Wednesday, October 1, 2014

MAVEN and MOM
































A maven is a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others. The word maven comes from Hebrew, and means one who understands, based on an accumulation of knowledge.


A mom is a woman who has raised a child, given birth to a child, and/or supplied the egg which in union with a sperm grew into a child. The definition can also be extended to non-human animals and may then also include being the animal that donated a body cell which has resulted in a clone. Because of the complexity and differences of a mother's social, cultural, and religious definitions and roles, it is challenging to specify a universally acceptable definition for the term.


Mom is also an American sitcom that premiered on September 23rd, 2013, on CBS. The series stars Anna Faris and Allison Janney and was created by Chuck Lorre, Eddie Gorodetsky, and Gemma Baker. On March 13, 2014, CBS announced the second season renewal of Mom, which will begin October 30th, 2014, 8:30PM


Picture Legend

1. Example of a maven, Dr. Carl Sagan on the Martian surface with one of the Viking Landers
2. Mom
3. Mom
4. Mars
5. Monolith Monsters
6. South Pole
7. North Pole
8.  Tharsis volcanoes, with Olympus Mons to the northeast, the largest volcano in the Solar System
9. Mauna Kea
10. Carbon Dioxide
11. Ice and water
12. The oceans of Mars
13. Earth’s magnetic field
14. Size comparison of Mercury, Venus, Earth and the Moon, Mars, and Ceres on the far right.
15. The Earth’s core
16. Mars’s core
17. Venue
18. MAVEN
19. MAVEN getting ready for launch
20. Launch
21. Insertion
22. In orbit
23. First pictures from MAVEN
24. First Place, Maven artwork sent to Mars
25. Some of the First Places Artists
26. Opportunity DVD
27.  Mars Orbiter Mission
28. Great Galactic Ghoul
29. First picture from MOM


