Friday November 16, 2018
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NASA Releases a Public Challenge With A Hefty Reward To Help With Mars Goal

NASA says the competition is divided into two phases.

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NASA to send tissue chips to space to test human health, genetic changes. Flcikr
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The U.S. space agency NASA is offering a public challenge, with a lofty $750,000 reward, to anyone who can find ways to turn carbon dioxide into compounds that would be useful on Mars.

Calling it the “CO2 Conversion Challenge,” NASA scientists say they need help finding a way to turn a plentiful resource like carbon dioxide into a variety of useful products in order to make trips to Mars possible.

Carbon dioxide is one resource that is readily abundant within the Martian atmosphere.

Scientists say astronauts attempting space travel to Mars will not be able to bring everything they need to the red planet, so will have to figure out ways to use local resources once they get there to create what they need.

NASA Mars
First colour image of Mars taken by Viking 1 on July 21, 1976. The original image was calibrated incorrectly showing a blue sky instead of a red one. VOA

“Enabling sustained human life on another planet will require a lot of resources and we cannot possibly bring everything we will need. We have to get creative,” said Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program.

She said if scientists could learn to transform “resource like carbon dioxide into a variety of useful products, the space — and terrestrial — applications are endless.”

Carbon and oxygen are the molecular building blocks of sugars.

On Earth, plants can easily and inexpensively turn carbon dioxide and water into sugar. However, scientists say this approach would be difficult to replicate in space because of limited resources, such as energy and water.

NASA mars
The planet Mars is shown May 12, 2016, in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope view when it was 50 million miles from Earth. VOA

 

NASA says the competition is divided into two phases. During the first phase, individuals or teams would submit a design and description of their proposal, with up to five teams winning $50,000 each. In the second phase, the finalists would build and present a demonstration of their proposals, with the winning individual or team earning $750,000.

Also Read: Mission Mars: Red Planet Mars Possess ‘Ideal Conditions’ to Create Oxygen from Natural Carbon Dioxide: Study

Those who are up for the challenge need to register by Jan. 24, 2019, and then officially apply by Feb. 28, 2019. (VOA)

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The Aborted Mission To Relaunch In December: NASA

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched.

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Astronaut Anne McClain, left, is seen during training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas. VOA

The American astronaut who will hitch the first ride on a Russian rocket since last month’s aborted launch and dramatic emergency landing is confident that her scheduled trip in December on a rocket that she calls a “workhorse” will go smoothly.

Astronaut Anne McClain, along with a Russian cosmonaut and a Canadian astronaut, will man the Dec. 3 mission. It will be the Russian-made Soyuz-FG’s first crewed flight since Oct. 11, when U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and a Russian cosmonaut landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe after the rocket bound for the International Space Station failed in mid-air two minutes after liftoff.

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Specialists watch broadcasts from the Soyuz spacecraft showing astronaut David Saint-Jacques of Canada, Oleg Kononenko of Russia and astronaut Anne McClain of the U.S. attending the final qualification training for their upcoming space mission in Star City near Moscow, Russia. VOA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has relied on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to the space station since the United States retired its Space Shuttle program in 2011, though the agency has announced plans for test flights carrying two astronauts on commercial rockets made by Boeing and SpaceX next April.

“I do see the incident that happened on Oct. 11 with our launch abort not as a failure but as a success,” McClain told Reuters in a telephone interview from Russia. “It actually bolsters my confidence in the rocket and in the processes that we have.

“We’re confident in the vehicle and getting back to it,” McClain said of the Soyuz rocket, which she called “the workhorse of the space program.”

After lifting off from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur last month, a damaged sensor caused one of the rocket’s three booster stages to separate improperly, falling inward on the rocket and jolting it off its ascent two miles above ground, Russian investigators announced earlier this month.

Russian Rocket
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying the crew of astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. VOA

During Assembly

Video from inside the capsule showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, their arms and legs flailing. Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin can be heard saying, “That was a quick flight.”

The accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a crewed Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launchpad explosion.

Also Read: NASA Grants $7 Mn For New Life Detection

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has said that it could have been made deliberately by someone during manufacturing or while the craft was in space.

McClain and two other crewmates will launch from the same launchpad in Baikonur, joining the space station’s current three-person crew. (VOA)