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Hamartia Antidote

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How have space stations evolved?
August 14, 2020


Outposts off planet are a sure sign of humanity’s deepening engagement with space. To date, the most significant one has been the International Space Station (ISS). Its presence is historic, and many people – whether or not they are avid space buffs – are aware of its existence. But few individuals beyond specialists know about previous space stations. To learn more about the history of space stations and how they are likely to continue evolving, we spoke to Eric Dahlstrom. Besides being an active member of New Zealand’s space community as a co-founder of the social enterprise SpaceBase, he previously worked at NASA Langley on ISS design.

What role do space stations place in space exploration?

In essence a space station is just a building in space. Just as there are many reasons for having buildings on Earth, there are many reasons for having buildings in space. Space stations have been used as laboratories, habitats, observatories, transportation nodes, manufacturing and assembly centers, and even hotels. The main function of most space stations has been to serve as a laboratory to study the effects of microgravity. Each day on the International Space Station there are a couple hundred microgravity experiments operating.

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of Salyut 1, the first space station. (Unfortunately, the first crew to that station died as they returned to Earth.) Before the International Space Station (ISS), the Soviet Union launched six stations and the United States launched one. China has launched two so far. So, in total, there have been ten space stations. Today, on the ground, there are somewhere between four and ten space stations being assembled and prepared for launch (the number is uncertain due to the secrecy of some private companies).

The early space visionaries studied how people might live in space on space stations. When Werner von Braun proposed missions to the Moon, he thought we would build a space station along the way. The urgency of the race to the Moon meant the space stations were delayed until after Apollo. But the Space Shuttle was planned (and named) with the intention of shuttling crews to a space station.

The current NASA plan to return to the Moon involves building the Lunar Gateway – a space station in a high orbit around the Moon. NASA hopes to use this lunar space station as a staging location to coordinate international missions to the Moon, somewhat like the Everest base camp. There are also several commercial companies planning to build privately-owned space stations in low orbit around Earth, to be used as labs and hotels. The recent flight of astronauts on the commercial SpaceX Dragon-2 vehicle shows that these companies can now purchase crew flights to their space stations. We are seeing new opportunities for space station concepts.

What lessons can we learn from previous space stations to improve future space stations?

The Russians pioneered the concept of modular space stations, where you could launch different modules and plug them together – like adding rooms to your house. The Russians made the modules almost independent. They kept this philosophy on their side of the ISS. They are still building new modules to add to the five they have currently on orbit. The next Chinese space station, planned for 2021, borrows heavily on the Russian design. The US portion of the ISS (including modules from Japan, Europe, and the Canadian robot arm) was designed to function as more of an integrated whole. It still was assembled in parts, but the station was not fully powered until the large solar arrays were completed.

All space stations’ modules and elements have been limited by the size of the launch vehicle – the Space Shuttle, the Proton, the Long March 5, or (in the case of Skylab) the Saturn V. The ISS was designed to be assembled by connecting component parts. But even the ISS required more than 200 EVAs (spacewalks) to assemble (1,400 hours). In the future, space stations will be assembled and constructed on orbit to an even greater extent, perhaps robotically. Companies like “Made in Space” are studying how to 3D-print space stations and space habitats, perhaps using asteroid resources. There has also been one experimental module testing the ability of a module to inflate to provide a larger space than when it was launched, while still protecting astronauts by layers of Kevlar.

All space stations so far have been designed for research on the effects of microgravity. I expect the next generation of space stations to be designed for long-term habitation. Some will likely have artificial gravity through rotation. We may see the construction of large wheel-shaped space stations, or simpler designs of modules tethered together to flip end over end. Many of the health concerns of long duration spaceflight could be avoided with some artificial gravity.

The ability of parts from different nations to plug equipment together was demonstrated with the ISS (this was an area I worked on, connecting the Russian and US parts together). It was a significant victory when NASA adopted the Russian docking system – even to connect the US Shuttle to the US space station node. NASA plans to continue to use this system on the future Moon missions. Maintaining these international standards is a constant effort, but also represents a vision of a future of cooperating in space. I’m not positive, but I think the recent videos from China show they have also adopted these international standards for docking systems and robotic grapple features. This is a clue that China hopes for a future of everyone working together in space.

