamper at Space.com.
Washington-based Bigelow Aerospace attorney Mike Gold notes that the the Bigelow capsule would have the same outer mold line as NASA's 16-foot (5-meter) wide Orion and possibly the same internal pressure vessel, but little else in common. It would be capable of launching on the SpaceX Falcon-9 or the ULA Atlas 5-402. It is not now known whether it could also be launched atop of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Taurus-II from the more secluded Wallops Island, Va. None of the proposed commercial space launch booster configurations have flown to-date.
Gold said Bigelow's commercial variant will accommodate a minimum of seven passengers because it is intended for low Earth-orbit missions only. Bigelow is considering midair retrieval as a safer and more economical means to land the spacecraft following atmospheric re-entry. Yet it may be safer to do the mid-air capture over a body of water as a back-up in the event of a much-needed splashdown option.
For the first time in more than a quarter-century a new space vehicle stands ready in NASA's Kennedy Space Center Vehicle Assembly Building. The Ares I-X rocket, its simulated crew module and launch abort system are assembled on a mobile launch platform at Kennedy in preparation for launch (tentatively) on Saturday, October 31, 2009. The final segments of the Ares I-X were stacked on Aug. 13, 2009 completing the 327-foot launch vehicle and providing the first look at the finished rocket's distinctive shape. A decision to proceed to launch the Ares I-X will be made at the highest levels of government this fall after review of NASA's next generation launch system slated to replace the aging space shuttles. The Ares I-X Twitter is on-line with more info from NASA on the vehicle.
Friday, August 14, 2009
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will launch a H-2B rocket with the H-2 Transfer Vehicle, or HTV cargo ship from Tanegashima Island, carrying scientific instruments and drinking water to the International Space Station (ISS), on Sept. 10. Liftoff is set for 1704 GMT (1:04 p.m. EDT), or 2:04 a.m. Japanese time on Sept. 11. It will reach the ISS now in orbit six days following launch from the Japan's spaceport at the southern end ot the country [launch and docking animation].
A the first-of-a-kind cargo spacecraft for the Japanese, the American space shuttle, Russian Progress and Soyuz, and the European ATV have each resupplied the 6-crew of the space station. The Japanese HTV [vid] will arrive and astronauts will use the station's robotic arm to grapple the free-flying spacecraft and berth it to an open port docking with a US-made module.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
· Creating an aerospace business roundtable to bring experts together to plan for Spaceport development and future projects;
· Aggressively recruiting and growing new and existing aerospace companies;
· Promoting space tourism initiatives;
· Supporting scholarships and investment in aerospace related educational programs and workforce training opportunities; and,
· Putting "Virginia First" - leading the country in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) educational programs and ensuring our workforce is highly skilled in career and technical skills, which the Spaceport relies upon.
Speaking about his plans to make Wallops Island the top commercial Spaceport in America,McDonnell said, "The Virginia Economic Development Partnership projected Orbital's Taurus II project at Wallops Island alone will generate 125 six-figure paying jobs and 222 indirect jobs with suppliers and contractors. Additionally, this project, which provides cargo re-supply for the space station, will generate another 93 direct jobs and countless indirect jobs. In revenue it will produce more than $7 million in five years, $13 million in ten and $23 million in 20 years. These are immediate and positive benefits to the Commonwealth. They demonstrate the importance of making certain that we fully utilize and support this great resource for Virginia. For that reason I will support a ten-fold increase in base funding for MARS to bring them to $1 million in funding annually. The Spaceport is the kind of innovative opportunity that is crucial to the economic resurgence we need in Virginia. I'm running to be a jobs governor and I will work tirelessly to support the Spaceport and every job creating opportunity we have in Virginia"
MARS is now building $70 million dollars worth of new spaceport infrastructure, which will enable the spaceport to launch medium-heavy to heavy rockets. Funding for the new launch pad, horizontal integration facilities, fueling systems, etc., is coming from the Commonwealth, the federal government and private industry.
Dr. Sally Ride said yesterday that the United States can not afford to send astonauts anywhere but to low earth orbit (LEO) with the current NASA budget, reports The New York Times. "You just can’t get there,” America's first female astonaut said in Washington yesterday.
Florida Today is reporting that the 'Dash Out of Low Earth Orbit' is not among the recommendations being made to the White House by the commission. The report indicates that no human mission is recommended outside of Earth orbit with NASA's current federal budget projections. Noted space commentator William 'Bill' Harwood writes of the grim projections without a major infusion on new NASA budget monies.
