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The Space Gazette

Space for Everyone      -     August 16, 2002     -         Vol. 2 No.16

The Spacefaring Web 2.13:
Spirt of Mars

John Carter McKnight

For nearly a century Mars has been the blue screen onto which we project, in scientific speculation as well as literature, two powerful concepts: the West and the Other. Looking at the sequence of imagined Marses (see the previous edition of this column, "Barsoom's Legacy"), we the evolution of American hopes and fears. In turn, these projections continue to shape the meaning of Mars for us. Any attempt to advocate Mars exploration and settlement must be grounded in an understanding of the nuances of those memes of West and Other in our culture today. Central to Americans as motherhood and apple pie, they define the boundaries of the possible. .


Satellite Building, Space Radio, Amateur Radio Astronomy

Amateur Mars Satellite
AMSAT heading to Mars in 2007 or 2009

Model of Amateur Mars Probe
A model of an early design of the Phase 5-A amateur satellite to be launched to Mars.

The German amateur satellite group, AMSAT-DL, recently announced formal approval of the Phase 5-A project to send a spacecraft to Mars in the 2007 or 2009 launch window.

The spacecraft will use the same structure as the 600kg AO-40 (known as Phase 3-D while on the ground) that was launched into earth orbit in the fall of 2000. Like that satellite, the project will involve an international collaboration of AMSAT chapters around the world and university groups.

Can Get There from Here

The document P5A-to-Mars! (712k pdf) describes the technical challenges and solutions for such an ambitious mission. The propulsion system is quite capable of sending the craft to Mars with careful planning and execution of the orbital maneuvers. The required change in velocity (delta-V) of 2.5km/s is obtainable from the same 400-N engine (N204 as oxidizer and MMH as fuel) used for AO-40.

(This highlights the famous observation by Robert Heinlein that once you get into earth orbit you are halfway to anywhere in the solar system!)

Like AO-40, the Mars probe will piggyback on an Ariane 5 launch that will put it initially into a geostationary transfer orbit. Unfortunately, as a secondary payload there will be no control over the launch time and date, which can complicate the maneuvers needed to reach Mars.

AMSAT Call Home

Communication poses the greatest challenge to the mission. A 2 meter antenna will be required on the satellite and the group will take advantage of a surplus 20m antenna station obtained from the German government.

When the satellite is properly pointed at earth, smaller antennas will be able to pick up the signal. However, if the satellite goes into, for example, a safe mode and temporarily loses atitude control, it will have to rely on an omni-directional antenna that will produce a very weak signal on earth. So the large dish will be required for reliable control of the satellite.

A Prelimary Test in Orbit

The Phase 3-E project was also approved that will test in earth orbit various techniques and technologies for the Mars mission. Also, it will fulfill some of the mission goals that AO-40 did not achieve due to various problems with the engine mis-firing and failures in some of the communciations systems.

Perhaps Even an Amateur Lander

The P5A-to-Mars! report also mentions the possibilities of a sub-satellite that could be released once the spacecraft reaches Mars orbit. The German Mars Society has proposed a craft that would reach the ground and release a balloon to fly in the Martian wind and provide measurements of the atmosphere.

AO-40 cost about $4 million, which was raised from AMSAT, ham radio operators, and other sources. The Mars probe will cost more than this and will required that get considerable outside contributions.

[Addendum Aug.19.02 : Elon Musk, the wealthy founder of Paypal and a space enthusiast, is funding the Mars Oasis project to put a lander on Mars. Hear his interview on the Space Show from Oct.24, 2001.]

  Space Music

Happenings in MusicSpace

More interesting items this month from the world of Space Music (see also the previous issue of the Space Gazette). Here are some space music news and links of interest:

Space Filk : The filk music publisher Random Factors will be re-releasing Leslie Fish's Folksongs for Folk Who Ain't Ever Been Yet (1976) and Solar Sailors (1977) on a single CD called Folk Songs For Solar Sailors.

Joe Bethancourt is working on a space album called The Great Big Way Out There.

Rock in Space : Check out the great song Dream (mp3, 1.6MB) by Mark Shuttleworth's brother, who is lead singer of the South African band Motion. It was written as a gift to his brother before Mark's flight to the Space Station last April. More about the song and the group can be found on the Dream in Motion page at Mark's website First African in Space.

Music In Space : read the poignant story from saxaphone teacher Kurt Hesig, The Saxophone in Space (C) 1986, about his experience working with astroanut Ron McNair to obtain a sax for playing in space and determining what techniques to use. McNair intended to play a piece written for him by Jean-Michel Jarre during the Challenger mission.

Other Space News and Links of Interest

Mars Rover Test at Secret Site: JPL will carry out a test of a Mars rover prototype on August 19th. To insure that the system gets tested on conditions for which it has not been deliberately tuned, the site is being kept secret.

The San Francisco Exploratorium will send a film crew to webcast the test and you can watch from your computer.

More Lunar Artifacts : The site HistoricSpace.com has recently opened. It will specialize in offering " fine lunar exploration artifacts and vintage astronaut autographs".

Space Station Hams Active : The ISS crew continues to take advantage of the ham station on board with frequent contacts made with amateur radio enthusiasts, school classes, and other groups such as European Space Campers:

European Space Campers Chat with US Astronaut aboard ISS - ARRLWeb - Aug.9.02

A second ISS ham station will come online after additional antennas are installed in an upcoming space walk:

New Amateur Radio Antennas to be Installed on ISS - ARRLWeb - Aug.1.02

Space Odyssey First in the Soviet Union : The 1958 Soviet film Road to the Stars was a dramatization of the history of rocketry and of possible future developments including space stations and Moon bases.

Many of the scenes in space show a striking resemblance to the those in Stanley Kubrik's 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in 1968.

The page at Astronautix shows a lot of images from the movie and a side-by-side comparison with 2001.



Find previous space news in
Articles Index 1999-2002


See also  
Space Headlines
RLV News
News Links

RLV Countdown , RLV News

Rocket Shows

The XCOR rocket company flew its EZ-Rocket twice at the recent air show at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The flights were great crowd pleasers and the vehicle drew many visitors to view it up close when it was parked on the ground.

While the EZ-Rocket makes only short, low-altitude flights (it was intended only as a test bed for XCOR's rocket engines), it's popularity at the show hints at greater things.

As discussed in the Rocket Racing section, air shows are among the sports events with the highest attendance.

Rocket flights at air shows could offer an additional market for sub-orbital rocket vehicles in addition to space tourism, remote sensing and other applications. (See article on Sub-orbital rockets.)


Armchair Comet Searcher Wins Prize

As discussed in an article in the May 16th edition - Comet Hunting with the SOHO's Help - it has become a popular hobby to search images from the SOHO satellite observatory for telltale streaks of unknown comets.

To encourage comet hunters and to have some fun, a contest sponsored by the SOHO group was announced last May. The object was to predict when the 500th comet discovered with the SOHO would reach its perihelion (closest point to the sun in its orbit).

According to the SOHO group, the contest attracted "1,256 amateur astronomers [who] tracked SOHO's observations of comets and made predictions about the date and time that the 500th comet would be at perihelion."

Diane McElhiney won the sweepstakes with a prediction only one hour and 43 minutes away from the correct time.

She received a Solar Max DVD and a T-shirt.

SOHO Raises the Ante with Discovery of 500th Comet - SOHO PR - Aug.14.02

More about Comet Hunting in the Astronomy section
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