Another example of why important stuff should NOT be left to government bureaucrats

phys.org : Reports from “Humans 2 Mars Summit” suggest dust may prevent human settlement of Mars by Bob Yirka

…. perchlorates appear to be widespread on the planet’s surface. The fine dust material produced by perchloric acid has been known to cause thyroid problems in people here on Earth.
Just as problematic, … is gypsum…. been known to cause a condition similar to black lung in coal miners in people exposed to it for long periods of time.
… known presence of silicates on the Martian surface—if breathed-in they can cause reactions with water in the lungs and result in the creation of harmful chemicals.
Martian dust could pose health hazards because of the difficulty of removing it from space suits and boots. … fear the dust would build up in air filters and living quarters, adding yet another life threatening element to the list of other known hazards (traveling and landing safely, exposure to radiation and cosmic rays, etc.) for the people who seek to colonize the planet.

You can always find some pretext for why not to do something.

This sort of narrow thinking is why it the Mars colonization effort by somewhat older unworried warriors is a great idea, they will lead the way, they may die earlier…will almost certainly die earlier than they would on Earth but in the big picture they will be immortal.

I think that a commercial fly by of Mars possibly convoying with early colony equipment makes a lot of sense. Drop off a 3D printer to start fabbing buildings or building parts. The fly by would work on the tech of getting there and of living in space for long periods. Multiple (4 in a Bigelow Cross?) inflatable Bigelow modules would make a light weight but spacious habitat that one or two couples could live in for the time needed. I would boost and decelerate the complex with an earth orbital tug and have minimal onboard propulsion since its pointless mass to take with you. With the right kit of science and DIY they would keep busy doing various types of investigation the whole time.

Big picture:

  • Asteroid capture and exploitation
  • Refueling / reuse of space side craft
  • Asteroid mining for space side resources and drop side assets
  • L point science platforms with robo and human servicing
  • Low earth orbit hotel/spa/ops-center
  • 4 person large scale spacecraft flyby of Mars
  • Mars colony robot precursor landings
  • Mars colony crew of 6 to 8 no return, first Martians
  • Follow up resource flights to Mars, gradual build up of Mars colony
  • All possible in the next twenty years, tenish if we really pushed, and I think we could commercial/ kick start/survivor fund the whole bloody thing…

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    Now this Really Is Rocket Science

    New research key to revolutionary ‘green’ spacecraft propellant at Phys.org
    Got me interested in this new material…liquid…which is REALLY cool, in a hot sort of way, look at this briefing by the Air Force Research Lab…this Rocket Fuel burns at 1600degC but it just sort of fizzles if thrown on a fire, sits there when hit by a hammer, does not create clouds of toxic fumes and while not a great ice cream topping is not wildly poisonous either…and this stuff was actively developed, not just stumbled across. Such is the power of modern research tools and materials knowledge.

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    The GPIM project aims to introduce AF-M315E as a green alternative to hydrazine (Credits: NASA).

    phys.org | Do-it-yourself invisibility with 3-D printing

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    “I would argue that essentially anyone who can spend a couple thousand dollars on a non-industry grade 3-D printer can literally make a plastic cloak overnight,” said Yaroslav Urzhumov, assistant research professor in electrical and computer engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering.
    Urzhumov said that producing a cloak in this fashion is inexpensive and easy. He and his team made a small one at Duke which looks like a Frisbee™ disc made out of Swiss cheese. Algorithms determined the location, size and shape of the holes to deflect microwave beams. The fabrication process takes from three to seven hours.
    “Computer simulations make me believe that it is possible to create a similar polymer-based cloaking layer as thin as one inch wrapped around a massive object several meters in diameter,” he said. “I have run some simulations that seem to confirm this point.”

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-05-do-it-yourself-invisibility-d.html

    Well ain’t that just Harry Potter cool?

    Living tissue 3D printed

    First fully-cellular liver tissue 3D bioprinted at Organovo

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    Bioprinted human liver with CD31+ microvessels (green) forming within the tissue.

