MarsNews.com
February 27th, 2017

Mars: Ripe for an Atmospheric Overhaul?

An artificial magnetosphere of sufficient size generated at L1 allows Mars to be well protected by the magnetotail. Credit: J.L.Green, et al.

An artificial magnetosphere of sufficient size
generated at L1 allows Mars to be well protected by the magnetotail.
Credit: J.L.Green, et al.

Transforming Mars to make it more livable for humankind could involve creating an artificial magnetosphere for the Red Planet.

This idea has been suggested by a team of researchers, presenting the concept at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop 2017 being held this week in Washington, D.C.

Arid and cold

Their paper – A Future Mars Environment for Science and Exploration – notes that today, that planet is an arid and cold world with a very thin atmosphere that has significant frozen and underground water resources.

Mars’ thin atmosphere not only prevents liquid water from residing permanently on its surface and makes it difficult to land missions since it is not thick enough to completely facilitate a soft landing.

The research paper, led by James Green, Director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters, explains that when Mars lost its protective magnetosphere, three or more billion years ago, the solar wind was allowed to “directly ravish” the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

February 24th, 2017

Andy Weir’s Best Seller ‘The Martian’ Gets a Classroom-Friendly Makeover

There are more than 160 swear words in Andy Weir’s sci-fi thriller, “The Martian,” including two memorably deployed F-words in the novel’s first three sentences.

The profanity did not strike Mr. Weir as excessive when he wrote the book nearly a decade ago. After all, the story’s narrator, an astronaut named Mark Watney, is stranded alone on Mars with a dwindling supply of food and a rescue mission that is four years away — circumstances that warrant constant cursing.

But shortly after the book came out, Mr. Weir started hearing from a subset of readers who objected to the obscenities.

“I got a lot of emails from science teachers who said, ‘Man I’d love to use your book as a teaching aid, but there’s so much profanity in it that we can’t really do that,’” said Mr. Weir, 44, who is cheerful, hyper-analytical and casually profane, much like his protagonist. “It’s hard to get that by a school board.”

February 22nd, 2017

Did Mars Once Have Three Moons?

Rather than the two Moons we see today, a collision followed by a circumplanetary disk may have given rise to three moons of Mars, where only two survive today. Image credit: Labex UnivEarths / Université Paris Diderot.

Rather than the two Moons we see today, a collision followed by a circumplanetary disk may have given rise to three moons of Mars, where only two survive today. Image credit: Labex UnivEarths / Université Paris Diderot.

Mars’ two moons, Phobos and Deimos, are small, irregular, but orbit in the same equatorial plane as the red planet. Although they’ve long been thought to be captured asteroids, those orbits would be supremely unlikely. Another possibility would have been if a massive impact created a debris disk, similar to how Earth’s Moon was formed. That alternative creates equatorial orbits, but normally produces at least one very large moon. However, a new simulation was performed, showing how an impact could create three moons around Mars, where the largest, inner one decays, creating Martian system we see today.

February 15th, 2017

Mars 2020: Could this be Red Planet round-trip?

NASA/AP

NASA/AP

Nearly 20 years after Pathfinder rolled onto an ancient Martian flood plain called Ares Vallis, NASA’s four Mars rovers have only covered about 38 miles of the Red Planet. That leaves plenty of territory for the next lander, Mars 2020, to explore.

At a conference last week, scientists determined three possible landing sites for the rover: Columbia Hills, Northeast Syrtis, and Jezero Crater. Orbital observations and previous rovers have found that the first two sites were likely once home to hot springs; Jezero Crater may have held a large lake.

“If you find where the liquid water was,” Bruce Betts, director of science and technology for the Planetary Society, tells The Christian Science Monitor, “if there were ever life on Mars, that would be a good place to look.”

This “follow the water” paradigm has guided NASA’s missions to Mars since the 1990s. The Mars 2020 mission, scheduled for launch in three years, continues this approach and adds a new goal: returning samples for Earth-based study.

February 14th, 2017

UAE seeks to build human settlement on Mars by 2117

Government of Dubai Media Office

Government of Dubai Media Office

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has unveiled a new project that aims to establish the first inhabitable human settlement in Mars by 2117.

The initiative called “Mars 2117 Project” was announced on Tuesday by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, on the sidelines of the 5th World Government Summit, currently being held in the Emirate.

“The landing of people on other planets has been a longtime dream for humans. Our aim is that the UAE will spearhead international efforts to make this dream a reality,” said Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid.

February 3rd, 2017

The Space Between Us (2017)

STX Entertainment

STX Entertainment

The director of Hannah Montana: The Movie and screenwriters with connections to 1990s young adult television series “Charmed” come together to deliver The Space Between Us, one of the most baffling and inane films of recent memory.