What are some of the most formidable engineering challenges that stand in the way of creating better space stations?

Space stations need more autonomy in how they operate. Each space station typically has hundreds of people on staff monitoring all the systems and keeping in touch with the astronauts and cosmonauts. In the early days, the US Mission Control used to schedule all astronaut activities in 15-minute increments, 24 hours a day, which drove the astronauts crazy. They finally accepted the advice of the Russians and backed off, giving the astronauts more flexibility and more free time. But all astronauts still operate according to detailed instructions from the ground. In the future, space stations far from Earth should operate more like ships on the ocean, without the detailed directions from the “standing army” at Mission Control.

The challenges of logistics and resupply of space stations remain a limiting factor in their use. The Russians developed the “Progress” robotic spacecraft. Its first automated flight was in 1978 to the Salyut 6 space station. Newer versions of Progress are still used to supply the ISS, along with robotic spacecraft from Europe, Japan, and the United States. NASA’s plans for a lunar space station include resupply from US commercial companies, allowing them to develop commercial capabilities throughout cislunar space. Advocates for commercial space development often note this has an exciting historical analogy here on Earth. In 1849, the US government purchased supplies for only two years for the Texas military outpost Fort Worth; this led directly to the creation of the modern cities of Dallas and Fort Worth.

The ISS has gradually made progress toward closed life support systems, with the addition of water recycling in 2009. It is 85% effective as it processes roughly six tons of water per year. Ideally, space station systems would more effectively recycle all consumables and eventually produce food onboard. But experiments at growing food in space have only progressed slowly.

The ISS and all previous space stations have orbited close to the Earth and under the protection of the Earth’s magnetic field. The NASA Lunar Gateway station planned for high lunar orbit will be outside the protection of the Earth’s magnetic field and exposed to stronger radiation from the Sun and galaxy. Radiation protection will remain a challenge for space stations in deep space. Some designs plan for a “storm shelter” where the crew could remain for some hours during solar radiation events. In the long-range future, larger space stations with more shielding mass will be desired.

The next major step in the development of space will be the use of local resources in space, including mass from the Moon and asteroids. Current hardware development is proceeding in preparation for small-scale experiments, but conceptual designs are being developed for large-scale space habitats constructed from lunar and asteroidal resources. It is an exciting time to design future space stations.

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jamahir

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Impressive !

1. Maybe SpaceX should off-shore Starship and engine production to India. Cheaper raw materials and labor force. And this article speaks of production within India of Boeing's various aircraft structures and avionics.

2. The rotating space station... are there materials presently available that can absorb / sustain the forces produced by the rotation ?

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Please read the below tweet :

Below is why humanity has to centralize ( under the UNOOSA ) and drastically reduce satellite space launches :


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@ps3linux @Indx-techs
 

Hamartia Antidote

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1. Maybe SpaceX should off-shore Starship and engine production to India
Due to missile technology non-proliferation treaties only US citizens who pass a security clearance can work on it. So offshoring isn't going to happen.

Sadly I bet SpaceX can't even sell Starships to other countries (even European). In fact maybe they probably can't even land in other countries unless it was in a secure area.


Maybe the UK is an exception since they use US nuclear missiles.
 

jamahir

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Maybe the UK is an exception since they use US nuclear missiles.
The article is hanging my machine. I use Slax Linux booted of a pen drive, with programs loaded into memory during boot so this takes up much of the memory.

Can you please give me the gist of the article ?
 

Hamartia Antidote

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It says British nuclear submarines and their missiles are all US technology.

The article is hanging my machine. I use Slax Linux booted of a pen drive, with programs loaded into memory during boot so this takes up much of the memory.

Can you please give me the gist of the article ?

In the run-up to the British general election, there has been intense debate about the future of Trident, the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons program, which will reach the end of its serviceable life in 2026. Party leaders in the next parliament must decide whether to scrap it, replace it with a scaled-back alternative, or update it.

But there is one simple question that nobody is asking. When is an independent nuclear deterrent not an independent nuclear deterrent?

