Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Making Artificial Life More Life Like

(Image: Japanese robot venture Squse President Mikio Shimizu, Credit: Space Daily)

Japan, probably the worlds undisputed king of robotic technology (or at least the nation with greatest recognition in the field) had released a robotic hand prototype that looks "almost human."

(Space Daily) A Japanese robot maker on Tuesday unveiled what it called the world's first prototype of an artificial hand with "air muscles" that can do even delicate work like picking up a raw egg. Squse, a Kyoto-based robot and factory automation manufacturer, said it has developed a 400-gramme (14 ounce) hand with five human-sized fingers with artificial fibres that can be controlled by air pressure.

"So far, robots have an image of helping people do heavy lifting, but we aim at delicate work as a human hand can do," company president Mikio Shimizu said.

Despite this hand being "eerily similar" to our own flesh and blood, this technology may prove to be useful in constructing androids who can operate machinery in places too hazardous due to radiation.

On a more distant scale, these artificial limbs could also serve as replacements for future colonists, in the event of one injuring a hand (or foot) beyond repair.

Another Martian Rover On The Way?

(Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/J.-L. Lacour, CEA)

It looks as if NASA is scheduled to send yet another rover to explore the Martian surface. But unlike its previous cousins, Spirit and Opportunity this robot will be armed with a fairly powerful "weapon."

(Space Spin) When the JPL-NASA Mars Science Laboratory rover launches in 2009, it will carry this combination laser-telescope unit and enable the gadget-packed rover to know a great deal about rocks in its general vicinity. The ChemCam package includes a mast unit, projecting above the rover with a laser and telescope, and a body unit, the brains of the beast, with three spectrographs and the instrument controls. [...]

The ChemCam laser emits very short pulses of 7 nanoseconds, through a small telescope that focuses the beam to a spot where the power density exceeds 10 megawatts per square millimeter, producing a plasma of vaporized material from the target rock. The unit operates on targets at distances between 4 and 30 feet. The unit also contains a camera to take extreme close-up pictures of the targets to show geologic context for each sample. The telescope and electronics were built by CESR, a research institute in Toulouse, France. The mast unit was funded by CNES, the French Space Agency. The full ChemCam flight model will be delivered to JPL in Spring of 2008.

Although the rover's main job will be simply analyzing the geologic activity of Martian rocks, hopefully it can inform scientists whether or not Mars holds any valuable resources upon its rusty soil.

Thus far, Mars is a barren world waiting to be conquered, but until any valuable resources can be located upon the red planet, then humanity may not be able to justify sending people there--at least financially.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (The Eighth Wonder)

Fraser Cain is hosting the eighth round of the Carnival of Space, and has some fairly interesting posts lined up including:

  • Paul Gilster on Centauri Dreams discusses Modeling Exoplanet Atmospheres and makes an interesting note that the further one travels from our Sol Star, the more water we find.

  • Dave Rankin on Tales of the Heliosphere discusses how ingrained the 24 hour cycle is to Earth life, which may make colonizing space a little bit more difficult (than previously thought).

  • Fraser Cain from Universe Today analyzes the theory about microscopic black holes buzzing inside Earth (scary if you ask me)

  • Amanda Bauer on Astropixie reviews how devastating an asteroid impact would be to planet Earth (with a cool video as well!)

  • Louise Riofrio from the ever enlightening A Babe In The Universe talks about the beauty and value of the International Space Station, with an image that makes you wish you were there.

But one of the best posts has to go to Henry Cate of Why Homeschool who discusses the future "gold rush" within our asteroid belt:

(Why Homeschool) When I was fourteen I read a book about asteroids. One of the points in the book has stuck with me over a couple decades. The book said that a small asteroid of about one cubic mile was worth about $50 billion. This was in the 1970s. Nowadays the number would be closer to $300 billion. Scientists have found that asteroids have a greater density. There appears to be a greater concentration of metals when compared to the earth. [...]

