Courtesy BluedharmaImagine being asked to volunteer to live and interact with only five people for 520 days in very cramped quarters. You would only be able to speak with your friends and family via voice communication with a 20-minute delay. Well, the European Space Agency (ESA) made such a request to the general European public, and has finally selected the two candidates to accompany four Russian candidates from the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems to simulate the conditions of a manned mission to Mars.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/CornellThis month the two Mars rovers – Opportunity and Spirit – celebrate their fifth anniversary on the Red Planet. Back in January 2004 the two robotic explorers landed within three weeks of each other on opposite sides of the Martian surface, and have spent the last five years investigating its craters, rock outcrops, and soils for signs of water. The data collected has shown conclusively that water once existed on the planet’s now arid surface.
Incredibly, the two robots have far surpassed their original predicted life-spans of three months operating in Mars' hostile environment.
"We realize that a major rover component on either vehicle could fail at any time and end a mission with no advance notice,” said John Callas, project manager at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “But on the other hand, we could accomplish the equivalent duration of four more prime missions on each rover in the year ahead."
Courtesy NASAOh my goodness! It's not my favorite Lil', but that lil' Mars rover has gotten some good shots of the red planet. There were those Yeti prints that turned out to be made by the rover itself, and then there was that rocky little person sitting on a rock.
And now there's this: the rover has discovered a log on Mars. Blogging experts the world over are claiming that this is finally proof of forests on Mars, forests that NASA and the US government have been keeping from us.
Normally I'm all for finding logs and footprints on Mars, but getting excited about a Martian log that isn't actually a log is sort of missing the point: it's a freaking Mars-rock, and it doesn't have to be a log to be interesting. An unusual looking rock on another planet might tell us something about the planet's geological processes... but only if we accept that it is, in fact, a rock.
Plus, there are probably other, real-er logs lying just outside of the camera frame. I'm content with those.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of ArizonaA new category of minerals detected across large areas of the Martian surface by the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MOR) suggests the Red Planet had a much wetter past than thought previously. According to Scott Murchie, Mars researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, the recent discovery of hydrated silica (opal) offers new insights into the planet's watery past.
"This is an exciting discovery because it extends the time range for liquid water on Mars, and the places where it might have supported life. The identification of opaline silica tells us that water may have existed as recently as 2 billion years ago."
You can read the whole story at NASA's MOR site.
Courtesy BluedharmaWay-hey-haaaiit one second there! Why did I write that headline? That seems a little incendiary for a reasonable proposal from a national hero, JGordon. We had better think things out a little more before we write them down.
So, Buzz Aldrin is in the news. The science news, anyway. The 78-year-old former astronaut—the second man to set foot on the moon—is suggesting that the first manned mission to Mars should leave its astronauts on the planet for good. With all of the expense and effort that a Mars mission would take, he believes that even spending a year or a year and a half on the red planet wouldn’t be worth it. The astronauts, he says, should go with the intention of staying for the rest of their lives, like pioneers.
Eventually the first men and women on Mars could be joined by others, forming a colony of perhaps 30 scientists. After a few decades, when they reach 65 or so, they could retire on Mars, or perhaps get picked up by a ship and returned to earth.
What about that, Buzzketeers? Think about spending the rest of your life on Mars, with just a few people to keep you company (except for, you know, radio communication). Kind of a crazy idea, but kind of awesome, I think. Think about what that’d be like—the isolation, low gravity, greater exposure to cosmic rays (that’s bad)… but a whole new planet!
Would any of you guys be willing to go to Mars, if it meant you’d be leaving the earth forever?
Here in Minnesota, we've turned the corner and we're now heading toward winter. Snow can't be that far behind. This week on Mars, NASA's Phoenix explorer has dectected snow falling on the Red Planet. Here's a complete video report. Unfortunately for Martian school children, the snow was so light that it melted before touching down on land, removing the possiblity of having a snow day off from school.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University Rumors are circulating that NASA's Phoenix Lander team has held briefings with the White House regarding some sort of forthcoming big announcement. It's unclear whether any briefings actually took place, but some folks wonder if NASA is hiding something. It could be the space agency is just doing their usual pre-hype of an upcoming announcement. Whatever the case, you can join in the speculation by going here and here or even here. Or you can listen to today's Phoenix Media Telecon and see if you can get some clues of what's happening.
NASA scientists have confirmed that on-board analysis of ice samples scooped up by the Phoenix Mars Lander earlier this summer prove water exists on the planet.
"We've seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted."
-- William Boynton, lead scientist for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer.
The mission has been extended through September 30.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M UniversityA few days ago on Mars, the robotic scoop on NASA’s Phoenix Lander uncovered some white, dice-sized chunks of material in a trench it was digging. Today, some of those same bright chunks are nowhere to be seen leading NASA scientists to think they were ice that has since evaporated.
"These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it's ice,” said Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson. There had been some question whether the bright material was salt. Salt can't do that."
Check out the official ASU Phoenix site for some cool (pun intended) photos and more information about the mission.
More info on NASA site
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of ArizonaWhen this image first appeared on computers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, scientists there were head-over-heels about the possibility that the Phoenix lander that settled on Mars last week had finally discovered tangible evidence of the Abominable Snowman. They even named it Yeti after the legendary Himalayan creature.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Max Planck InstituteBut their excitement soon turned to disappointment when they realized the marking was just a test scraping made by the Mars lander's robotic arm. All was not lost however. Their emotional rollercoaster was soon headed upward again as they discovered that the lander's descent engines had blown away the topsoil and uncovered a large patch of ice right beneath the spacecraft. Exactly what it was sent there to find!
Scientist are hopeful the ice extends into the region the lander will be sampling in the coming days. They may even hope to find evidence of Elvis, but personally I think they should lower their expectations and stick to searching for other, less iconic, signs of life on the planet.