For those readers in the UK who can reach Woking tomorrow evening, the first of 3 walks is to take place tracing the steps of the Martian Invaders from War Of The Worlds. Sounds like a fun idea. More details here.
The European Space Agency has decided on sending a single rover with the ability to drill down into the Martian surface and a second stationary probe. The team responsible for the failed UK Beagle mission had proposed a number of small rovers, but this has not been selected, though some of their science packages may make it onto one or more of the selected missions. More here on the BBC website.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has entered cruise mode sucessfully and is performing well as mission controllers undertake a series of calibration exercises. More detail can be found at the Planetary Society.
In focusing as intensely as people generally do on the mechanics of getting to Mars, you tend to forget that once there, someone has to have a way to go walkabout on the surface. The International Mars Society have just held their 8th convention (11-14 August) in Boulder, Colorado, and concluded that old style suits such as those worn on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts would not be suitable (no pun intended). The Mechanical Counter Pressure (MCP) suit aims to use elasticity to provide pressure instead, and was first proposed in Apollo days but rejected at the time. The suits are much thinner than normal, and also very very tight fitting. Says inventor Paul Webb, "its reasonably comfortable so long as the air the astronaut breathes is pressurized to match the suit's constrictiveness. Otherwise, it hurts like hell."
More on the idea at Nature.com and a neat picture of the suit in action here.
The release of Spielbergs War Of The Worlds in China has highlighted concerns in the country at the lack of a film certification system. Liu Jianzhong, the chairman of the board of Huaxia Film Company, the movie's Chinese distributor, said "We advise that children should watch the movie only accompanied by parents."
Problems with a pair of Redundant Rate Gyro Units (RRGUs)on the Atlas V rocket that is to loft the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter toward Mars have forced a one day delay to the launch. Launch is now scheduled for Thursday between 1135 and 1350 GMT.
Nasa has announced that it's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will attempt to launch on Wednesday, August 10 at 7:54 a.m. EDT. Launch will take place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas V-401 rocket. The launch window extends until 9:39 a.m. In the event that the launch is delayed, they will try again at 7:50 a.m. on August 11.
Veteran politician Michael Foot, friend and biographer of the late writer, believes that Spielberg has missed the point with his big budget War Of The Worlds and is convinced Wells would have been devastated by Spielberg's treatment of the 1938 book.
Says Foot, "(Wells) was bitterly opposed to the British Empire. He thought it was a real disgrace. And that was really what War Of The Worlds was about: it wasn't just a great adventure story, it was about invasion. He would have seen terrible irony in the fact that Hollywood, this year, decided to make a film of his book while America and Britain are fighting in Iraq. He would have been horrified by the film, even though he loved seeing his books reach the screen."
Hmm, well I'm not sure Spielberg was that blind to the original novel. I certainly wonder if Foot has actually seen the film or simply read a few reviews. I would hardly describe the Spielberg movie as an "adventure" film. Its a scary, remorselessly vision of all out war, and I for one found real parallels with Iraq. I'm pretty certain that the average citizen of Iraq faced with "shock and awe" would find a lot to recognise with in the Spielberg film.
The Spirit and Opportunity rovers have been granted a further six month extension of their mission on Mars. It's a fantastic achievement given that these two rovers should have stop working months ago. NASA have no idea how long they can keep going but so far they show no real sign of wearing out.
Some beautiful illustrations are to be found on this site showcasing the work of artist Thierry Lombry. Lombry has used his art to speculate on the possible course of future terraforming efforts on the red planet.