Century-old fancies of a past Mars covered with warm, sparkling seas are fading, as scientists realize the planet’s rust-red surface has probably been a dry, frigid icebox for almost all of its history. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Martian microbes aren’t thriving at this very moment in volcanically heated subterranean swimming pools thousands of feet beneath the surface — the scientific jury is still out on that popular hypothesis. But whenever liquid water squirted to the surface during the past 3.5 billion years, it usually sloshed around for only brief periods before freezing or vaporizing in the drier-than-Sahara wasteland, judging by scientific evidence reported Monday at the annual San Francisco meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
Deep down, Mars harbors a lot of ice Frozen water may even be drinkable, scientists say San Francisco Chronicle
Rare bacteria clusters Yellowstone find could unlock clues to early Mars life San Francisco Chronicle
A bizarre community of microbes has been discovered inside rocks in Yellowstone National Park, thriving in pores filled with water so acidic it can dissolve steel nails. The clusters, interwoven with flourishing green algae, comprise at least 40 different new species of bacteria, according to Jeffrey Walker, a University of Colorado microbiologist — and he and his colleagues say the microbes’ fossil forms could provide powerful clues to the nature of early life on Earth and life that may have existed billions of years ago on Mars.
Air Force pursuing antimatter weapons Program was touted publicly, then came official gag order San Francisco Chronicle
The U.S. Air Force is quietly spending millions of dollars investigating ways to use a radical power source — antimatter, the eerie “mirror” of ordinary matter — in future weapons. The most powerful potential energy source presently thought to be available to humanity, antimatter is a term normally heard in science-fiction films and TV shows. But antimatter itself isn’t fiction; it actually exists and has been intensively studied by physicists since the 1930s. In a sense, matter and antimatter are the yin and yang of reality: Every type of subatomic particle has its antimatter counterpart. But when matter and antimatter collide, they annihilate each other in an immense burst of energy.
Rovers pave way to comprehending Mars San Francisco Chronicle
The sands of Mars inside the ancient crater named Gusev, wind- rippled and perhaps once briefly filmed by water, are marked now by the tracks of Spirit. Images of the rover tracks, documenting the imprint of human curiosity on an alien, rocky landscape, are some of the most remarkable pictures ever produced by the space program — part of the photographic legacy of NASA’s continuing robotic exploration of Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor.
Answers may be locked inside Martian ‘bedrock’ San Francisco Chronicle
By a stroke of luck, the Mars rover Opportunity landed literally a stone’s throw away from a scientific gold mine. Its primary task now will be to explore a rock outcropping that appears to be Martian “bedrock,” primeval rock that has been there since it formed. In images transmitted to Earth, the outcropping resembles the horizontal layers of rock familiar to any terrestrial hiker who, wandering through a valley, spies bedrock exposed by erosion or landslides.
Images from Mars rover reveal mysterious clumps San Francisco Chronicle
Ecstatic scientists used the Mars rover’s powerful camera Friday to take the first close-up images ever made of the Martian surface and immediately confronted a new mystery over what they saw. The images that Spirit sent down from its Martian parking spot, a few feet in front of its landing pad, was a flat patch of fine- and coarse-grained sand — much of it stuck together in clumpy patches that scientists conceded they did not yet understand.
Spirit begins hunt for water signs San Francisco Chronicle
The roving Martian voyager called Spirit finally planted its six wheels firmly onto the sands of Mars early Thursday to begin one of the most significant ventures in the history of human exploration — a search for evidence that water, and perhaps life, ever existed on another planet in the solar system.
Space, the fiscal frontier San Francisco Chronicle
The path to the moon and Mars may run straight through Silicon Valley. President Bush’s plans for a manned lunar base and human exploration of the red planet, with costs that could top $100 billion, could be a boon for local tech companies and research institutes.
Space theorist posits unusual life on Mars ‘2nd genesis’ on Red Planet San Francisco Chronicle
The planet Mars may well have been the scene of the solar system’s “second genesis,” where forms of life vastly different from Earth’s emerged deep beneath the Martian surface billions of years ago, a leading space scientist proposed Wednesday. Christopher McKay, of NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, said that life on early Mars might have been based on DNA, genes and proteins unlike anything found on Earth.
Mars extraordinarily close to Earth tonight San Francisco Chronicle
Astronomers — both amateur and professional — are likely to be out in force if Bay Area skies remain clear tonight and Wednesday night, when the planet Mars makes its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years. At 2:51 a.m. PDT Wednesday the orbit of Mars will carry it within 34,646, 437 miles of Earth. Mars is already brighter than any other object in the night sky save the Moon.