TIME space

See the Stunning New Portrait of Mars from India’s MOM Spacecraft

Mars photographed by the ISRO Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft on Sept. 30, 2014.
Mars photographed by the ISRO Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft on Sept. 30, 2014. ISRO—AFP/Getty Images

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), which began orbiting the Red Planet on Sept. 23, has already sent back a stunning new portrait of Mars. The image taken Sept. 28 shows the beginnings of a dust storm on the surface of the planet and was taken by the Mars Color Camera aboard the spacecraft. The Mars Orbiter will be collecting images and other data from the planet’s surface and atmosphere using five sensors, four of which have already been switched on.

This data will be shared with NASA, according to an agreement signed on Sept. 30 between the two agencies to collaborate on Mars exploration. NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft entered Mars’s orbit just two days ahead of MOM, and will be able to receive data from Opportunity and Curiosity rovers on the planet’s surface.

TIME

Journey to the Red Planet: MAVEN Approaches Martian Orbit

Ahead of its arrival, take a look back at the spacecraft's evolution

On Sept. 21, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft will arrive in orbit around Mars and embark on a one-Earth-year long mission to collect data from the planet’s upper atmosphere. MAVEN launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Nov. 18, 2013 and, over the last 10 months, covered a journey of 442 million miles to get where it’s going. The spacecraft is the very first to be dedicated to the study and measurement of Mars’ upper atmosphere.

“The MAVEN science mission focuses on answering questions about where the water that was present on early Mars [went], about where did the carbon dioxide go,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in a statement. “These are important questions for understanding the history of Mars, its climate, and its potential to support at least microbial life.”

MAVEN, which is equipped with a telecommunications package that allows it to relay data from the Curiosity and Opportunity Rovers currently exploring the planet’s surface, is one of several efforts NASA has undertaken to prepare for potential human exploration of Mars.

TIME Science

Buzz Aldrin: It’s Time to Put a Man on Mars

George Washington University Space Policy Institute Holds Humans To Mars Summit
NASA Apollo XI astronaut Buzz Aldrin speaks at the Humans to Mars Summit on April 22, 2014 at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Win McNamee—Getty Images

On the 45th anniversary of the moon landing, the U.S. should decide on the necessary steps to explore Mars with the eventual goal of establishing a manned settlement there.

It’s hard to believe that on July 20, 2014, we’ll be celebrating the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11, man’s first landing on the moon. It’s also hard to believe that no one can really say where the U.S. manned space exploration program is heading and how we’re going to get there. People come up to me and say, “It’s too bad the space program got canceled.” This is not the case, and yet that is what most of the public thinks has happened. Yes, we hear from NASA that the destination is Mars — and yet there is no detailed plan on how to get there. No one can seem to agree on a clear path. The nation is understandably focused on many other pressing challenges at the moment. However, if we don’t make some important decisions about the future of our space program very soon, I’m afraid the program will be lost to the ages.

There are eight U.S. astronauts left out of the 12 who walked on the moon. All of us are in the eighth decade of our lives. Each of us can attest to the importance of continuing human exploration of space and the tremendous impact it has had on so many facets of our society. The technical innovations, scientific achievements, medical breakthroughs, environmental enhancements, national defense improvements and educational impacts have been immeasurable. Our nation simply cannot afford to lose a program that has contributed so much for so long. Our leaders have some important decisions to make and they need to make them now. The moon must not be the last stop in America’s quest for knowledge of other planets and of other places.

Here’s what we as a nation must decide:

  1. Does the United States wish to continue leading human exploration of space or leave it to Russia, China, India or some other nation to take over? To me, the answer is obvious.
  2. Does it not make good sense for the U.S. to take the high ground by establishing cooperative U.S.-China relations in space? We did it with the Soviet Union through the Apollo-Soyuz program back in July 1975, and I believe it is even more important to do it with the PRC in 2014. Cooperation, not confrontation, should be the hallmark of our dealings with the Chinese beyond Earth.
  3. Does it make sense for the U.S. to expend hundreds of billions of dollars to mount a new Apollo-style program to return to the moon? Or have we blazed that trail? Shouldn’t we help other nations achieve this goal with their own resources but with our help? Rather than doing again something we did 45 years ago, shouldn’t the U.S. be developing a path toward Mars?
  4. And shouldn’t the U.S. develop the technological capabilities needed to land humans on Mars by first traveling to a nearby asteroid for research and development purposes? A hybrid human-robot mission to investigate an asteroid affords a realistic opportunity to demonstrate new technological capabilities for future deep-space travel and to test spacecraft for long-duration spaceflight. This is imperative, as we’ve never done manned missions beyond the moon.
  5. And speaking of Mars, are we prepared as a nation to take the necessary steps to explore Mars with the eventual goal of establishing a manned settlement on that planet? To me, the answer should be a resounding “yes.”

It’s unlikely that the remaining Apollo astronauts, including yours truly, will be around to witness the conclusion of the next exciting chapter in our nation’s space program. However, we would like to be here when our President and Congress make these critical decisions. If our leaders make the right decisions — and they must — we’re confident the new manned space program will meet or exceed the tremendous success of the Apollo program so many years ago. But let’s make these decisions now.

Dr. Buzz Aldrin served as lunar module pilot for Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission. He is the author of eight books, including his New York Times best-selling autobiography Magnificent Desolation. His newest book, Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration, was published in 2013. As one of the leading space exploration advocates, Buzz continues to chart a course for future space travel.

TIME space travel

Watch: Astronauts Aboard ISS Answer Your Questions

What simple pleasures are missing up in space? A nice, warm shower, for starters

Three of the six astronauts aboard the International Space Station spoke with TIME this week, via video downlink, to answer some of our readers’ questions on their daily lives 240 miles above Earth.

Watch this video clip for answers to everything–from what types of cameras these three use in space to get stunning shots like this one, to they really miss about the old home planet.

TIME space station

Join Us for a Conversation Between TIME and the Space Station

The space station as photographed by the shuttle Endeavour
The space station as photographed by the shuttle Endeavour NASA; Getty Images

Astronauts flying a million-pound machine 230 miles overhead don't have a lot of time to chat, but Time snagged them for a few minutes. Join us for some live air-to-ground chatter.

Everything about the International Space Station (ISS) is built to wow. It’s almost exactly the size of a football field, has as much habitable space as a six-bedroom house, orbits 230 miles overhead, required 115 space flights to build and carries a solar panel array with a surface area of one acre. The offices of TIME magazine—located on the slightly less glamorous Avenue of the Americas and 51st St. in New York City, and with about as much habitable space as, um, an office— can hardly compete. But on July 9, the two worlds will briefly collide, as TIME chats via video downlink with the ISS.

There are currently six crewmen aboard the station, and we’ll be talking to three of them: commander Steve Swanson and flight engineer Reid Wiseman, both of NASA, as well as flight engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency. Like all space station crews, this one has been tending both to matters celestial (conducting biomedical, engineering and materials science experiments, as well as maintaining the station itself) and matters terrestrial, most recently their eye-in-the-sky observations of Hurricane Arthur.

Other matters down on Earth concern the crew too. It may have been fun and games when Gerst’s native Germany bested the U.S. in the first round of the World Cup, but the dust-up between Russia and the U.S. over Ukraine is awfully hard to ignore when the other three members of the crew are Russian cosmonauts. TIME will be chatting with the crew about these and other matters—and would like to hear your suggestions.

Consider what you’d like to ask three men in a million-pound machine flying over head at 17,500 mph if you had the chance—because now you do.

TIME Space Exploration

The International Space Station Is Getting an Espresso Machine

The lattes will be out of this world

The International Space Station is 240 miles above earth, but that doesn’t mean astronauts don’t have a hard time getting up in the morning — after all, they can make a run to the stars, but not a run to the Starbucks.

But the ISS is about to get a little caffeinated pep in its one-small-step-for-man, in the form of ISSpresso, its very own, customized espresso machine. Italian coffee brand Lavazza teamed up with aerospace engineering company Argotec to design the device, which will be the first machine designed to withstand travel when it arrives at the space station later this year as a part of the Italian Space Agency’s Futura Mission.

When it connects, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti won’t just become the first Italian woman in space — she’ll likely be the first person in space to sip an Italian espresso.

TIME NASA

SpaceX to Launch on Monday Despite Space-Station Glitch

Private Space
This image provided by NASA shows the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft just prior to being released by the International Space Station's robotic arm on May 31, 2012 NASA—AP

A problem in a backup electronics box for the International Space Station’s robotic arm might have forced a delay of the launch of SpaceX's Dragon cargo ship, but NASA mission managers said the crew on board the ISS is in no danger

Updated: April 13, 2014, 2:40 p.m. E.T.

NASA will launch SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday as planned despite a failure in a backup electronics box for the station’s robotic arm.