To many experts, the answer is all too obvious: when the maintenance, design, and testing of UK submarines depend on Washington, and when the nuclear missiles aboard them are on lease from Uncle Sam.

No British politician is addressing this issue, and it shows. Informed voters are probably familiar with the various parties’ declared stances on the Trident question, but few Britons have any idea that the United States is even involved in the program, let alone their country’s nuclear benefactor.

Instead, Trident is being presented as a purely domestic matter, and one of the few in modern British politics that puts clear ideological water between Left and Right. The Tories have pledged £100 billion ($154 billion) to upgrade the program. The insurgent Scottish Nationalists — who will probably hold the balance of power in the likely event of a hung parliament — want to scrap the weapons altogether (the nukes are based in Scotland), as do the Greens and Plaid Cymru. The remaining parties fall somewhere in between.

At a deeper political level, however, Trident cuts to the heart of the US-UK Special Relationship, and its contrasting significance for London and Washington.

In 2006, Parliament’s Select Committee on Defense presented a White Paper to Parliament containing a granular analysis of the Trident program. Although it is now almost a decade old, NATO sources have confirmed that the paper remains the benchmark for non-classified information on Britain’s nuclear weapons, as very little has changed since. And it lays bare the extent of the UK’s nuclear reliance on America.

The report makes for striking reading. The UK does not even own its Trident missiles, but rather leases them from the United States. British subs must regularly visit the US Navy’s base at King’s Bay, Georgia, for maintenance or re-arming. And since Britain has no test site of its own, it tries out its weapons under US supervision at Cape Canaveral, off the Florida coast.

A huge amount of key Trident technology — including the neutron generators, warheads, gas reservoirs, missile body shells, guidance systems, GPS, targeting software, gravitational information and navigation systems — is provided directly by Washington, and much of the technology that Britain produces itself is taken from US designs (the four UK Trident submarines themselves are copies of America’s Ohio-class Trident submersibles).

The list goes on. Britain’s nuclear sites at Aldermaston and Davenport are partly run by the American companies Lockheed Martin and Halliburton. Even the organization responsible for the UK-run components of the program, the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), is a private consortium consisting of one British company, Serco Group PLC, sandwiched between two American ones — Lockheed Martin and the Jacobs Engineering Group. And, to top it all, AWE’s boss, Kevin Bilger — who worked for Lockheed Martin for 32 years — is American.

The UK Government emphasizes that Britain’s Trident submarines are "operationally independent," meaning that they have an all-British crew and take commands only from the Prime Minister, regardless of whether he is coordinating with NATO and the White House. Some believe that this safeguard is sufficient to counteract Washington’s dominance of the program.

"Just because my car is made in Japan or Germany, doesn’t mean it’s not my car to drive," says Thomas Karako, a senior fellow with the International Security Program and the Project on Nuclear Issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC. "Do I need to make my own filing cabinet to have an independent office?"

In this view, operational independence is "the most important thing," and the US has no reason to use Britain’s nuclear program as a military proxy.

“It is in America’s interest to have an independent nuclear actor in the region, so that it complicates the decision-making for an aggressor,” Karako says. “Any attack on one NATO ally would raise the risk of retaliation from another under Article Five, and it’s not a case of piling all the responsibility on the United States. That will only work with operational independence.”

But some other experts are deeply skeptical about the current state of affairs. “As a policy statement, it’s ludicrous to say that the US can effectively donate a nuclear program to the UK but have no influence on how it is used,” says Ted Seay, senior policy consultant at the London-based British American Security Information Council (BASIC), who spent three years as part of the US Mission to NATO.

"The fact that the US is spending so much on producing, leasing, maintaining the car — let’s talk before you drive it into a brick wall," he says. "But this isn’t Hertz rent-a-car we’re talking about. This is the end of the world."

Seay added: "It would also be unthinkable for the UK to launch a strike outside of NATO. There is an incredible pressure on every member to conform. I know that as an insider. If you’re thinking about launching nuclear weapons at Russia or perhaps Iran, it has to be fought out around the NATO table. To say that you could launch a unilateral attack over the heads of NATO and Washington might be theoretically true, but practically speaking it’s rubbish."

