Astronomy Cafe – Dec 13, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Mission to Mars – Dr. Robert Thirsk

  • Deep space missions being planned – returning to lunar orbit, the Moon’s surface, and onward to Mars
  • Maintaining the health of astronauts will be a significant challenge to the missions
  • Mars atmosphere is thick enough to sustain windstorms
  • Surface is covered in iron oxide dust
  • International Space Exploration Coordination Group – planning for exploration of Mars
  • Lunar Gateway Spaceport to be built orbiting the Moon – build starts next year
    • Canadarm 3 – using AI, 8.5m long
    • JAXA (Japan), NASA (USA), ESA (Europe)
  • Deep Space Transport – flights from the Lunar Gateway spaceport, ultimately to Mars after test flights
  • 2030s – 2 cargo vehicles assembled in Earth orbit and flown to Mars
    • Mars Ascent Vehicle – lands on Mars
    • Facilities and crew quarters to be built
  • Mars Transfer Vehicle – astronauts travel from Earth orbit to Mars – a 6-month trip
  • Mars Base – crew quarters, nuclear reactor, supplies
  • Pressurized Mars Rover allowing crew to travel up to 100kms at 72,000 kmh
  • Crew will stay on Mars for 500 days
  • Due to the 20 minute communication delay, Mission Control’s role in the mission will be limited
  • Big issues
    • Extreme isolation
    • Medical emergencies – autonomous treatment is the only option, powered by AI, on-board medical lab analysis
    • Exercise facilities will be very small
    • Radiation shielding and a shielded safe area
  • Medical Tricorder – Star Trek – now a reality! Qualcomm Tricorder
  • Environmental monitoring of cabin conditions
  • Crew bio-monitoring – smart shirt
  • Medical technology developed for this mission can be deployed in remote areas of Canada, and even primary care can benefit


  • Radiation limits dictate that astronauts can only go to Mars once
  • Advice to students interested in space missions: physics, math, but skills diversity is important, personality traits (work with diverse community), health and fitness is important. Be persistent – may take 7-8 attempts to be selected as a Canadian astronaut
  • Canadian clinical research and remote health care – could result in a key role in space health – CSA’s Health Beyond Initiative
  • Most physiological effects can be recovered from by astronauts, but can take a year or two. Ionizing radiation is the biggest issue.
  • Spinning the spacecraft to create gravity isn’t going to happen due to engineering limitations
  • Test missions to a Lagrange Point and a nearby asteroid
  • Shielding research – NASA/Johnson and ICRP (upcoming Vancouver meeting)
  • Lunar Gateway – private partners like SpaceX are being used by NASA
  • 2 flights for 2 Canadian missions to the Moon are in place – Artemis 1 and 2
  • Would JWST failure affect the Mars missions? Not really – the missions are separate.

Transcript video of the meeting

  • Edmonton astrophotos – Dave Robinson
    • Time lapse video over 2.5 hours – Arnold Rivera
  • Astrophotos – Dave Payne
    • Pleiades – pleased with the nebulosity
    • Owl Cluster NGC 457 – young star cluster
    • Cave Nebula – reprocessed using Dave’s new PixInsight script
  • Lauri Roche
    • Thanks to Jeff Pivnick for bring Dr. Thirsk to talk to us
    • Sat, Dec 18th – last FDAO Star Party – JWST speakers from the NRC
    • RASC National 2022 calendars have not yet arrived. Still a few available – contact Lauri.
  • Dec 22nd is the JWST scheduled launch update (see 60 Minutes) – Chris Gainor
  • Randy Enkin
    • RASC Victoria Centre 2022 calendar – a limited run, but 4 still available – view the gallery and contact Joe to order ($15 each)
    • Encourage members to talk to us at next week’s Astro Cafe – what interests you about astronomy?
    • Comparison of two comets: NEOWISE (last year) and Leonard (this year)
    • RASC Victoria Centre Council vacancies: 1st VP and Secretary
  • Maker’s SIG meeting online this Thursday – David Lee

The final Astro Café of 2021 will be held on Monday, December 20, 2021. Astro Café will resume on Monday, January 10, 2022.

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