January 25th, 2010

Looming Martian winter threatens Spirit rover Spaceflight Now

NASA Headquarters managers face an imminent decision to formally halt further extraction maneuvers by the Mars rover Spirit to conserve electricity and to save the rover’s life while it remains stuck in a sand trap 61 million miles from Earth.
After six years of roving, Spirit’s continued survival on Mars is now an open question as this marvel of robotics, human affection and ingenuity now risks freezing to death in the weeks ahead.

January 21st, 2010

No sign of Phoenix lander during three days of listening Spaceflight Now

NASA says they heard no signals from the Phoenix lander this week during 30 communications passes over the probe’s icy landing site, an expected outcome because the craft was never designed to survive the dark and cold Martian winter. The Odyssey orbiter circling Mars listened for potential radio signals from Phoenix 30 times over three days this week. NASA announced late Thursday that Odyssey did not detect any communications from Phoenix.
“After all their tries so far, they haven’t recovered it yet,” said Peter Smith, the Phoenix mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona.
Officials cautioned the odds of hearing anything from Phoenix were very slim because the lander was not designed to weather the bone-chilling temperatures and months of darkness during winter on Mars’ northern polar plains.

December 23rd, 2009

NASA finds fix for Ares 1 vibration concerns Spaceflight Now

Engineers have identified a way to shield astronauts riding the Ares 1 rocket from potentially dangerous vibrations caused by the launcher’s solid-fueled first stage, according to NASA. Managers decided last week to incorporate an upper plane C-spring isolator module and upper stage liquid oxygen damper on the Ares 1 rocket to ensure astronauts inside the Orion crew module will not experience intense vibrations during launch, according to a posting on a NASA Web site.

December 18th, 2009

White House says no decision yet on NASA’s future Spaceflight Now

White House officials say President Obama has not yet made a decision on the fate of NASA’s moon program, two days after an Oval Office meeting with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. Obama and Bolden met Wednesday afternoon to discuss the space agency’s work and the results of the Augustine commission, a panel of experts that submitted options in October for the future of the human space program.

November 29th, 2009

Martian meteorite surrenders new secrets of possible life Spaceflight Now

Compelling new data that chemical and fossil evidence of ancient microbial life on Mars was carried to Earth in a Martian meteorite is being elevated to a higher plane by the same NASA team which made the initial discovery 13 years ago.
Sources tell Spaceflight Now that the new data are providing a powerful new case for the Allen Hills Meteorite to have carried strong evidence of Martian life to Earth — evidence that is increasingly standing up to scrutiny as new analytical tools are used to examine the specimen.

January 29th, 2009

Mars strategy shift eyed as methane boosts odds for life Spaceflight Now

The Mars Science Laboratory rover may be retargeted to land near a methane vent on Mars to specifically seek direct evidence of current Martian life.
This new consideration of MSL landing sites comes in the wake of compelling new data that large pockets of methane found in the Martian atmosphere could have been exhaled or vented from abundant microorganisms living underground on Mars. The MSL rover’s launch was recently delayed from 2009 to 2011 because of technical delays, but the slip could enable a new landing site selection related to the methane findings, says Michael Meyer, the lead Mars program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington.

January 15th, 2009

Discovery of methane reveals Mars is not a dead planet Spaceflight Now

team of NASA and university scientists has achieved the first definitive detection of methane in the atmosphere of Mars. This discovery indicates the planet is either biologically or geologically active. The team found methane in the Martian atmosphere by carefully observing the planet throughout several Mars years with NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility and the W.M. Keck telescope, both at Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The team used spectrometers on the telescopes to spread the light into its component colors, as a prism separates white light into a rainbow. The team detected three spectral features called absorption lines that together are a definitive signature of methane.

July 24th, 2005

NASA Quest challenges students to study Mars on Earth Spaceflight Now

As NASA turns its attention to preparing for human travel to the Moon and Mars, there are many hurdles to overcome. This fall, the NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and NASA Quest will open the school year with a challenge to students, primarily in grades 5-8, to work with NASA scientists to design solutions to these obstacles. During October and November, students are invited to join NASA researchers Jennifer Heldmann, William J. Clancey and Chris McKay and other leading scientists as they embark on a Mars analog study at California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park. By studying snowfields in the park, scientists hope to learn more about the development and use of technologies needed to help understand and explore the moon and Mars. They will also learn about polar ice caps and the possible life that could exist there.

April 4th, 2004

Europe plans for Mars sample return mission Spaceflight Now

Following award of the study contract by the European Space Agency, EADS Space has made significant progress in completing the first definition of a European Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission. While EADS Astrium is defining the overall mission and the spacecraft, EADS Space Transportation is responsible for the re-entry systems and a ‘Mars Ascent Vehicle’ – a small rocket to carry the precious sample up through the Martian atmosphere.

March 2nd, 2004

Rover finds evidence landing site once wet, habitable Spaceflight Now

NASA’s Opportunity rover, studying exposed bedrock in the crater where it landed by chance in January, has found clear evidence that Mars once supported a wet, habitable environment, one that would have been suitable for life, scientists announced today.