YouTube // National Geographic
YouTube // National Geographic

5 New Fascinating Videos About Mars

YouTube // National Geographic
YouTube // National Geographic

National Geographic Channel has a new TV series coming in November: MARS. While I haven't seen the show yet, a bunch of short clips talking about the science behind the drama have begun trickling out. They feature a laundry list of amazing people. You've got Ann Druyan, Robert Zubrin, Charlie Bolden, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Peter Diamandis, Jennifer Heldmann, Elon Musk, Jim Lovell, Andy Weir, and many more.

If you have the slightest interest in Mars stuff, check out some of these videos. I can't wait to see more of this material next month!

1. PLANNING OUR ROUTE TO MARS

This is a two-minute intro to Mars Direct, a scenario sometimes called the "Zubrin Plan," in which humans pre-supply Mars in a series of missions prior to sending any crew there. Mars Direct, as a strategy, underlies now-famous science fiction like The Martian.

2. BACKING UP THE BIOSPHERE

What does it mean to colonize Mars, versus just visiting? Is it worth the time and money?

3. BUILDING SHELTER

Mars has a thin atmosphere, so its surface is subject to a lot more radiation than we're used to on Earth. What can we do to avoid irradiating ourselves when we land a crew on Mars?

4. CONTAMINATING MARS

Human arrival on Mars means human microbes contaminating the Martian landscape (making it difficult or perhaps impossible to determine whether there's microbial life on Mars). What do scientists think about this?

5. WHY SHOULD WE GO TO MARS?

What's the argument for going to Mars? Of course, we're all curious what we'll find there. But is curiosity sufficient on its own?

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NASA, JPL-Caltech
NASA Could Be Sending Autonomous Bee Drones to Mars
NASA, JPL-Caltech
NASA, JPL-Caltech

While NASA is inching closer to landing humans on Mars, a team from Japan and the U.S. is working on exporting something else to the red planet: robot bees. As Co.Design reports, the engineers believe their hive of drones, dubbed Marsbees, could be used to explore the surface of Mars autonomously.

The project is one of a handful being funded by NASA in 2018 as part of the space agency’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. According to the initial designs, the Marsbees would collect data and images from Mars just like the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers do now. But the drones' small size and large numbers give them a few key advantages.

The Marsbees would be carted onto the planet by way of a conventional rover that acts as a roaming beehive. The bumblebee-sized drones would use flapping apparatuses the size of cicada wings to fly around Mars, capturing data individually or swarming together to analyze larger swaths of land. If one robot fails, there would be more to make up for the missing sensor, and after gathering enough information they could return to the ground-based hub to recharge and relay the data back to Earth.

The team still needs to perfect a prototype before the swarms of Martian bees can become a reality. Wing size is a crucial factor, since the atmosphere on Mars is thinner than it is on Earth. Once they have that design element in place, the engineers still need to prove their drones can take off, land, navigate through the air, and complete missions. They hope to tackle each of those points in the first phase of the project using a $125,000 grant from NASA.

Concept art for marsbees.
C. Kang, NASA

[h/t Co.Design]

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NASA/JPL-Caltech
Send Your Name to Space on NASA's Latest Mars Lander
NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Humans may not reach Mars until the 2030s (optimistically), but you can get your name there a whole lot sooner. As Space.com reports, NASA is accepting names from the public to be engraved on a small silicon microchip that's being sent into space with their latest Mars lander, InSight.

All you have to do is submit your name online to NASA, and the space agency will put it on the lander—in super-tiny form, of course—which will set off for Mars in May 2018.

This is the public's second shot at getting their name to Mars: NASA first put out a call for names to go to the Red Planet with InSight in 2015. The planned 2016 launch was delayed over an issue with one of the instruments, and since the naming initiative was so popular—almost 827,000 people submitted their names the first time around—they decided to open the opportunity back up and add a second microchip.

A scientist positions the microchip on the InSight lander.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin

NASA is encouraging people to sign up even if they've sent in their names for other mission microchips. (The space agency also sent 1.38 million names up with Orion's first test flight in 2014.) You can put your name on both of InSight's microchips, in other words, as well as any future missions. The agency's "frequent flyer" program allows you to keep track of every mission to which your name is attached. Interplanetary fame, here you come.

You can submit your name for the InSight mission until November 1 using this form. If you miss the deadline, though, don't worry too much: You'll soon be able to submit your name for Exploration Mission-1's November 2018 launch.

[h/t Space.com]

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