    Since liver cells are used in labs to test the toxicity and efficacy of drugs, these printed tissues will first serve that purpose. Soon though, a larger liver will be printed, and it won’t be long after that that printed organs will be tested in animals. It’s a short hop from there to humans.

    Modeling distant Earths

    20130503-210339.jpgModeling of various atmospheric pressures shows that Exo earths could have life friendly atmospheres across a broader range of orbital distances than our thin aired original. Since we are ‘seeing’ a lot of big worlds out there this is promising, though of course too much of a good thing is bad, as our sister world Venus shows.

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    A figure from Vladilo’s paper summarizing the general findings. The area of the circles is proportional to their habitability. The bottom axis shows the virtual worlds’ distance from their Sun-like star, with 1 AU (astronomical unit) representing the average Sun-Earth distance of approximately 150 million kilometers (93 million miles). The top axis (insolation) shows solar radiation (in watts) received on a unit area (a square meter). Surface pressure is on the y axis to the left. Credit: Vladilo et al. 2013, ApJ, 767, 65; http://wwwuser.oats.inaf.it/astrobiology/planhab/

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-05-pressure-density-exoplanets-atmospheres-odds.html#jCp

    Eyeball Earths…Red or Brown Dwarf Life Worlds?

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    Artist’s concept of a planet where one side always faces its star, with the dark side covered in ice. Credit: Beau.TheConsortium

    Red dwarfs are small, faint stars about one-fifth as massive as the Sun and up to 50 times dimmer. They are the most common stars in the galaxy and make up to 70 percent of the stars in the universe, vast numbers that potentially make them valuable places to look for extraterrestrial life. Indeed, the latest results from NASA’s Kepler space observatory reveal that at least half of these stars host rocky planets that are half to four times the mass of Earth.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-05-eyeball-earths.html#jCp

    NASA may support SST x-plane

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    An artist’s concept shows Lockheed Martin’s low-boom supersonic airliner. (Courtesy: NASA)
    At www.flightglobal.com
    Science and resultant technology may well have made Low Boom supersonic flight practical. A 100 to 150 passenger aircraft could fly NY to LA in something like 2 hours, making one day two way coast to coast trips a practical comfortable reality for premium passengers. This has been impossible because of the glass breaking, cattle disturbing sonic boom, but now aerodynamics and aircraft technology have shown a road forward.

    With the ending of NASA’s last ‘five year plan’ on ultra efficient airliners, money will be available to build a scale but largish (fighter sized I’d guess) x-plane to make test flights provingthe boom mitigating design techniques. This sounds like a great idea, the sort of thing that NASA should be doing, has been doing, quietly, since its founding as NACA all those decades ago.

    Cheating favors extinction…scientific proof of the obvious

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    Sacharomyces cerevisiae cells in DIC microscopy. Image: Wikipedia.

    This was the case when the environment was benign. But when those stable populations were suddenly exposed to a harsh environment, all of the pure co-operator populations survived, while just one of six mixed populations adapted to the fast deterioration in conditions, the researchers found.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-04-favors-extinction.html#jCp
    Proving once more that scum proliferate in the good times and cause catastrophic collapse when the good times end…so it is with yeast so it was with Rome….

    Crystalline Time, what a great SiFi title!

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    Physicists plan to create a “time crystal” — a theoretical object that moves in a repeating pattern without using energy — inside a device called an ion trap. Image: Hartmut Häffner

    It appears to violate conventional physics but does it? Seems like this has some chance of creating a link between ‘classic’ and Quantum physics, maybe?

    Meta material technique allows for high efficiency coupling of light on a surface AND the ability to switch direction via polarization

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    An electron micrograph shows the nanoscale perforations at the surface of the plasmonic coupler. Credit: Jiao Lin and Balthasar Müller.
    (Phys.org) —A Harvard-led team of researchers has created a new type of nanoscale device that converts an optical signal into waves that travel along a metal surface. Significantly, the device can recognize specific kinds of polarized light and accordingly send the signal in one direction or another.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-04-physicists-left-solution-on-chip-optics.html

    Pretty important stuff, ducting light around on chips is an important ability for future electronics…or maybe one should say, nano- electro- optic- systems. Cool stuff…