Tag Archives: curiosity

Scientists set out to study Earth’s most forbidding – and Mars-like – locations

If we want to find life on Mars it might help to study the most forbidding places on Earth. And it turns out there are four places so inhospitable – too cold, dry, hot or salty – that match the conditions on Mars. A team of scientists visited these sites to see if life can survive.

The four places are:

  • Chott-el Jerid, a salt pan in Tunisia
  • Atacama desert in Chile
  • Rio Tinto in Southern Spain
  • Deception Island in Antarctica
Deception Island in Antarctica. (source: Astrobiology)

 

From AstroBiology:

“The big questions are: what is life, how can we define it and what are the requirements for supporting life? To understand the results we receive back from missions like Curiosity, we need to have detailed knowledge of similar environments on Earth. In the field campaigns, we have studied ecosystems…found a range of complex chemical processes that allow life to survive in unexpected places.”

The results are helping to guide NASA’s mission to Mars with the rover Curiosity. Hinting at places where life might be found, how cloud cover can help create moisture, and showing that bacteria can survive just below the surface.

More about this research and the results from each site – from AstroBiology Magazine - Mars-Like Places on Earth Provide Insight to Life.

The best video NASA has ever produced – ’7 minutes of terror’ – landing a robot on Mars

 

On Aug. 5 or Aug. 6, depending on which part of the country you’re in, the Curiosity spacecraft careening toward Mars will hit the Red Planet’s atmosphere, deploy a supersonic parachute and either land safely on the planet’s surface or perish. It’s dramatic stuff, and NASA has produced this Hollywood-style YouTube video, complete with animation and suspenseful music, to preview the landing, evoke that drama and put viewers on the edge of their seats.

As engineers explain, it will take seven minutes for Curiosity to travel from the edge of Mars’ atmosphere to the surface, going from a speed of 13,000 mph to zero. “If any one thing doesn’t work just right, it’s game over,” engineer Tom Rivellini says.

Because Mars is so far away, it actually takes 14 minutes for the spacecraft’s signal to reach Earth. So by the time we learn the spacecraft has hit the top of Mars’ atmosphere, Curiosity will have either have survived the landing or perished for a full seven minutes.

 

Source: Skye - 7 Minutes of Terror: NASA’s Dramatic Mars-Landing Preview

Life on Mars is possible – for cave dwellers

A study of the biology and geology of Mars, from the Australian National University, shows there is plenty of room for life on Mars.

Granted, much of that room is in caves just below the planet’s surface, and much of that life will likely be microbes rather than little green men. But here’s the kicker — fully 3% of Mars has the right conditions to support life, the researchers say.

…if you run the same numbers on Earth, just 1% of the planet’s volume can support life.

The average surface temperature on Mars is minus 63 degrees Celsius (AFP/HO/File)

Mars’ surface is too cold and too low-pressure to support liquid water…But Lineweaver’s study looked at geological data from decades of Mars missions — and concluded that it would be warm and pressurized enough for life to live just below the surface. Warmth from the planet’s core provides the heat, and soil packed in from above creates the necessary air pressure.

So are there vast empires of microbes — or even something bigger — lurking just below that dusty red surface? We should know more next August when NASA’s Curiosity Rover arrives on Mars. This next-generation space robot comes equipped with a laser beam that can blast rocks, and a robotic arm that can examine the results.

via Mashable

 

More about Mars:

 

// Photo via AFP & thx to Amelia S.

NASA’s latest Mars probe, Curiosity, a nuclear robot with science fiction abilities

Tomorrow morning NASA will launch a Mars Probe, MSL Curiosity, into space for an eight month space journey and then a one year trek across the surface of the planet.

A brief description of the probe:

A new robotic mission to Mars, carrying 10 highly sophisticated instruments to seek the basic chemicals of life in the planet’s ancient rocks, is standing on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, ready to lift off Saturday morning aboard an Atlas V rocket on a 350 million-mile journey.

The six-wheeled rover named Curiosity is headed for the flanks of a Martian mountain that exists inside a crater where layers of sedimentary rock may hold evidence of what the planet was like a billion or more years ago: warmer, probably; wetter, most probably; and an abode for living organisms – just maybe.

Curiosity’s tools will drill into the mountain’s layered rocks and zap them with a laser so spectrometers can analyze the powdery particles to determine their composition.

Via SFGate

There’s more to the story than lasers and spectral analysis, including a return to nuclear powered robots, this one has a core of plutonium. Not to mention that Curiosity looks like Johnny Five’s bigger, geekier older brother, but that’s not what fascinates me.

It’s the science fiction that does. Two key elements of this mission remind me directly of Star Wars. The first is the Sky Crane that uses rocket thrusters to lower the robot to the surface of Mars.

Continue reading

NASA's latest Mars probe, Curiosity, a nuclear robot with science fiction abilities

Tomorrow morning NASA will launch a Mars Probe, MSL Curiosity, into space for an eight month space journey and then a one year trek across the surface of the planet.

A brief description of the probe:

A new robotic mission to Mars, carrying 10 highly sophisticated instruments to seek the basic chemicals of life in the planet’s ancient rocks, is standing on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, ready to lift off Saturday morning aboard an Atlas V rocket on a 350 million-mile journey.

The six-wheeled rover named Curiosity is headed for the flanks of a Martian mountain that exists inside a crater where layers of sedimentary rock may hold evidence of what the planet was like a billion or more years ago: warmer, probably; wetter, most probably; and an abode for living organisms – just maybe.

Curiosity’s tools will drill into the mountain’s layered rocks and zap them with a laser so spectrometers can analyze the powdery particles to determine their composition.

Via SFGate

There’s more to the story than lasers and spectral analysis, including a return to nuclear powered robots, this one has a core of plutonium. Not to mention that Curiosity looks like Johnny Five’s bigger, geekier older brother, but that’s not what fascinates me.

It’s the science fiction that does. Two key elements of this mission remind me directly of Star Wars. The first is the Sky Crane that uses rocket thrusters to lower the robot to the surface of Mars.

Continue reading