People had by no means seen a spacecraft land on one other planet—till now

A rover's-eye view of a forbidding rocky landscape.

Panoramic picture of Mars taken by Perseverance on February 20, 2021. (credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

By no means earlier than, in all of our hundreds of thousands of years, have people straight noticed a spacecraft touchdown on one other planet. Till now.

On Monday, NASA launched a video (embedded under) that included a number of viewpoints from the descent of Mars Perseverance to the floor of the crimson planet final week. A digital camera on the again shell captured a view of the parachute deploying, and cameras on the descent stage and rover itself captured the ultimate seconds of the touchdown.

“I can, and have, watched these movies for hours,” stated NASA’s Al Chen, the lead for the entry, descent, and touchdown for Perseverance. “I discover new stuff each time. I invite you to take action as effectively.”

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NASA releases “exhilarating” picture of Mars rover simply above the planet

This is a high-resolution still image, part of a video taken by several cameras as NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on Mars.

Enlarge / It is a high-resolution nonetheless picture, a part of a video taken by a number of cameras as NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on Mars. (credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA on Friday launched new photos of its Perseverance spacecraft approaching the floor of Mars and safely settling upon the purple planet.

The brand new pictures included an arresting picture of the Jeep-sized rover nearing Mars, seemingly dangling from the sky crane that was reducing it to the floor about 7 meters under. This picture was pulled from footage of the rover’s touchdown, captured by on-board cameras. An entire video of the dramatic touchdown sequence could also be launched as early as Monday after NASA engineers obtain extra information from Mars.

“It’s exhilarating. It’s completely exhilarating,” stated Adam Steltzner, the chief engineer for the Perseverance mission, which efficiently landed on Mars on Thursday. These sorts of dramatic photos, he stated, assist convey the world alongside for the journey on missions of exploration.

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Perseverance on Mars: The place it’s, and what the subsequent steps are

Perseverance on Mars: Where it is, and what the next steps are

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Of their first press convention following Perseverance’s profitable touchdown on Mars, NASA and JPL scientists revealed some info on the place the rover landed and what to anticipate for the subsequent a number of days and weeks because it begins its mission in earnest.

Pics or it didn’t occur

One of many first orders of enterprise is getting a few of the photographs, audio, and video taken in the course of the touchdown again to Earth. For now, doing so requires utilizing a low-gain antenna to transmit information to a few of the {hardware} in orbit round Mars. Jennifer Trosper, the deputy venture supervisor for the rover, stated that the Mars Odyssey orbiter ought to have a quick cross overhead throughout the subsequent few hours, adopted by the Mars Hint Gasoline orbiter, which may have an extended overflight and seize bigger quantities of knowledge. Matt Wallace, one other deputy venture supervisor, stated that needs to be sufficient to permit NASA to launch video of the touchdown on Monday.

Lengthy-term, nonetheless, communications will depend on a high-gain antenna that can permit direct communications with Earth. That may require pointing, which implies understanding the rover’s present orientation on Mars’ floor, which the staff has inferred from the shadows forged within the first photographs despatched down. By the way, these had been taken with clear lens caps on the Perseverance’s navigation cameras, so we will anticipate higher photographs as soon as these are eliminated.

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NASA offers up on taking Mars’ temperature

Image of the lander hardware flanked by two arrays of solar panels.

Enlarge / A selfie taken by the InSight Lander. (credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

As we speak, NASA introduced that it was giving up on its makes an attempt to position a temperature sensor a number of meters underneath the Martian floor. A part of the company’s InSight lander, the {hardware} was imagined to be positioned deep sufficient to keep away from the affect of Mars’ climate, seasons, and each day temperature adjustments. However due to the bizarre circumstances on the touchdown website, the {hardware} by no means made it beneath the floor.

The InSight lander carried a number of devices meant to supply a clearer image of Martian geology. A type of devices, the SEIS seismometer, has been efficiently monitoring marsquakes to supply a greater perspective on Mars’ construction and the native composition underneath the floor close to the touchdown website. A second measures the wobbling of Mars’ axis of rotation, which will likely be influenced by a mix of the crimson planet’s composition and the gravitational influences of the remainder of the Photo voltaic System.

InSight’s different main experiment is the Warmth Move and Bodily Properties Bundle, or HP3. Whereas earlier landers hadn’t put any {hardware} deeper than about 20 centimeters, HP3 was designed to function a number of meters beneath the Martian floor. From there, the fluctuations on the floor could be considerably averaged out, and HP3 might measure the warmth move from the Martian inside to the floor. This might enable an estimate of the vitality nonetheless left within the Martian core from a mix of its formation and radioactivity, a key factor in understanding what geological exercise would possibly nonetheless be doable there.

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Mars’ underground brine might be a great supply of oxygen

The Pathfinder rover took this photo. It didn't need oxygen, unlike the weak, fleshy humans that would like to follow its path.

Enlarge / The Pathfinder rover took this picture. It did not want oxygen, in contrast to the weak, fleshy people that want to comply with its path. (credit score: NASA)

If people are ever going to go to Mars, they could nicely must make some essential assets whereas they’re there to be able to survive lengthy sufficient to discover and restock for the lengthy return journey. Though the times of flowing floor water are lengthy gone, the crimson planet is just not totally with out the uncooked elements to make this work.