In addition, Seay says, Washington’s influence on Trident means that it has a de facto power of veto.

“There is no uniquely British component in the whole thing,” he points out.

The 2006 White Paper underscores this point. “One way the USA could show its displeasure would be to cut off the technical support needed for the UK to continue to send Trident to sea,” it says.

"The USA has the ability to deny access to GPS (as well as weather and gravitational data) at any time, rendering that form of navigation and targeting useless if the UK were to launch without US approval."

Still, the UK Government stands by the principle of operational independence. British officials are currently in “purdah”, meaning that they cannot make any on-the-record comment to the press until after the election. But when POLITICO approached the Ministry of Defense for comment, it pointed towards a statement made in Parliament by the Minister for Europe, David Lidington, in November.

“Only the Prime Minister can authorize the employment of the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent, and there are no technical means by which the United States could negate or override a prime ministerial instruction,” he said.

From a fiscal point of view, he added, it is “common sense” for Britain to work with the US, “rather than incurring the extra costs ourselves.”

Professor Malcolm Chalmers, special adviser to the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy and Director of UK Defense Policy Studies at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) argues that the founding principle of Trident allays fears of an undue American influence.

Unlike American nuclear systems, he says, Trident is not designed to allow a “first strike” capability, but merely to act as a deterrent. It would only ever be used to respond to a nuclear attack. If such a situation arose, Chalmers says, “concerns over the US reaction would be the least of the concerns of a UK government seeking to deter the destruction of its people.”

Be that as it may, when POLITICO discussed the matter with UK officials, all were happy to talk about what would happen in the event of a nuclear confrontation, but all refused to even speculate about what would happen if the Special Relationship deteriorated — a possibility the dismissed as purely hypothetical.

Chalmers, for instance, described a nuclear conflict as “not a likely scenario, but it is perhaps plausible.” When it came to the potential deterioration of the Special Relationship, however, he struck a very different note.

“If the US were to cut off nuclear aid now — after almost 60 years — it would be such an antagonistic act as to throw the wider alliance relationship into question,” he said. “I see no prospect that this will happen.”

Moreover, according to Peter Burt, research manager at the campaign group Nuclear Information Service (NIS), the US-UK Mutual Defense Agreement – a 1958 treatise that allows nuclear co-operation between the two nations – is “pushed through” without proper parliamentary scrutiny whenever it is due to be renewed.

“In 2014, it was extended for ten years with minimal discussion in Parliament,” he says. “No formal vote was given, and the Government made no attempt to get a proper mandate. It’s basically a done deal. The UK Government avoids shining a spotlight on its lack of nuclear independence because it’s cheaper to buy technology off-the-shelf from America than pay for research and development.”

This is understandable. The UK has invested countless billions in its nuclear deterrent, most of it funneled into American coffers. So it is natural that officials emphasize the threat — a possible nuclear holocaust — while downplaying the vulnerabilities of a strategy that puts all Britain's eggs in Uncle Sam’s basket.

At root, Trident can be seen as a microcosm of the imbalance and anxiety at the core of the relationship between a declining former empire and a reigning superpower.

“The fact that, in theory, the British Prime Minister could give the order to fire Trident missiles without getting prior approval from the White House has allowed the UK to maintain the façade of being a global military power,” the White Paper concludes.

“In practice, though, it is difficult to conceive of any situation in which a prime minister would fire Trident without prior US approval… the only way that Britain is ever likely to use Trident is to give legitimacy to a US nuclear attack by participating in it,”as was the case in the invasion of Iraq.

More than a decade later, the 2003 Iraq war continues to influence the attitude of the junior partner toward the senior. This could be seen during the opposition leaders’ debate earlier this month, when Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, revealed his desire to recalibrate Britain’s attitude towards America were he to be elected.

“We need to work with the US, but we need to work not for our allies,” he said. “I think it’s very, very important that we learn the lessons of the 2003 Iraq war, because Britain’s national interest often coincides with America’s national interest, but not always. We need a prime minister that’s willing to say no when appropriate, and that’s what I’ll do.”

