A Little Mars Society/Robotics Update

Occasionally, I bump into people who are both interesting and who are interested some of the stuff I’ve described in conversation.  So some of these posts are basically for an audience of one in inspiration, but are probably of enough interest that anyone else who likes this site would enjoy them as well.  So anyway, Mike from the fly in breakfast this morning – this is for you.

I’m the Steering Committee Chair of The Mars Society. Our convention is coming up in Pasadena this August.  My abstracts for this coming year will involve reverse engineering how SpaceX does so much R&D so fast, and why Elon Musk is so “bad” at making predictions about when his rockets will be ready for launch.  The other talk is more of a handbook for preserving science while settling Mars and other places that may have native life, essentially by putting up a “dingo fence” at the microbial level between what humans do and what anything local may do.

You will soon be able to visit Mars Desert Research Station in VR if you have the headset, as well as explore roughly a square mile around the habitat.  You can do something similar right now with 360 views of the various facilities that are online for free just using your web browser.

The Mars Society runs an annual event called The University Rover Challenge.  Teams from universities all over the world compete with robots they have built to do various tasks in the Utah desert around MDRS. These competitors have gone from simple remote control carts to elaborate rovers worthy of any space agency.  Interestingly, Poland’s universities have a tendency to win this thing regularly.

Above is my “Hero shot” from my first trip to MDRS, over 14 years ago now.  Those are the first generation, custom made suits we had that were designed to be like the Apollo moon suits.  Yes, it really looks that much like Mars out there.  The geology is analogous as well, which is why we do so much Mars research out there for not only NASA, but many universities and other organizations.

SpaceX Starlink Update

The future fleet of over a thousand satellites seems to be on track.  The two prototype satellites in orbit are functioning very well. The satellites, named TinTin A and B, are able to communicate at high bandwidth with a latency of 25 ms.  That’s fast enough for online video games.

The satellite division has 4500 employees in itself.  They are building their own ground stations as well.

They are planning a tenfold decrease in the cost of satellites as part of this effort.  Furthermore, these satellites are ten times faster than conventional geostationary or mid-level satellite solutions.  So the net effect is a thousand-fold increase in capability for a given price.