The notion that a boy born on Mars, curious about and wanting to visit Earth, is an intriguing premise which, with the right writers and proper handlers, could be really all you need for a compelling movie. However, because we are marketing this movie to teens, we get what essentially plays like a pilot episode of a young adult television series on basic cable. And I don’t think this series would get picked up.

There is a decent enough, if not logically wacky, beginning: an astronaut (Janet Montgomery) discovering she is pregnant, while in flight to Mars, dies on the Red Planet moments after giving birth to a baby boy. When we cut to 16 years later, the baby, now a teenager named Gardner (Asa Butterfield), is surrounded by a bunch of scientists, a robot, and astronaut and mother-like figure Kendra (Carla Gugino), all on a colonized Mars.

Britt Robertson and Asa Butterfield in “The Space Between Us” | STX Entertainment

The colonization is the brainchild of Nathaniel Sanders (Gary Oldman), a lifelong lover of space who turned his youthful dreams into his life’s work, the billionaire scientist keeping Gardner’s existence a secret from the public the entire time.

January 31st, 2017

Love Science? Mars Needs You

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Mars has some impressive geological features across its cold, desiccated surface, many of which are similar to featured found here on Earth. By studying them, scientists are able to learn more about the natural history of the Red Planet, what kinds of meteorological phenomena are responsible for shaping it, and how similar our two planets are. A perfect of example of this are the polygon-ridge networks that have been observed on its surface.

One such network was recently discovered by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in the Medusae Fossae region, which straddles the planet’s equator. Measuring some 16 story’s high, this ridge network is similar to others that have been spotted on Mars. But according to a survey produced by researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, these ridges likely have different origins.

This survey, which was recently published in the journal Icarus, examined both the network found in the Medusae Fossae region and similar-looking networks in other regions of the Red Planet. These ridges (sometimes called boxwork rides), are essentially blade-like walls that look like multiple adjoining polygons (i.e. rectangles, pentagons, triangles, and similar shapes).

January 24th, 2017

If You Were Me and Lived on … Mars

Join Carole P. Roman when she blasts off to colonize the planet Mars, in the newest book of her informative series. Learn about how life would be living on the Red Planet. Travel to Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system. Look into the sky and watch Phobos and Deimos, Mars’ two moons. Discover what you would wear, and how the seasons change. See Mars through the eyes of an adventurous youngster like you and understand what life is like in a trip of a lifetime. Don’t forget to look at the other books in the series so that you can be an armchair traveler

January 23rd, 2017

Microbes Could Survive Thin Air of Mars

An artist’s impression of what Mars might have looked like with water, when any potential Martian microbes would have evolved.  Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser.

An artist’s impression of what Mars might have looked like with water, when any potential Martian microbes would have evolved.
Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser.

Microbes that rank among the simplest and most ancient organisms on Earth could survive the extremely thin air of Mars, a new study finds.

The martian surface is presently cold and dry, but there is plenty of evidence suggesting that rivers, lakes and seas covered the Red Planet billions of years ago. Since there is life virtually wherever there is liquid water on Earth, scientists have suggested that life might have evolved on Mars when it was wet, and life could be there even now.

“In all the environments we find here on Earth, there is some sort of microorganism in almost all of them,” said Rebecca Mickol, an astrobiologist at the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and the lead author of the study. “It’s hard to believe there aren’t other organisms out there on other planets or moons as well.”

Mickol and her team detailed their findings in the paper, “Low Pressure Tolerance by Methanogens in an Aqueous Environment: Implications for Subsurface Life on Mars,” which was published in the journal Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres.

January 12th, 2017

To prepare for life on Mars, astronauts are going to … Utah?

Veronica Ann Zabala-Aliberto and Hugh Gregory collect rocks outside the Mars Desert Research Station during a previous Mars simulation mission in Hanksville, Utah. A new crew of six is set to begin a new mission this month. (Photo: George Frey/Getty Images)

Veronica Ann Zabala-Aliberto and Hugh Gregory collect rocks outside the Mars Desert Research Station during a previous Mars simulation mission in Hanksville, Utah. A new crew of six is set to begin a new mission this month. (Photo: George Frey/Getty Images)

This is the true story of six scientists, picked to live in a capsule in the middle of the Utah desert, work together and have their lives studied, to find out what happens when people stop being Earthlings and start being Martians.

While it’s too soon to say whether the crew of a certain long-running MTV reality show will make Mars its next setting, one thing’s for certain: if humans are really going to live on the Red Planet one day, we need to know exactly how that’s going to look. That’s where Team PRIMA 173 comes in. It’s a group of six highly qualified scientists, engineers, artists and leadership experts from around the world. Among the crew: Michaela Musilova, an astrobiologist from Slovakia; Arnau Pons, an aeronautical engineer from Spain; Roy Naor, a graduate student in planetary geology from Israel; and Niamh Shaw, an artist and journalist from Ireland.

They’ve all been selected by the Mars Society to take part in a scientific simulation project at the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah.