High school jr. astronauts will be learning how to play chess.

The Barboza Space Center is training Jr. astronauts, scientists and engineering in the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures Program to play chess.  This will help to keep our minds sharp on the long eight month journey to Mars.    www.BarbozaSpaceCemter.Com

How to Play Chess

Five Parts:Understanding the Board and PiecesKnowing How to WinPlaying the GameUtilizing StrategyKnowing the Special MovesCommunity Q&A

Chess is a very popular game, thought to have originated in eastern Asia many centuries ago. Although it has a set of easily comprehended rules, it requires a lot of practice in order to defeat a skilled opponent. To win, a player must use his or her pieces to create a situation where the opponent’s king is unable to avoid capture. This article offers a beginner the information he or she needs to get started playing this complex but fascinating game.

Chess Help

Chess Rule Sheet
Chessboard Diagram

Part 1

Understanding the Board and Pieces

A chessboard consists of 64 square spaces in an 8×8 grid. Each space is uniquely identified by a letter-number combination denoting first the file (vertical column “a” through “h”) of the square and then its rank (horizontal row 1 through 8). Each piece has a specific name, an abbreviation (in chess notation), and specific move capabilities. Here, we’ll explore the board, then each piece one by one. If you already know the basics, skip to the next section.

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    Position the board correctly. The orientation of the board is important for proper play. When positioned properly, each player will have a dark square (typically black) in the lower left corner.
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    Place the rooks on the corners of the board. The rook is also known as the castle. It is abbreviated as “R” in notation and starts on a1, h1, a8, and h8. Those are the corners as denoted in the rank and file system.

    • How do they move? Rooks may move any number of vacant squares vertically or horizontally. If an opponent’s piece blocks the path, that piece may be captured by moving the rook to (but not beyond) the occupied square and removing the opponent’s piece.
    • Rooks cannot jump over pieces of either color. If one of your other pieces blocks your rook’s path, your rook must stop before reaching that square.
    • Castling is a special move involving rooks detailed below.
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    Place your knights next to your rooks. This is the “horse” piece. In notation, it’s referred to as “N” (or “Kt” in older texts). The knights start on b1, g1, b8, and g8.

    • How do they move? Knights are the only pieces that can jump over other pieces and thus are the only pieces that cannot be blocked. They move in an L-shaped pattern — that is, two squares horizontally or vertically and then one square perpendicular to that (in other words, two spaces horizontally and one space vertically or one space horizontally and two spaces vertically).
    • A knight captures a piece only when it lands on that piece’s square. In other words, the knight can “jump” over other pieces (of either color) and capture a piece where it lands.
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    Place the bishops next to the knights. In notation bishops are referred to as “B.” They start on c1, f1, c8, and f8.

    • How do they move? Bishops may move any number of vacant squares in any diagonal direction. Like rooks, they may capture an opponent’s piece within its path by stopping on that piece’s square.
    • The bishop proceeds, lands, and captures diagonally and remains throughout the game on the same color squares on which it begins the game. Thus, each player has a white-square bishop and a dark-square bishop.
    • As with rooks, if another of your pieces blocks your bishop’s path, the bishop must stop before reaching the occupied square. If the blocking piece belongs to your opponent, you may stop on (but not jump over) that square and capture the occupying piece.
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    Place the queen near the center of the first rank on her color. The positions for black and white are mirrored. If you’re playing white, your queen will be on the fourth file (counting from the left). If you’re playing black, she’ll be on the fifth file from your left. In notation this is d1 (a white square for the white queen) and d8 (a dark square for the black queen). (Note that the two queens start on the same file, as do the two kings.)

    • How do they move? The queen is the most powerful piece on the board. She can be thought of as the rook and bishop combined. The queen can move any number of vacant squares horizontally, vertically or diagonally.
    • Attacking with a queen is the same as with rooks and bishops. That is, she captures an opponent’s piece that lies within her path by moving to that piece’s square.
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    Place the kings in the last empty squares in the first and eighth ranks. The king is notated as “K” and starts on e1 and e8.