Miliband then — rather hyperbolically — seized credit for the White House’s decision not to bomb Syria in 2013, claiming that his opposition to military action influenced the vote in the British parliament, which in turn influenced President Obama.

By contrast, when Prime Minister David Cameron visited the White House in January, journalists asked whether the President called his opposite number "bro," as Cameron himself had suggested. Obama stepped up to the plate.

"Put simply, David is a great friend," he said. “He is one of my closest and most trusted partners in the world… Great Britain is our indispensable partner, and David has been personally an outstanding partner — and I thank you for your friendship."

When viewed in the light of the geopolitical reality, however, the President’s praise rings differently. A secret document drawn up in April to brief the US Senate and House of Representatives on the impact of the UK election revealed a harder truth: "The UK may not be viewed as centrally relevant to the United States in all of the issues and relations considered a priority on the US agenda."

For those still smarting from the Iraq debacle, when smaller Britain was derided as the America’s foreign policy "poodle," London’s nuclear dependency on Washington is troubling. For the British Government, however, Trident assures the UK of both a seat at the top table and an added dimension of security in an uncertain world — even if ministers must gamble that the Special Relationship will be more reliable than the prospect of nuclear war.
 

jamahir

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SpaceX may launch first Starship trip to Mars in next 4 years, says Elon Musk

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said that his company is on track to launch its first uncrewed mission to Mars in less than four years from now.



India Today Web Desk
New Delhi October 19, 2020UPDATED: October 19, 2020 09:51 IST


SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk. (Photo: Reuters)

SpaceX is on track to launch its first uncrewed mission to Mars in less than four years from now, the private spaceflight company's founder and CEO Elon Musk said on Friday.

"I think we have a fighting chance of making that second Mars transfer window," Space.com quoted Elon Musk as saying during a discussion at the International Mars Society Convention.

By "window", Elon Musk was referring to the Mars launch opportunity in 2024.

The opportunity to launch a mission to Mars comes every 26 months, the report in Space.com said. After Nasa, China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched missions to Mars in July this year, the next "window" is set to open in 2022.

Musk was further quoted as saying as that SpaceX "would maybe have a shot of sending or trying to send something to Mars in three years," if the mission timings didn't depend on the "orbital mechanics that call for Mars launches every 26 months".

"Earth and Mars won't be in the best position...But the window is four years away, because of them being in different parts of the solar system," he said.

LAUNCH TO MARS ON STARSHIP

SpaceX will launch its first uncrewed mission to Mars on its massive Starship rocket.

Starship is a "reusable rocket-and-spacecraft combo" which is being developed at the company's South Texas facility, the report said.

The report further said, "SpaceX is also planning to use Starship for missions to the Moon starting in 2022, as well as point-to-point trips around the Earth."

PLANS TO BUILD A MARS BASE?

Elon Musk has believed that human beings "need to establish a permanent and self-sustaining presence on Mars to ensure "the continuance of consciousness as we know it"" - just in case, some nuclear war or asteroid strike leave Earth uninhabitable, the report said.

However, Musk's SpaceX doesn't have any plans to build a Mars base.

"As a transportation company, its only goal is to ferry cargo [and humans] to and from the red planet, facilitating the development of someone else's Mars base," the report said.

Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin was quoted as saying: "SpaceX is taking on the biggest single challenge, which is the transportation system. There's all sorts of other systems that are going to be needed."

ELON MUSK's SPACEX

SpaceX launched two Americans toward orbit from Florida on Saturday in a mission that marks the first spaceflight of NASA astronauts from U.S. soil in nine years.

SpaceX is also preparing another Starship prototype -- SN8 -- for a 12-mile-high (20 kilometers) test flight in the future.

Moreover, in 2024, Nasa astronauts will return to the Moon under the Artemis program.

Nasa selected SpaceX to build a Starship Lunar Lander for the agency's Artemis program which aims to send the first woman and next man to the moon's surface in 2024.

Also, Nasa said that its four astronauts are set to launch to the space station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket. The launch is targeted for early-to-mid November and the four astronauts are set to return in spring 2021.

