The VSV Symposium about Planetary Exploration

I attended the VSV Symposium about Planetary Exploration (Robotic and manned missions to Mars and Jupiter) on the 4th of March at the TU Delft. I like being at universities. There is a good vibe. Lots of eager young people and lots of research.

The symposium started with Roger Bonnet, former director of Science of ESA and now he is the president of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) and the executive director of the International Space Science Institute. He lectured about Jupiter and his moons and even some Greek mythology were shown on the slides. Ganymede is the most diversified moon with its own magnetic field.
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The next speaker, Dr. Bert Vermeersen, is a JUICE GALA & PRIDE co-investigator and talked about the exciting upcoming JUICE mission of ESA. The launch is foreseen in 2022 and it will arrive 8 years later. You must have a lot of patience in the space business. More information about JUICE may be found here: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/JUICE_is_Europe_s_next_large_science_mission
They have ultra precise trajectory determination of planetary missions from earth with an accuracy of 20m on the moons of Jupiter. That’s very impressive. After arriving at the Jovan system JUICE will experience 2 critical hours to get in the right orbit. Otherwise the mission will be lost. The mission of JUICE will end by crashing on Ganymede. Europa and Ganymede are the 2 most likely candidates of life (more likely than Mars) because of their deep habitats (oceans beneath the ice). There will be 2 fly-bys of Europa and 3 fly-bys of Ganymede. If you have to put a lander on Europa where to land: near (if any) tiger stripes because life would be likely there. foto 5

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André Kuipers showed a lot of photos of his mission (also of his preparation) and made the connection with future Mars missions. There’s a lot to be considered for such missions. A person with 2 right hands would be the most suitable for a Mars mission because you have no backup and you must fix everything by yourself and with the materials you have taken with you. He was the medical officer on his flight. He had to use his stethoscope only once on a hatch because it wouldn’t open. After landing in Kazakhstan you get a visum because you entered the country ilegally. The analog missions like Concordia and Mars500 are very important for future long duration missions. foto 8

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Prof. Jean-Pierre Bibring of the University of Paris and L’Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale talked about the most interesting areas on Mars. The red rusty color of Mars is caused by a thin layer which isn’t formed by the interaction of water. There must have been another catalyst. The northern plains have less craters and that’s where we can find the oldest materials. Studying Mars helps in understanding Earths early life. Before the large heavy bombardment water existed on Earth and Mars. What drives the evolution of planets and moons in our solar system? Unexpected diversity exists. The shape and size of the inner rocky planets is the result of the migration of Jupiter and Saturn. They migrated towards the sun and migrated after a couple of million years outwards (again). If they had different mass ratios we wouldn’t have been here.

Richard Cook is a really famous guy. He is Deputy Program Director of Curiosity at NASA JPL. His lecture was completely about Curiosity, the mission and its findings. Even the planning for the next months. The mission is almost 2 years underway, but will hopefully funtion a couple of more years. It still has to explore the layers on the foot of Mount Sharp. The wheels show already quit large holes, but they have maneuvred the rover to terrain with less rocks. The holes aren’t causing any problems at this moment, but they mustn’t get any larger. Cook: Fail frequently on Earth (with a small f) rather than on Mars. 9 years of effort resulted in 7 minutes of terror. The video with the landing of Curiosity (the 7 minutes of terror) generated goosebumps with a lot of people and a great applause.foto 11

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Prof. Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Chair of Executive Board of DLR and Chair of the ESA Council, focused on the joint international space agency goals for future human space exploration. I didn’t know he was such a witty man. He showed some funny commercials which showed space topics (the bar on Mars) or astronauts. His opinion on Mars One was very clear; absolutely a big NO because of the health and ethical issues. He expects we won’t land on the Mars in the next 30 years. The focus now is on LEO (after the ISS there should be a new permanent access to LEO) and maybe the moon. Spacetourism has a future but not one way. Politics is very important because you have to justify new space investments.

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