   Oh, let’s say about 3.7 to 4.1 billion years ago, during what scientists like to call the Noachian period, there was free-flowing water there, which is a big deal because as far as we know life cannot originate, evolve, or live without water (except maybe the Horta silicon rock creatures of Star Trek, the Monolith Monsters (which were probably not technically alive, similar to the Magnetic Monster of 1953. Rather they are examples destructive inert materials, similar to objects that are highly radioactive, with the Monoliths being of extraterrestrial origen) and those moronic aliens from the movie “Signs”), and the more water there is available, the better the chances are that life will form.
   The atmosphere of Mars was denser than it is today, which is about  0.6%  that of Earth’s, and it was much warmer as well. The temperature on Mars now may reach about  68 degrees Fahrenheit at noon, at the equator, in the summer, and can get as cold as -225 degrees Fahrenheit at the poles, much colder than the Earth’s South Pole (which January averages at −15 °F,  to −49 °F around late March, and in the winter (June 1st through August 31st), the average temperature remains steady at around −72 °F. The South Pole is always colder than the North Pole because the South Pole is located at a higher altitude in the middle of a continental land mass, while the North Pole is at sea level in the middle of an ocean (which stores heat)). During the Noachian it may have been warm enough for rain to fall from the sky. However, chemical analysis of Martian meteorite samples suggest that the ambient near-surface temperature on Mars has most likely been below 32 °F for the last four billion years.
  Some say that the Tharsis volcanoes (a huge volcanic plateau centered near the equator in the western hemisphere of Mars, home to the largest volcanoes in the Solar System, including the three enormous shield volcanoes (a type of volcano usually built almost entirely of fluid lava flows. They are named for their large size and low profile, resembling a warrior's shield lying on the ground. Mauna Kea in Hawaii is a shield volcano), Arsia Mons, Pavonis Mons, and Ascraeus Mons, which are collectively known as the Tharsis Montes, had a major (large) impact on the climate of Mars, as past eruptions gave off vast amounts of gases, mainly water vapor (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2). Enough of these gases released by the volcanoes may have made the Martian atmosphere thicker than the Earth’s is now, and released enough H2O to cover the entire surface of the planet to a depth of 390 feet.   
   Maybe.
   Carbon dioxide of course is a greenhouse gas (a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect (a process by which thermal radiation from a planetary surface is absorbed by atmospheric greenhouse gases, and is re-radiated in all directions. Since part of this re-radiation is back towards the surface and the lower atmosphere, it results in an elevation of the average surface temperature above what it would be in the absence of the gases)). The main greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. We need greenhouse gases as they regulate the temperature of our planet. Without them, the Earth's surface would average about 91°F colder. We just don’t want too much of them as that would make the planet too hot. Too hot for what you may ask. Too hot to live the way we have been living in the past, with rising ocean levels due to melting land locked ice sources (glaciers. I have to be specific here as some of our Republican friends in Congress can’t figure out how melting ice can increase the ocean’s volume of water, like Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas. "I mean think about it, if your ice cube melts in your glass, it doesn't overflow, it's displacement. This is the thing, some of the things they're talking about, mathematically and scientifically don't make sense." It's actually pretty simple Steve if you could put on your thinking cap on for a minute. A free floating ice burg, let’s say, like the one that sunk the Titanic, is already in the ocean, and it does displace water, and when and if it melts will not affect the ocean’s total volume or level. However, if you add ice that isn’t already in the ocean, like that off of a melting glacier, that will add to the ocean’s total volume and will increase the ocean’s level when it melts. See, that wasn’t too hard. Let's have Jon Stewart demonstrate), extreme weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, migrating monarch butterflies, desertification, prolific wild fires and drought, invasive pesky species other than butterflies, and a whole host of other nasty things we could do without. Life is hard enough as it is without all of that crap. So Tharsis volcanoes, by giving off CO2 and other greenhouse gases, probably made Mars more Earth-like in the past, with a  much thicker and warmer atmosphere, and oceans and lakes, and streams, and all of those canals that Giovanni Schiaparelli and Percival Lowell saw back at the beginning of the last century.
