Category Archives: Space Colonization

New Book to Take a Comic (and Serious) Look at 10 Emerging Technologies

“Soonish” (Penguin Press, 2017), by Zach and Kelly Weinersmith, is set to release Oct. 17.

A new book will probe the future of technology from a scientific — and comedic — angle, exploring what’s coming next, what the future will really be like and what it will take to get that space elevator or moon colony running.

Zach and Kelly Weinersmith, the author of the online SMBC Comics and a biologist/podcaster, respectively, are aiming for an Oct. 17 release of the book, titled “Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything” (Penguin Press, 2017).

The husband-and-wife team investigate 10 developing fields of science and technology to figure out how they’d be used and the obstacles keeping them from becoming a reality, integrating interviews with scientists, original research and — of course — silly, irreverent comics. The promotional materials suggest space-based topics, including colonization, asteroid mining, deep space exploration and the aforementioned space elevator.

Right now, potential readers can preorder the book online, where an animated space elevator is slowly climbing past different additional perks based on preorder numbers, such as a recorded podcast discussing the book, signed bookplates and a live Q&A for the people that sign up.

The authors describe the work in true webcomic form in the graphic below.

Email Sarah Lewin at or follow her @SarahExplains. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

NASA Says 'Mars Ice Home' May Be Best Living Quarters on Red Planet


NASA is developing a Mars ice home for astronauts when the space agency finally reaches the Red Planet. The ice home or the Mars Ice Dome is being developed by a team of experts from NASA, architects, and designers from various industries and academia. Gathering at Langley’s Engineering Design Studio the Mars Ice Dome was one of many possible concepts for sustainable living on Mars.

Mars is the fourth planet from the sun and is the second-smallest planet in the Solar System. It is named after the Roman god of war and is often called the Red Planet because of the red soil on the surface. The soil is composed of iron oxide and gives a reddish appearance. With a thin atmosphere, Mars has many features reminiscent of the Moon with valleys created from impact craters, deserts, and polar ice caps. Currently, NASA’s Curiosity is on the planet gathering information for the agency in preparation for the mission to Mars.

Mars Ice Dome May be the Key to Living on Mars, NASA Says

In a press release from NASA, Kevin Vipavetz, the facilitator and a senior systems engineer at Langley said, that after identifying astronaut needs during the Mars mission, the team converged on the current Ice Home design finally. This will provide a sound solution for engineering. The team consisted of members from the Clouds Architecture Office and Space Exploration Architecture.

The design consists of a large inflatable circular tube, or torus. A shell of ice from water will surround the inner tube, the press release stated. Several advantages of the Mars Ice Home include the weight; materials can be found on Mars, and the structure also acts as a storage tank and can be refilled for the next crew. Another advantage to the system includes the ease of deployment by robots before the team even arrives at the planet. But perhaps one of the most significant benefits to the Mars Ice Dome is the water itself which can act as a shield from cosmic rays. These rays, NASA says, is one, if not biggest, issues for humans making long term stays on Mars. The rays can go through the skin and damage DNA or cells, increasing the risks for radiation sickness or cancer. The ice reduces radiation exposure and allows light to pass through without having to bury the habitats for protection. According to Universe Today, other design concepts for a Mars shelter included living in caves, underground, or in “dark, heavily shielded habitats.”

Sheila Ann Thibeault, Langley researcher, said that the materials for the habitat need to hold up for quite a few years of use in the harsh environment on Mars, including charged-particle radiation, ultraviolet radiation, perchlorates, possibly some atomic oxygen, as well as massive dust storms. Water extracted from Mars was a main constraint for possible materials. The experts working on the design developed a system that would allow the design of an Ice Home to be filled within 400 days, more if the water could be extracted at higher rates.

Other considerations were the flexibility of the workspace for the NASA Mars mission crew. This space needed to be indoors without the necessity of a pressure suit. For the temperatures, designers added a layer of carbon dioxide gas to use as insulation. Carbon dioxide, like water, is found on Mars. The idea of a “home” for Mars mission astronauts would be a huge benefit for them after the months and months of space travel.