    • How do they move? The king can move one space at a time vertically, horizontally or diagonally. The king is not used as an attacking piece (except perhaps at the very end of the game) because, since he’s so valuable, you want to keep him protected and out of harm’s way. Nonetheless, he is capable of attacking any of the opposing pieces except the king and queen, to which he cannot get close enough to capture.
    • Kings are not offensive pieces. Your king is the piece you most want to protect, because if you lose him, you lose the game.
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    Place your pawns in the rank in front of your other pieces. Pawns are not notated with a letter. They begin the game forming a shield for your other pieces.

    • How do they move? Usually pawns move forward (never backward) one square. However, the first time it moves, a pawn may move forward either one or two squares. In all subsequent moves, a pawn is limited to moving one square at a time.
    • If an opponent’s piece is directly in front of it, a pawn may not move forward and may not capture that piece.
    • A pawn may attack an opponent’s piece only if the piece is one square diagonallyforward from the pawn (i.e. up one square and one square to the right or left).
    • There is another move a pawn may make under very specific circumstances. The move is called en passant (“in passing”). (See below).
    • Pawn promotion, detailed below, occurs when your pawn has marched all the way across the board to the eighth (your opponent’s first) rank.
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    Learn the rank and file system. This is not required, but it makes it easier to visualize moves and talk about moves, especially in chess literature and on websites. Also, when your opponent wasn’t paying attention and says, “Where did you go?”, you can respond with “Rook to a4 (Ra4).” Here’s how it works:

    • The files are the columns going up and down, pointing at you and your opponent. From left to right as white views it, they are files “a” through “h.”
    • The ranks are the horizontal rows from the players’ perspective. From bottom to top as white views it, they are ranks 1 through 8. All of white’s main pieces start at the 1 position (first rank); black’s main pieces start at the 8 position (eighth rank).
    • It is an excellent learning habit to notate your games, listing each move you and your opponent make, writing down the piece and the square to which it moves (using the piece and square notations already mentioned).

Part 2

Knowing How to Win

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    Understand the object of the game and how it’s achieved. To win, you need to checkmate your opponent’s king. This means forcing the opposing king into a position where he will be captured no matter what, so that he cannot move and no other piece can protect him. Checkmate (the end of the game) can occur in as few as three moves, but it’s more likely that a game will last for dozens, even hundreds, of moves. A typical game requires a lot of patience.

    • A secondary goal is to capture as many of your opponent’s pieces as possible, thus making checkmate easier. You capture pieces by landing on the squares they occupy.
    • While attacking the opposing pieces, you must simultaneously protect your own king so he doesn’t get captured.
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    Know how to put your opponent’s king in “check.” That means threatening to checkmate the king on your very next move if your opponent doesn’t do something immediately to protect him.

    • When you place your opponent in check, as a courtesy you should say “check” out loud Your opponent must then, if possible, do one of the following:
      • Avoid checkmate by moving their king to any vacant square not attacked by one of your pieces.
      • Block the check by placing a piece between your piece and their king.
      • Capture your piece that has placed their king in check.
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    Remember that you are not allowed to put yourself in check. You cannot make a move that exposes your king to capture in the opponent’s next move. This means you cannot move your king onto a square to which an opponent’s piece could move in their the next move. It also means you cannot unblock your king from attack (that is, expose your king to direct attack by moving an interposing piece).

Part 3

Playing the Game

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    Set up the chess board. Use the positions described in the first section. If you don’t have a board, you can make your own.
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    Start the game. The player with the white pieces begins the game by moving one piece as described above. Then it’s black’s turn to move, and the players take turns moving for the rest of the game.

    • Choose who plays white by a coin flip, or the stronger player may let the weaker player take white. In an evenly matched game, white has a slight advantage by moving first. [1]
    • If two players engage in a series of games, they can alternate colors from game to game, or they could agree that the previous loser could take white.
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    Capture an opponent’s piece by moving one of your pieces into a square occupied by that piece. The captured piece is then permanently removed from the game.

