Archive for the ‘Mars’ Category

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Nasa’s $800m Mars Exploration Rovers have accidentally drawn a penis.

The twin exploration vehicles Spirit and Opportunity were launched nine years ago, in an effort to search the surface of Mars for signs of water erosion and possibly even life.

According to Nasa, since then the rovers have driven over more than 10km of Martian land, directed by teams back on Earth combined with autonomous cameras designed to avoid potential problems with the terrain.

It appears that part of the robots’ programming involves spinning in tight circles to test nearby terrain and find new routes.

Humorously, depending on your age perhaps, that has the unfortunate consequence of drawing a certain shape on the surface, which when discovered by Reddit essentially crashed Nasa’s website.

The image was posted on Nasa’s site and appears to be a genuine picture from the Martian surface – albeit one taken at an unfortunate angle.

It’s not clear which of the rovers drew the shape, or even when it was made.

Nasa lost communication with the Spirit rover in 2009 after it became stuck in some sand. Meanwhile the Opportunity is still traversing the surface on its way to the Endeavour crater.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/04/24/mars-rover-penis-nasa_n_3144656.html

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Curiosity has found discovered that Mars possesses conditions that could have supported ancient — and future — life, announced NASA scientists during a press conference today.

“A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. “From what we know now, the answer is yes.”

Reportedly, the sample taken from the sedimentary rock targeted by Curiosity contains sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and carbon, all key ingredients for life. One NASA scientist referred to the findings as “really something special,” as well as containing up to 20% clay — which is formed by the reaction of relatively fresh water with igneous materials.

Additonally, scientists discovered a mixture of oxidized, less-oxidized, and even non-oxidized chemicals capable of supporting an energy gradient of the sort many microbes on Earth require for survival.

“The range of chemical ingredients we have identified in the sample is impressive, and it suggests pairings such as sulfates and sulfides that indicate a possible chemical energy source for micro-organisms,” said Paul Mahaffy, a NASA official.

http://www.policymic.com/mobile/articles/29536/mars-rover-finds-all-the-prerequisites-for-life-a-habitable-environment

Human Settlement on Mars in 2023
Mars One is a not-for-profit organization that will take humanity to Mars in 2023, to establish the foundation of a permanent settlement from which we will prosper, learn, and grow. Before the first crew lands, Mars One will have established a habitable, sustainable settlement designed to receive astronauts every two years. To accomplish this, Mars One has developed a precise, realistic plan based entirely upon existing technologies. It is both economically and logistically feasible, in motion through the integration of existing suppliers and experts in space exploration.
We invite you to participate in this journey, by sharing our vision with your friends, by supporting our effort and, perhaps, by becoming the next Mars astronaut yourself.

http://mars-one.com/en/

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

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A hardy bacteria common on Earth was surprisingly adaptive to Mars-like low pressure, cold and carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere, a finding that has implications in the search for extraterrestrial life.

The bacteria, known as Serratia liquefaciens, is found in human skin, hair and lungs, as well as in fish, aquatic systems, plant leaves and roots.

“It’s present in a wide range of medium-temperature ecological niches,” said microbiologist Andrew Schuerger, with the University of Florida.

Serratia liquefaciens most likely evolved at sea level, so it was surprising to find it could grow in an experiment chamber that reduced pressure down to a Mars-like 7 millibars, Schuerger said.

Sea-level atmospheric pressure on Earth is about 1,000 millibars or 1 bar.

“It was a really big surprise,” Schuerger said. “We had no reason to believe it was going to be able to grow at 7 millibars. It was just included in the study because we had cultures easily on hand and these species have been recovered from spacecraft.”

In addition to concerns that hitchhiking microbes could inadvertently contaminate Mars, the study opens the door to a wider variety of life forms with the potential to evolve indigenously.

To survive, however, the microbes would need to be shielded from the harsh ultraviolet radiation that blasts the surface of Mars, as well as have access to a source of water, organic carbon and nitrogen.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is five months into a planned two-year mission to look for chemistry and environmental conditions that could have supported and preserved microbial life.

Scientists do not expect to find life at the rover’s landing site – a very dry, ancient impact basin called Gale Crater near the Martian equator. They are however hoping to learn if the planet most like Earth in the solar system has or ever had the ingredients for life by chemically analyzing rocks and soil in layers of sediment.

So far, efforts to find Earth microbes that could live in the harsh conditions of Mars have primarily focused on so-called extremophiles which are found only in extreme cold, dry or acidic environments on Earth. Two extremophiles tested along with the Serratia liquefaciens and 23 other common microbes did not survive the experiment.

A follow-up experiment on about 10,000 other microbes retrieved from boring 12 to 21 meters into the Siberian permafrost found six species that could grow in the simulated Mars chamber, located at the Space Life Sciences Laboratory adjacent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The next step is to see how the microbes fare under even more hostile conditions.

http://english.sina.com/culture/p/2013/0110/547474.html

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A team of scientists has established a whole new class of meteorites that seems to have come from Mars’ crust, based on a rare sample from 2.1 billion years ago.

The newly analyzed meteorite has more water than any other Martian meteorite that we know of, by a magnitude of more than 10, said Carl Agee, lead study author and director of the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico. Agee and colleagues published their analysis of the meteorite in the journal Science Express.

“There are thousands and thousands of meteorites, and so far this is the only one like it,” Agee said.

This is a volcanic rock that was probably part of an eruption, and interacted with water to the extent that some water got incorporated into the structure of the minerals, Agee said. “That’s why we’re able to see it after a couple of billion years,” he said.