By Cheryl Werber

Image Courtesy NASA/Clouds AO/SEArch

Mankind eyes Mars as next 'giant leap'

Humankind has cast an eye toward another “giant leap” forward nearly half a century after the United States’ Apollo 11 spacecraft delivered humans to the moon for the first time.

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning to put a manned spacecraft into orbit around Mars in the 2030s, before sending humans to explore the red planet.

Similar in size to Earth, and relatively close, Mars is widely considered as the most promising and realistic candidate planet for manned space exploration.

The planet, however, is more than 50 million km away from Earth even when their orbits are at their closest. With a round-trip journey taking multiple years, a realistic approach to the journey calls for fuel and other required materials to be made available along the way.

NASA, therefore, plans to build a space station to put in orbit around the moon by the end of the next decade as a supply base for future journeys.

It is also developing a spacecraft, named Orion, which is capable of carrying a crew of four, and making preparations to build a Space Launch System, a powerful rocket to carry Orion into deep space.

Orion needs to be equipped with a variety of systems to support the long journey to Mars, which would take more than a year from a starting point in the moon’s orbit.

NASA also envisions building a base on Mars for resource exploration.

The Mars program will be promoted in close cooperation with various aerospace companies. For example, Lockheed Martin Corp. is proposing to build a Mars-orbiting base, the Mars Base Camp, to accommodate six astronauts. Given the U.S. company’s involvement in the development of Orion, it is considered likely that NASA would support this idea.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., a U.S. aerospace venture business known as SpaceX, envisions developing a large-scale reusable spacecraft capable of carrying more than 100 Mars settlers per flight, the first of which is reportedly planned for 2022 at the earliest.

There are also space projects elsewhere. The International Space Station (ISS) orbiting around Earth at an altitude of 400 km will be privatized over time.

Bigelow Aerospace LLC, another American space technology start-up, is planning to create a private sector-run space station that will serve as a “space hotel” consisting of balloon-like modules for tourists from Earth.

There are a number of hurdles to overcome if the challenge of completing long space journeys is to be realized. Among the issues of vital importance is how to secure sufficient amounts of food, as spacecraft can only carry a limited volume of materials.

The production of vegetables in space was proved possible when Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui grew lettuce using a light-emitting diode lamp, water and fertilizer during his stay of nearly five months aboard the ISS in 2015. Self-sufficiency may be achieved if a wide variety of food can be produced in space.

A system to allow the reuse of water and air is also a must. In addition, excrement can be processed into fertilizer for food production or into energy, using microorganisms, to run systems on a spacecraft.

Advances in 3-D printing technology are expected to be a boon for journeys between Earth and Mars because tools and parts to make repairs can be produced on demand.

The outer shell of a spacecraft also needs to be designed to reduce astronauts’ exposure to harmful cosmic radiation, while robots may be developed to replace humans on dangerous spacewalks.

To ease the stress that comes with prolonged time in a close, isolated space, artificial intelligence is expected to play an important role as an “adviser” or “conversation partner” for astronauts.

Donald Trump’s rise to the U.S. presidency may also put the Mars program in jeopardy. Some worry that the huge cost involved in such a project, including funds for the ISS, may not be palatable to someone with his business background.

An international forum will be held in Japan in the latter half of 2017 to discuss manned space exploration.

Although Japan has yet to decide whether to participate in a joint international program for the manned exploration of Mars, the country has been promoting the development of necessary technologies.

In the absence of its own manned spaceship, Japan currently relies on Russia to send astronauts to the ISS. Japan, however, has accumulated technologies to develop such a spacecraft through activities in its “Kibo” experiment module attached to the ISS.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is developing the upgraded model of the “Konotori” series of unmanned cargo ships for launch in fiscal 2021. The new transporter, code-named HTV-X, will be designed to be capable of unmanned flight.