    • In formal tournament play there is often a rule stating that a player may not touch a piece unless s/he intends to move it and in fact, must move it if s/he touches it. If s/he wants only to adjust the piece, s/he must say “adjust” before touching it. [2]
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    Continue to play with each player moving one piece per turn until the game ends. Making a move is compulsory; it is not legal to “pass”, even when having to move is detrimental. Play continues until a king is checkmated or a draw occurs. Draws can occur in five ways:[2]

    • Stalemate: a king is the only piece left of his color, is not in check, but cannot move without placing himself in check (which is not legal).
    • Insufficient material: the pieces left on the board cannot force a checkmate on either side so that neither player can win.
    • Threefold repetition: The position of all pieces on the board has been repeated three times, such as players moving pieces back and forth.
    • Fifty-move rule: at least fifty moves for each player have occurred since the last time any piece was captured or any pawn was moved.
    • Agreement: both players simply agree to a draw.
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    End the game with a checkmate. Any game not ending in stalemate or a draw will end in checkmate, where either your king or your opponent’s king cannot avoid capture. Whoever accomplishes checkmate announces “checkmate!” out loud to make sure both players are aware the game is over. Here’s more about “check” and “checkmate”:

    • Do one of the following to get out of check (where your king is threatened with capture, but you have a way to escape):
      • Capture the piece threatening your king. You can do this with one of your other pieces or (if the opponent’s piece is not protected) with your king.
      • Move your king from the square being attacked.
      • Use one of your pieces to block the piece threatening your king.
    • If you cannot get your king out of check in your next move, it’s “checkmate,” and your opponent wins. If their king is checkmated, you win.

Part 4

Utilizing Strategy

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    Know the relative offensive-strength value of each piece:

    • Pawn – 1 point
    • Knight – 3 points
    • Bishop – 3.5 points
    • Rook – 5 points
    • Queen – 9 points
    • The king has no offensive value because it is normally not used as an offensive weapon except in the last stage of a game.
    • When assessing the relative strength of the two sides during a game, compare the total point value of all the captured pieces. This will show who has the current disadvantage and by how much.
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    Understand the individual strengths of each piece and their best positioning.Generally, pieces are strongest near the center of the board. Specifically, the queen and bishops can control longer diagonals from the center, knights lose some of their range of movement if situated near an edge, and pawns are more dangerous the farther they advance.

    • Pawns are stronger when together, such as in chains (diagonal lines in which each pawn protects another). Try not to break this formation unless there is a clear, overriding advantage to be had by doing so.
    • Knights are weakest near the edge of the board.
      • The maximum number of spaces a knight can control is eight. If a knight is on the edge of the board, the number of squares it can jump to is cut in half. Likewise, if a knight is one row from the edge, it controls only six spaces.
      • You may not miss the power of the knight right away, but if you move a knight near the edge of the board, you will often find yourself wasting a move to reposition it closer to the action near the center of the board.
    • Bishops are strongest on or near the long (“major”) diagonals where they command the most squares.
      • Realize that the bishop’s power can be diminished if the opponent places a protected piece along a diagonal controlled by your bishop. On the other hand, that piece is pinned in that position if the piece it is protecting is of high value.
    • Rooks are very powerful in open files. Position rooks on files that contain none of your pawns. Rooks are also powerful when controlling the seventh rank for white (second rank for black), but only if the opposing king is on its starting rank.
    • Queens have the most power when commanding the center of the board. On the other hand, they are in the most danger there as well. It is often a good strategy to keep the queen one move away from this position and to avoid blocking your queen’s movement with your own pieces.
    • Kings should always be protected. They are best shielded by lower-value pieces.
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    Aim to control the center of the board. As deduced from the optimal piece positionings detailed above, pieces near the center of the board are at their most powerful. Usually, the game is a fight for control of the center and, when you’re in the center, your opponent has far fewer “good” places to choose from. You have the power that can expand in all directions, while your opponent is relegated to the side, putting him/her on the defensive.

