July 1st, 2015

This could be the first airplane on Mars cnet

When I think of airplanes on Mars, I imagine a sci-fi scenario with robotic winged flying machines swarming through the Martian air, gathering data like a flock of hyper-intelligent space seagulls.

The first airplane on Mars will be pretty far from this fantasy. Chances are, it will look a lot more like a kind of glider that’s already in use on Earth, according to a NASA photo released Monday.

The proposed Prandtl-m aircraft is a relatively dainty flying-wing-style plane. The prototype will be based on the existing Prandtl-d, a radio-controlled glider designed and built by aerospace engineering students during a NASA internship in 2012 and 2013.

July 17th, 2014

Glorious new Mars map is the most detailed yet cnet

he US Geological Survey isn’t limited to just mapping the US, or even Earth, for that matter. The agency has ventured off-planet with a gorgeously detailed new geologic map of Mars. The map draws on all the data our space explorations have returned, resulting in the most detailed geologic map of the Red Planet ever created.
“This global geologic map of Mars, which records the distribution of geologic units and landforms on the planet’s surface through time, is based on unprecedented variety, quality, and quantity of remotely sensed data acquired since the Viking Orbiters,” reads the map’s description.

August 20th, 2013

Curiosity captures footage of a Martian moon eclipse cnet

As Curiosity continues to trek across the wild red yonder of Mars, it stopped for a moment earlier this month to observe the two Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, passing by each other in the night sky. This imagery of one Martian moon eclipsing another as seen from the surface of Mars is the first of its kind, and serves a useful purpose for astronomers.
“The ultimate goal is to improve orbit knowledge enough that we can improve the measurement of the tides Phobos raises on the Martian solid surface, giving knowledge of the Martian interior,” said Mark Lemmon, a Texas A&M University co-investigator working with Curiosity’s Mastcam. “We may also get data good enough to detect density variations within Phobos and to determine if Deimos’ orbit is systematically changing.”

December 3rd, 2012

Mars rover finds simple organics, but results not yet conclusive cnet

Despite widespread speculation about a potentially significant discovery on Mars, the Curiosity rover’s first detailed look at a Martian soil sample with an instrument capable of detecting organic compounds hasn’t found any “definitive” signs of materials that play key roles in biological processes on Earth, scientists said Monday.
While the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument detected signs of an oxygen-chlorine compound — perchlorate — and trace amounts of chlorinated methane compounds, which contain carbon, researchers say more tests are needed to make sure the carbon originated with the sample and was not brought to Mars aboard Curiosity.

August 5th, 2011

Nasa readies Juno spacecraft for mission to Jupiter cnet

If you take everything else in our solar system (not including the sun), it would all fit inside Jupiter.
In terms of understanding our solar system, NASA says, Jupiter’s importance cannot be underestimated. Scientists believe it was the first planet to be formed in our solar system and that it might therefore hold clues to the history, development, and composition of all the other planets.

August 20th, 2010

How the Curiosity rover will land on Mars cnet

Slamming into the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph and enduring temperatures of up to 3,800 degrees Fahrenheit, a peak deceleration of up to 15 Gs, and the jerk of a supersonic braking parachute–that’s just the opening act.
For NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, the real fun will start 50 seconds before touchdown when the one-ton nuclear-powered rover falls free of its parachute for a nail-biting rocket-powered final descent to the surface. (For the main story in this package, see “On Mars, satisfaction awaits Curiosity.”)
Unlike past Mars missions, the Curiosity rover will not set down atop a legged lander or bounce to the surface surrounded by shock-absorbing airbags. Instead, it will be lowered to the ground and set on its wheels by a slowly descending “sky crane” designed to unreel the lander like a lure on a fishing line.

July 31st, 2010

NASA hopeful, but not confident, about ailing Mars rover cnet

NASA’s aging Spirit Mars rover, stuck in loose soil and forced to endure the harsh Martian winter with reduced solar power, has not phoned home since March 22. Officials warned Friday that “a miracle” may be needed to restore the rover to limited operation.
No longer mobile, Spirit was unable to orient itself to maximize solar-power levels before the onset of its fourth winter on Mars. Engineers expected the rover to put itself into electronic hibernation, suspending communications and conserving power to warm and recharge its batteries and to run an internal clock.

May 28th, 2010

Mars rover on the move, another yet to come cnet

The life of a Mars rover is probably bit like that of Wall-E at the start of the Pixar movie: a lot of lonely treks in dutiful fulfillment of a mission through the remains of a planet’s earlier days.
The rovers Spirit and Opportunity may not be Hollywood icons, but they have done NASA proud. And in just the last day or so, Opportunity hit yet another milestone–it now holds the record for the longest active service on the surface of Mars, surpassing the mark of six years, 116 days (in Earth time) set by the Viking 1 lander, which arrived on the Red Planet in the summer of 1976.

August 17th, 2009

VOTE: NASA’s budget focus: Moon, Mars, or ISS? cnet

If you had to choose the subject of NASA’s attention over the next decade, what would you pick? Would you want to push the space agency to go back to the moon? Would you want it to devote its budget toward a human mission to Mars?
The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, a panel ordered to chart the future of the U.S. space program, is trying to narrow those possibilities. So far, the group has come up with several ideas for how NASA should focus its resources.

March 24th, 2005

Tire tracks and dust devils on Mars cnet

A recent view across the Martian landscape from the rover Opportunity, which–along with its compatriot Spirit–are still exploring the red planet months after they were expected to shut down.

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