Beginning this month, the India Quarterly will be folded in the expanded To the Stars – International Quarterly. The first issue has 123 pages of space news and articles: To the Stars – International Quarterly #6 – Jan.2014 (pdf).
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spots the Chinese Chang’e 3 lander and Yutu rover on the Moon:
On Dec. 14, 2013, China’s Chang’e 3 spacecraft landed on the moon’s Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) just east of an impact crater approximately 1,500 feet (450 meters) in diameter. Soon after landing, a small rover named Yutu (Jade Rabbit in English) was deployed and took its first tentative drive onto the airless lunar surface. At the time of the landing, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was far from the landing site, but on Dec. 24, the spacecraft approached the landing site and acquired six pairs of images. The highest resolution image was possible when LRO was nearly overhead, just before 11 p.m. EST that evening. At this time LRO was at an altitude of about 90 miles (150 km) above the site, and the pixel size was about 5 feet (150 cm).
The rover is only about 5 feet (150 cm) wide, yet it shows up in the LRO’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) images for two reasons: the solar panels are very effective at reflecting light, so the rover appears as two bright pixels, and the setting sun allows the rover and lander to cast distinct shadows. Since the rover is close to the size of a pixel, how can scientists be sure they are seeing the rover and not a comparably sized boulder? Fortuitously, LRO acquired a “before” image of the landing site, with nearly identical lighting, on June 30, 2013. By comparing the before and after images of the site, the LRO camera team confirmed the position of the lander and rover and derived accurate map coordinates for the lander.
The lander set down about about 200 feet (60 meters) east of the rim of the impact crater on a thick deposit of volcanic materials. A large scale wrinkle ridge (about 60 miles long and 6 miles wide, or ~100 km long and 10 km wide) cuts across the area and was formed as tectonic stress caused the volcanic layers to buckle and break along faults. Wrinkle ridges are common on the moon, Mercury and Mars.
Lunar mare basalts are divided into two main spectral (color) types: “red” and “blue”. (Blue is perhaps a misnomer; think “less red”.) Like basalts on Earth, lunar basalts are composed mainly of two minerals, pyroxene and plagioclase, though olivine and ilmenite can sometimes occur in significant amounts. The presence of ilmenite results in a “less red” color. Thus the blue basalts. The landing site is on a blue mare (indicating higher titanium) thought to be about 3 billion years old. The boundary (black arrows in WAC mosaic to the right) with an older (3.5 billion years) red mare is only about 6 miles (10 km) to the north.
NASA JPL’s “What’s Up for January 1914” describes the night sky for the coming month:
Jupiter at opposition. Venus at conjunction. A Juno mission update. And the Quadrantid meteor shower.
An announcement from Mars One:
Mars One Slashes Applicant Pool by 99.5%
Across the globe, 1058 hopefuls have been selected as candidates
to begin human life on Mars in 2025.
On December 30, 2013, Mars One announces the selection of the candidates from the applicant pool of over 200,000 hoping to establish human life on Martian soil. Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp describes the remaining 1058 candidates as our first tangible glimpse into what the new human settlement will truly look like. Lansdorp says “We’re extremely appreciative and impressed with the sheer number of people who submitted their applications. However, the challenge with 200,000 applicants is separating those who we feel are physically and mentally adept to become human ambassadors on Mars from those who are obviously taking the mission much less seriously. We even had a couple of applicants submit their videos in the nude!”
The selection criteria are outlined in detail on the Mars One website. All applicants were notified today via e-mail of their application status. For the applicants who were not selected in this round, there is still a chance they could reapply at a later date, which has not yet been determined. According to Lansdorp, the chance for reapplication provides hope. “US astronaut Clayton Anderson was rejected by NASA for its astronaut training program 15 times, yet in 2007 he boarded the Space Shuttle Atlantis for a trip to the International Space Station. He proved anything can happen and the door is never completely closed.”
So what’s next for the 1058 pre-selected Mars hopefuls? Norbert Kraft, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Mars One and recipient of the 2013 NASA Group Achievement Award says, “The next several selection phases in 2014 and 2015 will include rigorous simulations, many in team settings, with focus on testing the physical and emotional capabilities of our remaining candidates. We expect to begin understanding what is motivating our candidates to take this giant leap for humankind. This is where it really gets exciting for Mars One, our applicants, and the communities they’re a part of.”
Details of the 2014 selection phases have not been agreed upon due to ongoing negotiations with media companies for the rights to televise the selection processes. Expect further information to be released in early 2014. Lansdorp says, “We fully anticipate many of our remaining candidates to become celebrities in their towns, cities, and in many cases, countries. It’s about to get very interesting.”
This announcement comes on the heels of a wild finish to 2013 for Mars One. On December 10th, Mars One launched their first ever crowd-funding campaign, focused on bringing funds and attention to the first mission, an unmanned trip to Mars scheduled for 2018. On the same day as the crowd-funding campaign launch, Mars One announced in Washington DC, agreements with aerospace titan Lockheed Martin and the world’s leading small satellite company Surrey Satellite Technology to develop mission plans for the 2018 mission. 2014 figures to be even busier for the team at Mars One than 2013, with multiple applicant selection phases, worldwide education events, and more.
About Mars One:
Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation that will establish permanent human life on Mars. Human settlement on Mars is possible today with existing technologies. Mars One’s mission plan integrates components that are well tested and readily available from industry leaders worldwide. The first footprint on Mars and lives of the crew thereon will captivate and inspire generations. It is this public interest that will help finance this human mission to Mars.