The precise source of the water in the meteorite is unknown. It could have come from a lake or stream, or ground water that a volcano intruded into, Agee said. Alternatively, the water could have come from frozen Martian tundra that melted when hot volcanic material moved through it.

“We do know that there was a significant amount [of water] available,” he said.

Agee and colleagues were able to extract water from the meteorite by putting it into a vacuum-sealed tube and heating it up. Using a mass spectrometer, they were able to determine that the gas released from the heated meteorite was water vapor.

“That vapor is true Martian water that is, sort of like, being awakened” after many years, he said. “We’re pulling it out of the rock.”

Agee’s meteorite is similar to the type of rocks that NASA spacecraft have found on the surface of Mars in terms of its chemical composition. This is the first meteorite that’s a good match to those rocks on Mars today.

The meteorite’s age also makes it unique, Agee said. It from 2.1 billion years ago, making it the second-oldest sample that we have. The oldest is the Alan Hills meteorite, discovered in Antarctica in 1984, which is 4.5 billion years old. All other samples have been much younger.

Right now, Mars is cold and dry, inhospitable for life, Agee said. But many scientists believe the environment used to be warm and wet and that somewhere in its history the planet lost its atmosphere and surface water. When and how that happened are big mysteries.

“This meteorite is a sample from that transitional period, perhaps,” Agee said. “Because of the water that’s present in it, it may be giving us a glimpse of what the surface conditions were like, as well.”

The rare Mars rocks came from Morocco. There are nomads in that country who make a living by scouring the Sahara Desert for the dark, black rocks that have fallen from space, Agee explains. They bring these meteorites into towns and sell them to a dealer. Then the dealer sells them internationally to collectors, museums and scientists.

When Agee realized how rare and important his first sample was, he wanted to know if there were more. The meteorite hunters have since recovered a few more pieces.

The biggest piece of this Martian meteorite fits into the palm of your hand and weighs 320 grams (about 11 ounces), Agee said. There are two samples in his lab and two more in Paris.

“It’s going to be real interesting to see if there are more that are recovered,” he said. “But I think that this particular type is going to be extraordinarily rare.”

http://lightyears.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/03/meteorite-has-highest-water-content-of-any-from-mars-scientists-say/?hpt=hp_c3

 

 

Gardening in space! Chinese astronauts may grow fresh vegetables in extraterrestrial bases on Moon or Mars in the future to provide food and oxygen supplies to astronauts, an official said after a successful lab experiment.

Deng Yibing, deputy director of the Beijing-based Chinese Astronaut Research and Training Center, said that the recent experiment focused on a dynamic balanced mechanism of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water between people and plants in a closed system.

According to Deng, a cabin of 300 cubic metres was established to provide sustainable supplies of air, water and food for two participants during the experiment, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Four kinds of vegetables were grown, taking in carbon dioxide and providing oxygen for the two people living in the cabin. They could also harvest fresh vegetables for meals, Deng said.

The experiment, the first of its kind in China, is extremely important for the long-term development of the country’s manned space programme, Deng added.

The cabin, a controlled ecological life support system (CELSS) built in 2011, is a model of China’s third generation of astronauts’ life support systems, which is expected to be used in extraterrestrial bases on the Moon or Mars.

The introduction of a CELSS seeks to provide sustainable supplies of air, water and food for astronauts with the help of plants and algae, instead of relying on stocks of such basics deposited on board at the outset of the mission.

Advance forms of CELSS also involve the breeding of animals for meat and using microbes to recycle wastes.

Scientists from Germany also participated in the experiments.

http://www.phenomenica.com/2012/12/chinese-astronauts-plan-to-grow-vegetables-on-moon.html

SpaceX founder and billionaire Elon Musk is laying out his plans for a colony on Mars, and they are specific.

Musk has mapped out an approximate number of people he imagines living in the Mars colony (80,000), as well as how much a ticket to Mars might cost — $US500,000 ($A477,300).

But first, he said, SpaceX has to design what he calls a “rapid and reusable” rocket that can land vertically. “That is the pivotal step to achieving a colony on Mars,” he told an audience at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London last week.

If SpaceX or another company can’t come up with a rocket that can be reused and refuelled, like we reuse aeroplanes, then he said colonising Mars would be prohibitively expensive.

Musk described creating a rocket that could shuttle between Mars and the Earth as “possible, but quite difficult”.

But that hasn’t stopped him from mapping out a vision of how a colony on Mars might grow. The first step, of course, is getting a manned mission to Mars, which Musk said he thinks SpaceX can do in 10 to 15 years.

Next, he envisions sending 10 people to the Red Planet, along with supplies to build transparent domes, Space.com reports. If the domes are pressurised with the CO2 in Mars’ atmosphere, the colonists could grow Earth crops in the soil on Mars.

As the colony became more self-sufficient, space on the rocket could be filled with people rather than supplies.

And those numbers Musk tossed out are not random. He arrived at 80,000 colonists by estimating that by the time a Mars colony is a reality there will be 8 billion people on Earth. Musk said he thinks 1 in 100,000 people will be ready and willing to take the journey to Mars. As for the $US500,000 ticket — he said that while it’s a lot of money, it is a sum of money that someone who has worked hard and saved carefully might be able to afford.

And as to whether the American taxpayer should contribute to a colony on Mars, Musk says yes. A colony on another planet is life insurance for life collectively, he said during his talk. He added that it would be a fun adventure to watch, even if you aren’t planning on going yourself.

http://m.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/your-ticket-to-mars-half-a-million-dollars-20121127-2a4bc.html