Lockheed Martin unveils reusable water-powered Mars lander

Lockheed Martin’s human spaceflight systems engineer Danielle Ritchey, left, speaks during a presentation of a planned mission to Mars at the 68th International Astronautical Congress 2017 in Adelaide on September 29. (AFP)
Updated 29 September 2017
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Lockheed Martin unveils reusable water-powered Mars lander

ADELAIDE, Australia: A reusable, water-powered Mars lander that will allow humans to explore the Red Planet from an orbiting ‘base camp’ as early as the 2030s was unveiled Friday by US defense giant Lockheed Martin.
Governments and private firms are collaborating on projects to send humans to new frontiers, with NASA planning missions next decade into the space between Earth and the Moon to prepare for trips to Mars.
Lockheed Martin has been working on its “Mars Base Camp”, a science laboratory that will orbit the planet, with the crewed lander set to descend to the surface on repeated missions.
“It looks a bit like Jules Verne, but it’s actually more like an aircraft that we’ve flown in the past,” Lockheed Martin’s human spaceflight strategy chief Rob Chambers said, at a gathering of the world’s leading space experts in the Australian city of Adelaide.
Up to four astronauts could join each two-week surface mission, while liquid hydrogen generated from water would fuel the spacecraft, he added.
“We can create that fuel. We can power this entire spacecraft system just with water,” said Chambers, describing it as a “water-based economy”.
Lockheed Martin is among several companies working on deep space habitats with NASA, which hopes to send the first astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.
Chambers called the Mars vision “a transformational event for our generation”, adding: “It’s literally (the) dawn of the new age of discovery about ourselves and about our solar system and about our place in it.”
The International Astronautical Congress concludes on Friday with a presentation by SpaceX’s Elon Musk, who will outline a new design for an interplanetary transport system to take humans to Mars.


New 3-D map of Milky Way will ‘revolutionize astronomy’

Updated 25 April 2018
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New 3-D map of Milky Way will ‘revolutionize astronomy’

PARIS: Europe’s Gaia satellite has produced a “stunning” 3-D map, published Wednesday, of more than a billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy, complete with their distance from Earth, their color, and their motion through space.
The eagerly-anticipated catalogue was compiled from data gathered by Gaia on some 1.7 billion stars over 22 months in 2014-2016, from its unique vantage point in space about 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) from Earth.
“The dataset is very rich and we believe it will revolutionize astronomy and our understanding of the Milky Way,” Gaia’s scientific operations manager Uwe Lammers told AFP of the massive data release.
“This catalogue is the most precise, most complete catalogue that has ever been produced. It allows studies which have not been possible before.”
Launched in 2013, Gaia gathers data on about 100,000 stars per minute — some 500 million measurements per day. Its first map was published in September 2016, with about 1.15 billion stars.
An update, released at the ILA international air and space show in Berlin, adds stars and provides more data on each one. Some were measured as many as 70 times.
The map contains 1.7 billion stars “for which we can tell where they are in the sky with very high accuracy, and how bright they are,” said Anthony Brown of the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium.
For 1.3 billion of those, “we know their distance and we know how they move through space.”
There is, furthermore, information on the radial velocities of some seven million stars — indicating the rate at which they are moving toward, or away from, Earth.
With all this data, “we can make a map of the whole night sky,” said Brown, who described the end result as “stunning.”
“You see the whole Milky Way in motion around its axis.”
Gaia also revealed the orbits of some 14,000 “solar system objects” — mapped as an intricate spiderweb of space rocks orbiting the Sun.
“It represents the most accurate survey ever of asteroids in the Solar System,” said Brown. More will be added in future updates.
Information sent to Earth by Gaia is collated by 450 scientists from 20 countries.
One of them, Antonella Vallenari, likened the data release to “opening a chocolate box.”
“It’s very, very exciting,” she said at the launch event in Germany, webcast live.
The full data will be published in a series of scientific papers in a special issue of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.