Tag Archives | Mars

Rover Is Now the Longest-Running Mission to the Red Planet, If It Still Lives…

After a some rocky times with the red planet in the late 1990′s, NASA finally succeeded with the Mars Rover.  This cute little fellow may be near the end of its life, but it has survived years past its original 90-day mission.  Popsci reports:

from Wikimedia Commons

from Wikimedia Commons

A stuck robotic rover may have overtaken NASA’s Viking probe as the longest-surviving mission on Mars — so long as it’s still alive. But its robotic twin Opportunity could also still grab the record next month if the Spirit rover has slipped into its final winter slumber.

The golf-cart-sized Mars Exploration Rovers have long since outlived their 90-day missions; they both celebrated their six-year anniversaries on the red planet in January. Rather than sigh over the voided warranties, NASA’s rover handlers have celebrated their hardware’s persistence on a rugged and alien world.

Time and tough conditions finally caught up to the rover twins more recently.

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There IS Life On Mars

MarsBritish tabloid newspaper The Sun (a Rupert Murdoch rag) says NASA has new evidence proving life exists on Mars. It’s wise to take any sensational headline in The Sun with a grain or three of salt, but here’s what they say:

NASA scientists last night unveiled compelling evidence of life on Mars. A special mission to the Red Planet has revealed the likely presence of a form of pond scum – the building blocks of life as we know it.

NASA unveiled the results of the recent Opportunity and Spirit probes sent millions of miles through the solar system to discover signs of extraterrestrial life. The results are so promising boffins have already planned a host of other missions to discover whether there is extraterrestrial life in the universe.

The recent missions have gathered evidence of sulphates on Mars, a strong indication there is water on the planet and therefore life.

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Stunning New Mars Ice Wall Photo

The Daily Mail has published an incredible photo from our sister planet Mars, but it raises questions regarding NASA’s manipulation of the image – if they are going to “enhance” this one, how about others like the infamous “face”?:

It looks like a filmmaker’s apocalyptic vision of Earth following a devastating natural disaster. But this colossal ice formation is actually a portion of the wall terraces of a huge crater on Mars.

Mars Ice Wall

Approximately 37 miles in diameter, a section of the Mojave Crater in the planet’s Xanthe Terra region has been digitally mapped by Nasa scientists. The result is this digital terrain model that was generated from a stereo pair of images and offers a synthesized, oblique view…

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Wolf Moon, Largest of 2010, Appears Tonight With Support By Mars

Full Moon. Photo: Bresson ThomasFor those of you not in a part of the world too cold (or too far) to go outside and take a look, today brings a rare appearance of the year’s largest full moon, with a bonus appearance by planet Mars, just to the left of the moon. This report from National Geographic:

The biggest full moon of 2010 will rise in the east tonight, and it’ll appear with a bright sidekick: Mars will cozy up just to the left of the supersize moon.

January’s full moon is also called the wolf moon, according to Native American tradition associating this month’s full moon with wolves howling in the cold midwinter.

The 2010 wolf moon will appear 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than any other full moon this year, because our cosmic neighbor will actually be closer to Earth than usual.

The moon will be at its closest perigee—the nearest it gets to our planet during its egg-shaped orbit—for 2010 at 4:04 a.m.

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Proof Of Martians ‘To Come This Year’

lifeFrom Paul Sutherland on Scientific American:

Final proof that Mars has bred life will be confirmed this year, leading NASA experts believe.  The historic discovery will come not on Mars itself but from chunks of the red planet here on Earth.

David McKay, chief of astrobiology at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, says powerful new microscopes and other instruments will establish whether features in martian meteorites are alien fossils.

He says evidence for life in the space rocks could have been claimed by the UK if British scientists had used readily-available electron microscopes. Instead, images of colonies of martian bacteria were collected by American scientists.

The NASA team is already convinced that colonies of micro-organisms are visible inside three martian rocks that landed on Earth. If so, this would have profound implications for our understanding of life in the universe.

Two of the meteorites – ALH84001 and Yamato 593 – were found in the Antarctic by American and Japanese scientists after they lay in the icy desert for thousands of years.

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Mars Had Liquid Water in Recent Past, Rover Finds

From National Geographic:

Even while snared in a sand trap, NASA’s Mars rover Spirit has hit “wet” pay dirt: evidence of relatively recent groundwater activity on the red planet. For almost six months the rover has been precariously perched on the edge of a shallow crater in an equatorial region of Mars. The area is filled with cooled lava flows pitted by meteorite impacts.

While on a routine drive, Spirit broke through a thin crust of hard soil that capped a filled-in impact crater, and its wheels became half buried in the soft sand.

Since early November the rover team has been remotely spinning Spirit’s wheels to try and maneuver the rover out of its trap.

During one of these rescue attempts, Spirit churned up the soil and uncovered an intriguing layer of bright, fluffy soil. Mission managers had the rover take a closer look, and they discovered that the layer is in sulfates, minerals known to form on Earth only in the presence of liquid water.

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New Map Suggests Mars Was Wet And Humid

From AP:

A new detailed map of Mars shows what was likely a vast ocean in the north and valleys around the equator, suggesting that the planet once had a humid, rainy climate, according to research published Monday.

The computer-generated map, based on topographic data from NASA satellites, also shows that the network of valleys on the red planet is at least twice as extensive as previously estimated.

“The relatively high values over extended regions indicate the valleys originated by means of precipitation-fed runoff erosion — the same process that is responsible for formation of the bulk of valleys on our planet,” said Wei Luo, geography professor at Northern Illinois University who co-authored the report.

“A single ocean in the northern hemisphere would explain why there is a southern limit to the presence of valley networks,” Luo said.

“The southernmost regions of Mars, located farthest from the water reservoir, would get little rainfall and would develop no valleys.

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Mission(s) to Mars, visualized

from FastCompany:

Maybe ever since the Moon landing, it’s been pretty easy to overestimate the success of our space programs–when we want to go somewhere or launch something, we just do it, right? In actuality, space exploration remains a high risk endeavor, as the various Space Shuttle disasters have proven. And going to Mars? Maybe it’s out closest planet, but going there isn’t as easy as it seems.

To prove it, here’s a clever graph of all the missions ever sent to Mars. As you can see, it’s basically a bar graph; missions to Mars as listed chronologically, and the mission result is coded by how close the corresponding bar reaches to Mars.

Illustration by Bryan Christie

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