Washington: In its bid for the next giant leap to Mars, NASA is seeking ideas for enabling human explorers to safely land, live and work on the Red Planet.
NASA’s first ‘Landing Site/Exploration Zone Workshop for Human Missions to the Surface of Mars’ will be held during October 27-30 at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.
The conference will start the process for choosing sites on Mars that NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey spacecraft – along with any future missions over the coming decades – to create better maps and provide valuable scientific data of these potential exploration zones.
“NASA hopes to engage scientists, technologists and experts in human exploration during the conference, fostering collaboration among the teams that will enable humans to live on and explore Mars in the coming decades”, the US space agency said in a statement.
Potential exploration zones will need to offer compelling science research while providing resources to those astronauts who can take advantage of that during their pioneering of the Red Planet.
First explorers are expected to be limited to about 100 km of travel from their landing site due to life support and exploration technology requirements.
“The life expectancy of the existing spacecrafts being limited, NASA is eager to gather high-resolution maps of potential exploration zones while the spacecraft, already well beyond their design lifetime, are still operational,” the statement read.
The partial shutdown of the US federal government has had a serious impact on the country’s space agency NASA and development work on most future space missions has been slowed or suspended.
However, NASA has not been totally grounded by the partial government shutdown that began on December 22, after last-minute negotiations in Congress failed to end a budget standoff.
Over 95 per cent of the space agency’s employees have been furloughed. As a result, various research projects, including the Hubble Space Telescope has been put on hold, the Space.com reported on Wednesday.
Hubble suffered a mechanical problem that only furloughed NASA employees could repair.
Many workers also gathered outside the Johnson Space Center in Houston to protest the shutdown and its deleterious effects on their lives and the nation’s space programmes.
The Telescope facilities that have so far remained open during the shutdown will soon run out of money and cease operations.
This includes the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), a federally funded organization that operates the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the Green Bank Telescope and the Very Large Array (VLA), the report noted.
The partial shutdown become the longest on record after January 12, overtaking the previous record of the 21-day impasse in 1995-96 under then President Bill Clinton.
President Donald Trump and the Congress have been at loggerheads over his demand to include in the budget $5.7 billion funding for building a border wall along the Mexico border. Democratic leaders have rejected his call.
NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), also called the “flying telescope” has also ceased operations since the shutdown.
The telescope, which is mounted to the fuselage of a Boeing 747 aircraft, has not flown since the shutdown began, the report said.
However, despite the shutdown some “excepted” employees remained at work, assisting astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and other space missions, the report said.
Last week, astronauts aboard the ISS conducted a range of scientific experiments and public-outreach work. They engaged in an orbital Q&A with school kids and answered a variety of questions, from the nature of the research performed aboard the ISS to the type of training astronauts receive to whether your ears pop in space.
On January 13, a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule departed the orbiting lab for Earth, eventually splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. The robotic Dragon brought down important scientific research and hardware for examination here on terra firma.
Other active space missions includes NASA probes OSIRIS-REx and New Horizons spacecraft that continue to gather data in Earth orbit and the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and beyond, the report said. (IANS)