Beam Me to Mars Registration Ends Soon

Beam you name to the Red Planet!  Mars Orbiter Mission image, courtesy Indian Space Research Organization.

Beam your message to the Red Planet!
Mars Orbiter Mission image, courtesy Indian Space Research Organization.

There’s a cool fundraiser going on over at called “Beam Me to Mars”.  It celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first mission to Mars (launched November 28th, 1964). On that date, Mariner 4 launched and eventually was the first mission to successfully get to the Red Planet and send back images.

How can you join in? Simply by paying a few bucks and sending your own personalized message to the Red Planet (and also to the United Nations, Congress, and NASA). It’s a great tribute to the mission (as well as to the 50 years of cool Mars exploration we on Earth have undertaken and witnessed) and a good part of the money you pay goes for a good cause: science research and education.

How much will it cost you? Anywhere from $5.00 (USD) to $100.00 per message. Let’s put it this way: if you go out for a coffee every day, it’ll cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of a price of one grande frappucino with an extra shot. Or two of them, if you want to send a longer message. Or  four, for an even longer message. Or, if you’re a big spender, the equivalent cost of a dinner for two at a romantic place will let you send a nice long message, an image, or a sound file.

Better yet: buy your friend a message, too, deliver it with a lovely coffee (or that romantic dinner!), and you both win. Plus, science wins, education wins, and you get your message sent to Mars.

It’s up to you, and it’s all for a good cause.

Now, the sticking point here is that registration ends soon. There are nearly 81,000 names and messages that have to be prepared for the giant light-speed leap to Mars that will take place on November 24, 2014. In order for the Uwingu folks and their partner at Universal Space Network get all the prep done, you need to get your name, message, picture, or sound file (depending on what you choose), uploaded by the midnight Pacific Time on the 5th of November, 2014. That’s a week from today (Wednesday, October 29th).

So, check it out. Join me and other folks such as actors and space exploration supporters Seth Green, Clare Grant, George Takei, astronaut Chris Hadfield, Planetary Science CEO Bill Nye, author Dava Sobel, former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, scientist Maria Zuber and many others who think highly of the project and have included their messages.

While you’re at the Uwingu page, learn more about their unique mission of outreach and education in science. They are a great group of people and they’ve already helped scientists and educators (and students) do and learn more and better science!

Orbital Sciences Mission Explodes 6 Seconds Into Launch

No doubt you’ve seen the video below, showing the Orbital Sciences Corporation Cygnus cargo spacecraft expl0ding shortly after liftoff.

This is an unfortunate catastrophe for Orbital Sciences, but also for the many people (including a number of students) who had experiments and other instruments aboard. NASA, the FAA, and Orbital Sciences, in conjunction with the National Transportation Safety Board, are investigating the problem. As of right now, from the press conference held after the accident, there are NO definitive answers about why this happened. There are teams already studying the data, and will be on the site in the morning. In addition, NASA and OSC are asking people who find remains of this rocket to please NOT touch them, and to report them to the launch team.

Let me say one thing again: there are NO definitive answers. Yet.

There WILL be answers, and they will serve to make the next flight safer. There is already a great deal of speculation online by many armchair enthusiasts and too few experts about what happened. That, too, is normal, but hardly helpful. Especially since most (if not all) of the speculation is by people who aren’t onsite, or on the teams. Bear that in mind if you start hearing or seeing weird stuff about this launch. It’s likely not true.

The name of this article is from a quote by Gus Grissom about the dangers of space flight. It’s never been truer than today:  accidents happen. They are studied. And, space agencies and companies learn from them and move on.

Give the investigation some time, and pay attention when Orbital Sciences and NASA give information about this mishap. They are best places to find out what happened and the press conferences will be a good first step in finding out how this happened.  Not from loony-toon conspiracy theorists (and yes, they’re oozing out from under the rocks and bridges of insanity, coming up with all kinds of fantastical ranting).