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Mars

Road To Mars: Solving the Isolation Problem 137

Posted by Soulskill
from the cryostasis-is-not-just-for-sci-fi-and-weekly-meetings dept.
An anonymous reader writes: As space technology matures, new missions are being funded and humanity is setting its goals ever further. Space agencies are tackling some of the new problems that crop up when we try to go further away than Earth's moon. This New Yorker article takes a look at research into one of the biggest obstacles: extended isolation. Research consultant Jack Stuster once wrote, "Future space expeditions will resemble sea voyages much more than test flights, which have served as the models for all previous space missions." Long-duration experiments are underway to test the effects of isolation, but it's tough to study. You need many experiments to derive useful conclusions, but you can't just ship 100 groups of a half-dozen people off to remote areas of the globe and monitor all of them. It's also borderline unethical to expose the test subjects to the kind of stress and danger that would be present in a real Mars mission. The data collected so far has been (mostly) promising, but we have a long way to go. The technology and the missions themselves will probably come together long before we know how to deal with isolation. At some point, we'll just have to hope our best guess is good enough.
Mars

Briny Water May Pool In Mars' Equatorial Soil 39

Posted by samzenpus
from the wet-around-the-middle dept.
astroengine writes Mars may be a frigid desert, but perchlorate salts in the planet's soil are lowering the freezing temperature of water, setting up conditions for liquid brines to form at equatorial regions, new research from NASA's Curiosity rover shows. The discovery of subsurface water, even a trickle, around the planets warmer equatorial belt defies current climate models, though spacecraft orbiting Mars have found geologic evidence for transient liquid water, a phenomenon termed "recurring slope lineae." The findings, published in this week's Nature Geoscience, are based on nearly two years worth of atmospheric humidity and temperature measurements collected by the roving science laboratory Curiosity, which is exploring an ancient impact basin called Gale Crater near the planet's equator. The brines, computer models show, form nightly in the upper 2 inches of the planet's soil as perchlorates absorb atmospheric water vapor. As temperatures rise in the morning, the liquid evaporates. The levels of liquid, however, are too low to support terrestrial-type organisms, the researchers conclude. "It is not just a problem of water, but also temperature. The water activity and temperatures are so low in Mars that they are beyond the limits of cell reproduction and metabolism," Javier Martin-Torres, with Lulea University of Technology, in Kiruna, Sweden, wrote in an email to Discovery News.
Space

The Solar System Is Awash In Water 72

Posted by Soulskill
from the water-cooler-discussion dept.
An anonymous reader writes: NASA has published an article detailing the vast amount of water found on other worlds in our solar system. "There are several worlds thought to possess liquid water beneath their surfaces, and many more that have water in the form of ice or vapor. Water is found in primitive bodies like comets and asteroids, and dwarf planets like Ceres. The atmospheres and interiors of the four giant planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — are thought to contain enormous quantities of the wet stuff, and their moons and rings have substantial water ice. Perhaps the most surprising water worlds are the five icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn that show strong evidence of oceans beneath their surfaces: Ganymede, Europa and Callisto at Jupiter, and Enceladus and Titan at Saturn." They've released an infographic to accompany the article. It's also bolstered by new research from the Niels Bohr Institute, which confirmed that glaciers on Mars do contain a large quantity of water ice. These glaciers are separate from the ice caps, existing in belts closer to the planet's equator. This ice has a total volume of roughly 150 billion cubic meters — enough to cover the entirety of Mars' surface with one meter of ice (abstract).
Space

NASA's Chief Scientist Predicts Evidence For Life Beyond Earth By 2025 160

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-it'll-take-just-a-few-years-after-that-to-make-them-angry-at-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA, predicts we're not far off from finding evidence for alien life. At a panel discussion yesterday, she said, "I think we're going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we're going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years." She added, "We know where to look. We know how to look. In most cases we have the technology, and we're on a path to implementing it." Stofan thinks putting astronauts on Mars will be a big part of that goal. As efficient as robot missions are, she thinks it'll take humans digging and cracking rocks to find definitive evidence for life on other worlds.
Mars

