Tag Archive: Mars


NASA’s steady reconnaissance of Mars with the Curiosity rover has produced another major discovery: evidence of an ancient lake — with water that could plausibly be described as drinkable — that was part of a long-standing, wet environment that could have supported simple forms of life.

Scientists have known that the young Mars was more Earthlike than the desert planet we see today, but this is the best evidence yet that Mars had swimming holes that stuck around for thousands or perhaps millions of years. (It would have been very chilly — bring a wet suit.)

Scientists had announced this year that they’d found signs of an ancient, fresh-water lake within Gale Crater, but the new reports provide a much more detailed analysis, including the first scientific measurements of the age of rocks on another planet. The research suggests that Martian winds are sand-blasting rock outcroppings and creating inviting places to dig into rocks that may retain the kind of organic molecules associated with ancient microbes.

Gale Crater is in an area with rocks about 4.2 billion years old. The lake, which scientists think existed a little more than 3.5 billion years ago, was roughly the size and shape of one of New York’s Finger Lakes. The freshwater lake may have come and gone, and sometimes been iced over, but the new research shows that the lake was not some momentary feature, but rather was part of a long-lasting habitable environment that included rivers and groundwater.

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Scientists have found a potential building block for life in a Martian meteorite recovered from Antarctica.

Parts of the rock contain rich concentrations of boron, which biochemists suspect played a key role in the development of ribonucleic acid, or RNA.

“I had read how important boron could have been in the origins of life, stabilizing a part of RNA,” biologist James Stephenson, with the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the University of Hawaii told Discovery News.

RNA is a biological molecule, which scientists believe was the stepping stone for life on Earth. It, like deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, which evolved later, can store and transmit information to cells.

RNA is comprised of three basic components: phosphate, a ribose, which is a five-carbon sugar, and a nucleobase. Both phosphates and nucleobases have been found in meteorites previously. Ribose has never been found beyond Earth.

“Of the three parts that make RNA, the ribose is the tricky part. We haven’t been able to explain how it could form naturally,” Stephenson said.

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Mars One, a nonprofit organization based in the Netherlands, intends to establish a human settlement on Mars in 2023.

They need astronauts.

Anyone on planet Earth can apply if they meet the basic requirements. But obviously, the job isn’t for just anyone.

Today, Mars One released its application criteria. Among other virtues, astronaut candidates must have “a deep sense of purpose, willingness to build and maintain healthy relationships, the capacity for self-reflection and ability to trust. They must be resilient, adaptable, curious, creative and resourceful.” And be at least 18 years old (no maximum age has been set).

The selection process will begin during the first half of 2013. Mars One experts and viewers of a “global, televised program”  — think reality TV where the prize could be a trip to a dry, dusty world — will choose from among the applications. Those ultimately selected will be assembled into teams of four. At least six teams are supposed to be ready to launch in September 2022. But only one team will make the first trip to the Red Planet, and that team will be decided democratically.

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Hello Mars,…I’m Curiosity

Dear NASA, any chance you can send another Curiosity rover to the U.S. Congress to check if there’s intelligent life in there? Thanks a lot!

Curiosity's Surroundings - Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

If you’ve always wanted to live on a distant world, Dutch company Mars One wants to give you your chance to settle on the red planet. There’s only one catch: You’ll never be able to return to Earth.

Next year, Mars One will hold a worldwide lottery to select 40 people to train to be civilian astronauts. That group will be sent to live in a desert simulation for three months, after which the initial pool will be whittled down to 10. By 2023, this group will be sent to Mars to form the first permanent human settlement.

According to Bas Lansdorp, founder of Mars One, “We will send humans to Mars in 2023. They will live there the rest of their lives. There will be a habitat waiting for them, and we’ll start sending four people every two years.”

Once the new settlement has begun to thrive, the possibility for a return visit to Earth may open up. Still, that’s not guaranteed. Says Lansdorp, “our astronauts will be offered a one-way trip. We have no idea when it will be possible to offer return tickets.”

Joining up with Mars One is probably the most cost-effective way you’ll ever set foot on Mars. After all, buying a round-trip ticket to Mars from space tourism company Space X will cost you $500,000

Source: Yahoo

Challenges of Getting to Mars

Amazing visualization of what it takes to land NASA’s next rover, Curiosity, on the surface of Mars. Curiosity lands on August 5th.

It sounds like a science-fiction fantasy, but the company Mars One says it’s for real—and that it will really establish a settlement on the planet Mars by 2023.

The privately financed Dutch company has a plan. All it needs is a lot of cash, equipment and four Mars-bound astronauts who are willing to take a one-way trip to the red planet.

The idea is to first send rovers, which will stake out a good site for a settlement and then build out living units. In 2022, the crew will take a “transit habitat” for the seven-month trip to Mars and settle in to their new home. The intention is that the crew will live on the planet for the rest of their lives. Every two years after that, another group will join the settlement to populate the colony.

Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp has a very modern approach to funding the project: media exposure. “We will finance this mission by creating the biggest media event ever around it.” He said in a company video, adding, “Everybody in the world can see everything that will happen in the preparations and on Mars.”

Think of it as a “Big Brother” for outer space. Lansdorp explained to Yahoo! News, “This would be ‘real’ reality TV — adventure is automatically included, we don’t have to add fake challenges.” He added, “By sending a new crew every two years, Mars will have a real, growing settlement of humans — who would not like to follow that major event in human history?”

Who, indeed? The other-worldly idea has certainly intrigued the Web. The Mars One video has received over 232,000 views on YouTube since it launched less than a week ago.

Beyond entertainment, some scientists certainly seem intrigued by the possibility of interplanetary travel. Theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner Gerard ‘t Hooft, a “mission ambassador” for Mars One, endorses the plan. He says, “This project seems to be the only way to fulfill humanity’s dream to explore outer space. It’s going to be an exciting experiment.”

Next year, according to its website, the company will begin an astronaut selection process. Those who have the right stuff will then undergo a decade of preparation. And, we assume, the Mars travelers will be ready for their out-of-this-world close-up.

Curiosity the Nasa space rover ready for launch for Mars

The new approach to landing a rover on the planet, to be attempted in August, will involve winching it slowly to the surface using nylon ropes attached to a spacecraft overhead.

Once the probe, named Curiosity, has safely reached the ground the 25ft-long cords will be cut and the parent ship will use rockets to fire itself well away from the probe for a crash landing.

The new tactic is an attempt to overcome the challenging nature of landing on another planet with several previous missions, including Britain’s Beagle 2 in 2003, having failed in either their approach or landing.

But Nasa experts admitted the project, which will come to a head during the attempted landing on August 6, is a gamble which could prove to be a £1.7 billion ($2.5bn) disaster, The Independent reported.

Speaking at a news conference in London ahead of a lecture to the Royal Academy of Engineering Charles Elachi, director of the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said: “We will be very nervous. Landing on another planet is not a walk in the park.”

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Text messaging and e-mail is so yesterday. Why not use your smartphone to get pictures from the surface of another planet?

The Mars Images app fetches images from the NASA Opportunity rover’s latest downlink as soon as they’re available. On Mars since 2004, Opportunity has far exceeded its planned mission life and is still making groundbreaking discoveries, such as the recent unambiguous evidence that water once flowedon Mars.

Developed by computer scientist Mark Powell of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the app also allows you to browse older photos from the rover’s archive. It is free and available for both iPhone/iPad andAndroid phones.

NASA will add the image archive from Opportunity’s twin, the now defunct Spirit rover, in later versions of the app. The agency is also planning to release a similar app for the Mars Science Laboratory, once itgets on the ground and starts snapping photos in August.

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