Early space development may be largely financed by tourists, at least in the short term. Over the years more people and industry will start to move out into space. Mining the asteroids may prove to be the next gold rush. Stories are told of miners walking along the river banks picking up nuggets of gold. It may be that at some point men in rocket ships will be able to fly to the asteroids and pick up valuable metals.

The asteroid belt could very well be the key towards humanity colonizing our solar system. Although the influx of metals and minerals from asteroids will probably drop the prices due to economics of scale, the availability of these metals will translate into more resources available to colonies and star ships.

Despite the fact that tourism is currently driving humanities quest to the stars, hopefully mining these dancing space rocks can fund our ability to not only conquer our star system, but nearby ones as well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Who Will Make Solar History?

A thousand years from now when our species has begun to conquer other star systems (after colonizing our own of course), who will be some of the individuals who will go down in solar history?

While most of history has yet to be written, our future descendants may find themselves whining about memorizing the names from the "Early Space Renaissance" of the 21st century.

Although this is not a complete list, here are some of the figures who may find themselves recorded in the solar history books (not to mention having a million space kids being named after them).

George W. Bush: Whether you love him or hate him, President Bush will probably go down in history for announcing the Vision for Space Exploration (or VSE for short).

NASA's previous vision of infinitely circling our globe and forever observing the stars (from afar) will probably be an embarrassment for our current generation, although hopefully the President's VSE will give NASA the courage to conquer the final frontier.

Eric Anderson & Peter Diamandis: Just as the Wright Brothers helped to "kick start" aviation, Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis have helped to kick start space tourism by forming Space Adventures.

Space Adventures helped launch the very first space tourist into orbit, kicking off a whole new industry that is destined to thrive in the next three to four years. Both Peter and Eric took the discussion from "talk to action," proving that space was more than a privilege of governmental elites.

With future plans to launch Earthen citizens around their lunar neighbor, Space Adventures may give governmental programs a run for their money.

Robert T. Bigelow: If Space Adventures can be credited towards getting private citizens into space, Robert T. Bigelow can be credited towards actually keeping us there.

In 2006, Bigelow Aerospace launched the world's first (of hopefully many) inflatable space station, displaying that the private sector could not only design a better, cheaper home amongst the heavens, but also generate a profit on the side.

Although constructing inflatable space stations is in itself incredible, Bigelow's entry into space may be over shadowed by the companies attempt to help humanity colonize the moon.

Sir Richard Branson: Some people consider Sir Richard Branson to be ingenious. Other consider him to be closer to a mad scientist. Whatever your take, Branson may have the last laugh as his company Virgin Galactic is destined to bring space safely to the (moderately wealthy) masses.

Branson's goal of making space apart of Earth culture may be paying off, as several other space firms have announced plans to launch customers into sub-orbital flights. But what sets Virgin Galactic apart from the competition is the companies emphasis on safety, which should easily put it in the lead if (God forbid) a crash occurs in the industry.

Branson also seems focused on not merely sending people into orbit, but having them check into space hotels by renting one of Bigelow Aerospace's inflatable space station.

Elon Musk: After making a billion plus fortune by selling off PayPal to Ebay, Elon Musk decided to spend his riches on helping humanity become a space faring civilization. Thus SpaceX was born.

Although SpaceX has yet to put up a satellite successfully into orbit (along with a host of other companies), what makes SpaceX unique is their desire to drop the price of launching objects into space from around $10,000 /lbs to $1,000/ lbs.

After successfully launching an object into space on a test rocket, SpaceX seems destined (if not determined) to see humanity on not only the Moon, but Mars itself.

Dr. Bradley C. Edwards: If a building a modern day space elevator is ever feasible, this man will be credited towards coming up with the design plans.

After spending years in the realm of science fiction (or perhaps even fantasy itself), Dr. Edwards helped demonstrate the feasibility of this project, which (if successful) will revolutionize the way our species interacts with the solar system.

Edwards has recently started a company called Black Line Ascension whose end goal is to construct a space elevator, although only time will tell whether his research (and vision) will result in this object being built towards the heavens.