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@ps3linux @Hamartia Antidote @Indx-techs
 
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jamahir

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX will make its own laws on Mars: Report


India Today Web Desk
New Delhi October 29, 2020 UPDATED: October 29, 2020 14:33 IST


(Photo for representation)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX will make its own set of rules on Mars, a report has said.

As per a report in Independent, SpaceX will not recognise international law on Mars, according to the Terms of Service of its Starlink internet project.

The space company will instead adhere to a set of “self-governing principles" that will be defined at the time of Martian settlement, the report added. SpaceX made the announcement by mentioning it in the terms and conditions of their new Starlink satellite broadband service.

Independent report added that this future colony created by SpaceX would likely use constellations of Starlink satellites orbiting the planet to provide internet connection.

SpaceX has launched to orbit more than 800 satellites of the several thousand needed to offer broadband internet globally, a $10 billion investment it estimates could generate $30 billion annually to help fund Musk’s interplanetary rocket program dubbed Starship.

Users of Starlink app, launched following a successful beta test of the network’s capabilities in parts of the US and Canada, noted that the terms of service within the app state that it provided to Earth or Moon will be governed in accordance with the laws of the State of California.

Beyond our planet and its satellite, however, the laws and regulations by which it will abide are less clear, the report added.

The Declaration of the Rights and Responsibilities of Humanity in the Universe states that space should be “considered free, by all, for all and to all.”

An earlier report said Elon Musk believed that human beings "need to establish a permanent and self-sustaining presence on Mars to ensure "the continuance of consciousness as we know it" - just in case, some nuclear war or asteroid strike leave Earth uninhabitable.

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As it stands, Musk has said earlier that he would like for Direct Democracy to be implemented among Mars colonies as against the Representative Democracy system like is implemented in USA, India, Pakistan etc.

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@ps3linux @Hamartia Antidote @Indx-techs @Fawadqasim1
 

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX will make its own laws on Mars: Report


India Today Web Desk
New Delhi October 29, 2020 UPDATED: October 29, 2020 14:33 IST


(Photo for representation)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX will make its own set of rules on Mars, a report has said.

As per a report in Independent, SpaceX will not recognise international law on Mars, according to the Terms of Service of its Starlink internet project.

The space company will instead adhere to a set of “self-governing principles" that will be defined at the time of Martian settlement, the report added. SpaceX made the announcement by mentioning it in the terms and conditions of their new Starlink satellite broadband service.

Independent report added that this future colony created by SpaceX would likely use constellations of Starlink satellites orbiting the planet to provide internet connection.

SpaceX has launched to orbit more than 800 satellites of the several thousand needed to offer broadband internet globally, a $10 billion investment it estimates could generate $30 billion annually to help fund Musk’s interplanetary rocket program dubbed Starship.

Users of Starlink app, launched following a successful beta test of the network’s capabilities in parts of the US and Canada, noted that the terms of service within the app state that it provided to Earth or Moon will be governed in accordance with the laws of the State of California.

Beyond our planet and its satellite, however, the laws and regulations by which it will abide are less clear, the report added.

The Declaration of the Rights and Responsibilities of Humanity in the Universe states that space should be “considered free, by all, for all and to all.”

An earlier report said Elon Musk believed that human beings "need to establish a permanent and self-sustaining presence on Mars to ensure "the continuance of consciousness as we know it" - just in case, some nuclear war or asteroid strike leave Earth uninhabitable.

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As it stands, Musk has said earlier that he would like for Direct Democracy to be implemented among Mars colonies as against the Representative Democracy system like is implemented in USA, India, Pakistan etc.

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@ps3linux @Hamartia Antidote @Indx-techs @Fawadqasim1
I like the premises
 

jamahir

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Geologists simulate soil conditions to help grow plants on Mars

by Staff Writers
Athens GA (SPX) Oct 28, 2020

A rendering of a house beside a greenhouse on Mars. NASA image​

Humankind's next giant step may be onto Mars. But before those missions can begin, scientists need to make scores of breakthrough advances, including learning how to grow crops on the red planet.

Practically speaking, astronauts cannot haul an endless supply of topsoil through space. So University of Georgia geologists are figuring out how best to use the materials already on the planet's surface.

