I'm going back to Mars! Or at least a close approximation of it. This time, instead of the Canadian arctic, I'll be headed to the Utah desert.

There must be truth in advertising because this blog's title says it all. I was just asked to command the 89th crew to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah from January 24 through February 7 next year. To get a flavor for the simulated Mars habitat and its surroundings, you can view some recent photos of MDRS taken by Popular Science or read their conversation with Robert Zubrin about how to live in Mars.

Today is a big day for the space exploration community. The Augustine Commission has released its full report, which substantiates their positions made in the summary report last month. I haven't read the report yet, but reviews are already popping up all over the blogosphere. Universe Today and SpaceRef provide great overviews. Space Politics and Space Policy Online collected some of the initial reactions from members of Congress. New Scientist took an interesting approach by numerically ranking the five alternatives presented by the Commission. Now, the Obama administration must consider the alternatives and choose the future path of America's human space exploration program. Wired offered some encouraging insight into the Obama administration's likely support, but his decision might not come until February. Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin wrote a particularly moving plea to the President to think big and select the Flexible Path Option. Aldrin recently also advocated an international public-private partnership for developing the Moon.

Most astronauts have transformative experiences while viewing the Earth as a fragile oasis in space. NASA's famous 1972 Apollo 17 photo of the entire Earth helped bring a part of that experience to everyday citizens and in the process sparked the modern environmental movement. A more recent photo of the Earth and Moon as seen from Mars further emphasizes just how isolated the Earth is compared to the larger universe:

Today, I join over 13,000 other bloggers around the world in observing Blog Action Day as part of Earth Science Week. The purpose of Blog Action Day is to generate discussion about climate change, which is the single biggest threat to life on Earth. Although I could stress the doom and gloom scenarios of what could happen if we continue on a business as usual path, this post will take a more optimistic view. Public favor and political will towards sustainable living are on the rise, and I believe we are poised on the precipice of a new age characterized by a more enlightened and responsible relationship with our home planet.

Today was a good day because I got to meet an astronaut. Dr. Yvonne Cagle spoke to kids at the ʻEwa Beach Children's Fun Day held at Holomua Elementary School. Dr. Cagle is currently assigned to NASA’s Ames Research Center, where she serves as Program Manager for the Commercial Suborbital Research Program and strategic liaison to Silicon Valley partners. Here is a photo of her and me:

NASA's new crop of astronauts has been affectionately nicknamed the "Chumps" by the previous 2004 astronaut class. This continues a long-standing tradition whereby the previous class of astronauts nicknames the new astronaut candidates, collectSPACE reports.


Today is October 4. On this date back in 1957, the world changed when the USSR launched Sputnik 1 into orbit. History was made again on October 4, 2004 when SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE by being the first private spacecraft to reach suborbital space twice in the span of a week. I was there in St. Louis in 2004 as Burt Rutan received the award, and it made an indelible impression upon me. Below is a photo of me with Rutan as well as autographs I collected from him and other members of the Mojave Aerospace Ventures team who built the spacecraft.


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