Michael Laine: If Dr. Brad Edwards can be credited towards making the space elevator doable on paper, Michael Laine may be credited to actually building it in on our homeworld.

Have previously worked with Edwards, Michael Laine founded LiftPort, this company seeks to construct a space elevator within the next 25-30 years. What makes LiftPort unique in its field is the fact that this company is seeking to chart its course within the private sector, refusing to rely completely on NASA for funding or guidance.

Only time will tell whether or not Michael's vision of a planet where space is "open for everyone" will materialize. Either way, this man's passion and determination to persevere despite the circumstances have inspired many to look towards the heavens as their future homes.

You: Our quest to conquer off world soils has just begun, and there may still be many spots open for ordinary citizens to say their lines and partake on the solar stage of history.

Note: Due to lack of time, images will be added later on to this post.

Update (6/21): Added images and corrected some wording.

Scientists Testing For Cabin Fever On Martian Trip

Although radiation, micro-gravity and tiny organisms can spell havoc for future explorers of the red planet, probably one of the biggest threats towards visiting Mars is "cabin fever."

In order to find ways to thwart this issue, scientists are asking for volunteers to willingly isolate themselves with strangers in order to simulate a journey towards Mars.

( The European Space Agency (ESA) on Tuesday called for applications for one of the most demanding human experiments in space history: a simulated trip to Mars in which six "astronauts" will spend 17 months in an isolation tank on Earth.

Their spaceship will comprise a series of interlocked modules in an research institute in Moscow, and once the doors are closed tight, the volunteers will be cut off from all contact with the outside world except by a delayed radio link.

They will face simulated emergencies, daily work routines and experiments, as well as boredom and, no doubt, personal friction from confinement in just 550 cubic metres (19,250 cubic feet), the equivalent of nine truck containers.

Communications with the simulated mission control and loved-ones will take up to 40 minutes, the time that a radio signal takes to cross the void between Earth and a spaceship on Mars. Food will comprise mainly the packaged stuff of the kind eaten aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The psychological health of a crew can either make or break a mission. Although there have been few incidents (if any) aboard the ISS, simply being isolated from ones family, friends and country can literally push some people over to the breaking point.

As far as boredom goes, perhaps the ESA should consider shipping a few popular board games (like chess, monopoly or Chinese checkers) as they would not only help keep their mind off other things (like home), but help foster unity amongst the crew.

China Looking To Increase Rocket Power

When it comes to space, one will probably find no government more serious about the final frontier than China. The great nation from the east is currently seeking to expand their options among the heavens by increasing the amount that they can send in orbit.

(MSNBC) China plans to develop a new generation of carrier rockets with a payload capacity large enough to launch a space station, state media reported Monday. [...]

The payload capacity of China's Long March series of carrier rockets will be more than doubled from 9.5 tons to 25 tons in order to advance the country's lunar exploration program, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing an official with the state-run China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

Despite the recent setback in their lunar mission, the Chinese government has remained focused on establishing a presence off world unlike any other nation. While most countries focus on increasing trade, military, allies, etc., China has taken that energy and channeled it towards our solar system.

If China is able to develop these rockets, they may be able to construct their own miniature space stations, or perhaps construct a massive one (to rival the ISS). Only time will tell how far China's space program will go, but if NASA and Japan do not get their bureaucratic act together, Chinese may become the business language of the future.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Artificial Gravity Via Plasma Rockets?

(Hat Tip: The Astronomy Blog, Image Credit:

Despite the fact that science fiction shows depict every space faring craft with artificial gravity, the harsh reality is that unless we are on a moon, planet or oribital space station, we may have to suffer the wrath of micro gravity.

However, not-so-distant technology may help humanity not only shorten the time between worlds, but provide a little resistance to our bones and muscles as well.

(New Scientists) The engine works by stripping electrons from hydrogen atoms and accelerating the resulting plasma in an electric field. Expelling the plasma out of the back of the engine generates thrust. The technique is known as Variable Specific-Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) technology, and was conceived in the 1970s. [...]

Unlike conventional rockets which generate all their thrust in the first few minutes of a mission and then coast to their destination, a VASIMR engine accelerates continuously.

This reduces journey times, and could also provide a low level of artificial gravity for astronauts. It has been suggested that the hydrogen fuel, which is common throughout the universe, could be harvested en route.

Plasma rockets are still in their infancy and this specific breed is probably two decades away (at its earliest) from entering the market. Scientists still have to figure out how to keep the engine from overheating (as plasma is a "little warm") although they are confident in its future development.

Creating artificial gravity via thrust could go a long ways to making space practical for the human body, ensuring our species is actually strong enough physically to land on other worlds.

Bigelow Aerospace Ready For Space 2.0

After the successful launch of Genesis 1, Bigelow Aerospace hopes to surpass their achievement by launching a second inflatable space station in orbit.

(The Space Fellowship) A May 17th statement by Robert T. Bigelow stated that Bigelow Aerospace has been informed by its launch provider ISC Kosmotras ("Kosmotras") that additional testing of the Dnepr rocket and its ground equipment was required by Russian authorities. But with no further setbacks the launch should be fine to go ahead at the newest planned launch date of June 28th.

A launch later on this month would definitely help out Bigelow Aerospace, which has been suffering from technical delays ever since shipping their craft to Russia. Although this has more to do with Russia fixing minor glitches with their rocket, Bigelow was hoping to have the craft up earlier (according to their schedule).

While their goal is to create affordable space stations for large corporations (and perhaps third world nations), Bigelow's ultimate goal is to colonize the moon (and perhaps Mars as well).

Hopefully all goes will with this space firms plans, as a second station in orbit could help cement the idea that "NewSpace" can seed the heavens just as effectively as OldSpace our governmental space agencies.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (Seventh Heaven)

(Image Credit:

The seventh Carnival of Space is up over at Star Stryder with various posts by other space geeks. Some really interesting highlights included:

  • Alan Boyle discusses the potential of space diving, which is like sky diving, except much, much higher.
  • Dan Rankin rebukes space scientists for ignoring the potential resources of Mars today by focusing on the past. (Amen to that!)
  • The mysterious Flying Singer delves into the real reasons for human space exploration.

But the best post of the carnival thus far has to go to James who has an interesting post about recycling human waste for fertilizer (ghetto!!).

(Surfin' English) Not only do hydroponic farms serve as air and food sources, they also serve as natural garbage bins. The minerals, bacteria, and other stuff in human waste can be used by our plants as fertilizer, which then filters our air, and grows us more food to make poop from. Plants also add a nice splash of colour to our spaceship.

Poop may be the biggest offender, but it's not the only one. Urine, dirty air filters, filthy and ripped clothing, bandages, sanitary napkins/toilet paper, plastics from food wrappings, the list could go on forever. But there are simple, though not easy, solutions for all of them.

Our urine can be filtered using the same process as the Space Shuttle and ISS, and dumped right back into the drinking water. Or the water can be used by the plants, and partially filtered by the soil network, and we can use the ammonia and other chemicals in urine to keep our space ship’s windows clean.

Although advertising this would probably be a good way to filter out those who really want to settle Mars from those who simply want to visit there, James may have a point. However disgusting (and unappealing) this may be, recycling our own waste could enable humans to "seed the planet" with fertile soil.

Martian dirt may not only be lacking in plant vitamins, but it could potentially be fatal towards most living organisms. Hauling nutritious soil (or fertilizer) is probably not an option for our future explorers, and NASA may have to convince astronauts to "create" the fertilizer themselves.

Obviously each astronaut would have to "handle their own" by products, although NASA may have to build a robot to do most of the farming, otherwise they may find themselves with a mutiny tens of millions of miles away.

Japan Heading For Lunar Orbit In August

With the recent setback of the Chinese lunar orbiter, Japan may be able to beat its Asian rival towards Earth's nearest neighbor.

Although the samurai nation has yet to demonstrate an ability to launch a human into space, their lunar satellite will nonetheless aid in our path to colonizing the moon by providing invaluable data of its surface.

( All systems are finally go for Japan's first lunar orbiter, which is scheduled for launch on Aug. 16, officials announced today. [...]

JAXA says the SELENE project is the largest lunar mission since the U.S. Apollo program.

It involves placing a main satellite in orbit at an altitude of about 60 miles and deploying two smaller satellites in polar orbits. Researchers will use data gathered by the probes to study the moon's origin and evolution.

Hopefully this mission will not only narrow down habitation sites in the polar regions (where the Sun never sets) but also locate resources throughout this cream colored world. If the Japanese are able to locate places of interest, they may be able to use that information with NASA in exchange for a lift to the lunar surface.

Hopefully Japan will be able to pull this mission off in a couple of months, as it would help boost the appeal of traveling to the stars not only within Japan, but internationally as well.

Can EADS Astrium Open Up Space Tourism For Everyone?

With the space tourism industry heating up it looks like the big three (Virgin Galactic, Benson Space and Space Adventures) will have a new competitor in the race--EADS Astrium.

While all four space companies desire to send humans beyond the earthen skyline, only two of them (Virgin Galactic and now EADS Astrium) are embracing the "airplane to rocket" approach.

But what sets EADS Astrium apart from the competition can be summed up in three words--location, location, location!

(Astrum Press Release) The Astrium space jet will take off and land conventionally from a standard airport using its jet engines. However, once the craft is airborne at an altitude of about 12 km, the rocket engines will be ignited to give sufficient acceleration to reach 100 km. In only 80 seconds the craft will have climbed to 60 km altitude. The highly innovative seats balance themselves to minimize the effects of acceleration and deceleration, ensuring the greatest passenger comfort and safety. The rocket propulsion system is then shut down as the ship’s inertia carries it on to over 100 km, where passengers will become one of the very few to experience zero gravity in space.

The pilot will control the craft using small rocket thrusters enabling passengers to hover weightlessly for 3 minutes and to witness the most spectacular view of Earth imaginable. After slowing down during descent, the jet engines are restarted for a normal and safe landing at a standard airfield. The entire trip will last approximately an hour and a half.

By utilizing the airports of everyday citizens EADS Astrium has the potential to setup a spaceport in every nation allowing citizens everywhere to enjoy the benefits of space flight. The ticket cost is similar to that of Virgin Galactics, ranging from 150,000 t0 200,000 Euro.

Although integrating the jet and rocket ship may be wiser, it looks as if the decision will be a lot more expensive as estimates for building these vessels is approaching a billion euro's.

Either way, it should present an interesting alternative for space travelers, and will hopefully make traveling towards the heavens as common an mundane as traveling over seas.

Image Credit: Marc Newson Ltd, via EADS Astrium.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

China's Lunar Delay May Aid Japan

It looks as if the red dragon is having to take a breather regarding its ascent towards the lunar heavens. With China delaying its lunar orbiter for "unspecified reasons," Japan may be in the perfect position to eclipse its Asian rival.

(Aviation Week) China's new oxygen/hydrogen propulsion system development, needed for even more ambitious Chinese lunar missions, is also falling years behind schedule, U. S. intelligence analysts believe.

China had originally planned to launch its 5,000-lb. Chang'e lunar orbiter in April on an existing Long March booster. Beijing officials who had been touting the spring target for a year suddenly are announcing a September or October date at the earliest for their first Moon mission, as if the early spring target had never been on the books.

In contrast, the 6,600-lb. Japanese Selene lunar orbiter has been delivered to the Tanegashima Space Center for launch in early August on an increasingly important Asia-Pacific space mission.

China's setback could easily help Japan regain its place in the Asian space as the nation has remained in China's shadow for far too long. Although they have yet to launch a human being into space, a successful lunar mission would go a long ways towards convincing Japanese officials of the value of space, let alone a future lunar colony.