    • Pawns can help with this. While your more powerful pieces are attacking, a pawn or two can maintain control in the center.
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    Have a strong opening. A weak opening automatically puts you at a disadvantage for the rest of the game. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    • Usually you’ll be best off opening with the d or e pawn. That opens up the center of the board.
    • Make only a couple of pawn moves at the start. You want to get your more powerful pieces into play as soon as possible.
    • Get your knights out and then your bishops. Knights’ range is limited. It often takes several hops to get them into the fray. (Bishops, rooks, and queens can swoop the entire length of the board, whereas the lowly pawn must trudge space by space.) Sometimes it is less obvious what effect moving a knight might have, so their attack is often stealthiest.
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    Use all of your pieces. If your rook is sitting back in the corner, you are wasting powerful ammo. The beauty of chess is that no one piece can win the game. You need a team of pieces to bombard your opponent’s king.

    • This is especially important if your opponent is skilled. It’s fairly easy to thwart one attacking piece; it’s possible to fend off two; but a skilled opponent will mount a three-pronged attack if you don’t keep him/her busy with your own attack.
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    Protect your king. It’s important to capture pieces and to attack the opponent’s king, but if your king is unprotected, you’ll be checkmated, the game will be over, and that offense you were running will be entirely useless.

    • Chess is challenging because you have to think about half a dozen things at once. You have to protect your king while planning moves for your other pieces. You have to understand what your opponent is doing while anticipating all of his/her possible next moves. It can be a daunting task, but with plenty of practice, you’ll find it easier to do all of these things at once.
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    Think several moves ahead. When your opponent makes a move, there’s a reason why. They’re setting something up, eyeing a potential attack. What’s happening? What are they aiming for? Try your best to anticipate and circumnavigate their actions and thwart their plan.

    • The same goes for you. Maybe you can’t capture a pawn on your next move, but what can you do to set yourself up for subsequent moves? This isn’t your usual board game. Every move you make now affects the moves you make in the future.
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    Never give up pieces needlessly. When your opponent makes a move but doesn’t take one of your pieces, take a second to scan the board. Are they in a position to take one of your pieces? If so, don’t allow it! Move that piece out of the way, or threaten another of your opponent’s pieces. Even better, capture that threatening piece yourself. Never just let a piece go.

    • It’s OK to give up a piece if it’s bait to draw your opponent to a specific area of the board where you’re planning to trap an even more valuable piece.
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    Try for a speedy checkmate. Did you know you can checkmate your opponent in as little as two moves? There are very specific instructions for a win in two, three, and four moves. If you’re curious, here are some wikiHow articles to read:

Part 5

Knowing the Special Moves

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    Use the “en passant” rule for pawns. En passant (from French: “in [the pawn’s] passing”) is a special capture made by a pawn. It’s permitted immediately after a player moves a pawn two squares forward from its starting position, and if an opposing pawn could have captured it if it had only moved only one square forward. In this situation, the opposing pawn may on the very next move capture the pawn as if taking it “as it passes” through the first square.

    • The resulting position would then be the same as if the pawn had only moved one square forward and the opposing pawn had captured it normally. En passant must be done on the very next move, or the right to do so is lost.
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    Promote your pawns. If a pawn reaches the far side of the board (eighth rank for white, first rank for black), it can be promoted to any other piece (except a king). The piece to which the pawn is promoted does not have to be a previously captured piece; it can be any piece. Usually, a player promotes a pawn to a queen. Thus a player could wind up with two (or more) queens, three (or more) rooks, etc. This is a very powerful offensive move.

    • To indicate pawn promotion in chess notation, write the square where the pawn is promoted (e.g., c8). Then write an equals sign (e.g., c8=) and then the symbol for the piece to which the pawn is promoted (e.g., c8=Q).
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    Use castling as a means to protect your king. This is used to get your king out of the middle of its rank where it is most vulnerable. To castle, move your king two squares toward either rook, then move that rook to the square immediately on the other side of the king. You can castle only if:

    • There are no pieces between the king and that rook.
    • The king at that point is not in check and does not have to pass through or to a square in which he would be in check.
    • Neither the king nor that rook has made any moves yet in the game.