   Here’s a NASA video of what Mars may have looked like way back when.
   But Mars isn’t the nice, balmy, life friendly place it used to be, that’s for sure.
   There’s still water on Mars. In 2005, radar data revealed the presence of large quantities of it as ice at the planets poles and at it’s mid-latitudes. The rover Spirit found chemical compounds containing water molecules in 2007. The Phoenix lander directly sampled water ice in shallow Martian soil in 2008. But liquid water can’t exist there anymore, at least on the planets surface. If we used the starship Enterprise’s transporter to place a cup of water on the Martian surface today it would instantly freeze or vaporize... the water, not the cup. The cup would be just fine. Water is a liquid at standard temperature and pressure (defined as a temperature of 32°F,  and an absolute pressure of 14.504 pounds per square inch). Mars's atmosphere is so vacuous that liquid water simply can't exist their for very long. What water that exists at the poles as ice sublimates during the warm seasons into gas, or water vapor, without entering a liquid phase. 
   What does all of this mean? People who visit the Red Planet (sometimes called that due to the iron oxide prevalent on the surface which gives it a reddish appearance) in the future need to bring a lot of matches with them so they can melt the ice inside their spaceship, or oodles of Evian Natural Spring Water, none of that mineral water crap. That just makes you more thirsty. 
   And no tea!
   Anyway, why and how did the once wet planet with a dense atmosphere change into the cold, dry, ultraviolet light bathed desert with a thin atmosphere we find today?
   Damn good question!
   Like three of the other terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, and the Earth), Mars probably had a molten core in the first billion or so years following it’s accretion (the growth of a massive object by gravitationally attracting more matter, typically gaseous matter in an accretion disk). The core of Mars now is probably solid. The Earth is protected by the solar wind and cosmic rays (a stream of plasma released from the upper atmosphere of the Sun, which  consists mostly of electrons and protons with energies usually between 1.5 and 10 kiloelectronvolts,  accelerated to a speed of 200 to 1000 kilometers per second, and high-energy charged particles (composed primarily of high-energy protons and atomic nuclei), that come from outside the Solar system) by it’s magnetic field, or magnetosphere, which without we wouldn’t be here as the high energy particles in the solar wind and cosmic rays would otherwise strip away the ozone layer that protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation that would have given early life forms a sunburn they wouldn’t soon forget. Our magnetic field is generated through the motion of a highly conductive fluid found in the core of our planet (magnetic fields surrounding stars like our Sun, and the planet Venus, are generated by other processes). There is a region of iron alloys extending to about 2,112.66 miles (the radius of the Earth is 3,958.134 miles). It is divided into a solid inner core, with a radius of 758.0729 miles, and a liquid outer core. The motion of the liquid in the outer core is driven by heat flow from the inner core, which is 10,340 °F, to the core-mantle boundary, which is about 6,380 °F. The pattern of flow is organized by the rotation of the Earth and the presence of the solid inner core. The mechanism by which the Earth generates a magnetic field is known as a dynamo. The dynamo theory describes the process through which a rotating, convecting, and electrically conducting fluid can maintain a magnetic field over astronomical time scales.
   Isn’t that interesting.
   So, in short, the Earth is protected by ultraviolet light, the solar wind, and cosmic rays by it’s magnetic field which is generated from it’s rotating liquid core interacting with the rotating solid inner core.
   Mars’s liquid inner core became solid about 4 billion years ago, or at about the same time it lost it’s atmosphere and liquid water. When the core became solid it stopped generating a magnetic field. 
