Tag Archives: Mars

There’s a Car, Man, Waiting in the Sky

The White Stripes sang the line, “Maybe Tesla does the Astro” on their first album in one of their most fun songs. Who knew they were prophetic? Jack White may be a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to rock and roll, but even he in all his musical mastery probably never envisioned someone launching a goddamned car into the cosmos. The one rock musician that I could see conceiving such a fantastically ridiculous premise is the immortal David Bowie, whose music was appropriately played for six hours as Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster rocketed out off the Earth’s atmosphere with the also Ziggy Stardust-inspired Starman at the helm.

In case you mis- who am I kidding? Everyone has heard of the Falcon Heavy launch from last week by now. You’ve probably even seen the launch already. And why not? It was amazing! To recap quickly anyway, last Tuesday, February 6, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., more commonly called SpaceX, launched the most powerful and one of the largest rockets ever built: the Falcon Heavy. This model of rocket was built to venture to Mars and beyond and promises to be the precursor to manned missions to the Red Planet and deep space. While NASA will stick with the Orion spacecraft for the first manned missions to Mars, the success of last week’s Falcon Heavy launch is huge for a few big reasons.

First, Falcon Heavy rockets proved that they can propel large payloads into orbit, which will be a helpful application for deep space probes and for future colonies on Mars. Second, the boosters are built to be reusable and return to Earth – as they did in spectacular synchronized fashion (the center booster’s reentry descent rockets did not all ignite and it crashed into the nearby ocean).

Finally, this was all done by a private company. If more bajillionaires like Musk seek to contribute to the field of space exploration and aid government organizations like NASA, imagine what strides in science can be made!

If you have not already, watch the amazing launch on SpaceX’s YouTube channel here. And don’t miss the live cam of  Starman and Musk’s personal car, the literal dummy payload of the Falcon Heavy test. We can feel the collective excitement inherent in all observers of a massively powerful rocket taking off. Seeing these enormous objects of engineering genius ignite and rise is incredibly inspiring for working toward space exploration. I want us to go bravely forth into the unknown and learn what mysteries await us, but first I’m going to run around in circles in my yard for a little bit because I’m so wound up watching those boosters land in perfect synchronization!

Unquestionably, the man of the moment and beyond is Musk. Whatever spotlight was pointed at South Korea for winter sports festivities has been shifted to the stars. People of all ages are taking notice of the excitement caused by this rocket launch, like this preschool class who made a model of the solar system.

If there was any question before, there is none now: Elon Musk is the epitome of eccentric. Garnering comparisons to the likes of Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne, and Willy Wonka, Elon Musk seems to be an crazy character pulled from fiction. Eat your heart out, Mark Cuban. You have a TV show and a basketball team? Musk just shot a car into space!

Even his company’s name is a mondegreen innuendo. Not sure what I’m talking about? Say SpaceX out loud. Yeah. He did that on purpose. We should not be surprised though, as he’s done it before. Look no further than the one-character names of Tesla’s first three car models: S, 3, X. Flip that 3 around and you’ve got yourself an “E” and another immature, tongue-in-cheek global company name. But who cares?! He’s eccentric! as Dennis Hopper’s Howard Payne said in Speed after stealing miliions of dollars, “Poor people are crazy; I’m eccentric.” Musk, a self-made rich person thanks to his self-taught and formal education in computer programming and engineering, certainly fulfills the role of kooky with a scientifically-centered altruistic intent. His main mission is to help lay down a foundation for humanity to continue to survive off of far into the future, with the great goals of mitigating climate change and establishing settlements on Mars. Needless to say, I like this guy.  Mr. Musk, I’m onboard with your goals, and I immensely appreciate that you are seeking to make this world better while preparing for life on the next one all the while making sex jokes in your companies and products.

Thanks for reading and watching! If you want to send me any questions, comments, or suggestions, then pass them along to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Keep looking to the stars and pursuing your dreams, no matter how absurd they may seem because right now there is a sportscar hurtling toward the asteroid belt!

Happy (Same Day/Same Year) Birthday Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin!



Wonderful Whitson

Happy Labor Day everyone! Today in the USA we honor American workers with a day off for (most) everyone. On this 2017 edition of the day, I would like to pay special props to an American whose work is literally out of this world.

