Monthly Archives: September 2015

Icehouses on Mars?

Mars icehouseThe winning design in the first stage of NASA’s 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge competition was a structure made out of water ice.  Apparently the translucence was part of the appeal, although the on-line summary doesn’t detail structural considerations for pressurized applications.

At least future Martians will know where to go to grab a cold one.

NASA to Announce Mars Mystery Solved

NASA has posted a teaser for the announcement of a major science finding Monday at 11:30 Eastern.  Speculation is running amok, mostly tongue-in-cheek.

marsA clue to the announcement may be found in the list of conference panelists, which includes Alfred McEwen.  McEwen is principal investigator for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE).  Note also that, besides imaging in the visible wavelengths, HiRISE makes observations at near-infrared wavelengths to obtain information on the mineral groups present.

So might this have something top do with water, or perhaps some minerals of particular value or interest?  We’ll see.

UPDATE:  So it’s water.  Not just ancient water, but fresh evidence of periodic ongoing surface flows.  Let’s go check it out.

Life Imitates Art – Smart Smartphones Edition

Boeing and DHS are working on neuroadaptive security features for smartphones, not unlike the biometric security features we imagined for MAs combined with an MA’s capacity for simple learning: DHS WANTS BOEING TO TEST A BRAIN CHIP IN FIRM’S SELF-DESTRUCTING ‘BLACK’ SPYPHONE

The “secret sauce” of the mobile device is a so-called neuromorphic computer chip that simulates human learning, Vincent Sritapan, the program manager for DHS’ mobile device security program, told Nextgov….

The companies “pretty much are leveraging user behavior information” from data gathered by sensors found on any standard consumer smartphone, Sritapan said. Those feelers could include microphones, cameras and touchpads, he added. The artificial intelligence could help agencies determine, “Are you who you say you are, and do we give you access to enterprise resources like email?” he said.

Not Actually Stunning, But I’ll Take It

So, according to this piece in Yahoo Finance, stunning images reveal SpaceX’s revolutionary approach to landing on Mars.  Actually all the in-flight images look pretty hokey.  Then again, Mr. Musk probably doesn’t have NASA’s media budget.

Still, it’s very exciting to see that Humans-to-Mars is being discussed seriously, and that NASA might have some domestic competition in getting there first.

Humanitarians with Guillotines

An interesting overview of the growing threats to free speech from SJWs.

I, too, am convinced that these activists, with their MO of hysterical crusades, are one of today’s biggest threats to free speech, open inquiry, and genuine tolerance, at least on college campuses. The illiberal climate fostered by these ideologues seems to be spreading throughout academia and is continuing to dominate the headlines…

These groups and their tactics represent what Jonathan Rauch would describe as the “humanitarian” challenge to free speech. In his must-read book, Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, Rauch identified how these “humanitarians” sought to prevent “offense” to “oppressed and historically marginalized” peoples. In the name of “compassion,” words became conflated with physical action.

As speech codes spread and the definition of “harassment” (reading a book in public, for instance) became broader within the bureaucracy of academia, an “offendedness sweepstakes” was cultivated and turned into the norm.

Sound familiar?

Gemini Mars

As anticipated in my prior post, the Mars Society is moving forward with plans to advocate a Mars flyby mission:

As part of the effort to provide the currently adrift U.S. space program with real direction that could get the humans to Mars program underway, the Mars Society will launch an international student engineering contest to design the Gemini Mars mission, creating a plan for a two-person Mars flyby that could be placed on the desk of the President-elect in late 2016 and be completed by the end of his or her second term.

The Gemini Mars mission has some similarities to the previously proposed Inspiration Mars mission, but eliminates its principle weakness by avoiding the use of a rarely-employed high energy trajectory that imposed excessive technology development, launch capacity and schedule demands on the mission. Instead, much easier and more frequently-used low energy trajectories will be employed.

Commenting on the planned contest, Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin said, “We are calling this mission Gemini Mars, not just because it will have a crew of two, but because we aim to have it serve to open the way to the Red Planet in the same way that the 1960s Gemini program paved the way to the Moon.” Further details on the contest rules will be released in the near future.

This represents a significant shift in Mars advocacy efforts, and one that I hope will–finally–bear fruit.  But will the eventual President-elect support such a mission?  It’s way too early to tell.