“It is technologically possible to give spaceship-like functions to the transporter if it is equipped with a life-support system,” a JAXA official said.

Together with a large H-3 rocket currently under development, the transporter is expected to help expand Japan’s activities in space.

Russia, which has a proud history of space exploration and in 1961 was the first country to put a person into space, is planning to send humans to the moon by 2030 and build a lunar base.

China is looking to construct its own space station by around 2020. As part of preparations, the Asian power in October sent two astronauts to a space laboratory orbiting Earth for a 30-day stay and succeeded in lifting a large Long March 5 rocket into space the following month.

A Japanese expert familiar with China’s space program said the heavy-lift rocket has given the world’s second-largest economy “all it needs to build a space station.”

Interest is growing about whether, or how, China will be involved in any potential exploration of Mars.

Humans are moving into another stage of space exploration, working toward a time when the indelible words of American astronaut Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) may again be truly apt to use.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” said the commander of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing mission after climbing down the ladder to become the first person to set foot on the surface of the moon.

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NASA wraps up stellar year of space travel to distant…

NASA has had quite a year. From the Juno mission to study Jupiter to the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn, and New Horizons journey to Pluto and the outer reaches of the solar system, the space agency has traveled quite a distance in 2016 in its continued exploration of the universe and beyond.

The Juno deep space probe arrived at Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system and fifth from the sun, on July 4 after its launch in 2011.

NASA said the goal of the mission is to understand the “origin and evolution” of the planet. Juno’s mission includes mapping the planet’s magnetic fields, measuring water and ammonia in Jupiter’s atmosphere, and more.

NASA’s other robotic missions include the Cassini spacecraft, which is circling Saturn in its final year of orbit, studying the planet’s iconic rings close-up. The Cassini mission is scheduled to end next year with the probe’s crash into Saturn.

New Horizons, which arrived at Pluto in 2015 for a flyby, beamed back the last of its Pluto data late this year and is now traveling onward to an even more distant object in the Kuiper Belt.

The space agency is also making progress on its planned human mission to Mars in the 2030’s. This year NASA has been choosing its next generation of astronauts who will make deep space missions. They are  scheduled to begin training next summer.

Other major achievements for NASA in 2016 include the completion of the largest-ever space telescope. The James Webb Space Telescope was finished in November and is now on schedule for a 2018 launch. The agency also made strides in aeronautics research and robotic technology.

NASA Petitioned to Send Bitcoins to Mars

Planet Mars News: Space Exploration To Mars Halted? Long-Duration Space Travel Could Kill …

Everyone is anticipating the long awaited space exploration to Mars. But even if astronauts could travel to Mars, they could die along the way. Astronauts are reporting health issues connected to long-duration stay in space that ranges from blindness, kidney stones, and other health issues that could eventually lead to their deaths. Will these space-related health issues halt the space exploration to Mars even it begins?

Astronauts who are in their physical prime before they go to space are reporting health issues while in space and after they land back on Earth. The health issues are the effect of microgravity on the body. Temporary vision problems, muscle atrophy, kidney stones, rashes, and radiation poisoning are the most common health issues astronauts are reporting. All of these space-related health issues are happening during short-duration space travel and exploration.

Short duration space travel and exploration are just a few weeks while long duration space travel and exploration could take up to three to six months. What will happen then to the astronauts who needs to travel around six months one-way to get to Mars? Will they all die along the way? Is going to Mars more of a death mission instead of a space exploration mission?

NASA and other space agencies are working on keeping the astronaut safe and healthy in space in anticipation of the long space travel and exploration to Mars. NASA and the rest of the expert scientists in the world are studying the effects of space on the body and how they can prevent or stop it from happening to the astronauts.

American astronaut Scott Kelly and a team of scientist aboard the International Space Station will study the effects of space on the human body in a year-long, uninterrupted stay in space. Astronaut Kelly along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are looking into the effect on the human body on long-duration stay in space. The yearlong duration of Astronaut Kelly and his team is to mimic what could be the long-duration space travel and exploration to Mars.