Community Q&A

  • What if the opponent doesn’t move the way I wish?
    wikiHow Contributor
    You need a strong defense and to be prepared for almost anything. One of the main strategies of chess is forcing your opponent into a situation where, no matter what he or she does, you are given an advantage, such as capturing a piece or securing a better position.
  • Can the pawn move forward two spaces only once?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Yes. Your pawns may each move either one or two spaces forward on their first move. In all subsequent moves, each may move only one space.
  • Can the rook and king move together?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Under certain conditions, yes. It is known as castling and is very useful. It was one of the few changes made in the last millennium.
  • What are promoted pawns?
    These are pawns that have reached their eighth row (the opponent’s first row) and have been converted to some other piece such as a queen.
  • Can a horse come back to its previous place?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Yes, it can.
  • What will happen if in the end only both kings are left?
    wikiHow Contributor
    This is called a stalemate, which is a draw or tie, because neither player can capture the other’s king. The game ends as soon as such a situation occurs.
  • What are the moves of the bishop?
    wikiHow Contributor
    A bishop moves diagonally in any direction and as many open squares as it wants. It must stop before coming to a square occupied by a piece of its own color. It can stop on a square occupied by an opponent’s piece (thereby capturing that piece).
  • Can you ever capture the king and take it off the board?
    wikiHow Contributor
    No. The king remains on the board until the very end of the game. If your king can be captured on your opponent’s next move, you are in check and must get out of check immediately. You can do so by moving your king to a safe spot, by putting one of your own pieces between your king and the attacking piece, or by capturing the attacking piece. If you are in check and cannot immediately get out of check in one move, you are in checkmate, and the game is over (without your opponent’s actually having to remove your king).
  • Can any chess pieces move backwards?
    wikiHow Contributor
    All pieces except pawns can move backwards in directions permitted for the piece in question (e.g. rooks can move straight backwards, bishops can go backwards diagonally, etc.). Promoted pawns can move backwards in the same manner as the piece they’ve become.
  • Can the king move without check?
    wikiHow Contributor
    A king can move anytime except if a move would put himself into check. A king becomes more powerful toward the end of the game and can help checkmate the other king.

Show more answers

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Quick Summary

In chess, you want to capture the opponent’s king while protecting yours, which you can do by moving your pieces across the board and eliminating their pieces. Remember how each piece moves: pawns move 1 space forwards but capture pieces by moving diagonally; rooks move vertically or horizontally as far as they’d like; bishops move diagonally as far as they’d like; knights move 2 spaces in one direction and then 1 space perpendicularly and can hop over pieces if necessary; the queen can move in any direction for as many spaces; and the king can move 1 space in any direction.

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Can online learning work for your family?

Research is the Key to Building a High-Achieving Online School

By Cait Etherington March 30, 2018

1906 0

At least some online schools are not only meeting but far exceeding the achievement levels of students in traditional on-premise schools. Davidson Academy is one of the online K-12 schools demonstrating the potential online schools have to offer an outstanding education to high-achieving students.

This week eLearning Inside News talked to Stacy Hawthorne, Director of Online Learning at the Davidson Academy in Nevada, to learn how they have built a high-achieving online school for profoundly gifted students.  This is the second part of a two-part series (we published the first part of this interview on March 29).

Eroding the Differences Between On-Site and Online Learning

Cait Etherington: The Davidson Academy also has an on-site school. What sort of interaction do your on-site and online students have?

Stacy Hawthorne: We currently have one course, Yearbook, that is co-enrolled. This course meets on Fridays and is taught by an instructor at the Reno school. During this course, Reno students meet in the same room while the online students attend using video conferencing software. When the whole class is working together, the video feed for the online students is projected on the main classroom display. When students are working collaboratively in groups, the Reno students log into the video conferencing software on their computers and connect directly with the online students in their group.

Because we value the whole school experience for our students, we also offer opportunities for students to connect in non-academic ways. During the annual Davidson Academy Halloween costume contest in Reno, online students were able to join via video conferencing. Reno campus students shared their costumes via live video feed from Reno while Online students watched, then the Online students shared their costumes via the video feed for the Reno campus students. Students from both campuses enjoyed the opportunity to get to know each other in a less academic way.

We are continuing to build in more opportunities like this. Right now both Online and Reno students are competing in an NCAA March Madness bracket challenge.

CE: What factors support the success of your online students?

SH: We have a full slate of support services for Online students including technology, counseling, advising, and college admissions services. Our counselors meet with all students regularly, spending time getting to know them. This is important so that every student knows that the whole staff cares about their success.

