Posted tagged ‘Mars’

Spirit Rover Permanently Stuck

January 27, 2010

Artist's rendering of Mars rover. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

After months of trying to free Spirit, one of the Mars rovers, NASA has decided to give up on the rover becoming mobile again.  With the approach of winter on Mars, NASA is putting Spirit into hibernation mode to protect its electronics.  The Mars rovers are designed to withstand temperatures of -40 degrees Fahrenheit while operating and -67 degrees Fahrenheit while hibernating.

Observe Mars!

January 26, 2010

Mars

On Jan. 27th, Mars will be only 99 million kilometers away from Earth and will look bigger than any time between 2008 and 2014 when viewed with a telescope.  So, get out and observe the universe around you!

Life on Mars?

January 13, 2010

Mars. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), J. Bell (Cornell University), and M. Wolff (Space Science Institute, Boulder)

NASA’s chief of astrobiology announced that new, more powerful microscopes will help confirm this year whether or not features that have been found in martian meteorites are, in fact, alien fossils.  Three Martian meteorites have already undergone preliminary examination by the team of scientists performing the research.  The team believes that there are visible colonies of micro-organisms that originated on Mars in the rocks and testing will confirm this hypothesis.

Freeing Spirit

November 16, 2009
mars rover

Artist's rendering of Mars rover. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Starting today, NASA will try to free Spirit, the Mars rover which has been stuck for months on a sandpit on Mars.  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory tested a variety of methods for freeing Spirit, but the JPL is not optimistic that they will be able to free the rover.  Constrained by the geographic of its location, NASA has decided that they have learned all they can from tests and it is time to see if Spirit can be freed.  For more information, see CNET News.

Water Found on Mars & Moon

September 25, 2009
moon

In this image blue shows the signature of water, green shows the brightness of the surface as measured by reflected infrared radiation from the sun and red shows an iron-bearing mineral called pyroxene. Image Credit: ISRO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Brown Univ./USGS

Two different missions have found evidence of water on the moon and on Mars.  These findings may make it easier for future human colonies at both locations.  NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper, an instrument aboard the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 mission, detected small amounts of water on the surface of the moon.

Water ice surrounds this impact crater on Marsin this HiRISE picture, taken in November 2008.  Image credit:  NASA / JPL-Caltech / Univ. of Ariz

Water ice surrounds this impact crater on Mars in this HiRISE picture, taken in November 2008. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Univ. of Ariz

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was able to find 99% pure water ice on the surface of Mars far away from the poles.  This ice suggests that there are huge subsurface ice sheets on Mars extending from the poles halfway to the equator.  The ice was spotted in debris from five recent meteorite strikes in the northern hemisphere of Mars.   It took approximately 200 days to melt, which points to the water’s purity.   For more information on these discoveries, see The Space Shot on CNet News.

Snowfall on Mars Similar to Arctic Snow

July 31, 2009
Several of the trenches dug by Phoenix are displayed in this approximately true color mosaic of images from the lander's Surface Stereo Imager camera. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University

Several of the trenches dug by Phoenix are displayed in this approximately true color mosaic of images from the lander's Surface Stereo Imager camera. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University

Four papers were recently published in Science on the history of water on Mars using data collected by NASA’s Phoenix Lander.  Some of the discoveries discussed include:  during Mar’s winter it snows frequently at night, the clouds there are similar to Earth’s cirrus clouds, a layer of ice lies 2-7 inches under the soil,  liquid water helped shape the surface of Mars, and the snow falling on Mars is similar to the low-moisture ice crystals that fall in the Arctic called diamond dust.

What do these findings mean?  They provide us with a very different picture of Mars than the view that scientists previously held.  They give us a glimpse of Mar’s past where life potentially could have thrived.  For more on these papers, see Science Daily.

NASA Testing Escape for Spirit this Week

June 24, 2009
Artist's rendering of Mars rover.  Image Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Artist's rendering of Mars rover. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is preparing a “sandbox” full of simulated Martian soil in order to test methods of escape for Spirit, the Mars rover that has been stuck since May.  Engineers want to ensure that their escape methods will not simply make Spirit’s situation worse.  So, the JPL engineers will test multiple variations of escape, searching for the one that will finally free Spirit.  For more information on their plans and testing methods, see the New Scientist.