Nearly two years after NASA’s twin rovers parachuted to Mars, a Jekyll-and-Hyde picture is emerging about the planet’s past and whether it could have supported life. Both Spirit and Opportunity uncovered geologic evidence of a wet past, a sign that ancient Mars may have been hospitable to life. But new findings reveal the Red Planet was also once such a hostile place that the environment may have prevented life from developing. “For much of its history, it was a very forbidding place,” said mission principal investigator Steven Squyres of Cornell University.
NASA postponed the launch of a spacecraft to Mars on Thursday after a glitch popped up in the computer software used for monitoring the fueling of the rocket used for liftoff. The problem with sensors and software that measure the amount of fuel being loaded into the rocket appeared with just minutes left until liftoff. The launch was rescheduled for Friday morning, three days after the shuttle Discovery returned to Earth.
In a stroke of luck, the NASA rover Opportunity has discovered a basketball-size metal meteorite sitting on the surface of Mars, the mission’s main scientist said Tuesday. Scientists believe the meteorite might lead to clues about how martian winds are reshaping the planet’s surface. Opportunity came upon the meteorite last week while performing other tasks. Tests confirmed it was a nickel-iron meteorite, said Steve Squyres, a Cornell University scientist who is the principal investigator for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers mission.
When scientists wanted to explore what kind of life might exist on Mars, public television’s “NOVA” recorded the building and launch of the rovers sent to the planet. Now, a year later, the “NOVA” team is back with “Welcome to Mars,” featuring data collected by the robots as they searched for signs that the planet may once have harbored tiny forms of life. The program airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST on PBS (check local listings).
Louis Friedman imagines the day when people rocketed into weightlessness will unfurl lightweight, football field-sized sheets from their spacecraft and set sail for Mars. “It’s a realistic prospect,” said Friedman, head of the Planetary Society, a Pasadena, Calif.-based organization that was co-founded in 1980 by space visionary Carl Sagan. “I can imagine it working well for cargoes on long trips.” Friedman’s group plans to perform the first-ever orbital test of a solar sail this coming January with the help of another Sagan-affiliated group, Cosmos Studios, based in Los Angeles, and Russia’s Babakin Space Center in Moscow.
Our neighboring planets may someday be explored by aircraft with no motors or jets or props, but with solar-powered wings that flap and soar like an eagle.
Somewhere over a wide stretch of Arizona desert today, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will perform its best impersonation of James Bond. For a scientific facility best known for shipping six-wheeled rovers to Mars and flinging probes to the far corners of the solar system, the terrestrial exercises might seem a bit mundane. Then again, none of those missions ever involved stunt pilots or helicopters snatching a space probe from midair. This will be the first sample of space material returned to Earth since Apollo 17 came back from the moon in 1972. Other samples, however, will follow
If a Mars rover bumped into signs of life on Mars, would it know it
Perhaps you’ve seen the Segway Human Transporter. But have you seen it in camo? A new company called Off Roads Adventure near Oxford, Miss., is launching off-road Segways. What makes an off-road Segway different from a regular Segway? Head-to-toe camouflage, a metal skid plate to prevent damage on the underside of the body, and, most importantly, studded tires.
How would you like to be able to climb your favorite mountain with a 100-pound backpack that feels like it weighs a little more than your lunch and an extra pair of shoes?