   The first event (loss of it’s magnetic field) probably caused the second (loss of atmosphere and liquid water), and the destruction of the dense atmosphere and oceans was not, as once believed, due to the ancient Martians devotion to economic profits, and denial of their industrial processes role in polluting the planet, thereby causing a Martian made runaway greenhouse effect which devastated the biosphere of Mars, a phenomena which unfortunately did transpire on Venus.
   Dumb ass Venusians.
   Or asteroids and comets could have bombarded the Martian surface so heavily that they blew out much of the atmosphere, which would have eliminated the liquid water. We just don’t know for sure because nobody we know was alive back then who could tell us. 
   So lacking an eye witness we must resort to science and robots in our hope to figure it out. Robots like Maven and MOM.
   Why do we care? 
   You may have heard about climate change on our own planet. Some say climate change is a theory not backed up by scientific facts, or that scientists are not in agreement that it actually exists, or is a major problem facing humanity, maybe the most important and dire problem that humanity has ever faced. Or that we don’t need to worry about climate change as it is a natural, cyclical phenomena which we don’t have the power to do anything about. 
   These people, or organizations are usually a front for various interests who would profit from maintaining the status quo, interests usually associated with the fossil fuel industry, and ancillary industries associated with the fossil fuel industry, whose byproduct of functioning is the continuous extraction of greenhouse gases, such as CO2 and methane, from the ground where it has resided for millenia, into the atmosphere where it facilitates global warming.   
   The truth of course is this, 98% of the relevant scientific community (those primarily dealing with climate issues) agree that climate change and global warming is human caused, and directly threatens human activities and existence, and for which we can do something about. 
   This point is brilliantly displayed by the comedian John Oliver, on his weekly HBO program, “Last Week Tonight,” here.
   I’ve always maintained (at least as far back as I’ve been able to maintain anything) that any change in climate, no matter what the cause, affects human activity, most often in a deleterious manner, and needs to be dealt with in a pragmatic fashion, irregardless of the cost. Nothing could be more important.
   And in order to deal with this problem in a pragmatic fashion we need to be very wise, and the more information we have about climate change in general the better off we are dealing with it on our own planet.
   The climate has changed drastically on Venus and Mars, and the more we learn about how that happened, the more we can apply that knowledge to the Earth in an effort to mitigate the effects of a changing and warming climate. 
   So we send robotic spaceships like MAVEN and MOM to see what we can see (spacecraft like the Pioneer Venus Orbiter, Pioneer Venus Multiprobe, and the Soviet Venera and Vega programs have been sent to Venus to study it’s atmosphere, where we discovered Hell. The atmosphere of Venus, composed mostly of carbon dioxide, like Mars, is much denser than Earth’s, and hotter. The temperature at the surface is 872°F, hotter than the hottest oven on Earth (the Venusian surface is hotter than Mercury's, the closest planet to the Sun), and the pressure at 93 bars (a metric unit of pressure, defined by the IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. Even chemists need unions) as exactly equal to 100,000 Pa (the pascal, a unit of pressure, internal pressure, stress, Young's modulus and tensile strength, defined as one newton (derived unit of force) per square meter. I hope this clears up this important matter). One bar is about equal to the atmospheric pressure on Earth at sea level, which means the atmosphere on Venus is 93 times denser than that of Earth’s. The Venusian atmosphere also supports opaque clouds made of sulfuric acid, making it impossible to view the planet’s surface in optical wavelengths. So if you were to be transported to the surface of Venus you would instantly be crushed, roasted, suffocate, and probably oxidized to boot, which believe me, can be very unpleasant). 
   MAVEN, or the  Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN spacecraft (I guess NASA didn’t want to call it MAVE, which is Danish for “stomach,” therefore that capital “N”) is an American orbital probe designed to enter a areocentric orbit around Mars to study how the Martian atmosphere and water, which we coincidently discussed above, were lost over time. 