To do that, they developed artificial soil mixtures that mimic materials found on Mars. In a new study published in the journal Icarus, the researchers evaluated the artificial soils to determine just how fertile Martian soil could be.

"We want to simulate certain characteristics of materials you could easily get on Mars' surface," said Laura Fackrell, UGA geology doctoral candidate and lead author on the study.

Simulating the mineral makeup or salt content of these Martian mixtures can tell us a lot about the potential fertility of the soil. Things like nutrients, salinity, pH are part of what make a soil fertile and understanding where Mars' soils are at in that spectrum is key to knowing if they are viable and if not, are there feasible solutions that can be used to make them viable."

In the last decade, Martian surface exploration has expanded the understanding of the chemistry of the planet's surface. Using data taken from NASA's surface samples, the team studied regolith, or the loose material near the surface, to develop the simulants.

The materials used mimic mixtures of soil, clay minerals, salts and other materials obtainable from Mars' surface by scooping loose material or mining it from bedrock.

Despite its thin atmosphere, extreme cold and low oxygen, Mars' surface is known to contain the majority of plant essential nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

The presence of nutrients accomplishes one of the big hurdles, but there are still more challenges. "One problem is, their presence doesn't mean they are accessible to plants," Fackrell said. "If you actually put a plant in the ground--just because the iron or the magnesium is there doesn't mean the plant can actually pull it out of the soil."

Plus, the nutrients may or may not be present in sufficient quantity or they may be so high in concentration that they are toxic to plants.

Using simulated Martian soils, Fackrell and fellow researchers have found the textures of artificial simulants to be crusty and dried which may reflect some unexpected conditions of Mars soils that make them more difficult to use.

These challenges add up to a very difficult, though not impossible task. Looking to agricultural science, the group, which includes UGA faculty members Paul Schroeder, Mussie Habteselassie and Aaron Thompson, adapts solutions used on Earth, recommendations that range from rinsing the soil to adding inoculants like bacteria or other fungi to the soil to help the plants grow.

"Specific types of bacteria and fungi are known to be beneficial for plants, and may be able to support them under stress conditions like we see on Mars," said Fackrell, who began her studies in geomicrobiology with Schroeder while conducting her master's thesis research on extreme environments faced by microbes living in hot springs in the Kamchatka Peninsula, in the Russian Far East.

The scientists also see implications from their research for potential innovations in agricultural research for Earth.
"Anything we learn about farming on Mars could help with farming in challenging environments on Earth that help us build to a sustainable future," Fackrell said.

Whatever the eventual solution, the prospect of a manned mission to Mars hinges on the ability to grow food.

"There are multiple ways you can look at it, but one option might be to use what's already there as a potting medium, and figure out if that's a viable way to do it or if you have to bring all the plant materials with you," Fackrell said. "The question of whether we can use Mars soil to provide that food will go a long way toward determining the feasibility of manned missions."

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Maybe SpaceX can do an unmanned sample-return mission from Mars in five years or so ( their plan of sending an unmanned trip around Mars in 2024 ) and bring back some regolith for more proper examination for potential to grow crops in it.

Also, I think the first landing site for a manned mission should be not too far from one of the polar ice caps.

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@ps3linux, your interest in agriculture.

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Geologists simulate soil conditions to help grow plants on Mars

by Staff Writers
Athens GA (SPX) Oct 28, 2020

A rendering of a house beside a greenhouse on Mars. NASA image​

Humankind's next giant step may be onto Mars. But before those missions can begin, scientists need to make scores of breakthrough advances, including learning how to grow crops on the red planet.

Practically speaking, astronauts cannot haul an endless supply of topsoil through space. So University of Georgia geologists are figuring out how best to use the materials already on the planet's surface.

To do that, they developed artificial soil mixtures that mimic materials found on Mars. In a new study published in the journal Icarus, the researchers evaluated the artificial soils to determine just how fertile Martian soil could be.

"We want to simulate certain characteristics of materials you could easily get on Mars' surface," said Laura Fackrell, UGA geology doctoral candidate and lead author on the study.

Simulating the mineral makeup or salt content of these Martian mixtures can tell us a lot about the potential fertility of the soil. Things like nutrients, salinity, pH are part of what make a soil fertile and understanding where Mars' soils are at in that spectrum is key to knowing if they are viable and if not, are there feasible solutions that can be used to make them viable."

