Welcome to this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief… recent tests being carried out by NASA are paving the way for the historic first rocket launch from another planet. In our analysis this week, we’ll be looking at 1) how NASA plans to launch a rocket from the surface of Mars, 2) an update on the ambitious Mars Sample Return program that will facilitate the launch, 3) the program’s one-of-a-kind ascent vehicle, and 4) how current tests with a pair of rockets at a Northrup Grumman facility are already showcasing the promise of NASA’s sample return mission.
Quote of the Week
“I’m never going to go to Mars, but I’ve helped inspire, thank goodness, the people who built the rockets and sent our photographic equipment off to Mars.”
– Ray Bradbury
Latest News: This week in reporting from The Debrief, new readings and an evaluation of previous readings have confirmed potential biosignature phosphine in the clouds of Venus. Also, Tim McMillan and I look at how the Pentagon’s chief scientist involved in the investigation of unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP) fired back at assertions made during a Congressional hearing last week that his Office was not being fully transparent with its findings. You can find links to all our latest stories at the end of this newsletter.
And now, it’s time to take a look at NASA’s plans for what will become the first rocket launch to take flight from another planet.
Blastoff: The Martian Chronicles
Although once a reality only in science fiction by the likes of Ray Bradbury, the real-life launch of a rocket from the Red Planet is closer than ever to becoming a reality now, thanks to recent tests NASA conducted with a pair of solid motors that, in the coming years, will help them launch the first rocket into space from the surface of Mars.
The tests were conducted in support of the Mars Sample Return program, involving NASA’s Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) that will be used to carry samples collected from the surface of the Red Planet back to Earth for study and evaluation.
Utilizing two solid rocket motors that will serve as the first and second stage rockets for the launch, recent tests carried out at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Elkton, Maryland, were a smashing success, paving the way forward for what the American space agency hopes will represent far more than just the first rocket launch from one of Earth’s planetary neighbors: it will demonstrate the first human retrieval of samples from another planet in our solar system.
The Mars Sample Return Program
Now many years in the making, NASA’s ambitious Mars Sample Return program will bring samples collected on Mars back to Earth, allowing these scientifically curated specimens to undergo rigorous study that would not be possible even with the most capable instruments aboard the Perseverance rover.
In partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), the program will retrieve the samples Perseverance has collected during its exploration of Jezero Crater over the last several years since its arrival at the end of July 2020.
“The samples currently being collected by NASA’s Perseverance Rover during its exploration of an ancient river delta have the potential to reveal the early evolution of Mars,” read a recent press release issued by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, California, “including the potential for ancient life.”
A One-of-a-Kind Ascent Vehicle
The Mars Ascent Vehicle, or MAV, plays a crucial role in the mission to bring the samples Perseverance has collected back to Earth.
The MAV spacecraft component of the mission has been managed out of Huntsville, Alabama at NASA’s famous Marshall Space Flight Center, where tests and analysis of all the spacecraft’s components have been rigorously undertaken in preparation for its launch in June 2028.
Once the spacecraft is sent on its way toward Mars, it will travel for a period of two years before landing an spending an additional year retrieving the samples collected by Perseverance. If all goes according to plan, at some point in the early 2030s, the MAV will blast off again, beginning the final stretch of its mission to bring a unique collection of promising scientific samples home from the Red Planet.
Once in orbit, the MAV will then eject a sample container from its location in orbit around Mars, which will rendezvous with the Earth Return Orbiter and retrieve the Martian samples for Earth delivery.
The two solid rocket motors recently tested at Northrup Grumman’s Maryland facility, the SRM1 and SRM2, will each perform slightly different missions.
SRM1 will carry the MAV away from Mars, while the SRM2 component will work to ensure that MAV’s second stage travels where it needs to in order to ensure the precious sample container it carries will find its way to the correct location in orbit, thereby allowing its discovery by the Earth Return Orbiter.
According to a JPL statement issued earlier this week, the successful tests of the SRM1 occurred in a vacuum temperature in extremely cold temperatures and featured specially designed apparatus designed by Northrup Grumman involving a trapped ball nozzle with a supersonic split line to help facilitate the extreme testing environment.
MAV Propulsion Manager Benjamin Davis said the recent test “demonstrates our nation has the capacity to develop a launch vehicle that can successfully be lightweight enough to get to Mars and robust enough to put a set of samples into orbit to bring back to Earth.”
“The hardware is telling us that our technology is ready to proceed with development,” Davis added.
The Pentagon’s chief scientist involved in the investigation of unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP) fired back at assertions made during a Congressional hearing this week that his Office was not being fully transparent with its findings.
On today’s episode, we discuss whether solar panels will be replaced by “rain panels,” a new idea for a form of archaeology for all the artifacts left in space by humans, and a deep dive into the congressional hearing on UFOs. You can listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, by riding some gravity waves, or simply download it wherever you get your podcasts. Please make sure to click ‘Subscribe’ and Rate and Review the podcast. Every Friday, join […]