MarsNews.com
September 20th, 2016

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover to produce oxygen on the Red Planet

Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE) is an exploration technology investigation that will produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide. Image Credit: NASA

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will not only investigate the Red Planet, searching for evidence of past life on Mars, but also it is expected to lay the foundations for future human exploration of the planet. One of the mission’s instruments, called MOXIE, will have a special task – testing technology essential for Mars colonization.

“MOXIE is one of nine instruments, but it is the only one that is relevant to human exploration,” Donald Rapp, one of the co-investigators of MOXIE, told Astrowatch.net.

MOXIE stands for the Mars OXygen In-situ resource utilization Experiment. With a diameter of 9.4 by 9.4 by 12.2 inches (23.9 cm × 23.9 cm × 30.9 cm), the instrument will produce oxygen from the Martian carbon dioxide atmosphere at a rate of about 0.35 ounces (10 grams) per hour. It is a 1:100 scale test model of a future instrument that would be efficient for human explorers on Mars.

“The object is not to produce a lot of oxygen. The object is to show that the process works on Mars. MOXIE produces only about 10 [grams] per hour of oxygen, less than one percent of full scale,” Rapp said.

January 7th, 2016

U.S. lab generates first space-grade plutonium sample since 1980s

File photo of a plutonium-238 pellet. Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory

For the first time in nearly 30 years, the U.S. Department of Energy has produced a sample of plutonium-238, the radioactive isotope used to power deep space missions, good news for future NASA space probes heading to destinations starved of sunlight.

The 50-gram (0.1-pound) sample is a fraction of the plutonium needed to fuel one spacecraft power generator, but the Energy Department said the material represents the first end-to-end demonstration of plutonium-238 production in the United States since 1988.

The DOE made the new batch of plutonium-238 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

November 3rd, 2015

Red Mars? Discovery of surface water spurs Chinese interest in lander

The gold coloured model, which is a third of the size of the actual probe, consists of an orbiter and a lander. (Photo: Long Wei, Asia News Photo)

Nearly two years ago, China became only the third country to make a soft landing on the moon when its Chang’e 3 spacecraft successfully deployed the Yutu rover. Now China appears increasingly set on doing the same thing on Mars.

This week at the 17th China International Industry Fair in Shanghai, the country’s Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation unveiled a model of a planned probe to Mars. Several Chinese news outlets have reported that the country’s space program continues to progress toward the launch of a robotic mission to Mars in 2020, including both an orbiting spacecraft as well as a lander.

China made an initial but unsuccessful attempt to reach Mars in November 2011 with its Yinghuo-1 spacecraft. However, that orbiter, a secondary payload on a Russian mission to the Mars moon of Phobos, was lost after the Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft failed to make the required number of burns to exit Earth orbit. Both the Russian and Chinese spacecraft eventually disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean as they fell through the atmosphere.

That failure dampened some of China’s enthusiasm for Mars, but NASA’s recent discovery of periodic, briny water flows on the red planet appears to have renewed the Chinese space agency’s interest.

August 20th, 2015

NASA to rely on Mars programme’s silent workhorse for years to come

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, aging and arthritic a decade after its launch, remains productive and is expected to be the primary pipeline for high-resolution maps of Mars for scientists and mission planners over the next decade.

Scientists who want to study Mars’ enigmatic history, tenuous water cycle and climate will continue to rely on the nearly $900 million MRO mission, and engineers charged with selecting landing sites for future Mars rovers, and eventual human expeditions, will use maps created from the orbiter’s imagery, officials said.

And the success of future landers, beginning with NASA’s InSight seismic probe next year, depend in part on MRO’s availability to relay data from the Martian surface to Earth.

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.

November 10th, 2014

China unveils its Mars rover after India’s successful ‘Mangalyaan’ Time of India


Seeking to catch up with India’s Mangalyaan Mission, China has unveiled its Mars rover being developed to scurry the Red Planet’s surface for signs of water and life and plans to test it in the rugged terrain of Tibet.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has displayed the machine and the technological hardware set-up at an air show.
Photos of the rover’s prototype, to be displayed at the annual air show at Zhuai being attended by defence attaches of all countries including India, were carried by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

August 18th, 2014

ExoLance Indiegogo

Explore Mars has devised a simple system capable of being delivered to the Martian surface to detect microorganisms living on or under the surface.
ExoLance leverages a delivery system that was originally designed for military purposes. As each small, lightweight penetrator probe (“arrow”) impacts the surface, it leaves behind a radio transmitter at the surface to communicate with an orbiter, and then kinetically burrows to emplace a life-detection experiment one to two meters below the surface. ExoLance combines the experiments of the 1970s Viking landers and the Curiosity rover with bunker-busting weapons technology.

August 1st, 2014

All You Need to Know About the Mars 2020 Rover in One Infographic Softpedia

NASA has finally settled on the seven instruments its Mars 2020 rover will be carrying when embarking on its journey to the Red Planet about six years from now.
These instruments, which were chosen from a total of 58 proposed ones, are expected to help the Mars 2020 rover explore its target planet and gain a better understanding of its makeup.
Thus, the instruments will work together to collect information concerning Mars’ landscapes, mineralogy, and atmosphere, researchers with NASA explain.

July 31st, 2014

Live now: Learn about the Mars 2020 rover NASA

July 30th, 2014

NASA May Put a Greenhouse on the Red Planet Scientific American

At long last Earthlings may be on the verge of colonizing another planet—but those first Terran ambassadors will be plants, not humans.
NASA is expected to announce within days whether they will attach a one-liter “greenhouse” to its next Mars rover to be launched in 2020. A similar greenhouse would take a voyage to the moon with any team that manages to land a robot there by 2015 to snag Google’s Lunar X PRIZE. These experiments could illuminate whether human colonization of the moon or Mars could be possible.
NASA’s proposed Mars Plant Experiment, or MPX, aims to answer two questions: Can plants germinate and grow in Martian gravity? And can they thrive while being bombarded by cosmic rays? To find out, investigators would attach a small, clear cube filled with carbon dioxide to the rover’s shoulder, says Heather Smith, a deputy principal investigator for MPX. Inside would be 250 seeds of the Arabidopsis plant, a fast-growing cousin of mustard chosen because it has been studied exhaustively by scientists. After the rover lands the seeds would be soaked with water; heaters and LEDs would regulate their temperature. Over the next 10 to 15 days, via sensors and cameras, the world could observe the first beings we know of to be born, live and die on another planet.