Planetary Society Pushes For Mars Orbital Mission Before NASA Landing 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the here's-some-advice dept.
MarkWhittington writes The Planetary Society announced Thursday the results of the "Humans Orbiting Mars" workshop that brought in a number of space experts to develop helpful suggestions for how NASA can fulfill its mandate to send humans to Mars in the 2030s and return them safely to the Earth. The plan is to send a mission to orbit Mars in 2033 in advance of the landing mission in the late 2030s. The workshop believes that this could be done for a NASA budget that increases about two percent a year after the International Space Station is decommissioned in 2024.
News

Invaders Demand Flu Shots 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-your-medicine dept.
An Anonymous Coward writes in with this bit from the Intercontinental Radio News Network describing an ongoing situation near Grovers Mill, New Jersey. What was originally thought to be a large meteor crash near the Wilmuth farm has turned out to be the beginning of a Martian invasion. Local officials have had limited contact with the invaders at this point, but their actions so far have the experts scratching their heads. "I expected to be disintegrated or turned into a pile of goo by their advance weaponry but all they did was ask where they could get cold medicine," says a first responder. Initial reports indicate that the aliens have gathered all the vitamin C and antihistamine tablets from the downtown area and have now surrounded the local hospital in their strange ships and are demanding flu shots. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman says that the agency theorizes the red Martian dust makes the cold and flu season almost unbearable and hopes that the aliens will leave soon after their treatments. He adds: "While alien invaders are terrifying we can take heart in the fact that our flu shot campaign has performed beyond all expectations this year by reaching Mars. We consider their demands our success."
Space

SpaceX's New Combustion Technologies 132

Posted by samzenpus
from the try-this-one dept.
An anonymous reader shares this story that takes a look at some of the advances SpaceX is working on. "Getting a small group of human beings to Mars and back is no easy task, we learned at the recent GPU Technology Conference in San Jose hosted graphics chip and accelerator maker Nvidia. One of the problems with such a mission is that you need a very large and efficient rocket engine to get the amount of material into orbit for the mission, explained Adam Lichtl, who is director of research at SpaceX and who with a team of a few dozen programmers is try to crack the particularly difficult task of better simulating the combustion inside of a rocket engine. You need a large engine to shorten the trip to Mars, too....Not only do you need a lot of stuff to get to Mars and sustain a colony there, but you also need a way to generate fuel on Mars to come back to Earth. All of these factors affect the design of the rocket engine....As if these were not problems enough, there is another really big issue. The computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, software that is used to simulate the movement of fluids and gases and their ignition inside of all kinds of engines is particularly bad at assisting in rocket engine design. 'Methane is a fairly simple hydrocarbon that is perfectly good as a fuel,' Lichtl said. 'The challenge here is to design an engine that works efficiently with such a compound. But rocket engine CFD is hard. Really hard.'"
ISS

Russia Wants To Work With NASA On a New Space Station 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the have-to-protect-the-wormhole-from-the-carassians dept.
HughPickens.com writes with news that Russian officials are talking about working with NASA to build a new space station as a replacement for the ISS after its operations end in 2024. Igor Komarov, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, was unambiguous in his support for such a partnership. He added, "It will be an open project. It will feature not only the current members of the ISS." NASA, while careful not to discourage future cooperation, was not so enthusiastic. They said, "We are pleased Roscomos wants to continue full use of the International Space Station through 2024 -- a priority of ours -- and expressed interest in continuing international cooperation for human space exploration beyond that. The United States is planning to lead a human mission to Mars in the 2030s, and we have advanced that effort farther than at any point in NASA's history. We welcome international support for this ambitious undertaking." They reiterated that there are no formal agreements in place as of yet. These comments come as three crew members arrive at the ISS, two of whom will be up there for an entire year.
Mars

The First Billion-Pixel Mosaic of Mars 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the worth-a-billion-words dept.
StartsWithABang writes In 2012, Mars Science Laboratory performed the first robotically-controlled soft landing of a vehicle of such incredible mass: nearly half a tonne. A few months later, the rover, Curiosity, took the first ever billion-pixel mosaic from the Red Planet's surface, with breathtaking views of the terrain and alternate views of what the soils would look like were they here on Earth. Now in its third year on Mars, Curiosity is roving the low slopes of its ultimate destination: Mount Sharp.
Mars

Mars One Delayed 2 Years, CEO Releases Video In Response To Criticism 89

Posted by samzenpus
from the just-a-little-longer dept.
CryoKeen writes It's interesting how different news sites spin #marsgate. From Yahoo News: "The private colonization project Mars One has pushed its planned launch of the first humans toward the Red Planet back by two years, to 2026. The delay was necessitated by a lack of investment funding, which has slowed work on a robotic precursor mission that Mars One had wanted to send toward the Red Planet in 2018, Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp said in a new video posted today... 'We had a very successful investment round in 2013 that has financed all the things that we have done up to now. And we have actually come to an agreement with a consortium of investors late last year for a much bigger round of investments. Unfortunately, the paperwork of that deal is taking much longer than we expected,' Lansdorp said in the video." This Astrowatch article is a lot more scathing and to the point: "Mars One, the Dutch company planning to send people on a one-way trip to Mars, that recently selected a group of 100 hopefuls, struggles with criticism. In a Medium story this week, Mars One finalist Joseph Roche presented multiple reasons as to why he believed the entire operation is a complete scam. In response, the company published a video Thursday in which Bas Lansdorp, CEO and Co-founder of Mars One, replies to recent criticism concerning the feasibility of Mars One's human trip to Mars. He also revealed that the mission will be delayed for two years. Roche said that the 'only way' to get selected for the next round of the Mars One candidacy process was to donate money. 'My nightmare about it is that people continue to support it and give it money and attention, and it then gets to the point where it inevitably falls on its face,' Roche told Elmo Keep for Medium."
Mars

A Mars One Finalist Speaks Out On the "Dangerously Flawed" Project 169

Posted by samzenpus
from the on-second-thought dept.
superboj writes Dr Joseph Roche is one of the finalists to go on Mars One's much-hyped mission to the Red Planet. And yet he says he's never had an in-person interview, had to organize his own physical exam, was only tested on prepared questions, and is being encouraged to give more and more money to the group. That's why he's decided to quit.
Mars

Kim Stanley Robinson Says Colonizing Mars Won't Be As Easy As He Thought 228

Posted by Soulskill
from the canceling-my-retirement-vacation dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from io9: Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy filled us all with hope that we could terraform Mars in the 21st century, with its plausible description of terraforming processes. But now, in the face of what we've learned about Mars in the past 20 years, he no longer thinks it'll be that easy. Talking to SETI's Blog Picture Science podcast, Robinson explains that his ideas about terraforming Mars, back in the 1990s, were based on three assumptions that have been called into question or disproved:

1) Mars doesn't have any life on it at all. And now, it's looking more likely that there could be bacteria living beneath the surface. 2) There would be enough of the chemical compounds we need to survive. 3) There's nothing poisonous to us on the surface. In fact, the surface is covered with perchlorates, which are highly toxic to humans, and the original Viking mission did not detect these. "It's no longer a simple matter," Robinson says. "It's possible that we could occupy, inhabit and terraform Mars. But it's probably going to take a lot longer than I described in my books."
Mars

Dry-Ice Heat Engines For Martian Colonists 91

Posted by Soulskill
from the until-we-get-a-gas-station-up-and-running dept.
LeadSongDog writes: Heat engines using the "Leidenfrost effect" can exploit the gas expansion as CO2 sublimates to drive turbines. "The technique has exciting implications for working in extreme and alien environments, such as outer space, where it could be used to make long-term exploration and colonisation sustainable by using naturally occurring solid carbon dioxide as a resource rather than a waste product. If this could be realised, then future missions to Mars, such as those in the news recently, may not need to be ‘one-way’ after all.

Dry ice may not be abundant on Earth, but increasing evidence from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) suggests it may be a naturally occurring resource on Mars as suggested by the seasonal appearance of gullies on the surface of the red planet. If utilised in a Leidenfrost-based engine dry-ice deposits could provide the means to create future power stations on the surface of Mars. " The research was published in Nature Communications, and one of the researchers published an explanatory article at The Conversation.
Mars

Martian Canyons May Have Been Carved By Wind 39

Posted by samzenpus
from the blowing-through-the-canyon dept.
sciencehabit writes Ancient canyons scar the surface of Mars, a relic from a time billions of years ago when rivers flowed on its surface. But water may not be the only factor that shaped these canyons—the wind whipping through them could be just as important, according to a new study of river canyons on Earth. Scientists studying chasms in the Andes mountains in northeast Chile have found that wind carves some canyons 10 times faster than water. The discovery may be significant for understanding how much water flowed on the surface of ancient Mars.
Mars