   MAVEN was built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of California, Berkeley, and NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and launched aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle last year on November 18th from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The orbiter has a cubical shape of about 7.54593 feet × 7.54593 feet × 11.3845 feet high, with two solar arrays that hold the magnetometers on both ends. The total length is 37.40157 feet.
   After a voyage of 308 days and 442 million miles, MAVEN reached Mars and was inserted into an elliptical orbit, 3,900 miles by 93 miles above the planet's surface, a week ago Tuesday, the 22nd of September. It revolves around the planet every 4.5 hours.
   We hope it can determine how much of the Martian atmosphere has been lost over time by measuring the current rate of escape to space of said atmosphere, and gathering enough information about this process to allow extrapolation backward in time. It is carrying a whole bunch of scientific  instruments in order to do this, such as a Solar Wind Ion Analyzer, a Solar Wind Electron Analyzer, a Solar Energetic Particle something, hopefully an analyzer. You’ve also got your standard SupraThermal and Thermal Ion Composition thingamajig, a Langmuir Probe and Waves device, and a n ice Magnetometer, which has something to do with magnetic fields I’m thinking. Oh yeah, it’s also got a Remote Sensing Package, and a  Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, because you never know when you’re going to need your neutral gas and ion mass spectrometered (it will measure the composition and isotopes of neutral gases (like nitrogen and carbon dioxide) and ions (an atom or molecule in which the total number of electrons is not equal to the total number of protons, giving the atom a net positive or negative electrical charge)). 
   Not only that, MAVEN carries an Electra telecommunications package that will allow it to relay data from rovers or landers that are already down there on the Martian surface. That’s pretty cool. 
   What doesn’t it have you may ask. It doesn’t have a Ouija board, I can tell you that.  
   It doesn’t have a camera either.
   What?! You exclaim. The project’s budget was  $671 million dollars, American, and we couldn’t put a Kodak on board, or something. 
   Nope. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter already in orbit around Mars can take plenty of pictures. MAVEN does have an Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS), which acts as the  spacecraft’s “eye’s” and provides global images of the Martian atmosphere (like picture 23 above), and will provide never before seen details about the loss of water from the Martian atmosphere over historical  time. 
   MAVEN’s primary science mission is designed to be one Earth-year long (a Martian year equals 1.88 Earth years). MAVEN carries enough fuel to extend its mission for an additional 29 months, and then another six years when placed in a higher orbit (to conserve fuel).
   After all of the Hydrazine monopropellant (fuel) for the mission is used, MAVEN’s orbit will experience a natural decay and it will enter the Martian atmosphere one last time. The spacecraft will largely burn up upon entry, but some parts of it and its components are expected to survive this frictional heating process and impact the surface of Mars at which point the United States will be guilty of interplanetary littering. 
   The public was invited to submit their names to be sent aboard MAVEN, and thus sent to Mars. Thousands of entries and names are now in Martian orbit. I am sorry to say that I missed this one (my name is on the surface of Mars, in two places, on a microdot attached to the Carl Sagan Memorial Station in the Chryse Planitia region of the Oxia Palus quadrangle, along with 99,999 other members of The Planetary Society, which the Society created with cooperation of the JPL Microdevices Laboratory, and on one of the two landers of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers (I don’t know which one... it really doesn’t matter I guess), again sponsored by the Planetary Society, which provided,  at no cost to NASA, two identical silica glass DVDs containing more than four million names apiece). 
   Not only that, Haiku poems (a very short form of Japanese poetry, usually consisting of 17 “on” or American syllables,  in three phrases of 5, 7 and 5 respectively) were sent as well! A contest which received 12,530 valid entries from May 1st through the contest cutoff date of July 1st, 2013 was held. A total of 39,100 votes were cast in the contest, and all entries receiving more than 2 votes (1,100 in all) are now in Martian orbit, on a DVD affixed to MAVEN.
   Five poems received more than a thousand votes. Among these were such notables as that of one 8th grader from Denver Colorado, who submitted:

   Phobos & Deimos
   Moons orbiting around Mars
   Snared by Gravity

   Another entry which was among the poems sited for special recognition by the MAVEN team was that of Allison Swets of Michigan;

   My body can’t walk
   My mouth can’t make words but I
   Soar to Mars today

   I happen to write Haiku poems. Here’s an example I wrote especially for this post:

   My feet itch in a 
   Terrible manner, and all
   I can do is scratch  

   However I missed this contest as well.
   Not only did we have names and Haikus abroad Maven, we also had artwork. 
   Small adolescent human beings from all over the world submitted 377 entries into the “Going to Mars” student art contest, which ran from May 15th to April 8th, 2013,  and was followed by online public voting to determine the First and Second Place winners. 
   You can see a picture of the first place winner in picture 24 above. It will be included as a digital file on a DVD that is now in Mars orbit.
   Hey, guess what! As a special recognition of the inspiring artwork the contest received, all 377 entries were included as digital files on that DVD, and are now in orbit.
   That makes me happy.
   What else? Oh yes, the Elvish name for NASA MAVEN is Elw√ę Elensar.
   Not to be out done, India’s  Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft (also called Mangalyaan "Mars-craft" ) entered Martian orbit last Wednesday, September 24th, two days after MAVEN. Accordingly, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in town to attend last Saturday’s Global Poverty Concert in Central Park, and to kick it with Beyonce and Jay Z, paid President Obama 62 rupees (one U.S. dollar) for losing the race. “Ha, ha, better luck next time,” Obama was heard saying at a White House dinner for Modi Monday night.
   This is India’s very first interplanetary mission, and India is also the first nation to reach Mars orbit on its first attempt (no stinking Moon for India, oh no, it’s straight to Mars for them), sort of. The first Soviet attempts to send a probe to Mars were the two Mars 1M spacecraft, launched in 1960 which failed to achieve orbit.  Mariner 8, was part of the Mariner Mars 71 project. It was intended to go into Mars orbit in 1971, but a launch vehicle failure prevented the craft from even achieving an Earth orbit and the spacecraft reentered into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after launch. The Mars Express is a Mars exploration mission being conducted by the European Space Agency, which included an orbiter and a lander,  and was the first planetary mission attempted by that agency. It is assumed that the Beagle 2 lander was unsuccessful in it’s attempt to land safely on the Martian surface, but no signal was ever returned from it, and no photographs of it have ever been obtained by orbiters above,  so we don’t actually know what happened to it. The Mars Express Orbiter however, was successful in archiving orbit, and has been operational since Christmas Day of 2003,  for a total of 3934 days, and  has been successfully performing scientific measurements since early 2004, which makes the statement below by India’s Prime Minister a tad difficult to understand.
   “Mars has found MOM today,” Modi said after orbital insertion. “When this mission’s short name became MOM, I was convinced that Mom never disappoints. History has been created today. India is the only country to have succeeded to reach the Red Planet on its first attempt.”
   Well I suppose the ESA is not a nation, now is it? It comprises a joint venture of  20 member states (including Romania, where the vampires live), which hardly seems fair. Anyway, all of us here at Joyce’s Take hardily congratulate India on it’s achievement.
   Way to go India!
   Now you can concentrate on providing equal rights and protections for your nation’s women and girls (as should the U.S. for that matter). 
   Wikipedia tells me that India is also the first Asian nation to achieve a successful Martian mission, let alone orbit. I suppose that is true if you don’t count Russia, which is technically a Eurasian country.
   Failures in missions to Mars are common. As of 2010, of 38 launch attempts to reach it, only 19 have succeeded. Failures are sometimes attributed to the Mars Curse, which refers to the Great Galactic Ghoul that consumes Martian space probes. I don’t know why. It just does.
   MOM is the product of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) with a stated mission  of being a "technology demonstrator" project to “develop the technologies for design, planning, management, and operations of an interplanetary mission, such as the design and realisation of a Mars orbiter with a capability to survive and perform Earth bound manoeuvres, cruise phase of 300 days, Mars orbit insertion/capture, and on-orbit phase around Mars. Deep space communication, navigation, mission planning and management. Incorporate autonomous features to handle contingency situations." It’s scientific goals are the “exploration of Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere by indigenous scientific instruments.”-ISRO
     MOM lifted-off from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Andhra Pradesh, which is in India. MOM spent about a month in geocentric (having or representing the earth as the center), low-Earth orbit, where it made a series of seven altitude-raising orbital manoeuvres before trans-Mars injection on November 30th,  2013.
   MOM brought along five science instruments. I mean, what the hell, you’re at Mars right, might as well study it. You’ve got your Lyman-Alpha Photometer, which can measure the deuterium/hydrogen ratio in the Martian atmosphere, which will allow an estimation of the amount of water loss to outer space. Then you’ve got a Methane Sensor, and a Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer, a Kodak Mars Colour (that’s how they spell “color" in Indian) Camera. And no first mission to Mars would be complete without your basic Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser, which will  analyze the neutral composition of particles in the exosphere (a thin, atmosphere-like volume surrounding a planetary body where molecules are gravitationally bound to that body, but where the density is too low for them to behave as a gas by colliding with each other). 
   In the short time MOM has been in Martian orbit it has captured a beautiful full-disk portrait of the planet, marked by a dust storm as well as a pattern of light and dark that suspiciously looks like India itself (picture 29, above).
   "OMG, India map on Mars!" Saurabh Gupta (Indian person) wrote in a comment about the picture, which was posted to the Indian Space Research Organization's Facebook page on Monday. The picture was taken by the orbiter's Mars Colour Camera from an altitude of more than 46,000 miles. 
   That is a very nice picture, much prettier than MAVEN’s. And MOM only cost India a measly $74 million (dollars, not rupees. The MOM orbiter cost $25 million, and the rest of the budget went to the ground stations and relay upgrades that will be used for other ISRO projects. They achieved these low costs through recycling campaigns, and the absence of haikus).
   Be that as it may, Joyce’s Take again congratulates India and the United States in these efforts (and sincerely desire the two craft don’t run in to each other), and look forward to unlocking the secrets to understanding the Martian atmosphere in the hopes of better understanding our own.  

Addendum: 3-18-15: MAVEN Detects Aurora and Mysterious Dust Cloud around Mars

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