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On and About the Red Planet

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Ancient Mars Lake Had Multiple Environments That Might Have Supported Life. The window of opportunity for life to arise on ancient Mars was apparently broader than scientists had thought.

Ancient Mars Lake Had Multiple Environments That Might Have Supported Life

The lake that once filled much of Mars' huge Gale Crater featured multiple potentially habitable environments segregated by depth, as some water bodies here on Earth do, a new study based on observations by NASA's Curiosity rover suggests. "This chemical stratification might've provided a sort of menu of options for any microbes that preferred one environment over the other to take advantage of," study lead author Joel Hurowitz, a geoscientist at Stony Brook University in New York, told Why methane on Mars is a sign of something extraordinary. If you want to detect life on another planet, look for biomarkers—spectroscopic signatures of chemicals that betray the activity of living things.

Why methane on Mars is a sign of something extraordinary.

And in fact we may have already found a biomarker. In 2003 Earth-based astronomers caught glimpses of methane in the Martian atmosphere. The discovery was initially controversial, so much so that the discoverers themselves held back from publishing it. Everything About Mars Is The Worst. At first glance, Mars seems pretty nice.

Everything About Mars Is The Worst

The sun warms its rusty surface to a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and gentle breezes ruffle its dirt. Spacecraft touch down and either plant their legs, so they can scrape and till its umber soil, or roll away, so they can trundle over rocks, up hills and down craters. Eventually, humans may be able to stake their flags in that solid ground, and build habitats, and maybe grow food. No other world in the solar system offers us this chance. Mercury is way too close to the sun.

Too bad it’s such a jerk. At night, temperatures drop to -100 degrees Fahrenheit. Humans have been slinging spacecraft Marsward for 57 years, and we’re still not even batting .500. Martian dust storms could make life interesting for future astronauts. NASA scientists have discovered that three powerful dust storms which occur each Martian year could pose a hazard to astronauts undertaking a mission to the Red Planet.

Martian dust storms could make life interesting for future astronauts

The discovery also represents a rare opportunity for planetary scientists to gain an insight regarding the processes at work in the tenuous Martian atmosphere. Dust storms on Mars are ordinarily relatively small scale, short-lived affairs, measuring on average 1,200 miles (2,000 km) across, and observed to dissipate within a few days of forming. However, sometimes these weather systems can evolve into larger regional storms, which have been known to last up to three weeks.

Scientists are trying to brew oxygen on Mars. The Mars 2020 mission will send a small rover to Mars carrying an instrument that can “brew” oxygen on the Red Planet.

Scientists are trying to brew oxygen on Mars

(Photo: NASA/ESA) Six years from now a machine that makes oxygen will be in operation on Mars. Ancient Mars Had an Ocean, Scientists Say. Photo After six years of planetary observations, scientists at NASA say they have found convincing new evidence that ancient Mars had an ocean.

Ancient Mars Had an Ocean, Scientists Say

It was probably the size of the Arctic Ocean, larger than previously estimated, the researchers reported on Thursday. The body of water spread across the low-lying plain of the planet’s northern hemisphere for millions of years, they said. If confirmed, the findings would add significantly to scientists’ understanding of the planet’s history and lend new weight to the view that ancient had everything needed for life to emerge. “The existence of a northern ocean has been debated for decades, but this is the first time we have such a strong collection of data from around the globe,” said Michael Mumma, principal investigator at ’s Goddard Center for Astrobiology and an author of the report, published in the journal Science.

But other experts said the question was hardly resolved. Dr. Still, Dr. Meet the people who have volunteered to die on Mars. Mars Crater Once Held A Massive Lake, New Curiosity Data Suggest. Ancient Mars may have been much wetter than scientists thought.

Mars Crater Once Held A Massive Lake, New Curiosity Data Suggest

New data from NASA's Curiosity rover indicate the red planet's Gale Crater once contained a massive lake--and that Mount Sharp, the mountain at the center of the 96-mile-wide crater, formed from the build-up of sediment over tens of millions of years. The new finding suggests that large, long-lasting lakes once dotted the Martian landscape, raising the possibility that the planet was once habitable.

Is Martian soil actually good for farming? If we ever wanted to permanently colonize Mars, one thing seems probable: we'd have to figure out how to grow some food there.

Is Martian soil actually good for farming?

This raises an interesting question: could we use Martian soil to do it? Plants grew better in a simulated martian soil than in a nutrient-poor earth soil Previously, NASA researchers had speculated that we'd have to either grow food hydroponically on Mars, or ship soil there from Earth. But a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE suggests that using Martian soil might actually be a possibility. In it, researchers found that plants actually grew better in a simulated Martian soil than in nutrient-poor soils found on Earth (and Martian soil seems to be more suitable than lunar soil).