On the other hand, Bloomberg reports that Dr. Ride spoke of a deep-space scenario leading to human lunar return by 2030 -- a decade later than envisioned now but based on NASA budget increases of about $3 billion more annually than current projections. MIT's Technology Review reports that the commission could suggest embarking human missions to asteroids.
The New York Times reports that, in the end, the presidential commission agreed to treat Mars not as an option, but as the end goal of all options. Nonetheless, the Augustine panel favors development of commercial rockets and capsules to ferry astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit, a major departure from past practice notes The Wall Street Jorunal.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
For three years, The Futures Channel produced and shared with teachers and students short documentaries about NIAC researchers and their visionary projects to help inform and inspire our future workforce. These videos were viewed by hundreds of thousands of students in math and science classrooms across the country. With NIAC back on the table, we think it's a good time to re-visit some of these past projects and imagine what the future could bring.
Watch the NIAC Movies!
"The Moon is like the archive of our solar system. It is an excellent platform for space research and is of the highest importance when answering the question of how we guarantee the future of our own blue planet," Hintze said. "The moon in a way is the Earth's natural space station. It could be a place from which to launch a Mars mission."
Hintze admitted that "at the moment, the finances are not there." And as the country is only weeks away from a general election at the end of September, it's not something that will be decided any time soon. Hintze said any concrete decision over the issue would have to wait until after the [German national] elections. The German Deutshe Welle has more on this topic but it seems to boil down to 'Reich' - money. Let us hope the Reichstag says 'GO!'
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Scientists calculate it is too massive to have hit the ground without disintegrating unless Mars had a much thicker atmosphere than it has now when the rock fell. Atmosphere slows the descent of meteorites. Additional studies also may provide clues about how weathering has affected the rock since it fell. More from NASA JPL.
The 2009 International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight is the industry’s leading gathering for the entrepreneurs and innovators coming together to deliver on the promise of spaceflight for mankind set for October 21 and 22 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. ISPCS is again organized by the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium under the leadership of Patricia Hynes [w/hat tip to her]. This theme this year is: “Delivering on the Promise of Spaceflight for Mankind” There will be an optional tour of Spaceport America! Keep-up with ISPC on Twitter and see current launch events on this news video.
Arianespace CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall [video] told the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee last week (Aug. 5) that the Ariane 5 booster (Europe's premier rocket booster) is available to support the future of U.S. space exploration, including cargo resupply flights for the International Space Station, along with missions to the Moon and Mars.
"Originally human-rated, the Ariane 5 has adapted to its present day role as the leading large capacity launch vehicle for satellite operators and international partners the world over," the Obama created commission was told by Le Gall. "The Ariane 5 can reach lunar orbit, the lunar surface, and Mars - objectives that are compatible with NASA's exploration missions."
Le Gall pointed to the capacity of the Ariane 5 booster as a mature, proven, capable heavy-lift launch vehicle capable of 20 metric tons to low Earth orbit, seven metric tons to lunar transfer orbit, and five metric tons to Mars. He noted a flight rate of seven Ariane 5 missions per year with 46-new boosters now in various stages of production. More from Arianespace.
However, the Araine 5 Flight 501, the inaugural launch of Europe's Ariane 5 rocket, ended in an explosion shortly after lift-off on 4 June 1996 - more than a decade ago. Nonetheless, over 13 years later, the Ariane 5 is ready for yet another launch on August 21st.
The Arianespace presentation should be a wake-up call to the US Government generally and NASA and the commercial space launch firms specifically that American rocket technology and space policy can not be allowed to languish as the Europeans, Russians, Chinese and Indians fully engage the launch market. American commercial space launch firms should be encouraged to take cargo and astronauts to orbit by private carrier rockets such as the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II.
In the letter, Sen. Deeds expressed his interest in the project and his excitement at the new economic possibilities it could bring to the Eastern Shore and the rest of the commonwealth. Sen. Deeds will be visiting the Eastern Shore later this week.
Additionally, Sen. Deeds pledged his continued support for economic endeavors like Wallops Island at the Homestead Debate on July 25th. “We must pursue the exciting economic opportunities of the future. Whether it’s expanding our spaceport to the Eastern Shore or making Virginia the national leader in the development of alternative and renewable energy or pursuing the medical hope and economic promises of stem cell research here in Virginia,” Deeds said.
