Dr. Bharath Gopalaswamy, Acting Director
of the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center, will give a talk about the
fast-paced growth of India’s space program at the 18th Annual International
Mars Society Convention, August 13-16, 2015, at the Catholic University of
America in Washington, D.C. He will review Indian plans for robotic and human exploration of space, space security and possible U.S.-Indian space cooperation.
Prior to joining the Atlantic Council,
Dr. Gopalaswamy managed the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and
International Security at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where
he oversaw developing projects on space security and South Asia. He has held
research appointments with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
and Cornell University's Judith Reppy Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
Dr. Gopalaswamy holds a Ph.D. in
mechanical engineering with a specialization in numerical acoustics from
Trinity College, Dublin. In addition to his studies abroad, he has previously
worked at the Indian Space Research Organization's High Altitude Test Facilities
and the EADS Astrium GmbH division in Germany.
For more information about the 2015 Mars
Society convention, including registration details and a list of confirmed
plenary speakers and panelists, please click here.
In the history of warfare, it has sometimes been the practice of armies to dress themselves in the uniforms of their adversaries and then commit atrocities in order to discredit the other side. Alternatively, such falsely uniformed war criminals have placed themselves among opposing forces, so that, posing as friends, they could misdirect them to their doom.
It is in this tradition that O. Glenn Smith and Paul Spudis, two die-hard opponents of Mars exploration, recently chose to costume themselves as advocates in their Commentary “Mars for Only $1.5 Trillion” [March 9, page 19], which is designed to make a feasible enterprise appear utterly unfeasible.
The mission plan claimed to be necessary by Smith and Spudis starts with the nonsensical idea that someone would use a monstrosity the size of the International Space Station for a disposable Mars mission transit vehicle, and continues with the conceit of saddling each and every Mars mission with the full development and several decades-long manufacturing, launch and on-orbit assembly program of the ISS. On the basis of this, they calculate that a “ballpark cost for the first human Mars mission in 2035 would total $230 billion” and “if we send nine crews to Mars, the total bill would be in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion.”
To get a grasp of how absurd these estimates are, one need only point out that current and recent NASA budgets have been around $18 billion, including a human spaceflight budget of about $4 billion. So what Smith and Spudis are claiming is that sending nine flights to Mars would cost NASA’s full budget for the next 80 years, or the entirety of its human spaceflight budget for 375 years.
In a paper entitled “What happens to your
brain on the way to Mars” published on May 2nd in the open-access journal
Science Advances, a group
of radiation researchers claimed that their recent work causing memory loss to
mice by administering very large doses of galactic cosmic ray (GCR)-like high
energy radiation has serious implications for human Mars exploration. According to the authors, similar effects might severely impact astronauts going to the
Red Planet, thereby placing the feasibility of such enterprises in serious
In fact, however, the study has no
relevance for human Mars exploration, as the irradiation doses inflicted on the
researchers’ unfortunate subjects has no relationship to what would be
experienced by astronauts on their way to Mars. The principle difference is
that the rate that the dose was administered to the
mice under study was 4
million times faster than that which would be dealt to travelers in
interplanetary space. In addition, the total cumulative dose delivered to the
mice inside of 30 seconds was about 50% greater than the GCR dose that
astronauts would receive over the course of a 2.5 year Mars mission.
The key numbers in question are as
follows: In the mouse experiment, the victims were given a dose of 30 rads (0.3
Gray) at a rate of 100 rads per minute. On a Mars mission, astronauts would
receive a dose of 1 rad per month during the 6 month outbound and return
transfers, and about 0.5 rad per month during 18 months on Mars, for a total of
21 Rads. ( 1 Gray = 100 rads = 100 cGray. For GCR 1 Gray =6 Sieverts = 600 rem.
Space dose rates can be found in “The Cosmic Ray Radiation Dose in Interplanetary Space – Present Day and Worst-Case Evaluations” R.A. Mewaldt, et al, 2005.)
The 4-million-fold difference in dose
rate between the “What happens to your brain on the way to Mars” lab study and
spaceflight is of critical importance. It is a well-known finding of both chemical
and radiation toxicology that the effects of large doses of toxins delivered
suddenly is entirely different from the effect of the same amount of toxin
delivered in very small amounts over a long period of time. The difference is
that the body’s self-repair systems cannot deal with a sudden dose that they
can easily manage if received over an extended period. For example, if an
individual were to drink one shot of vodka per second for 100 seconds, he would
die. But if the same person drank one shot of vodka a month for 100 months, he
would experience no ill effects at all. This is about the same ratio of dose
rates as that which separates the invalid work reported in the “What happens to
your brain on the way to Mars” paper (1.6 rad per second) from that which would
be experienced by astronauts in space (1 rad per month.)
It is shocking that the “What happens to
your brain on the way to Mars” authors neglected to caveat the significance of
their results by admitting these differences. Not only that, they kept the
information about actual dose rates employed buried deep within the paper (it
can be found in the middle of a text paragraph towards the end entitled
“Animals, heavy ion radiation, and tissue harvesting), thereby allowing it to
easily be missed by popular science writers duped into reporting the allegedly
sensational implications of their irrelevant work.
