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Special Report: To the Red Planet

28.05.2009
Going to Mars or not--now would be a good time to decide.

The universe is very large and our understanding of it very small. Despite the straitened U.S. economy and a crisis of confidence in other countries, there is an opportunity to push out further into the solar system.

Norm Augustine, former chairman of Lockheed Martin, is heading a panel that is expected, by August, to offer an opinion as to whether NASA's human spaceflight efforts are worth continuing or whether the emphasis should be shifted to unmanned exploration.

As the panel's members meet to discuss the pros and cons of various missions, astronauts, engineers, and other stakeholders are also debating over the hardware and software required for survival in space. In the June issue of IEEE Spectrum, experts and editors explain the rocket science (yes, it is rocket science) and related efforts behind the current and expected space programs in different countries.

Four hundred years ago, Galileo peered through his telescope. Forty years ago, Apollo astronauts took humanity's first baby step into the cosmos. Now it's time to take the next one.

"Introduction: Why Mars? Why Now?" by Susan Hassler (s.hassler@ieee.org, 212-419-7556) President Obama has yet to appoint a new administrator for NASA. That person will need to find funding, on top of the billions already spent, for a new launch vehicle for a return to the moon, as the first stage of a planned Mars mission sometime after 2030.

"Mars Is Hard" by Fred Guterl and Monica Heger (Jean Kumagai, j.kumagai@ieee.org, 212-419-7551) Fifty years ago, space experts thought we'd be there by now. Here's why we're not.

"What To Wear on Mars" by Monica Heger (Jean Kumagai, j.kumagai@ieee.org, 212-419-7551) Those bulky Apollo-era spacesuits are so yesterday.

"The Kind of People Who Will Go to Mars" by David A. Wolf (Susan Hassler, s.hassler@ieee.org, 212-419-7556) They won't lack fear--they'll be able to operate well in the face of it.

"What To Pack for Mars" by Olivier L. De Weck (Joshua J. Romero, j.j.romero@ieee.org, 212-419-7550) A successful mission requires a well-planned supply strategy.

"Risky Business" by Elon Musk (Tekla S. Perry, t.perry@ieee.org, 650-328-7570) Why Mars is more important than cosmetics and why a failed launch is also a partial success.

"Rockets for the Red Planet" by Sandra Upson (s.upson@ieee.org, 212-419-7920) Engineers rethink how to get to Mars and back.

"How To Go to Mars--Right Now!" by Robert Zubrin (Jean Kumagai, j.kumagai@ieee.org, 212-419-7551) Human exploration of Mars doesn't need to wait for advanced rockets, giant spaceships, or lunar base stations.

"Could China Get to Mars First?" by James Oberg (William Sweet, w.sweet@ieee.org, 212-419-7559) Maybe--if it adopts a less top-down approach.

"Moonstruck" by William Sweet (w.sweet@ieee.org, 212-419-7559) There's a palpable longing to go back, but does it make sense?

"It's Only Rocket Science" by Prachi Patel (Jean Kumagai, j.kumagai@ieee.org, 212-419-7551) For the Carnegie Mellon team vying for the Google Lunar X Prize, failure to launch--and land--is not an option.

"India Joins League of Lunar Nations" by G. Madhavan Nair (Glenn Zorpette, g.zorpette@ieee.org, 212-419-7580) The head of the Indian Space Agency talks about his country's first robotic lunar mission and plans for landing an Indian on the moon and Mars.

"Mars for the Rest of Us" by Joshua J. Romero (j.j.romero@ieee.org, 212-419-7550) Better cameras, greater bandwidth, and bigger displays put Mars within reach of armchair explorers.

"The End of the Cult of the Astronaut" by David A. Mindell (Jean Kumagai, j.kumagai@ieee.org, 212-419-7551) How do you justify human spaceflight?

"The Amazing Orbiting Garriotts" by Owen and Richard Garriott (Jean Kumagai, j.kumagai@ieee.org, 212-419-7551) The second father-and-son pair to have traveled in space offer their thoughts on weightlessness, ham radio, and why the Space Station is like the movie Metropolis.

"The Mars Challenge" by Leah H. Jamieson with John Norberg (Susan Hassler, s.hassler@ieee.org, 212-419-7556) Human exploration of the Red Planet will inspire new generations of engineers.

Nancy T. Hantman | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.ieee.org

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