Mars or Bust
June 25, 2019

NASA on Tuesday announced a nationwide contest to help select the name for its next Mars rover, planned to launch in July 2020.

The contest, expected to begin in the fall of 2019, will give K-12 students in the U.S. the "chance to make history" by naming the rover, NASA said. It's aimed at students in order to engage more young people across the country in the scientific work that goes into NASA's various exploratory missions. Contests like this one are an opportunity to "invite young students and educators to be a part of this journey," said George Tahu, NASA's Mars 2020 program executive.

But K-12 students aren't the only ones who can be a part of the contest in some way — NASA has also opened registration for people to judge the contest. Presumably, the judging process will aim to weed out names like Rovery McRoverface.

The rover, regardless of its eventual name, will be sent to Mars in order to gather information about the red planet's climate and geology, as well as collecting potential signs of life. Learn more about the 2020 Mars rover at NASA, or read about its naming contest here. Shivani Ishwar

November 26, 2018

After seven months in deep space, NASA's InSight spacecraft is finally ready to touch down on Mars.

InSight is a special vehicle that's designed to discover important information about the red planet's interior, Space reports. It comes equipped with a probe that will drill down below Mars' surface, deeper into its crust than we've ever gone before. Over the next two years, the data that InSight gathers is expected to give researchers some insight into how big Mars' core is, and what it's made of.

But before any of that work gets started, InSight will have to survive a "harrowing descent to the ground," The Verge reported. Since more than half of our Mars missions have failed to reach the red planet safely, this isn't a guarantee — which will make it all the more nerve-wracking and exciting to watch.

NASA will be streaming the signals it receives from InSight starting at 2 p.m. EST. Find more details at Space, and watch the livestream below. Shivani Ishwar

February 6, 2018

SpaceX is preparing to make history on Tuesday afternoon with the much-anticipated launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket.

Built from a strengthened core and two of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, the Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful operational launch vehicle in the world "by a factor of two," Space reported. If everything goes as planned, the Falcon Heavy could make spaceflight cheaper and easier, and even eventually take astronauts to the moon and Mars.

Though the launch should theoretically go off without a hitch, SpaceX isn't risking any important cargo on this test flight. Normally, tests of this caliber carry some dead weight, equal to what the rocket will be expected to carry in actual runs. But instead of that "boring" option, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the rocket will be carrying a red Tesla roadster, plus a SpaceX spacesuit sitting in the front seat, Engadget reported.

The rocket was originally expected to launch around 1:30 p.m. EST, but after wind-related delays, is now expected to launch around 3:45 p.m. Watch the livestream at SpaceX or below. Shivani Ishwar

December 11, 2017

President Trump signed a directive Monday aimed at refocusing "America's space program on human exploration and discovery." The directive signals the administration's intention to send "American astronauts back to the Moon, and eventually Mars," spokesman Hogan Gidley clarified earlier in the day to Reuters.

Despite America having already checked the moon off its to-do list in 1969, Trump said "this time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond." Watch Trump's full comments below, and read James Poulos explain why the most important thing Trump can do is take us to Mars at The Week. Jeva Lange

September 27, 2016

The mission to make humans "a multiplanetary species" just got a little bit closer to becoming a reality. Elon Musk's SpaceX program published a video Tuesday describing how the proposed Interplanetary Transport System would actually work — and it involves 28,730,000 pounds of thrust for lift-off, the support of a refueling pod, and winged solar panels to provide additional power to the ITS:

Musk is delivering a presentation on colonizing and building a city on Mars at the International Astronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico (you can follow continual updates at The Verge, here). And for those dreaming of future travels to a terraformed Red Planet, you're in luck — the planet makes an unnaturally blue-and-green appearance at the end of the video.

Musk also said Tuesday that he believes in the future the cost of travel to Mars will be as inexpensive as buying a house. SpaceX plans to send its first ship of humans to the planet as early as 2024. Jeva Lange

August 27, 2015

If Buzz Aldrin has his way, Mars will be colonized by 2039.

The second man to walk on the moon has partnered with the Florida Institute of Technology to open the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute this fall. Aldrin, who has a doctorate in science from MIT, will serve as a senior faculty adviser and research professor of aeronautics, The Associated Press reports. Aldrin, 85, said he wants to develop a "master plan" to get Mars colonized, with international input and approval from NASA. NASA is working on building rockets and spacecrafts to transport astronauts to Mars by the mid-2030s.

Aldrin set 2039 as a target date because that will be the 70th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. He's already thinking that two of the moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, will be the first stops for astronauts, and he thinks it makes sense for people to live there for 10 years. "The Pilgrims on the Mayflower came here to live and stay," he said. "They didn't wait around Plymouth Rock for the return trip, and neither will people building up a population and a settlement [on Mars]." Catherine Garcia

May 7, 2015

On Wednesday in Dubai, United Arab Emirate officials and scientists detailed the UAE's proposed unmanned mission to Mars, scheduled for launch in the summer of 2020, when Dubai is hosting a world expo. It would be the first interplanetary mission by an Arab nation, putting UAE in an elite club including India, the U.S., Europe, and Soviet Russia. In a rarity for the UAE, all 75 people working on the mission are Emiratis (advised by Americans), and the lead scientist is a woman, deputy project manager Sarah Amiri.

The Hope orbiter is projected to circle Mars for up to four years, collecting data about its atmosphere. "This mission to Mars is really for the hope of the Arab world and will send them a message to say you can be better, you can improve your country," said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and UAE prime minister. The Wall Street Journal has a video report of the invitation-only event below. —Peter Weber

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