In the last decade, Martian surface exploration has expanded the understanding of the chemistry of the planet's surface. Using data taken from NASA's surface samples, the team studied regolith, or the loose material near the surface, to develop the simulants.

The materials used mimic mixtures of soil, clay minerals, salts and other materials obtainable from Mars' surface by scooping loose material or mining it from bedrock.

Despite its thin atmosphere, extreme cold and low oxygen, Mars' surface is known to contain the majority of plant essential nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

The presence of nutrients accomplishes one of the big hurdles, but there are still more challenges. "One problem is, their presence doesn't mean they are accessible to plants," Fackrell said. "If you actually put a plant in the ground--just because the iron or the magnesium is there doesn't mean the plant can actually pull it out of the soil."

Plus, the nutrients may or may not be present in sufficient quantity or they may be so high in concentration that they are toxic to plants.

Using simulated Martian soils, Fackrell and fellow researchers have found the textures of artificial simulants to be crusty and dried which may reflect some unexpected conditions of Mars soils that make them more difficult to use.

These challenges add up to a very difficult, though not impossible task. Looking to agricultural science, the group, which includes UGA faculty members Paul Schroeder, Mussie Habteselassie and Aaron Thompson, adapts solutions used on Earth, recommendations that range from rinsing the soil to adding inoculants like bacteria or other fungi to the soil to help the plants grow.

"Specific types of bacteria and fungi are known to be beneficial for plants, and may be able to support them under stress conditions like we see on Mars," said Fackrell, who began her studies in geomicrobiology with Schroeder while conducting her master's thesis research on extreme environments faced by microbes living in hot springs in the Kamchatka Peninsula, in the Russian Far East.

The scientists also see implications from their research for potential innovations in agricultural research for Earth.
"Anything we learn about farming on Mars could help with farming in challenging environments on Earth that help us build to a sustainable future," Fackrell said.

Whatever the eventual solution, the prospect of a manned mission to Mars hinges on the ability to grow food.

"There are multiple ways you can look at it, but one option might be to use what's already there as a potting medium, and figure out if that's a viable way to do it or if you have to bring all the plant materials with you," Fackrell said. "The question of whether we can use Mars soil to provide that food will go a long way toward determining the feasibility of manned missions."

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Maybe SpaceX can do an unmanned sample-return mission from Mars in five years or so ( their plan of sending an unmanned trip around Mars in 2024 ) and bring back some regolith for more proper examination for potential to grow crops in it.

Also, I think the first landing site for a manned mission should be not too far from one of the polar ice caps.

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@ps3linux, your interest in agriculture.

@Hamartia Antidote @Indx-techs @Fawadqasim1
No matter what they say ultimately the problem will be the amount of water/oxygen available which will determine the number of people a settlement can sustain.
What we actually need is the right types of elements and a local source of energy.
 

jamahir

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No matter what they say ultimately the problem will be the amount of water/oxygen available which will determine the number of people a settlement can sustain.
What we actually need is the right types of elements and a local source of energy.
1. Source of energy : Do you remember the thread about Nuclear Diamond Battery from some months ago ? It seems to be usable for most needs and form-able for various shapes and sizes.

2. Availability of water / oxygen : That is why I wrote that the settlements have to be near to either of the two polar ice caps.
 

Fawadqasim1

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No matter what they say ultimately the problem will be the amount of water/oxygen available which will determine the number of people a settlement can sustain.
1. Source of energy : Do you remember the thread about Nuclear Diamond Battery from some months ago ? It seems to be usable for most needs and form-able for various shapes and sizes.

2. Availability of water / oxygen : That is why I wrote that the settlements have to be near to either of the two polar ice caps.
absolutely the right set of elements and a renewable source of energy the rest is functional information.
 

Fawadqasim1

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1. Source of energy : Do you remember the thread about Nuclear Diamond Battery from some months ago ? It seems to be usable for most needs and form-able for various shapes and sizes.
all types of beta decay batteries are low voltage and amps what i am contemplating is in megawatts
 

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