It is true that small amounts of toxins
received over a long period can statistically increase a person’s risk of ill
effects. However, we already have data that shows that the accumulation of slow
rates of cosmic ray radiation received during long duration spaceflight is not
a show stopper for human Mars exploration. GCR dose rates in low Earth orbit
are about half those in interplanetary space. Thus there are half a dozen
cosmonauts and astronauts who have already received Mars mission equivalent GCR
doses (Avdeyev, Polyakov, Solovyov, Krikalyov, Foale, Walz, Lucid) during
extended space missions without any radiological casualties. Furthermore, since
the International Space Station (ISS) is continually manned, while Mars
missions are only in space about 40 percent of their mission time, the total
GCR dose (measured in person-rems) that the ISS program crews will receive over
the next ten years of planned operations is about the same as would be received
by a series of five crews of five people each if they were launched to the Red Planet
every other year over the same period. Thus, in fact the ISS program has
already accepted the same level of GCR risk for its crews as would be faced by
an ongoing human Mars exploration program.
Galactic cosmic radiation is not a show
stopper for human Mars exploration, and should not be used as an excuse for
delay. The space program costs many
billions of dollars, which are spent at a real cost to meeting human needs
elsewhere. That fact imposes a moral obligation on the program to move forward
as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is understandable that radiation
researchers should want to justify their funding. But they should not spread
misinformation to promote themselves at such extraordinary expense to the
Robert Zubrin has a doctorate in Nuclear
Engineering from the University of Washington.
Remote Utah Outpost Serves as Stand-in for Surface of Mars
By Brady McCombs, Associated Press, 05.01.15
HANKSVILLE, Utah (AP) — Four people wearing space helmets and square backpacks emerge from a circular structure resembling a water tank and step onto a reddish, barren landscape.
One hikes up a hill to take magnetic readings of the ground with a rectangular apparatus that looks like a large leveling tool. Another pushes a wheelbarrow equipped with sensors arrayed in a zig-zag pattern.
For a group of six Belgian college students, it's just another simulated day on Mars.
This rocky corner of Utah bears such a resemblance to the red planet that it's become a hot spot for scientists and engineers to run imaginary missions to Earth's neighbor. They've been coming here for more than a decade, hoping their research someday helps put humans on the Martian surface.
This site and others that allow crews to mimic interplanetary missions are helping to raise buzz about Mars to an all-time high as advancements in science and engineering convince space enthusiasts that the 140-million-mile trip is a realistic possibility in this century.
The research center is run by the nonprofit Mars Society, an advocacy group that believes getting people to Mars to be the great challenge of our time. The group is not affiliated with NASA or the federal government.
To read the full article and view the video, please click here.
The following is the final report of Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) Crew 153. A full review of this year's activity at MDRS will be presented at the 18th Annual International Mars Society Convention, which will be held August 13-16, 2015 at the Catholic University of America, Washington DC. Final Mission Summary
Crew 153, Mission to Mars UCL
We are Crew 153, a team that consists of 6 Belgian students from the UCL, the Catholic University of Louvain. One year ago, we had a dream: having an enjoyable and enriching stay on Mars or rather in the MDRS located in the Utah desert. We postulated and have been chosen a few months ago. And here we are, at the end of April 2015, we’ve completed our dream. What a fantastic experience we live in this small station, both from the relational and scientific points of view.
The aim of this final report is to develop what we learned during our stay in the MDRS. In the first part of this report, I will try to summarize our organization during the days and how we manage our time to avoid or minimize conflicts within the crew. In the second part, I will focus on the experiments we worked on, the major issues we encountered and the main results we obtained.
To view the full mission summary, please click here.
Niki Werkheiser, NASA Project Manager
for the In-Space Manufacturing (ISM) Initiative, will speak at the 18th Annual
International Mars Society Convention,
August 13-16, at the Catholic University
of America in Washington, D.C. In this role, Ms. Werkheiser is responsible for
developing the technology roadmap and implementation plans which will result in
the manufacturing technologies and processes required to enable on-demand,
sustainable operations for Exploration Missions to destinations such as Mars.
The ISM portfolio includes the 3D Printing in Zero-G Technology Demonstration
payload on the International Space Station, which made history by being the
first 3D Printer to manufacture parts in space.
Previous to this role, Ms. Werkheiser
served as the Project Manager for NASA’s Ares Crew Safety and Reliability
Office. Ms. Werkheiser spent the majority of her career in NASA’s Space Shuttle
and International Space Station Programs Payload Offices where she designed,
developed, integrated, and operated multiple NASA payloads. She works for Ames Research Center in Mountain
View, CA and is stationed at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,
AL. Ms. Werkheiser’s academic background
includes a Master’s degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville with an
emphasis in Gravitational and Space Biology, as well as a B.A. in Russian
Studies and a B.S. in Biology.
For more information about the 2015
Mars Society convention, including registration details and a list of plenary
speakers, please click here.
Crew 152-B arrived at MDRS on Saturday, April 4, 2015. We received the handoff from Crew 152A. They oriented us; we settled in and began our Mars simulation on Sunday, April 5, 2015.
Our crew members are as follows: Liz Painter—Commander Melody Flowers—Commander in Training, Astronomer David Moran—Executive Officer, Journalist, Health and Safety Officer Arwhil St. Thomas—Engineer, Chemist Hannah Burgess—Photographer, Biologist Crystal Webster—Geologist
Monday through Friday of our simulation, we followed a daily schedule of breakfast, engineering rounds, EVA, lunch, work on individual projects, dinner, CapCom reports and on various evenings, an astronomy activity.
Our first day of simulation was spent orientating to the suits, helmets, packs and ATVs. We rode in two directions to view the land for future EVAs that would be beneficial to the crew member’s projects and to take GPS waypoints of these locations.