Students meet once a semester with their advisor who helps keep them on track for graduation. We have a dedicated technology staffer whose primary responsibility is to ensure that students have a knowledgeable person readily available if they experience any technical issues or want to test technology before needing to use it in class. Lastly, all of our staff members are available by our internal instant messaging system any time a student has a question or wants to talk.

Davidson Academy’s Advice on How to Build an Outstanding Online School

CE: There have been a lot of reports recently about online schools underperforming. Why do you think so many online schools are failing? What advice would you give to new and emerging online schools to create the conditions for student success?

SH: We put three years’ worth of research and design into building Davidson Academy Online. Many of the schools that are failing are looking to maximize enrollments and have less selective admissions processes. Our online learning readiness indicator and parent interviews are important parts of our application process and help everyone involved in the admissions decision ensure that online learning is the right choice for the student.

We use a highly personalized model of online learning. For us, this means small class sizes with no more than 15 students in each class. All of our core courses meet using video conferencing software for two, 90-minute sessions each week. During these live, synchronous sessions students and the instructor have their webcams and microphones enabled so they can see and interact with each other in real-time. Live sessions are centered on cognitive discourse and provide opportunities for everyone to contribute. This type of approach to online learning helps both students and teachers to feel connected to each other and the school.

Early proponents of online learning often touted the cost savings of online learning. We would caution new and emerging schools of entering into the field with the belief that it will instantly provide a financial return. First and foremost, online learning should be about providing students with a rich and meaningful learning experience, and staff with a rewarding professional experience. Online learning that meets this threshold is rarely going to require less financial resources and time commitment than more traditional models of education.

Growing Food for Mars

Mars-660414.jpgStudents in the Australia, USA and the Republic of Cabo Verde are working with the Barboza Space Center in Long Beach, California, to grow food for Mars.   We are sending special modified seed to all members of our new international STEM space science team. We are all working on the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures.   This is project-based learning for international high school students.  Our students are forming Tiger Teams dedicated to growing food for astronauts.


Can super seeds survive on Mars?   We are going to run a series of tests on Earth and you can follow our progress on this website.



We had a chance to travel to France to learn how to grow potatoes.  We took what we learned and started to experiment with potatoes in California.   Our goal is to continue our test in Australia and Cabo Verde.



We are growing beans for our good friends in Russia.  Our dream is to conduct these experiments aboard the International Space Station.


All of our plants are growing under controlled conditions and our working on robots doing the watering.


IMG_3748 2.jpglettuce.jpgOur goals include our portable science labs that are dedicated to monitoring plant growth on Earth.  Once our beta testing is complete we will start the Mars simulations.


How can our robots help with taking care of our plants on Earth and on Mars?   You can follow our progress by following space science blogs.



Who want to train for Mars in Russia?


Call for Volunteers for Sirius Mission

The Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP), jointly with Human Research Program NASA (HRP NASA), will be conducting an extended duration lunar mission simulation at its facility in Moscow in 2019 and 2020. The mission, known as Sirius, will involve a crew of six, including three Russians and three non-Russians. IBMP has  asked the Mars Society to recruit the three non-Russian crew members.

The mission duration will be four months during 2019 and eight months in 2020. Crew members will need to be available for both. IBMP will provide lodging and meals for the volunteer subjects during quarantine before the mission and during the simulation itself. There will be no salary or expenses paid by IBMP, so volunteers will either need to be self-funded or backed by resources from their own institutions or universities.

Candidates should be engineers, biologists or doctors or offer substantial skills in one or more of these areas. Further details about the mission are available at: http://sirius.imbp.info and in the mission script [click here].

If you wish to apply to be part of the Sirius crew, please send your resume and a cover letter explaining your reason for applying to: Sirius@marssociety.org. Please include your dates of availability, your language skills and make clear any limits you might have in the areas of diet or health.  The deadline for applicants is July 31, 2018.

Conducting Science on Mars

By  – Reporter, Denver Business Journal

NASA’s next space probe headed to Mars — a lander built in Jefferson County and launched on a Colorado rocket — may soon start its journey Saturday after two years of waiting.