Mars "Webcam" To Be Made Available For Public Use 20

Posted by samzenpus
from the time-to-focus dept.
randomErr writes If your group can make a good use case you can control of the ESA's Mars Express webcam. Proposals by schools, youth groups and astronomy clubs are due by March 27. The Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC), is a low-resolution camera intended for visuals of the Beagle lander separation. In May, Mars will be in solar conjunction. Signals between Earth and Mars Express will be disrupted by the sun so for three days the VMC camera can be freely pointed at almost any target in its orbit.
Mars

New Images From Mangalyaan 37

Posted by timothy
from the way-up-there dept.
schwit1 writes Indian scientists have released a new set of color images taken by their Mars orbiter, Mangalyaan. Arsia Mons is one of the three giant volcanoes to the east of Mars' biggest volcano, Olympus Mons. Arsia Mons is important for future manned colonization, as there are known caves on its western flanks. In addition, those western flanks show solid evidence of past glaciers, which means that it is very likely that those caves will harbor significant quantities of water-ice, making settlement much easier.
Space

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Becomes First To Orbit a Dwarf Planet 49

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-working-on-orbiting-an-elf-planet dept.
The Grim Reefer writes with news that at 7:39 AM EST (12:39 UTC) today, NASA's Dawn spacecraft was captured by the gravity of dwarf planet Ceres. Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California received a signal from the spacecraft at 5:36 a.m. PST (8:36 a.m. EST) that Dawn was healthy and thrusting with its ion engine, the indicator Dawn had entered orbit as planned. "Since its discovery in 1801, Ceres was known as a planet, then an asteroid and later a dwarf planet," said Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission director at JPL. "Now, after a journey of 3.1 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometers) and 7.5 years, Dawn calls Ceres home." In addition to being the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet, Dawn also has the distinction of being the first mission to orbit two extraterrestrial targets. From 2011 to 2012, the spacecraft explored the giant asteroid Vesta, delivering new insights and thousands of images from that distant world. Ceres and Vesta are the two most massive residents of our solar system's main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Further details available from the Planetary Society.
Mars

New Data Indicates Arctic-Ocean Sized Body of Water on Ancient Mars 58

Posted by timothy
from the sounds-brisk dept.
mdsolar writes After six years of planetary observations, scientists at NASA say they have found convincing new evidence that ancient Mars had an ocean. It was probably the size of the Arctic Ocean, larger than previously estimated, the researchers reported on Thursday. The body of water spread across the low-lying plain of the planet's northern hemisphere for millions of years, they said. If confirmed, the findings would add significantly to scientists' understanding of the planet's history and lend new weight to the view that ancient Mars had everything needed for life to emerge. Update: 03/05 22:42 GMT by T : Correction: that headline should have read "Arctic" initially, rather than Antarctic.
Mars

Mars Curiosity Rover Experiences Short Circuit, Will Be Stationary For Days 33

Posted by Soulskill
from the shocking-news-from-mars dept.
hypnosec writes: NASA says its Mars Curiosity rover has experienced a transient short circuit. The team has halted all work from the rover temporarily while engineers analyze the situation. Telemetry data received from Curiosity indicated the short circuit, after which the vehicle followed its programmed response, stopping the arm activity underway whenthe irregularity in the electric current happened. Curiosity will stay parked as its engineers analyze the situation and figure out if any damage has been done. NASA says a transient short circuit would have little effect on the rover's operations in some systems, but it could force the team to restrict use of whatever mechanism caused the problem.
Earth

Methane-Based Life Possible On Titan 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-life-jim-but-not-as-we-know dept.
Randym writes: With the simultaneous announcement of a possible nitrogen-based, cell-like structure allowing life outside the "liquid water zone" (but within a methane atmosphere) announced by researchers at Cornell (academic paper) and the mystery of fluctuating methane levels on Mars raising the possibility of methane-respiring life, there now exists the possibility of a whole new branch of the tree of life that does not rely on either carbon or oxygen for respiration. We may find evidence of such life here on Earth down in the mantle where "traditional" life cannot survive, but where bacteria has evolved to live off hydrocarbons like methane and benzene.