By Lonnie Shekhtman NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, Md. — A NASA team has found that organic salts are likely present on Mars. Like shards of ancient pottery, these salts are the chemical remnants of organic compounds, such as those previously detected by NASA’s Curiosity rover. Organic compounds and salts on Mars could have formed by geologic processes or be remnants of ancient microbial life.
Besides adding more evidence to the idea that there once was organic matter on Mars, directly detecting organic salts would also support modern-day Martian habitability, given that on Earth, some organisms can use organic salts, such as oxalates and acetates, for energy.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — You may be able to help NASA’s Curiosity rover drivers better navigate Mars. Using the online tool AI4Mars to label terrain features in pictures downloaded from the Red Planet, you can train an artificial intelligence algorithm to automatically read the landscape.
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — By studying the chemical elements on Mars today — including carbon and oxygen — scientists can work backwards to piece together the history of a planet that once had the conditions necessary to support life.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — Apollo 17 astronauts drove a moon buggy across the lunar surface in 1972, measuring gravity with a special instrument. There are no astronauts on Mars, but a group of clever researchers realized they have just the tools for similar experiments with the Martian buggy they’re operating.
GALE CRATER, Mars (NASA PR) — A storm of tiny dust particles has engulfed much of Mars over the last two weeks and prompted NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations. But across the planet, NASA’s Curiosity rover, which has been studying Martian soil at Gale Crater, is expected to remain largely unaffected by the dust. While Opportunity is powered by sunlight, which is blotted out by dust at its current location, Curiosity has a nuclear-powered battery that runs day and night.
The Martian dust storm has grown in size and is now officially a “planet-encircling” (or “global”) dust event.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — One of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars has been spreading for the past week and a half. The storm has caused NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, but also offers a window for four other spacecraft to learn from the swirling dust.
NASA has three orbiters circling the Red Planet, each equipped with special cameras and other atmospheric instruments. Additionally, NASA’s Curiosity rover has begun to see an increase in dust at its location in Gale Crater.
WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.
The media and public are invited to ask questions during a live discussion at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 7, on new science results from NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover. The results are embargoed by the journal Science until then.
The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Michelle Thaller, assistant director of science for communications, in NASA’s Planetary Science Division will host the chat. Participants include:
Paul Mahaffy, director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland
Jen Eigenbrode, research scientist at Goddard
Chris Webster, senior research fellow, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
Ashwin Vasavada, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist, JPL
OTTAWA, ONT. (CSA PR) — Industry Minister James Moore was joined today in Ottawa by Commander Chris Hadfield and astronauts Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques where he announced Canada’s commitment to fly two Canadian astronauts to space by 2024.
The announcement is the result of the Government of Canada’s decision to renew Canada’s participation in the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS is a joint endeavour among space agencies from Canada, the United States, Japan, Russia, and the European Union. Canada is the 3rd country to extend its participation until 2024.
Today’s announcement follows in the footsteps of Col. Chris Hadfield’s historic mission as Commander of the ISS. This commitment will ensure that both Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques, Canada’s active astronauts will fly to space. It also signals Canada’s involvement in future space missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
It appears as if “about 30” people signed up for the trip, grossing the X Prize Foundation about $1.2 million. The group includes W. Brett Wilson, whom Canadians will remember as having formerly starred on the CBC show Dragon’s Den, and mining magnate Rob McEwen, whom Canadians will remember as the guy who digs big holes in the ground.
Congratulations are in order to X Prize Foundation Founder Peter Diamandis and the team behind the Mars Curiosity rover.
Popular Mechanics selected them for their 2013 Breakthrough Awards. Diamandis won the Leadership Award for his work in creating prizes and technology breakthroughs with the X Prize Foundation. The magazine includes a Q&A with Diamandis.
The Mars Curiosity team were among 9 other individuals and groups singled out in the innovators category. They landed the car-sized rover on the Red Planet.
The magazine also cited the team behind the U.S. Navy’s X-47B aircraft, a prototype for unmanned combat jets that landed on an aircraft carrier without a pilot in July. Popular Mechanics also singled out 10 innovative products for 2013, which included a desktop milling machine and a 3D scanner/printer.
This is the first 360-degree panorama in color of the Gale Crater landing site taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover. The panorama was made from thumbnail versions of images taken by the Mast Camera.
Scientists will be taking a closer look at several splotches in the foreground that appear gray. These areas show the effects of the descent stage’s rocket engines blasting the ground. What appeared as a dark strip of dunes in previous, black-and-white pictures from Curiosity can also be seen along the top of this mosaic, but the color images also reveal additional shades of reddish brown around the dunes, likely indicating different textures or materials.
The images were taken late Aug. 8 PDT (Aug. 9 EDT) by the 34-millimeter Mast Camera. This panorama mosaic was made of 130 images of 144 by 144 pixels each. Selected full frames from this panorama, which are 1,200 by 1,200 pixels each, are expected to be transmitted to Earth later. The images in this panorama were brightened in the processing. Mars only receives half the sunlight Earth does and this image was taken in the late Martian afternoon.
NASA landed its Curiosity rover safely on Mars Sunday evening. It is the largest and most ambitious mission ever launched to the Red Planet. It also used a novel sky crane system to lower the car-sized rover onto the surface. This system apparently worked flawlessly.
I watched the landing with 2,000 people during the Planetary Society’s Planet Fest celebration at the Pasadena Convention Center. It was bedlam in here when we got word of the landing. An awesome way to view history.
It’s been a great weekend for NASA. On Friday, the space agency started the next stage of the commercial crew program. And today, it landed a vehicle the size of a Mini Cooper on a distant world that is 14 light minutes away.
The Planetary Society is holding its Planetfest Event this Saturday and Sunday in Pasadena to celebrate the landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover. The details:
August 4, 2012, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm August 5, 2012, 2:00 pm – 11:30 pm or later
Pasadena Convention Center 300 E. Green Street Pasadena, CA 91101
The program will feature leaders in space exploration, including: Charles Elachi, Director of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Bill Nye (the Science Guy®); planetary vulcanologist Rosaly Lopes; Jim Bell, PanCam lead on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers and member of the Curiosity team; Planetary Society blogger Emily Lakdawalla; Mars rover driver Scott Maxwell; NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green; former “Mars Czar” Scott Hubbard; Star Trek™ actor Robert Picardo; historian Shelley Bonus; author and space historian Andrew Chaikin; space artists; and private space entrepreneurs.
In addition to this full schedule, both days will have the following ongoing events and displays:
Touch a piece of Mars: A fragment of a real martian meteorite discovered in Sultanate of Oman.
See a full-size mockup of the XCOR Lynx sub-orbital vehicle
A space-themed art show with over 50 works of art including 4 original pieces just for Planetfest.
Hands-on science activities for kids of all ages (build your own Martian sundial, dirty comets workstation, First Robotics demonstrations)
A full-size model of the Curiosity rover that will land on Mars
Demonstrations and hands-on workstations for NASA Eyes on the Solar System and Google Mars
XBoxes with the Mars Rover Landing Game
The Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) used in the current Mars rover mission and other future tech from Honeybee Robotics
A room full of presentations and displays about the future of space from our sponsors.