Just days after starting its science mission, a new spacecraft orbiting Mars has struck pay dirt, detecting vast fields of ice that scientists say provide evidence of sufficient water to make it possible for the planet to have harbored life. The discovery is a coup for NASA, whose leaders are using a “follow the water” strategy to understand the evolution of Mars and look for signs of past and present life there. The presence of water would also be key to any future attempt to have astronauts explore the Martian surface. “Water is vital to life. Water has changed the surface of Mars in the past. And water is essential to the future exploration of Mars,” R. Stephen Saunders, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s project scientist for the Odyssey orbiter, said at a news conference Friday in Pasadena to release the findings.
Vast Ice Fields Suggest Life on Mars Possible Los Angeles Times
NASA Seeks $1 Billion for Nuclear Propulsion Plan Los Angeles Times
After a 30-year hiatus, government rocket scientists want to resurrect efforts to design a nuclear-powered propulsion system, a controversial concept crucial to any program for human exploration of the solar system. A $125-million initiative for developing the technology, which has frustrated scientists and engineers since the 1950s, was quietly inserted into the proposed fiscal 2003 NASA budget, which was unveiled this week. The space agency’s plan calls for a $1-billion program over five years, a project that would include significant roles for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Using nuclear technology would in theory slash a trip to Mars and back by more than half from about two years to less than a year, for instance, and alleviate lingering concerns with the health effects of long-duration space travel, NASA officials said. Astronauts who occupied the former Soviet operated Mir space station for months at a time suffered from muscle atrophy, bone loss and other crippling effects of prolonged exposure to micro gravity.
Piece of Mars Finds Its Way to Museum Los Angeles Times
It traveled millions of years through space, dropped into the Mojave Desert and was snatched up by rock collector Robert Verish. Then, for 20 years, it was left unnoticed in a crate in his backyard. It’s been a long journey for the so-called Los Angeles meteorite, now on exhibit at the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park. UCLA scientists have confirmed that the half-pound chunk of basalt came from Mars–one of only 14 Martian meteorites to have been found on Earth.