Monday, August 10, 2009
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has found evidence of a high-speed collision between two burgeoning planets around a young star left vaporized rock and flying lava in the wake. Astronomers say that two rocky bodies, one as least as big as our moon and the other at least as big as Mercury, slammed into each other within the last few thousand years or so -- not long ago by cosmic standards. The impact destroyed the smaller body, vaporizing huge amounts of rock and flinging massive plumes of hot lava into space.
"This collision had to be huge and incredibly high-speed for rock to have been vaporized and melted," said Carey M. Lisse of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., lead author of a new paper describing the findings in the Aug. 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal. "This is a really rare and short-lived event, critical in the formation of Earth-like planets and moons. We're lucky to have witnessed one not long after it happened."
Lisse and his colleagues say the cosmic crash is similar to the one that formed our moon more than 4 billion years ago, [vido 9:36], when a body the size of Mars rammed into Earth. More from NASA -
The NASA's The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite [LCROSS] spacecraft is expected to impact the surface of the moon at the south pole on Friday, October 9, 2009, 7:30 AM EDT. Here is a video of the LCROSS mission profile.
The impact experiment is designed to search for water compounds at the south pole of the lunar surface. The final impact crater point is expected to be determined next month. Northrop Grumman created this video about the LCROSS mission profile. LCROSS Flight Director Paul Tompkins gave a mission video update last week; and, you may read his BLOG. You may also Twitter LCROSS as it 'tweets.'
The ESA's lunar probe SMART-1, the Chinese Chang'e-1 and Japanese KAGUYA have each entered into controlled-crashes on the moon to seek data about the lunar surface. India's Chandrayaan-1 may enter into a controlled crash of the moon next year. The Lunar Science Institute is sharing the lunar data on an international basis in an effort to better understand lunar geology and where water may exist in moon's craters.
More robotic spacecraft missions to the moon are planned over the coming few years. The next missions being planned are NASA's [Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory] GRAIL and [Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer] in 2011 LANDEE in 2012. China may also advance the Chang´e 2 to launch in 2011.
Methane gas was first discovered in the Martian atmosphere in 2004 by the European Space Agency's Mars Express. The measurements indicate that either there is life on Mars, or that volcanic activity continues to generate heat below the martian surface. Either outcome is big news for a planet once thought to be biologically and geologically inactive.
The reason is that on Earth much of the methane in our atmosphere is released by evolved life forms, such as cattle digesting food. While there are ways to produce methane without life, such as by volcanic activity, it is the possible biological route that has focused attention on the discovery noted Agustin Chicarro, ESA Mars Lead Scientist.
The current chemistry as we know it is not consistent with the measurements of methane on Mars. There is something else going on, something that lowers the methane lifetime by a factor of 600. So if the measurements are correct, we must be missing something quite important," Dr. Lefevre says about his compuer model study at the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France.
Clearly something unusual is going on at Mars. Methane was thought to be stable in the Mars atmosphere for around 300 years but instead of taking 300 years to disappear, the methane had almost entirely vanished by early 2006, according to a study led by Michael Mumma of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Balitmore, Maryland.
Yet the two French scientists conclude in their published article in Nature 460, 720 (2009)that: “Such a [methane] lifetime suggests that organics are quite readily scavenged from the modern Martian environment, if reactions in the surface are the only cause of the observed methane variations. This would leave little hope that life as we know it can exist at present or that evidence of past life can be preserved in the shallow surface layer.”
More from the ESA, BBC, Space.com, and Geology. The next mission to Mars is set to begin in October with Chinese and Russian spacecraft probes.
Yinghuo-1 will be China's first Mars probe and China's first project to explore another planet. The Chinese meaning of Yinghuo is "light from firefly." Yinghuo-1 will study environmental changes in the climate of Mars, including the disappearance of water from the planet. The Chinese have an ambitious space program as evidenced in this video.
Meanwhile, China's second unmanned moon probe, Chang'e-2, is likely to be launched within a year, and a year ahead of schedule [video]. It will be China's second lunar orbiter, part of the second phase of the Lunar Probe Project. The probe will conduct research at a 100-kilometer-high moon orbit as a preparation for a soft landing by Chang'e-3.