Japan has enormous potential technology wise, but if the nation of the rising sun ever desires to see their flag shine on other worlds, they will need to demonstrate an ability to not only send robots to the cosmos, but humans as well.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

In Space, Everyone Speaks Chinese

The eagle and the dragon
Were racing towards the sky
To be the first to build
A lunar nest so very high

The eagle arrived first
But the moon the dragon claimed
Because the eagle could not land
For one of his legs was lame

~Darnell Clayton, 2007

Although this current space race is still too early to call, China and the United States are clearly the front runners in this marathon. China has made impressive strides in its campaign to conquer the cosmos, with future plans of not only landing a lunar rover, but sending a man to the moon as well.

Over in the American corner however, the space pace seems to be slowing down. With NASA lacking the necessary funds for human exploration, they are forced to cannibalize their scientific programs in an effort to keep the vision alive.

With the current dreams of American space exploration evaporating, many have begun attacking their former space champion in an attempt to provide reason for the lack of progress in the space arena. This often results in NASA spending more energy defending itself than promoting space culture, which usually benefits the United States rivals (i.e. China) than it does the American public.

What many entrepreneurs in the emerging space industry as well as bureaucrats in NASA fail to see is that in order for our nation to reach the stars, they will have to begin to publicly cooperate with each other. Just as a lichen can not survive if one organism neglects the other, so to will the "new space" (aka emerging space industry) and NASA will fail at settling the moon if there is an unwillingness to partner with the other.

Despite the fact that NASA has the "committed" funding and a track record of returning to the moon, they lack the innovation needed to not only develop the technology to keep us on lunar soil, but to make it affordable for humanity as well. Although one could argue that New Space has the innovation as well as the passion to develop the technology, unless backed by several thrillionaires they may have trouble getting into orbit, let alone upon another world.

NASA and New Space need to realize that together that they are a team, and if they expect the US to actually visit the moon we so often look at in the sky, they need to figure out how to compliment each other instead of complaining about the other.

While NASA's current focus of reinventing Apollo may not be the best way to visit the stars, New Space should focus on filling the gaps instead of mocking at them. NASA in turn should encourage the promotion of New Space within the governmental sphere, acting as their chief lobbyist and looking out for their best interest.

This unity is crucial for both NASA as well as New Space, as any perception of division in the public may cause some to see space as a wasted affair. This could cause both politicians and investors voting away towards seeding the heavens with our DNA and instead focus on eternal problems such as disease, hunger and poverty.

Unlike the US, China's governmental and corporate space programs seem to flow in harmony with each other, which may lead to them conquering the moon before we do. A head start for China could translate into a head start for harvesting lunar resources which could translate into our future children having to learn Chinese because the red dragon is the dominant space empire, at least commercially.

Just as every major empire has had an influence on the "business language" of the planet (i.e. Rome with Greek, England with English) so will the future space power have influence on the solar business language. After all, it is often the victors who write the history books, and unity between NASA and New Space could spell the difference between our descendants reading space history in English, or reading it in Chinese.

Update: Apparently it seems as if I missed the carnival of space (which you can view over at Music of the Spheres). I'll try to submit a late entry, although if it is not included in this round, I'll submit it to the next.

Update (6/13): Corrected grammatical error. Also resubmitting post to this week's Carnival of Space as I was unable to make it in last time.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Space, It's Not For Cowards

(Image: From Aliens the movie, Credit:

When one often thinks of space, images of lunar and Martian colonies come to mind, often with people (and children) floating around in micro gravity, glimpsing the heavens in a new light that would make even Galileo envious.

But when it comes to realities of living in the cosmos, we must realize that space, like any frontier, has its blessings as well as its dangers.

( "Solar soil is extremely complex. There is nothing like it on Earth," said Logan, citing suspicious "hay fever" reactions by two Apollo astronauts.

Moonwalking astronauts, meanwhile, would face especially high radiation risks if solar flares erupted -- underscoring an urgent need for accurate forecasts of "space weather," Logan said. [...]

