Expanding Beyond Earth: Others Seek To Lead While We Drag Our Feet

The final frontier: Making life thrive on Mars, Deccan Chronicles

"For Indian scientists who are designing gadgets to probe the surface and sub-surface of the red planet, the results hint at the need to scrounge for toxic chemicals that could hinder efforts to establish a sustainable agricultural system 400 million km away! Buoyed by the success of Mangalyaan-I (Mars Orbiter Mission or MOM), the top brass at the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has the best of brains from laboratories across the country (unlike MOM which was designed by in-house experts of the space agency) to pool in their brilliance for assembling unique gadgets to scoop up Martian soil and scan every grain for chemicals and minerals of all kinds and hues. These studies are intended to throw light on evolution of planets, how life commenced in our solar system, and the interplay between geological and possible biological history of the solar system as well."

Exploring the lunar far side: China wants to grow plants and insects on the moon, International Business Times

"Other than equipment to study the geological conditions of the region, the Chang'e 4 lander will also carry a container filled with seeds and insects. The container, which will be made from aluminium alloy, will demonstrate the growing process of plants and animals on the moon. "The container will send potatoes, arabidopsis seeds and silkworm eggs to the surface of the moon. The eggs will hatch into silkworms, which can produce carbon dioxide, while the potatoes and seeds emit oxygen through photosynthesis. Together, they can establish a simple ecosystem on the moon," Zhang Yuanxun, chief designer of the container, reportedly told local media last year. The container will be equipped with a layer of insulation to protect its contents from extreme temperatures. It will also be fitted with light pipes to ensure the growth of the plants and insects inside, while specially-designed batteries with high energy density will also be installed to provide a consistent energy supply."

Keith's note: While NASA drags its feet with regard to the notion of establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon and/or Mars, nations like China and India are wasting no time taking the lead. What is it about the Moon and Mars that excites these (and other) nations so much? Why can't we make up our mind where/how/when to go - and then stay focused on a plan? Meanwhile we happily build huge expensive rockets that are chronically late with no money for payloads to fly on them. [Larger image (Pat Rawlings/NASA)]

And then there's this effort in Ukraine. Even in the face of everything falling apart, the dream of exploring the universe cannot be smothered. Countries scrambling just to stay functional seem to be more intent and focused than we are here in the U.S. with all of our resources. NASA and aerospace contractors spend lots of money on pointless bling that they give to each other at fancy conferences. Imagine what could be done with that money if was used for something like this:

Ukraine's Lofty Ambitions, Fallen to Earth, NY Times

"Ukraine was once a vital part of the Soviet space program, home to many research institutes and rocket factories. Now, wracked by war and shaken by political upheaval, the nation struggles to hold on to its scientific traditions. On a recent visit, I was struck by the determination of researchers stripped of the resources taken for granted in the West. The biologist still tending a jar filled with bacteria once destined for space. The retiree holding together a small astronomy museum in Kiev with spare parts and pluck. From black garbage bags and duct tape, Tatiana Kovalchuk-Skorokhodnik, of the Ukrainian Space Agency, has built a mobile "planetarium" for children. With holes pricked in the makeshift dome, she has reconstructed the starry night skies above Ukraine."

Keith's update: Meanwhile the UAE is recruiting astronauts.

UAE Astronaut Programme, Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre

"The UAE Astronaut Programme is now accepting applications from all Emiratis. Apply to become an astronaut today, and carry the pride of the nation as you make history and become the first UAE national to go to space. ... The Emirati astronauts will be team members of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, and will join with the centre in advancing the UAE's position as a leading scientific and space nation. ... The UAE has great ambition in space, and our astronauts will play a significant role in our quest to reach our objectives. This is your opportunity to be a part of one of a historic mission for the nation."

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on January 3, 2018 9:55 PM.

The Vacancies Act - And NASA Management (Update) was the previous entry in this blog.

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