According to Astronaut Scott Kelly, who has been up to space three times, NASA and other space agencies have already provided the needed medications on the most common health issues astronauts experience in space. For the degradation of vision, there is an ample supply of eyeglasses of different grades. For the formation of kidney stones, rashes, nausea, and insomnia, a variety of medications and ointments are available to use for the astronauts.

NASA does acknowledge that is not only the effects of space on the human body that they are anticipating. Factors like the quality of air on the space station and overall quality of life in space for the astronauts are being improved for the long duration space travel and exploration to Mars. It is the safety of the astronauts, barring no accidents happen along the way, that will be the key to the eventual success of the Mars expedition.

NASA offering $30000 for solving 'space poop' problem

While Elon Musk is persistently pushing ahead with his aim to send humans to Mars, NASA still has no idea what to do with astronauts’ shit during deep space travel.

Like any other human, astronauts need to go to toilet even in a spacecraft. NASA researchers are still struggling to determine how to treat waste that it doesn’t harm astronauts during a space flight.

Astronauts need a special suit to provide clean air, water as well as enough nutrients for a period of up to six days, until they return to Earth. Spacecraft doesn’t provide that protections on its own. In simple words, NASA is still using an old-fashioned technology called “diapers” to deal with this problem.

Astronaut Rick Mastracchio said, “I can tell you that space flight is not always glamorous. People need to go to the bathroom even in a spacecraft. How is this waste treated such that it does not harm the astronaut or even kill them?”

Thus, protecting astronauts from waste when they would need to pee or poop during a long space travel, such as six-month journey to mars, is a challenge for NASA. Researchers also worry what would happen if a female astronaut gets her period in a spaceship.

In a bid to get a solution, NASA has announced an award of $30,000 for whoever can solve the space poop predicament. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 20, 2016.

“The old standby solution consisted of diapers,” said the description of contest details at

“However, the diaper is only a very temporary solution, and doesn’t provide a healthy/protective option longer than one day.”

Sometimes, astronauts have to wait even longer. The two men and one woman who packed themselves into a Russian Soyuz space capsule last week had to wait two full days between launching from Kazakhstan and arriving at the International Space Station.

The Soyuz is equipped with a portable toilet, which looks like an air-powered pee jug.

On future missions to deep space destinations like an asteroid or Mars, NASA suspects it could take up to 144 hours, or six days, to get to a proper toilet.

In emergency situations, astronauts may need to zip themselves into a fully pressurized, bulky orange spacesuit, complete with helmet and gloves.

“While sealed, it is impossible for an astronaut to access their own body, even to scratch their nose,” NASA said.

That’s where the inventors come in. Astronauts need some way to clear away urine, fecal matter and menstrual blood efficiently, or they risk infection.

Scientists also have to consider how the bars will affect crew morale, since food choice, variety and taste are important aspects of ensuring they consume enough, especially as mission lengths increase.

The food bars, which are being developing in coordination with NASA’s Human Research Program have been tested by crew members inside HERA, the agency’s three-story habitat at Johnson Space Center designed to serve as an analog for the isolation and remote conditions in exploration scenarios. The ground-based missions have provided helpful feedback on the flavor, texture and long-term acceptability of the bars that food scientists are using to hone the range of options available. The missions will ultimately help NASA determine the right meal replacement schedule to prevent food fatigue and aversion on long-duration missions.

While scientists continue to hone the food bars and expand the variety of options available, NASA also is working to develop regenerative ways to feed the crew on longer missions, including on the journey to Mars. The space station vegetable production system is helping to determine how to regularly grow fresh vegetables in space – astronaut Shane Kimbrough recently started the third such investigation aboard the orbital laboratory. Scientists are also looking at packaging food items to keep them edible and nutritious in conditions where there are temperature fluctuations, such as the surface of Mars.