August 3rd, 2012

Mars landing: It could be crazier CNN

An hour before the Mars rover Curiosity is scheduled to make its dramatic touchdown on the surface of our neighboring planet, there must be peanuts.
David Oh, lead flight director for the mission, explains that it has been a tradition for decades to open up cans of peanuts and pass them around to the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory responsible for overseeing the landing of the rover. Curiosity is scheduled to land at 1:31 a.m. ET Monday.
“It’s always been a lucky charm for us, and missions have always seemed to work out better when we had the peanuts there,” Oh said. “For landing this, I’ll take all the great engineering we have, and all the luck you can give us, too.”
Given how complicated and intricate this landing will be, it’s no surprise that scientists are taking extra precautions, even superstitious ones.

July 18th, 2011

Teen inventor combats kudzu menace CNN

He spends his days battling kudzu, an invasive plant that has overrun millions of acres of land throughout the Southeastern United States. For his sixth grade science project, Schindler — now 17 years old — came up with the idea of planting kudzu on Mars.
“We breathe in oxygen, we breathe out CO2, and plants breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen. I started asking what would make it impossible to grow kudzu on Mars,” he said.
Experimenting with different gasses led him to find that helium killed the kudzu but without harming the other plants around it.

June 29th, 2011

To replace the shuttle: A mission to Mars CNN

America’s human spaceflight program is now adrift. On July 8, the space shuttle is scheduled to make its final flight, and the Obama administration has no coherent plan for what to do next. Instead, as matters stand, the United States will waste the next decade spending $100 billion to support an aimless constituency-driven human spaceflight effort that goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing.

January 19th, 2011

Research station in Utah desert is glimpse of life on Mars CNN

Travel twenty minutes north of this tiny town, to the craggy red desert of the San Rafael Swell, and you may discover a spaceship.
The cylindrical craft isn’t from another world, but it offers a glimpse of one. It is the centerpiece of the Mars Desert Research Station, an environment created by the Mars Society, a growing non-profit organization that supports the research, exploration, and eventual colonization of the mysterious red planet.
The swell, chosen as a simulation site for its topical resemblance to Mars, provides the volunteer researchers who come here with an opportunity to live and work in a Mars analog, an environment that’s as close to the red planet as is earthly possible.
While conducting geological and psychological experiments that could someday be useful to a real Martian expedition, this small group of Mars devotees — some space scientists, some simply eager adventurers — live and work in complete “sim.” They consume only dehydrated, shelf-stable food like Bisquick and ghee, exercise to preserve their muscles in “reduced gravity,” abide by the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” adage in an effort to conserve water, and wear spacesuits when they venture outside.

July 20th, 2009

Moon or Mars? ‘Next giant leap’ sparks debate CNN

Blasting off from Earth and hurtling through space at thousands of miles an hour, it takes astronauts three days to reach the moon — a tiny distance in a universe measured in light years, but a fantastic voyage on a human scale. Now plans are under way to go back, even as the future of U.S. human space exploration is under close scrutiny and pressure is growing on NASA to aim for another alien world.

June 23rd, 2009

Commentary: Let’s aim for Mars CNN

Buzz Aldrin: Our mission to the moon was shared by the world as an adventure. He says he became depressed after the mission was over. Aldrin says he took on a new mission: to open space to the average person. He says a mission to colonize Mars would restore adventure of space travel

February 13th, 2009

NASA honored for ‘tweets’ from Mars CNN

NASA was honored Wednesday for its efforts to inform the public through the popular social-networking Web site Twitter. NASA received the “Shorty Award” for documenting the mission of the Mars Phoenix Lander. The Mars Phoenix Lander spent nearly five months in 2008 on the red planet conducting research.
Twitter allows users to post updates or “tweets” in 140 characters or less. NASA said it delivered more than 600 updates during the 152 days the Phoenix was operating in the north polar region of Mars.
By the end of the mission in early November, more than 38,000 people were following its tweets, NASA said.

September 30th, 2008

Phoenix lander spots falling snow on Mars CNN

NASA’s Phoenix spacecraft has discovered evidence of past water at its Martian landing site and spotted falling snow for the first time, scientists reported Monday. Soil experiments revealed the presence of two minerals known to be formed in liquid water. Scientists identified the minerals as calcium carbonate, found in limestone and chalk, and sheet silicate.
But exactly how that happened remains a mystery.
“It’s really kind of all up in the air,” said William Boynton, a mission scientist at the University of Arizona at Tucson.
A laser aboard the Phoenix recently detected snow falling from clouds more than two miles above its home in the northern arctic plains. The snow disappeared before reaching the ground.

August 5th, 2008

Toxin in soil may mean no life on Mars CNN

NASA’s Phoenix lander has discovered a toxic chemical in soil near Mars’ north pole, dimming hopes for finding life on the Red Planet, the probe’s operators said Monday. The chemical, perchlorate, is an oxidant widely used in solid rocket fuel. Researchers are still puzzling over the results and checking to make sure the perchlorate wasn’t carried to Mars from Earth, the University of Arizona-based science team said.
“While we have not completed our process on these soil samples, we have very interesting intermediate results,” Peter Smith, the principal investigator for the project, said in a written statement.
Early readings from a device aboard Phoenix called the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer, or MECA, “suggested Earth-like soil,” Smith said.
“Further analysis has revealed un-Earthlike aspects of the soil chemistry,” he said.
The Phoenix team has scheduled a teleconference for Tuesday to discuss the findings.

June 20th, 2008

Mars lander finds bits of ice, scientists say CNN

Scientists believe NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander exposed bits of ice while recently digging a trench in the soil of the Martian arctic, the mission’s principal investigator said Thursday. Crumbs of bright material initially photographed in the trench later vanished, meaning they must have been frozen water that vaporized after being exposed, Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson, said in a statement.
“These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it’s ice,” Smith said.