NASA mission managers said on Saturday the crew on board the ISS is in no danger, but a problem in a backup computer component could have forced a postponement, NBC reports. NASA announced on Sunday, however, it would proceed with the launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., late on Monday afternoon.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule, which is slated to carry 4,600 lb. (2,086 kg) of supplies to the International Space Station, is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The proper functioning of the robotic-arm system is required to attach the Dragon to the International Space Station. While the primary system is working as expected, a backup box stopped responding to commands on Friday.

The primary operations on the arm continue to run flawlessly and do not impact station operations, NASA said on Sunday.

[NBC]

TIME Space Exploration

BFFs in Space: Why the U.S. and Russia Will Stay Cosmic Buddies

TIME's July 21, 1975 cover celebrated the Apollo-Soyuz space mission
TIME's July 21, 1975 cover celebrated the Apollo-Soyuz space mission Birney Lettick for TIME

Even with all the smack talk between Moscow and Washington, space makes good bedfellows

Want to know the three people in the world who were the least interested this morning in the doings in Crimea? Try Michael Hopkins, Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy. If that group sounds like a decidedly American and Russian mix, that’s because it is, and the trio had much more immediate things to do today than argue over a bit of land by the Black Sea. What they were doing specifically was plunging into the atmosphere at a speed of just under 17,500 mph (28,100 k/h) from an altitude of 230 mi. (370 km), tucked shoulder to shoulder inside a metal sphere with just 88 cubic feet of habitable space—which sounds like a lot until you consider that it’s just 2.5 cubic meters.

The crew thumped down safely in Kazakhstan at 9:24 AM EDT on March 11, after 166 days in space together aboard the International Space Station, and by all accounts they got along splendidly. Space will do that to people. The stakes are so high, the margin for error so microscopic and the precise nature of the death that awaits you if you screw things up—spinning off into the void, burning up in the atmosphere—so terrible that you learn to prioritize quickly.

Even in the days of the real Cold War, the one with all of the ICBMs poised and armed and ready to launch, the U.S. and the Soviet Union quietly had each other’s backs in space. On January 27, 1967, Lyndon Johnson, Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, a gaggle of dignitaries from 60 countries and a delegation of American astronauts gathered in the Green Room of the White House for the formal signing of the clumsily named “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space.” The agreement committed all signatories to keeping space forever non-militarized, to making no land claims on the moon or any other cosmic body and to offering all assistance to any astronauts in distress from any nation.

It is a matter of historical record that at 6:32 PM that night, even as the White House reception was still underway, a fire was breaking out in the Apollo 1 spacecraft on its launchpad at Cape Canaveral, where astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee were rehearsing liftoff procedures. It is a matter of historical record too that by 6:34 all three were dead. Many of the same dignitaries from the same 60 countries who had planned to travel home the next day instead stayed around to attend the funeral of three men who would never fly again.

So the stakes have always been high.

Over the years, even before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the cooperation endured. The Apollo-Soyuz flight in 1975 saw spacecraft from the U.S. and U.S.S.R. meet and dock in orbit for the first time, just months after U.S. embassy personnel had made their ignominious withdrawal from a rooftop in Saigon and the USSR collected one more domino. In the 1990s, American astronauts regularly flew aboard Russia’s Mir spacecraft, and in the 2000s, multi-national crews, particularly those from the U.S. and Russia, have spent extended periods aboard the International Space Station.

Yes, national self-interest endures. For years, Russian Soyuz rockets helped ferry NASA astronauts up to the ISS, and our crews weren’t paying for their tickets in miles. The price per seat was $22 million in 2006, jumped to $43 million in 2011, as the shuttle program was winding down, and is now $71 million—a price we have no choice but to pay if we want to get Americans into space at all. Hey, back in the bad old days we argued that Russia would do better under capitalism; well, this is how capitalist countries behave.

It’s true too that while the world applauded the U.S. moon landings, there wasn’t a Frenchman or Russian or Turk alive who wouldn’t have preferred seeing a lunar astronaut saluting the tricolor or the hammer and sickle or the star and crescent instead of the stars and stripes. And if China beats us back to the moon or even on to Mars, we’ll gnash our teeth too.

But space travel is inherently an enterprise that knows no national identities. It is an old but no less apt observation that astronauts can’t see borders from space. That doesn’t stop the rest of us from drawing them—in Crimea and Kurdistan and the West Bank and anywhere else we decide to fight with the folks next door. If we ever stop doing that—grow out of our stay-on-your-side-of-the-line! impulses—the experience will be a novel one for the species, or at least most of the species. Spacemen and spacewomen and the folks who send them aloft have already had a taste of it. By all accounts, they like it just fine.

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