27 February 2013

To the moon, Alice! Make that Mars. Apparently we’re sending a married couple to Mars.  Or at least that’s the hope. It will take 501 days to cruise by the red planet and back so the scientists who are coordinating the mission feel its best that the astronauts know each other very, very well.  And, oh, small point: The woman also needs to be past childbearing years since the couple may come back radiated.  Yeah, that could be the least of their worries since it sounds like figuring out exactly how to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere could be a little tricky.

Paragon Space Development Corp. is behind the excursion, according to CNN.  I hate that the U.S. government is basically out of the space business, but I’m fascinated by folks like Paragon’s Taber MacCallum, or Elon Musk, who spoke at TED2013 today, or Virgin’d Richard Branson, who are pouring millions, if not billions, into space exploration. MacCullum, a former NASA engineer, went to the International Space Station in  2001 as a space tourist on a Russian rocket. 

The plan is to launch the mission in 2018 because Mars will only be 36 million miles away from Earth then. Yeah, I wrote “only...”  It’s usually farther away. 

Today’s $10 goes to Dark Skies, Bright Kids, a volunteer-run program operated by University of Virginia’s Astronomy Dept. Its goal is to provide science education for kids in elementary schools in underserved rural Virginia. The tent pole project is a two-month Astronomy Club that Dark Skies holds at a different elementary school each semester in an effort to foster a life-long love for science. 

Maybe the next Taber MacCallum or Elon Musk will come from Dark Skies.

58 down, 307 to go.

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