We were fortunate to have a unique diversion this week, as we were paid a visit by James & Carol Mulberry of the United Space Alliance, formed as a joint venture between Rockwell / Lockheed Martin in response to NASA's desire to consolidate many Shuttle program contracts to one prime contractor. The Mulberrys, married since 1969, worked at both the Kennedy and Johnson Space Centers, on many government projects for mission payload safety, and even the design and construction of equipment for the launchpads.
Jim & Carol presented a slide show about the features of planet Mars, and some of the practical challenges we face in reaching the fourth planet, such as trip duration, fuel, habitat, radiation, effects of long-term weightlessness (I'm helping with that one!), and long-range communications. Interestingly, James was a test subject in 1967 for an early bedrest study, conducted by the Air Force for anticipated changes in astronauts' heart health. Of course, protocols have changed since military research programs of the 60s, but we were intrigued to find many similarities.
SWAG ALERT! Upon closing, they also gave us NASA logo stickers and pencils, official promotional portraits of the STS-124 Space Shuttle crew, the Phoenix Mars Lander, the International Space Station, and a great poster of the next generation launch rocket, Project Constellation's Ares V.
"Ares" was the Greek God of War, which the ancient Romans translated as "Mars." Yeah, same guy. So while this booster was designed to get us back to the moon around 2018, you can see where NASA minds are focused. In this next generation, it is ALL ABOUT the red planet, baby.