The Mars 2020 mission that launched in July is carrying an experiment with precisely this aim in thoughts. MOXIE—the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Useful resource Utilization Experiment—is a field not a lot larger than a toaster that produces oxygen from atmospheric CO2. Whereas a a lot bigger model could be required to make liquid-oxygen gasoline for a rocket, MOXIE is sized to provide in regards to the quantity of oxygen an lively particular person must breathe.

A brand new research led by Pralay Gayen at Washington College in St. Louis, Missouri, assessments a tool that might faucet a unique useful resource—perchlorate brine believed to exist within the Martian floor at some areas. The machine can cut up the water in that brine, producing pure oxygen and hydrogen.

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One other have a look at potential under-ice lakes on Mars: They’re nonetheless there

Red and blue color-coded contour lines depict under-ice lakes.

Enlarge (credit score: ESA)

In latest a long time, we have turn out to be conscious of plenty of water on Earth that is deep below ice. In some instances, we have watched this water nervously, because it’s deep beneath ice sheets, the place it might lubricate the sheets’ slide into the ocean. However we have additionally found lakes which were trapped below ice close to the poles, presumably for tens of millions of years, elevating the prospect that they might harbor historical ecosystems.

Now, researchers are making use of a few of the identical strategies that we have used to search out these under-ice lakes to information from Mars. And the outcomes help an earlier declare that there are our bodies of water trapped below the polar ice of the crimson planet.

Recognizing liquids from orbit

Mars clearly has intensive water locked away within the type of ice, and a few of it cycles via the environment as orbital cycles make one pole or the opposite a bit hotter. However there’s not going to be pure liquid water on Mars—the temperatures simply aren’t excessive sufficient for very lengthy, and the atmospheric pressures are far too low to maintain any liquid water from boiling off into the environment.

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Chitin might be used to construct instruments and habitats on Mars, research finds

A figurine of an astronaut stands next to a block.

Enlarge / Scientists combined chitin—an natural polymer present in abundance in arthropods, in addition to fish scales—with a mineral that mimics the properties of Martian soil to create a viable new materials for constructing instruments and shelters on Mars. (credit score: Javier G. Fernandez)

House aficionados who dream of in the future colonizing Mars should grapple with the stark actuality of the planet’s restricted pure assets, notably in relation to constructing supplies. A staff of scientists from the Singapore College of Know-how and Design found that, utilizing easy chemistry, the natural polymer chitin—contained within the exoskeletons of bugs and crustaceans—can simply be remodeled right into a viable constructing materials for primary instruments and habitats. This might require minimal vitality and no want for transporting specialised gear. The scientists described their experiments in a current paper revealed within the journal PLOS ONE.

“The expertise was initially developed to create round ecosystems in city environments,” mentioned co-author Javier Fernandez. “However resulting from its effectivity, it is usually essentially the most environment friendly and scalable technique to supply supplies in a closed synthetic ecosystem within the extraordinarily scarce setting of a dull planet or satellite tv for pc.”

As we beforehand reported, NASA has introduced an formidable plan to return American astronauts to the Moon and set up a everlasting base there, with an eye fixed towards finally putting astronauts on Mars. Supplies science will likely be essential to the Artemis Moon Program’s success, notably in relation to the supplies wanted to assemble a viable lunar (or Martian) base. Concrete, for example, requires a considerable quantity of added water with the intention to be usable in situ, and there’s a pronounced brief provide of water on each the Moon and Mars. And transport prices can be prohibitively excessive. NASA estimates that it prices round $10,000 to move only one pound of fabric into orbit. 

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Historical lake websites counsel a lot of precipitation on Mars

A simulated view of Gale Crater Lake, measuring about 150km across, on Mars about 3 billion years ago.

Enlarge / A simulated view of Gale Crater Lake, measuring about 150km throughout, on Mars about three billion years in the past. (credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS)

Mars clearly as soon as had quite a lot of water—there are merely far too many options that clearly fashioned in a watery surroundings for that to be a matter of debate. What’s much less clear is how a lot of that water was liquid and for a way lengthy. Whereas some options clearly point out that liquid water was current for a very long time, others doubtless fashioned underneath glacial ice.

It isn’t clear whether or not the variations are a matter of timing—a moist interval adopted by an icy one, for instance—or as a consequence of regional variations in Mars’ local weather. It is troublesome to inform partially as a result of we will not get local weather fashions of Mars to supply a local weather that is moist sufficient for lengthy sufficient to kind quite a lot of watery options.

To attempt to put some constraints on what the traditional Martian local weather might need appeared like, a workforce of planetary scientists determined to take a cautious have a look at among the once-watery options recognized on the floor of the crimson planet. Timothy Goudge, Caleb Fassett, and Gaia Stucky de Quay (sure, that is a planetary scientist named Gaia) recognized a sequence of lakes, and used the options of the lakes to place some constraints on the precipitation that fed them.

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NASA’s most complicated, bold rover but is on its approach to Mars [Updated]

Thursday 8am ET Replace: An Atlas V rocket efficiently launched the Mars Perseverance mission into orbit Thursday morning from Cape Canaveral Air Pressure Station in Florida. The rocket’s higher stage has made the primary of its two firings.

To obtain Earth-escape velocity, a second firing will finish about 53 minutes after liftoff, after which the spacecraft will likely be launched on its journey to Mars. It can arrive in February, at which period NASA will try to land its heaviest ever rover on the pink planet.

Unique put up: NASA is about able to ship its largest and most succesful rover to Mars. With a mass of 1.025 metric tons, the Perseverance rover is about 14 % extra cumbersome than its predecessor, Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012.

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