September 16th, 2016

Mars had liquid water a billion years longer than we even thought possible

Valleys much younger than well-known ancient valley networks on Mars are evident near the informally named “Heart Lake” on Mars. This map presents color-coded topographical information overlaid onto a photo mosaic. Lower elevations are indicated with white and purple; higher elevations, yellow.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Lakes and snowmelt-fed streams on Mars formed much later than previously thought possible, according to new findings using data primarily from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The recently discovered lakes and streams appeared roughly a billion years after a well-documented, earlier era of wet conditions on ancient Mars. These results provide insight into the climate history of the Red Planet and suggest the surface conditions at this later time may also have been suitable for microbial life.

“We discovered valleys that carried water into lake basins,” said Sharon Wilson of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. “Several lake basins filled and overflowed, indicating there was a considerable amount of water on the landscape during this time.”

Wilson and colleagues found evidence of these features in Mars’ northern Arabia Terra region by analyzing images from the Context Camera and High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and additional data from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and the European Space Agency’s Mars Express.

March 24th, 2016

NASA gravity map offers closest ever look at Mars

By tracking the gravitational pull on spacecraft over Mars, NASA has created one of the most detailed maps yet of the Red Planet’s surface, and what lies beneath.

“Gravity maps allow us to see inside a planet, just as a doctor uses an X-ray to see inside a patient,” Antonio Genova of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said in a statement.
“The new gravity map will be helpful for future Mars exploration, because better knowledge of the planet’s gravity anomalies helps mission controllers insert spacecraft more precisely into orbit about Mars.”
As well as providing insight for future missions, the gravity map also offers explanations for developments in the planet’s past.

May 4th, 2015

Traffic Around Mars Gets Busy NASA

NASA has beefed up a process of traffic monitoring, communication and maneuver planning to ensure that Mars orbiters do not approach each other too closely.

Last year’s addition of two new spacecraft orbiting Mars brought the census of active Mars orbiters to five, the most ever. NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission joined the 2003 Mars Express from ESA (the European Space Agency) and two from NASA: the 2001 Mars Odyssey and the 2006 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The newly enhanced collision-avoidance process also tracks the approximate location of NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, a 1997 orbiter that is no longer working.

It’s not just the total number that matters, but also the types of orbits missions use for achieving their science goals. MAVEN, which reached Mars on Sept. 21, 2014, studies the upper atmosphere. It flies an elongated orbit, sometimes farther from Mars than NASA’s other orbiters and sometimes closer to Mars, so it crosses altitudes occupied by those orbiters. For safety, NASA also monitors positions of ESA’s and India’s orbiters, which both fly elongated orbits

August 15th, 2014

Mars Orbiters Duck for Cover Sky & Telescope

As Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring hurtles toward Mars, NASA is taking steps to protect its Martian orbiters. The plan? Use the planet itself as a shield between the spacecraft and the comet’s potentially dangerous debris.
As part of its long-term Mars Exploration Program, NASA currently has two spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Odyssey, with Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) set to arrive in late September. Teams of scientists at the University of Maryland, the Planetary Science Institute, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) have used data from both Earth-based and space telescopes to model Siding Spring’s journey through the inner solar system, and determined that there is no risk of the comet colliding with Mars. However, at its closest approach to Mars on October 19, 2014, Siding Spring will come within 82,000 miles of the Red Planet, which is about a third of the distance from Earth to the Moon. The closest comets ever to whiz by Earth have been at least ten times more distant.

December 18th, 2013

An Updated Mars Exploration Family Portrait The Planetary Society

The Mars Exploration Family Portrait shows every dedicated spacecraft mission to Mars, and now includes India’s Mars Orbiter Mission and NASA’s MAVEN. The dates listed are for launch.

May 3rd, 2010

The Phobos Monolith The Economic Voice

We have all seen the famous humanoid face-shaped rock from mars but we know it’s not real, these images and shapes are caused by natural erosion due to the weather patterns and, if you look hard enough and long enough, you will find whatever your mind wants to find, from human faces to pyramids.
I myself am not a lunatic, neither do I believe in conspiracy theories, I believe in mathematics and science but I still have an open mind. Something though caught my attention yesterday, whilst watching an interview from last year with Buzz Aldrin. He spoke about space travel and the reasons we should be going back to the moon and even landing on asteroids. I know it was probably a lot of spin to get people talking about and therefore funding space travel, but what he said next definitely got my attention. He spoke about the moons of Mars, saying that on the moon Phobos there is a monolith and that when people see this they will start asking questions about it, some will say God put it there and others will say the universe put it there. These were his words and there is a definite glint in his eye when he speaks about the monolith.

March 17th, 2010

Martian Weather Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) is a NASA mission that arrived at Mars in September, 1997, and for nine years circled the planet every two hours in a polar orbit (that is, traveling from the north pole to the south pole and back) at an altitude of 400 kilometers (249 miles) above the Martian surface. MGS went silent in November, 2006. It carried a suite of five instruments designed to study the entire Martian surface, atmosphere, and interior, and their datasets have provided astronomers with a wealth of information about the climate and atmosphere of Mars. The results are not only interesting to students of Mars. As astronomers discover new extrasolar planets, and as Earth-based meteorologists test the realism of their atmospheric models, the results of meteorological analyses of another planet besides Earth provide an important reference.

March 8th, 2010

Unusual Gullies and Channels on Mars NASA

What could have formed these unusual channels? Inside Newton Basin on Mars, numerous narrow channels run from the top down to the floor. The above picture covers a region spanning about 1500 meters across. These and other gullies have been found on Mars in recent high-resolution pictures taken by the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor robot spacecraft. Similar channels on Earth are formed by flowing water, but on Mars the temperature is normally too cold and the atmosphere too thin to sustain liquid water. Nevertheless, many scientists hypothesize that liquid groundwater can sometimes surface on Mars, erode gullies and channels, and pool at the bottom before freezing and evaporating. If so, life-sustaining ice and water might exist even today below the Martian surface — water that could potentially support a human mission to Mars. Research into this exciting possibility is sure to continue!

October 15th, 2009

Earth, Moon, and Jupiter, as Seen From Mars NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

What does Earth look like when viewed from Mars? At 13:00 GMT on 8 May 2003, the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) had an opportunity to find out. In addition, a fortuitous alignment of Earth and Jupiter—the first planetary conjunction viewed from another planet—permitted the MOC to acquire an image of both of these bodies and their larger satellites. At the time, Mars and the orbiting camera were 139 million kilometers (86 million miles) from Earth and almost 1 billion kilometers (nearly 600 million miles) from Jupiter. The orbit diagram, above, shows the geometry at the time the images were obtained.
Because Jupiter is over 5 times farther from the Sun than Earth, two different exposures were needed to image the two planets. Mosaiced together, the images are shown above (top picture). The composite has been highly contrast-enhanced and “colorized” to show both planets and their satellites. The MGS MOC high resolution camera only takes grayscale (black-and-white) images; the color was derived from Mariner 10 and Cassini pictures of Earth/Moon and Jupiter, respectively.

April 14th, 2007

Mars orbiter’s loss traced to human error MSNBC

Human error triggered a cascade of events that caused the battery to fail on the Mars Global Surveyor last year, according to a preliminary report released Friday.
An internal NASA board determined that power loss likely doomed the spacecraft after almost a decade of meticulously mapping the Red Planet.
But the problems can be traced to September 2005 when a routine update to onboard computers caused inconsistencies in the spacecraft’s memory. Engineers trying to fix the problem sent incorrect software commands then didn’t catch the mistakes because the existing procedures to do so were inadequate.