Peggy Whitson has been logging some major merits in her career as an astronaut for NASA. She recently returned to Earth via Soyuz capsule to Kazakhstan after working the past 288 days aboard the International Space Station. After her most recent stint in space, Peggy owns records for being the first two-time female commander of ISS, the oldest woman in space (57), the most practiced woman to take a stroll in space with 10 space walks, oh, and now she has spent more time in space than any other American. In total over three missions onboard ISS, Whitson has accrued 665 days in orbit, longer than any woman in history. There are a few Russian cosmonauts who have stayed in space longer, including Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin who returned with her.

Whitson is a biochemist who started with NASA in 1989. She has been conducting research on a number of things, perhaps most notably on antibodies in zero-G. She has been awarded numerous medals from NASA, including their Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2006, and even served as Chief Astronaut for a time. Originally hailing from Iowa, she now lives in Houston, Texas where NASA is headquartered. She said that any trouble she may have adjusting back to life with greater gravity is nothing compared to the hardships of those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which includes some of her fellows at Mission Control.

Whitson may no longer venture into the cosmos, but she is still planning on working at NASA on the ground for spaceflight missions, as well as some other projects in the future that may involve a certain red planet.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, then send them my way at monotrememadness@gmail.com. Float on back here next week for more fun.

Shine on you American Space Ninja,


Ziggy Stardust and the Water on Mars with headliner Bloodmoon



Today NASA made the historic announcement that they have discovered evidence of liquid water on Mars, making our next door terrestrial planetary neighbor a little more likely to be sporting some livelier residents. It’s no assurance that life exists there, but it checks off another requirement for it. At the very least, this news is thrilling for the prospect of our future on the red planet. Fairly soon – and by that I mean in our lifetime – we could see more than just Matt Damon on Mars. The presence of the most precious molecule for life is extremely exciting for the development of colonies capable of sustaining humans and other organisms we bring along to become the first Earth residents to move to another planet.

Despite today’s big reveal, NASA has had their eyes trained on the Martian surface in search for water for quite a while. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the satellite that took the pictures that led to the discovery, was launched in 2005 with the primary mission to look for signs of water. After years of analysis, NASA scientists were confident they had seen enough to know what they were looking at. Apparently they deemed to bring it up in the wake of last night’s impressive perigree full moon, a.k.a. supermoon (when the moon is at its closest to the Earth; apogee is when it is at its farthest) that coincided with a total lunar eclipse for the first time since 1982 and the last time until 2033.

Much like the moon’s yo-yoing with Earth, Mars’ surface has some back and forth apparent on it. MRO sent images over the years that show streaks that darken and stretch along down slopes during the warm season, and dissipate during the colder season. These streaks are the strongest evidence of liquid water and are called recurring slope lineae (RSL). It’s assumed by NASA scientists that whatever water is flowing in the area examined is under the surface and pops up just enough to turn the dust a little darker when it’s warm out. Well, warmer, considering that the places these shady streaks have been noticed are routinely about -10°F/23°C. The salts in the soil – which are not your standard sodium chloride from the kitchen – lower the water’s freezing point, much in the same way as road salt does to help melt snow even when the temperature is below freezing. The salts in the ground that are reacting to Mars’ moisture are perchlorates, some of which are able to prevent the freezing in -94°F/-70°C. This is also cool to learn for our future on Mars as certain perchlorates can be used to make rocket fuel. Mars could not only be a permanent residence for humanity, but a springboard to visit other planets and even solar systems.

This is all a long way off yet for us to have developed dwellings and spaceports on Mars, but that makes it no less exciting. Besides, it will happen someday, and much of the early stages of it happening will be extraordinarily thrilling to see unfold. There will be risk, there will be high costs, and there will be failures and unforeseen hurdles along the way, but someday, sooner than you might imagine, there will be a man on Mars. At least then we will be able to definitively answer David Bowie’s question.

Thanks for reading! If you want to learn more about Mars and this exciting news you can read the NASA JPL article I used as a reference for this post found here. Be sure to check in on NASA’s website for more information on Mars and other otherworldly developments in the future. And be sure to check back here next week for more of anything and everything.

Happy birthday Samm!