Mission: Mars—MAVEN Draws Nigh

NASA, via Facebook:

At 8 pm EDT today, MAVEN will be at a distance of 205,304,736 km (127,570,449 miles) from Earth with an Earth-centered velocity of 27.95 km/s (17.37 mi/s or 62,532 mph) and a Sun-centered velocity of 22.29 km/s (13.58 mi/s or 48,892 mph). We are now just 17 days from Mars orbit insertion on September 21st.

NASA's MAVEN satellite approaches Mars.Having traveled a total of 678,070,879 km (421,332,902 mi) in its heliocentric transfer orbit, the MAVEN spacecraft has now covered ~95% of its total journey from Earth to #Mars.

The spacecraft is currently at a distance of 4,705,429 km (2,923,818 mi) from Mars, and 215,446,454 km (133,872,220 mi) from the Sun. One-way light time to the #MAVEN spacecraft from Earth is 11 minutes and 24 seconds.

All navigation solutions continue to produce trajectory arrival predictions that ensure a successful transition to MAVEN’s required science orbit.

This is the sort of thing that we ought to be getting excited about. The MAVEN mission is awesome.

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Did Someone Say ‘Firehole’?

And then there is this ….

Ed Mazza explains what we are seeing:

The park says extreme heat from thermal areas is causing hot oil to bubble to the surface of Firehole Lake Drive, a scenic 3.3-mile loop that runs past Great Fountain Geyser, White Dome Geyser and Firehole Lake ….

…. “It basically turned the asphalt into soup,” park spokesman Dan Hottle told USA Today. “It turned the gravel road into oatmeal.”

That same thermal heat melting the road is what gives the park its famous geysers, hot springs, mudpots and fumaroles. But for the moment, some of these natural wonders will be off-limits as officials ask both motorists and hikers to avoid the area.

Yellowstone Road Melts, Shutting Down Access to Famous Geysers

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Chris Hadfield Still Rocks

A brief note aside: Yes, we know. Every once in a while it behooves us to check the instructions. It really is that easy to embed a tweet. This Unfortunately Requisite Duh has been brought to you by Diving Under Many Bogus Assumptions. Take the note.

More importantly, there is a reason why @Cmdr_Hadfield remains awesome.

Linkadelica

File under Whoops: I somehow managed to kill my Linkadelica template. No worries, I guess. I still haven’t figured out exactly what to do with it.

Abell 68 Space Invader (detail)Space Invaders! Or, a note on gravitational lensing.

Helicoprion! Or, the mysterious, spiral-toothed, squid-eating fish of antiquity.

Zen Pencils! Or, an ode to Chris Hadfield.

Dolighan! Or, as long as we’re speaking of Cmdr. Hadfield.

Tim Dolighan, March 1, 2013Thunder! Or, what Cmdr. Hadfield sees.

Physics! Or, Rhett Allain uses Neil deGrasse Tyson complaining about The Daily Show logo to teach us some science.

Heat! Fascinating and philosophical. Yes, really.

Regina: A Beacon of Science, Philosophy, and Skates

Regina, Saskatchewan; detail of photo by Chris HadfieldI don’t know why, but Chris Hadfield’s orbital photograph of Regina, Saskatchewan, taken earlier today, absolutely fascinates me. Perhaps it’s the bit of perspective we need in order to remember just how cool the world really is, or something like that. But the scale of isolation, the darkness of the city in contrast with the snowy land around it. The neat little boundaries making rectangles; roads, it seems, though if we didn’t know the scale it might as well be counties in Iowa. But it’s Canada.

And tonight, I’m told, the Pats are in Moose Jaw, looking to make it two straight over the Warriors. Hockey makes a lot more sense in the context of Regina, Saskatchewan, nestled amid the snowy plain, viewed from orbit. You know, science, philosophy. Inspired reflections on the human condition. Junior hockey in Canada. Seems obvious.

Dreams in Martian Red

To the one, it’s always worth a try ….

Candor Chasma detail (ESA, 2008(Wanted: A man and a woman in their early to mid-50s, preferably married. Must enjoy adventure, spending long periods of time together, and sharing space—as in 501 days in a 1166-cubic-foot (33-cubic-meter) capsule and habitat. Interest in the planet Mars also a prerequisite.

Warning to applicants: You will be exposed to unprecedented risks and your long-term health could be compromised. But if the effort goes ahead and succeeds as planned, you will become the first humans in history to journey into deep space and see Mars up close.

Multimillionaire Dennis Tito, the world’s first space tourist, announced today in Washington, D.C., that his newly formed nonprofit organization has taken up the challenge of sending the first humans to Mars.

“We’ve not sent humans beyond the moon in 40 years,” Tito said at a press conference. “… And I think it’s time to put an end to that lapse.”

What’s that? A trip to Mars? With people? Marc Kaufman explains, for National Geographic News, the latest buzz in the human cosmos:

The Inspiration Mars Foundation aims to launch the mission in January 2018, when Mars and Earth are at an especially close point in their 15-year cycle. The plan is to send a man and a woman in a capsule around Mars for a flyby mission similar to the one that surveyed the moon before the Apollo landings ….Inspiration Mars

…. The Mars project is extremely ambitious, but it is at least plausible because it is simple—at least in terms of rocket science.

According to a paper Tito will present this weekend at an aerospace conference in Montana, if the launch is on target, then the spaceship will need only one rocket burn to change course. With the right trajectory, it will fly to Mars, will pass within a few hundred miles of the surface, and then will be pulled around the planet and given a gravity-assisted fling back toward Earth.

Under the current flight trajectory, the capsule would spend about ten hours within 65,000 miles of Mars.

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Twit le Monde

TweetpingTwitter is a curious beast, a nest of contradictions. To the one it is annoying and inane. To the other, it is fascinating and transformative. And, really, it depends on who you pay attention to. That is to say, sure my favorite novelist likes to tell the world what and when he’s drinking, or what he thinks the dog thinks, or the latest idea for a band name. But I like his sense of humor, so it’s hardly as annoying as a high school friend who constantly shares coupons and sale prices from various online and brick-and-mortar retailers via Facebook; my own Facebook page, incidentally, is littered with bad jokes about news, and updates on what beer I’m drinking. To the other, you can get important news updates, or find out what rock Curiosity is drilling, or even how far away the Voyager probes are. And, of course, there are the constant updates of who has posted what on the internet. (NovSci does not currently have a Facebook page or Twitter feed, but we are considering the merits.)

Enter Tweetping, which might actually be more interesting than Twitter itself. The site allows you to watch Twitter in realtime, and is strangely hypnotic.

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