The Mars InSight lander, built by Lockheed Martin Space, is scheduled to lift off before dawn.

NASA originally scheduled the $828.8 million mission to blast off two-and-a-half years ago. A problem with a seismic instrument, built by France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), prompted NASA to postpone launching InSight until the next time Mars’s orbit aligned with earth’s for an optimal flight.

The planets come into that alignment this week, making 4:05 a.m. Saturday the start of the first two-hour window that will work for liftoff.

“We’ve never really had a situation like this,” said Stu Spath, director of deep space programs for Lockheed Space and who oversaw the InSight project. “It’s good to get on top of the rocket, and everything is looking good.”

The InSight spacecraft and launch teams are ready. However, Air Force forecasts show an 80 percent chance of coastal fog heavy enough to scrub the pre-dawn launch due to poor visibility. If fog forces more waiting, there are other launch times that will work to launch InSight prior to June 6.

The Mars InSight lander, formally called the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport, is designed to land and then drill nearly 16 feet beneath the Martian surface and monitor the subsurface temperature. Other instruments will take surface seismic readings.

The mission is expected to yield new information about the red planet’s interior — such as the composition of its core — and its geological processes.

Lockheed Martin Space led construction on the multi-national mission. The company, which has been a key player on seven previous NASA Mars missions, won the $425 million contract to build InSight in 2012.

The probe is 8.5 feet in diameter and weighs about 400 pounds. With its heat shield and entry vehicle enveloping it, the overall Insight payload resembles the size of a very small car.

InSight will blast off atop an Atlas V rocket built by Centennial-based United Launch Alliance, which has launched all NASA planetary probes since 2006.

Around 11 a.m. Nov. 26, if all goes according to plan, InSight will descend through Mars’ atmosphere at nearly 12,000 miles per hour.

A heat shield will ward off most of the friction and slow InSight, inside its protective aeroshell, enough for parachutes to deploy and slow the craft further.

Close to Mars’s surface, the parachutes release InSight and thrusters fire to provide it a gentle five-mile-per-hour landing in the planet’s western Elysium Planitia region.

“It’s a nail-biting seven minutes,” Spath said of InSight’s descent and landing. But it’s very similar to the landing of NASA’s Phoenix lander mission to Mars in 2008, which the company oversaw. “It’ll be a nervous time, but we’ve gone through it previously and we’re confident we can do it again.”

U.S. and European space agencies built the scientific instruments that Lockheed Martin Space integrated into the InSight lander.

Since the last time it was shipped to California for its late 2015 launch, French engineers and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory redesigned a problematic vacuum seal on the lander’s key seismic instrument. The delay and repair added $153.8 million to the original cost of the mission, according to NASA.

InSight’s replacement seismic instrument was installed, integrated and tested extensively at Lockheed’s campus in Colorado before sending the lander back to California in February.

A team of 25 Lockheed Martin Space employees have been with the lander there for three months, and another 25 traveled there this week for InSight’s launch.

Getting the spacecraft on its way to Mars will be a big deal for the company.

About 150 people worked on the probe at the height of assembly activity, and well over 1,000 employees there will have a hand in the mission over the six years it has been in development, Spath said.

InSight will be the first interplanetary probe to take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. All others have launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The preparation for this week’s launch date has been different from two years ago, Spath said.

In 2016, Lockheed Martin Space teams weren’t familiar with the West Coast launch site. And then there was the problem instrument and the possibility of integrating the new one at the launch site to keep InSight on schedule.

“We knew things were coming in late, and things were pretty frantic closing in on the 2016 launch,” Spath recalled. “This go-around, it’s been much more tempered.”

Once InSight leaves earth, a team from Lockheed’s Waterton campus will monitor and spacecraft from Colorado and make any adjustments needed for its flight.

The same crew will oversee InSight’s flight down through the Martian atmosphere and its time on Mars soil, too. It’s a “cradle-to-grave” job to make sure InSight is operating healthily, Spath said. That’s designed to be 728 earth days on the red planet, but will continue until NASA decides InSight’s job is done.

It will be the seventh space probe managed from the company’s spacecraft operation’s center.