Chinese Mars Simulator in Gobi Desert

Mars Base 1
(Image Reference: C-Space / phys.org)
As China continues to grow as a leading superpower in the new century, they have set their sights at space along with just about everything else. And – they are already making some impressive inroads. A few days back, on April 17, 2019 the brand new “Mars Base 1” opened in the Gobi desert, with the goal of simulating a habitat on the red planet. The initial visitors to this facility are teenage students, with the goal of exposing them to and instilling in them the excitement and wonder of a multi-planetary society; at least I would hope that is the goal because it’s a good one!

The base will also be open for tourism soon as well, going to show that China appears to be embracing a more open approach to their space-faring ambitions, and are sharing the steps along the way with educational and economic forces. These two aspects are sure to be force-multipliers to their efforts, and are really the only way to make these sorts of bold projects work, as we enter the second Space Race. Let’s hope the US is taking a hard look at other competitor nations and making sure we not only keep up but stay in the lead. As the Gazette is fond to report, local hero Elon Musk and his SpaceX technology of reusable rockets was the catalyst for this new era, but now, like the T-800 arm and chip, once people know something can be done it is usually a small matter to replicate it. Most other serious space programs in the world are now focusing on re-usability (except for NASA’s SLS, which will hopefully be defunded and scrapped soon). Pushing ahead quickly with a lunar base and then extending the mission to Mars, with the full visibility of the public and the backing of corporate sponsors, is I believe the best, fastest and most likely to succeed path through this new complex landscape!

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Partial Solar Eclipses on Mars

Partial Solar Eclipse from Mars
(Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

What do you get when you have two little moons, and the sun is in just the right spot? Why, a pair of partial solar eclipses of course! The Curiosity rover on Mars has done a fantastic job of capturing the path of each of the moons of Mars, Phobos (March 26) and Deimos (March 17), passing in front of the sun. The mighty little rover used it’s “Mastcam” and a solar filter to be able to stare directly at the sun and record the fantastic footage.

This observation is important for several reasons. From a scientific point of view, the precise orbit of the moons of Mars had been a little tricky for astronomers to work out prior to having so much hardware over at the red planet. Observations such as this continue to shore up our understanding of the behavior of these bodies.

But what is of more immediate importance is the societal impact that observations such as this can have on the growing understanding and awareness of Mars among the general population. The ability to tie regular events that we experience here on Earth to those same events that are being experienced on another planet helps to make that distant place feel more familiar, and hopefully one day, like home.

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