MarsNews.com
July 29th, 2015

Curiosity U-turns, checks out weird rock on Mars RedOrbit

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity only has so much time to complete its mission, so when scientists running the project decide to make a U-turn – it must be for something important.

The NASA team turned around their rover to investigate a large rock formation, dubbed Elk, found to have surprisingly high levels of silica. High levels of silica would allow for conditions favorable to the protection of ancient carbon-containing organic molecules, NASA said in a press release.

“One never knows what to expect on Mars, but the Elk target was interesting enough to go back and investigate,” said Roger Wiens, a principal investigator from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

July 28th, 2015

NASA Mars Orbiter Preparing for Mars Lander’s 2016 Arrival NASA

With its biggest orbit maneuver since 2006, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) will prepare this week for the arrival of NASA’s next Mars lander, InSight, next year.

A planned 77-second firing of six intermediate-size thrusters on July 29 will adjust the orbit timing of the veteran spacecraft so it will be in position to receive radio transmissions from InSight as the newcomer descends through the Martian atmosphere and touches down on Sept. 28, 2016. These six rocket engines, which were used for trajectory corrections during the spacecraft’s flight from Earth to Mars, can each produce about 22 newtons, or five pounds, of thrust.

“Without making this orbit change maneuver, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter would be unable to hear from InSight during the landing, but this will put us in the right place at the right time,” said MRO Project Manager Dan Johnston of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

July 27th, 2015

NASA Launches a New Space Camp Aimed at Recruiting for Future Mars Expeditions Clapway

Space camp was an idea that always seemed more like a farfetched dream than a place a child might actually go visit, but new reports indicate NASA is looking to bring a new ground-breaking space camp in hopes of fueling interest among candidates who may go on to become part of future Mars expeditions.

NASA has seen a declining budget and support for years, despite all of the new discoveries and technologies the world has benefited from. One element of this new space camp is to drum up some additional interest in the program through the country’s future leaders.

July 24th, 2015

A New Way to Prepare Samples of Mars for Return to the Earth Planetary Society

Mars 2020, NASA’s next and yet-to-be-named Mars rover, will be the first mission to collect and prepare samples of the martian surface for return to Earth. This process is known as caching, and it is the crucial first step of a fully-born sample return campaign that could define the next two decades of robotic Mars exploration. Recently, the Mars 2020 engineering team proposed a new caching strategy that differs from previous concepts in some interesting ways.

JPL calls this adaptive caching, but I like to think of it more as the cache depot strategy. This means that after coring samples and placing them into hermetically-sealed tubes (the same process for any sort of caching), the rover will then deposit groups of samples on the ground throughout its drive. A future rover would retrieve some or all of these samples, place them in a rocket, and launch them into Mars orbit.

July 22nd, 2015

New Website Gathering Public Input on NASA Mars Images NASA

Science-team members for NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are soliciting help from the public to analyze exotic features near the south pole of Mars.

By categorizing features visible in images from the orbiter’s Context Camera (CTX), volunteers are using their own computers to help the team identify specific areas for even more detailed examination with the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. HiRISE can reveal more detail than any other camera ever put into orbit around Mars.

Information about how to participate is at the “Planet Four: Terrains” website, at:

http://www.planetfour.org

July 17th, 2015

Mars One presents more details on next astronaut selection rounds NASA

Mars One is pleased to provide further insight into the upcoming selection rounds that The Mars100 will face. The new information on the Mars One astronaut selection process has been released in a new Inside 360 article: “Screening from 100 to 24”. Mars One additionally introduces six new candidates to the astronaut selection process that have replaced former candidates that were not able to proceed to the next selection round.

In the latest Inside 360 article, Dr. Norbert Kraft, Chief Medical Officer of Mars One, outlines Round Three and Four of Mars One’s astronaut selection process. Round Three takes place over the course of 5 days, in which groups of 10 to 15 candidates are formed. “The Mars One selection committee will then set up group dynamic challenges and provide study materials related to the challenges,” explains Dr. Kraft. “This allows us to observe how the candidates work in a group setting.”

Following the challenges, the Mars100 will be screened to 40 candidates that will enter the next selection phase: isolation. Candidates will spend nine days in an isolation unit. “It is very important that the candidates are observed closely to examine how they act in situations of prolonged close contact with one another,” says Dr. Kraft. “During the journey to Mars and upon arrival, they will spend 24 hours a day with each other. It is during this time that the simplest things may start to become bothersome. It takes a specific team dynamic to be able to handle this and it is our job to find those that are best suited for this challenge.”

July 16th, 2015

Curiosity rover finds evidence of Mars’ primitive continental crust Los Alamos National Laboratory

The ChemCam laser instrument on NASA’s Curiosity rover has turned its beam onto some unusually light-colored rocks on Mars, and the results are surprisingly similar to Earth’s granitic continental crust rocks. This is the first discovery of a potential “continental crust” on Mars.

“Along the rover’s path we have seen some beautiful rocks with large, bright crystals, quite unexpected on Mars” said Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory, lead scientist on the ChemCam instrument. “As a general rule, light-colored crystals are lower density, and these are abundant in igneous rocks that make up the Earth’s continents.”

Mars has been viewed as an almost entirely basaltic planet, with igneous rocks that are dark and relatively dense, similar to those forming the Earth’s oceanic crust, Wiens noted. However, Gale crater, where the Curiosity rover landed, contains fragments of very ancient igneous rocks (around 4 billion years old) that are distinctly light in color, which were analyzed by the ChemCam instrument.

July 14th, 2015

Pluto flyby marks 50th anniversary of first Mars encounter The Christian Science Monitor

How’s this for timing? NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is winging past Pluto this morning (July 14) exactly 50 years after the first robotic visit to Mars.

On July 14, 1965, NASA’s Mariner 4 probe flew by the Red Planet, becoming the first spacecraft ever to capture up-close looks at another planet. (NASA’s Mariner 2 spacecraft gathered data but no images when it zoomed past Venus in December 1962.)

“You couldn’t have written a script that was better,” New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, told Space.com.

July 13th, 2015

The Curiosity Rover Is Helping NASA Study the Far Side of the Sun Gizmodo

PIA19801

As Curiosity works its way up Mount Sharp on Mars, studying rock and soil samples, it’s also helping scientists observe sunspots on the far side of the Sun.

From its vantage point on Mars, Curiosity currently has a good view of the side of the Sun that’s pointed away from Earth, and its mast camera (Mastcam) is sending home images of sunspots that can help scientists better understand solar emissions.

That’s not just a matter of academic interest. Sunspots that form on the far side of the Sun will rotate to face Earth within a few days, since it only takes about a month for the Sun to rotate completely. “One sunspot or cluster that rotated out of Curiosity’s view over the July 4 weekend showed up by July 7 as a source area of a solar eruption observed by NASA’s Earth-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory,” said NASA in a press release.

July 10th, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: “How We’ll Live on Mars” Universe Today

Every great adventure begins with a dream. Explorers look into the unknown and set a course for discovery. Many years ago, the US launched men off planet Earth and hurtled them to the Moon. The next great space milestone is certainly to put a human boot print on Mars. In this dream and adventure of exploration, women and men will not only walk on Mars, but inhabit it.

This aspiration of putting humans on Mars is not a new one. As a spacefaring nation, we could have reached there decades ago. In How We’ll Live on Mars, author Stephen L. Petranek examines how we’ll get to Mars within this century and discusses the opportunity for a potential settlement on the Red Planet.