The biggest threat may be the moon's gravity, one-sixth that of Earth. Despite nearly a half-century of human space travel, Logan said, nobody really knows how much gravity is needed to maintain health over time. Bone density decreases with weightlessness and does not always fully rebound when astronauts return home, he said. The heart gets lazy, too. Low gravity is likely to affect neural development of babies conceived on the moon, he added.

While most of humanity may settle for visiting the heavens above us, very few (perhaps ten million at most) would be willing to forsake their home world in order to colonize others.

It is inevitable that in our quest to inhabit other moons, planets and asteroids that casualties will occur along the way, with people suffering unimaginable pains from simply living in dangerous environments.

Space is not for cowards, and was never meant to be and if one ever desires to conquer the final frontier, they will have to choose to make it their final destination.

Video: iPhone Going Galactic?

(Hat Tip: NASA Watch)

If astronauts ever revisit the moon, they will definitely require a robust, easy to use communication device in order to survive on the harsh lunar surface.

After all, communication can mean the difference between life and death, and what better device could one ask for than an iPhone?

Editor's note: If only iPhone was with Verizon I would seriously consider it. Since hacking the iPhone is potentially illegal, I may have to settle for an OQO instead. :-(

Monday, June 04, 2007

Magnetic Mars, Heal Thyself

Aside from lacking resources, the largest setback towards calling this crimson world home is the absence of a global magnetic field. With humanity glimpsing at the red planet as a future home, it seems as if the red planet is anticipating our arrival and may remedy our "magnetic problems" for us.

( Above ground, Mars is mostly a bone-chilling desert pocked with craters. Hundreds of miles below, however, a molten sea of iron, nickel and sulfur churns. And new research suggests the gooey core will eventually solidify-either from the outside-in, forming an iron-nickel core, or from the inside out, forming a core of a fool's-gold-like minerals.

Andrew Stewart, a planetary geochemist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, said Mars' cooling core might restore magnetism to the red planet. "If liquid metal moves around a solid core, it could create a natural dynamo like the one found in Earth's core," said Stewart, who co-authored the study detailed in today's online edition of the journal Science.

If this is true, then Mars may in the distant future become a habitable world, depending upon the strength of the magnetic field.

Although visiting Mars may be anywhere from a couple decades to a century away, our thirst for knowledge of the red planet may never be quenched, even after settling on Earth's distant neighbor.

Private Citizens: Expedition To Mars By 2014

(Image Credit: TD Summer Reading Club)

Despite the fact that the best estimates put Mars at least 25 years away, a pair of adventurers is seeking to visit the red planet around 2014.

(Space Fellowship) Tom and Tina Sjogren (founders and operators of the []) have revealed their plans to embark on a private expedition to Mars by the year 2014. This was disclosed in an interview with "Outside" magazine, and published in the June 2007 issue (Page 72 – 79). [...]

Tom and Tina, with their prestigious adventure website, have had access to NASA, SpaceX, Armadillo, and many other experts. They brought their practical expertise related to expedition supplies into the calculations and scaled down NASA thinking appropriately. Using their knowledge of what capable, hardworking adventurers could accomplish, and what they would need to do it at acceptable risk, they found that commercial launch vehicles would be adequate to get their expedition supplies into orbit.

Although future missions to the crimson world will require courage of the heart, until scientists are able to find a way to shield space travelers from deadly radiation, a Mars expedition would be suicide.

Solar radiation is no laughing matter, and until scientists can develop the proper shielding via magnetic fields and medication, humans can expect to remain in Earth orbit for quite some time. Although space is not for cowards, it isn't for the foolish also as there are more things in space that can end ones life than preserve it.

Tom and Tina Sjogren both seem like pioneers, and our species will need people like them in order to settle not only the moon and Mars, but the outer lunar outer worlds as well. Hopefully the necessary technology will be in place by the time these two launch their expedition, as solar deaths would not be of much benefit towards the emerging space industry.

Update: Article source provided broken link. Corrected for viewing pleasure.