May 1st, 2014

Asteroid-Capture to Prep for Manned Flight to Mars Discovery News

NASA’s ambitious plan to snag an asteroid and put it into orbit for astronauts to explore should help put people on Mars, space agency officials said Tuesday (April 29).
Called the Asteroid Redirect Mission, NASA’s plan involves capturing a relatively small asteroid using a robotic spacecraft and placing it into orbit around the moon where astronauts can visit the asteroid in 2025. While this may sound like a very specific kind of mission, the technology and skills used to get astronauts safely to and from the asteroid will help NASA get to the Red Planet. On the asteroid mission, scientists and engineers will be able to work out some potential problems that astronauts could encounter on a mission to Mars, expected to take place sometime in the 2030s.

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August 29th, 2013

Did Life Start on Mars? Discovery News

ot only was Mars once much more like Earth, with atmosphere, surface water and warmer temperatures, but it had a potentially key ingredient for life that was not available on our home world.
That buttresses a mind-bending theory that life got its start on Mars and then spread to Earth, said biochemist Steven Benner, with the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Gainesville, Fla.

March 28th, 2013

Why a Mars Comet Impact Would be Awesome Discovery News

When Jupiter’s tides ripped Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 to shreds, only for the icy chunks to succumb to the intense Jovian gravity, ultimately slamming into the gas giant’s atmosphere, mankind was treated to a rare cosmic spectacle (in human timescales at least). That was the first time in modern history that we saw a comet do battle with a planet… and lose.
But next year, astronomers think there’s a chance — albeit a small one — of a neighboring planet getting punched by an icy interplanetary interloper. However, this planet doesn’t have a generously thick atmosphere to soften the blow. Rather than causing bruises in a dense, molecular hydrogen atmosphere, this comet will pass through the atmosphere like it wasn’t even there and hit the planetary surface like a cosmic pile-driver, ripping into the crust.
What’s more, we’d have robotic eyes on the ground and in orbit should the worst happen.

August 27th, 2012

Robots to Go Spelunking in Martian Caves? Discovery News

Scientists are beginning to sketch out plans for NASA’s new Mars rover Curiosity to climb Mount Sharp, but future robots may have a more direct way to access the planet’s history books.
Recent discoveries of “skylights” (pictured here) and lava tubes on the surface of Mars, as well as the moon, are sparking the development of robotic probes that can descend into caves and explore tunnels.
“Geology works in layers, so how many layers can you see? Well, we know there are sinkholes on Mars. Those sinkholes expose potentially hundreds of feet of layers, so if you could lower something down and examine those layers and explore a tunnel underneath, or anything of that sort, the science that can be done with that is just phenomenal,” Jason Derleth, senior technology analyst with NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, told Discovery News.

April 12th, 2012

Mars Viking Robots ‘Found Life’ Discovery News

New analysis of 36-year-old data, resuscitated from printouts, shows NASA found life on Mars, an international team of mathematicians and scientists conclude in a paper published this week.
Further, NASA doesn’t need a human expedition to Mars to nail down the claim, neuropharmacologist and biologist Joseph Miller, with the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, told Discovery News.
“The ultimate proof is to take a video of a Martian bacteria. They should send a microscope — watch the bacteria move,” Miller said.
“On the basis of what we’ve done so far, I’d say I’m 99 percent sure there’s life there,” he added.

October 27th, 2011

Mars Feels Sun’s Wrath Discovery News

The sun battered the Earth’s magnetosphere with an “epic” geomagnetic storm over the last couple of days, generating beautiful auroral displays at low latitudes. Now it’s Mars’ turn.
On Saturday (Oct. 22), a large bubble of solar plasma was blasted from the sun’s surface. Unlike the coronal mass ejection (CME) that struck us on Monday, Saturday’s CME was sent in a different direction — toward the Red Planet.
As per simulations carried out by NASA’s Goddard Space Weather Laboratory (shown below), the CME should have arrived in Mars orbit by now (Oct. 26). However, its impact on Mars will be very different than a CME’s impact on Earth.

July 16th, 2011

Red Wine Counters Effects of Microgravity Discovery News

Good news for oenophiles: Wine can offset the negative effects of weightlessness. We’ve already seen the first beer brewed for drinking in space — any vintners want to take up the challenge of bottling the first zero-g grenache?
Scientists have long known that red wine has health benefits; it contains resveratrol and antioxidants like flavonoids that are good for your heart, the Mayo Clinic explains. A new study shows resveratrol can prevent bone density loss and muscle atrophy, two problems that commonly plague astronauts and those who lead sedentary lifestyles.

June 28th, 2011

100 Years Ago, a Chunk of Mars Hit Egypt (and a Dog) Discovery News

Exactly a century ago, on June 28, 1911, an explosion shook the Nakhla region of Alexandria in Egypt at 9 a.m. Soon after, around 40 chunks of meteorite debris from the high altitude blast rained down. 22 pounds (10 kilograms) of the bolide were recovered by witnesses of this cosmic event.
The Smithsonian received two samples of the Nakhla meteorite the following August and then acquired a larger 480 gram (one pound) piece in 1962 (pictured top). By the 1970’s, the Smithsonian had collected 650 grams (1.4 pounds) of the meteorite.

January 7th, 2011

Viking Found Organics on Mars, Experiment Confirms Discovery News

More than 30 years after NASA’s Viking landers found no evidence for organic materials on Mars, scientists say a new experiment on Mars-like soil shows Viking did, in fact, hit pay dirt.
The new study was prompted by the August 2008 discovery of powerful oxygen-busting compounds known as perchlorates at the landing site of another Mars probe called Phoenix.
Scientists repeated a key Viking experiment using perchlorate-enhanced soil from Chile’s Atacama Desert, which is considered one of the driest and most Mars-like places on Earth, and found telltale fingerprints of combusted organics — the same chemicals Viking scientists dismissed as contaminants from Earth.
“Contrary to 30 years of perceived wisdom, Viking did detect organic materials on Mars,” planetary scientist Christopher McKay, with NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, told Discovery News. “It’s like a 30-year-old cold case suddenly solved with new facts.”

September 28th, 2009

Viking 2 Likely Came Close to Finding H2O Discovery News

NASA’s Viking probes landed on Mars in 1976 to look for water and signs of life. Finding neither, Mars was abandoned for the next two decades.
But if Viking 2, which touched down in an equatorial region known as Utopia Planitia, had just dug down into the soil a few more inches, scientists now think it would have hit nearly pure frozen water.

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