October 8th, 2015

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Team Confirms Ancient Lakes on Mars

Strata at Base of Mount Sharp

A new study from the team behind NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity has confirmed that Mars was once, billions of years ago, capable of storing water in lakes over an extended period of time.

Using data from the Curiosity rover, the team has determined that, long ago, water helped deposit sediment into Gale Crater, where the rover landed more than three years ago. The sediment deposited as layers that formed the foundation for Mount Sharp, the mountain found in the middle of the crater today.

“Observations from the rover suggest that a series of long-lived streams and lakes existed at some point between about 3.8 to 3.3 billion years ago, delivering sediment that slowly built up the lower layers of Mount Sharp,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and co-author of the new Science article to be published Friday, Oct. 9.

October 7th, 2015

India’s 1st Mars Mission Celebrates One Year at Red Planet


India’s first-ever Mars probe is now one year into its historic mission, and it’s still going strong.

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft, also known as Mangalyaan, arrived at the Red Planet on the night of Sept. 23, 2014 (Sept. 24 GMT and Indian Standard Time), just two days after NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution probe (MAVEN) reached Mars orbit.

Mangalyaan, which means “Mars craft” in Sanskrit, was the first interplanetary probe ever launched by India, and its $73 million mission is primarily a technology demonstration, officials with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have said.

October 7th, 2015

Las Vegas bets that SpaceX will make it to Mars before NASA


NASA may believe that it’ll be the first to land humans on Mars, but don’t tell that to Las Vegas betting houses. Popular Mechanics has asked Docsports’ Raphael Esparza to set odds for the first organization to put people on Mars, and he believes that SpaceX stands a much better chance of reaching the Red Planet (5 to 1) than anyone else, including NASA (80 to 1). To put it bluntly, SpaceX has the money and the motivation that others don’t — NASA would be the favorite, but its budget cuts are holding it back.

October 6th, 2015

Flame Retardant Breakthrough is Naturally Derived and Nontoxic

Inspired by a naturally occurring material found in marine mussels, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have created a new flame retardant to replace commercial additives that are often toxic and can accumulate over time in the environment and living animals, including humans.

Flame retardants are added to foams found in mattresses, sofas, car upholstery and many other consumer products. Once incorporated into foam, these chemicals can migrate out of the products over time, releasing toxic substances into the air and environment. Throughout the United States, there is pressure on state legislatures to ban flame retardants, especially those containing brominated compounds (BRFs), a mix of human-made chemicals thought to pose a risk to public health.

A team led by Cockrell School of Engineering associate professor Christopher Ellison found that a synthetic coating of polydopamine — derived from the natural compound dopamine — can be used as a highly effective, water-applied flame retardant for polyurethane foam. Dopamine is a chemical compound found in humans and animals that helps in the transmission of signals in the brain and other vital areas. The researchers believe their dopamine-based nanocoating could be used in lieu of conventional flame retardants.

October 5th, 2015

NASA Consults Navy Sub Force On Mars Voyage Research


As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it’s tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine force.

The space agency is working with a military laboratory at the submarine base in Groton to measure how teams cope with stress during month-long simulations of space flight.

While one travels through outer space and the other the ocean’s depths, astronauts and submariners face many of the same challenges. Isolated for long stretches of time, they rely on crewmates for their lives in remote, inhospitable environments.

“We have a shared interest with the Navy in team resilience,” Brandon Vessey, a scientist with NASA’s human research program, said. “When you stick people together for a long period of time, how are they going to do?”

October 1st, 2015

The Martian (2015) Should I See It


I would like to believe that if stuck on a planet some 130 million miles away from Earth, I would be as resourceful, adept with my surroundings, and accepting of my situation as astronaut Mark Watney seems to be. After realizing he is alone on Mars, after a mission with his crew goes terribly wrong and he is presumed dead from an accident, Watney awakens to find his crew gone, their supplies in tact, and a desperate need to figure out how to prolong his life on Mars for as long as potentially possible to find a way to get back home.

The Martian, adapted from the wildly popular best-selling novel by Andy Weir, gives us a brilliant performance from Matt Damon as the astronaut left behind, and serves as director Ridley Scott‘s newest science-fiction epic, almost erasing the sting from his polarizing 2013 crime drama The Counselor and his ridiculous Biblical epic from last year, Exodus: Gods And Kings. Quite frankly, for both director and star, this is the best film each have delivered audiences in a long, long time.

September 29th, 2015

Op/Ed: Why do Earthlings care so much about Mars? Should I See It

Why does anyone care about what’s happening on Mars when there’s so much to worry about here on Earth? Why do we continue to spend a lot of time and a lot of money finding out more about that distant red planet? What’s the big deal?

A fair question – and one that I hear a lot, as a planetary geologist. The fascination is apparent, everywhere you look: The media is ablaze with the “breaking news” headlines of Monday’s announcement of flowing water on Mars’s surface. The movie The Martian has been receiving accolades left and right. And let’s not forget, tens of thousands of people signed up without hesitation for the chance at a one-way trip to Mars.

So – the big deal. For most, it’s the search for an answer to this persistent, currently unanswerable question: Are we alone in the universe?

September 28th, 2015

NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars NASA

9-28-2015 8-53-47 AM


New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars. Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.
“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

September 28th, 2015

LIVE NOW: Major Mars mystery revealed! NASA

September 21st, 2015

NASA Seeks Big Ideas from Students for Inflatable Heat Shield Technology NASA


NASA is giving university and college students an opportunity to be part of the agency’s journey to Mars with the Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge.

NASA’s Game Changing Development Program (GCD), managed by the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington, and the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) are seeking innovative ideas for generating lift using inflatable spacecraft heat shields or hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator (HIAD) technology.

“NASA is currently developing and flight testing HIADs — a new class of relatively lightweight deployable aeroshells that could safely deliver more than 22 tons to the surface of Mars,” said Steve Gaddis, GCD manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. “A crewed spacecraft landing on Mars would weigh between 15 and 30 tons.”