How to grow plants on "Mars" The simulated Martian soil was initially developed by NASA in 1998, based off soil analyses conducted by the Viking lander and Pathfinder rover. The Martian soil simulant. What the researchers found Assorted plants grown in the experiments. We can terraform Mars for the same cost as mitigating climate change. Which would you rather? Turn it blue?

We can terraform Mars for the same cost as mitigating climate change. Which would you rather?

(Photo: Reuters) One frequently quoted study of the global costs of mitigating climate change put them at around $3 trillion by 2100, with the main benefits being felt between 2100 and 2200. Here is alternative way to spend around the same amount of money with around the same timescale of payback: terraforming Mars. A standard estimate is that, for about $2-$3 trillion, in between 100 and 200 years we would be able to get Mars from its current "red planet" (dead planet) status to " blue planet" (i.e. a dense enough atmosphere and high enough temperature for Martian water in the poles and soil to melt, creating seas) – achievable in about 100 years – and from there to microbes and algae getting us to "green planet" status within 200 to 600 years.

There are two standard objections to such terraforming. Curiosity stumbles upon new evidence of life of Mars. New analysis of rocks collected by Curiosity reveals evidence that there was once fresh water on Mars, at the very site where the NASA rover landed last year.

Curiosity stumbles upon new evidence of life of Mars

And where there was water, there may have been life. Specifically, researchers believe the now dried-up lakebed may have supported colonies of microbes, the same type that are found in caves and hydrothermal vents on Earth. What’s more, tthey now have reason to believe that those lifeforms emerged about 3.5 billion years ago — right around the same time life was forming here. The New York Times reports on the findings: John P. “You can actually begin to line up in time what the Earth was doing and what Mars was doing,” Grotzinger added. Rover Finds New Evidence That Ancient Mars Was Habitable. NASA's Mars rover Opportunity has made perhaps the biggest discovery of its nearly 10-year career, finding evidence that life may have been able to get a foothold on the Red Planet long ago.

The Opportunity rover spotted clay minerals in an ancient rock on the rim of Mars' Endeavour Crater, suggesting that benign, neutral-pH water once flowed through the area, scientists said. "This is water you could drink," Opportunity principal investigator Steve Squyres of Cornell University told reporters today (June 7), explaining why the rock, dubbed "Esperance," stands out from other water-soaked stones the rover has studied. [Ancient Mars Could Have Supported Life (Photos)] "This is water that was probably much more favorable in its chemistry, in its pH, in its level of acidity, for things like prebiotic chemistry — the kind of chemistry that could lead to the origin of life," Squyres added.

Mars Water: Buried Channels Discovered On Planet May Be Evidence Of Ancient 'Megafloods' LOS ANGELES -- The face of Mars is dotted with a maze of channels, pointing to possible ancient megaflood episodes. Now scientists peering below the surface have uncovered the first evidence of underground channels apparently created by flooding – a finding that's expected to further illuminate the role of water in Mars' history. Using a ground-piercing radar sensor aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a team of scientists created 3-D maps of an equatorial region known as Elysium Planitia and the channels that run underneath the plains. Besides the contributions from rovers and landers, "our view of the red planet has largely been restricted to looking at the surface" from orbiting spacecraft, said lead researcher Gareth Morgan, a planetary scientist at the Smithsonian Institution. Dry channels on the Martian surface were first spied by Mariner 9 in 1971. Later observations by the Viking spacecraft suggested the geologic features were likely carved by water.

Mars Clays May Have Volcanic Source. Curiosity rolls out, and writes a message on Mars. Curiosity's track marks spelling out 'JPL' in Morse code (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech) Image Gallery (9 images) The NASA Mars rover Curiosity began its mission of exploration this week and as it rolled out, it wrote the place of its birth on the Martian surface. The 4x4-sized unmanned explorer will travel a quarter of a mile (400 m) to an area where it will test its robotic arm and may use its sample-collecting drill for the first time. As it goes along, the treads on Curiosity’s six wheels spell out “JPL” (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) over and over in Morse code. Mars Rover Curiosity Begins 1st Long Martian Drive. NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has left its landing site, embarking upon a weeks-long Martian road trip toward its first major science target, mission officials announced today (Aug. 29). Curiosity headed off eastward Tuesday (Aug. 28) toward a spot called Glenelg, where three different types of terrain come together in one place.

The 52-foot (16-meter) drive marks the rover's first big move away from "Bradbury Landing," where Curiosity touched down on the night of Aug. 5. "This drive really begins our journey toward the first major driving destination, Glenelg, and it's nice to see some Martian soil on our wheels," mission manager Arthur Amador, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement. "The drive went beautifully, just as our rover planners designed it. " Does Curiosity Have the Smarts to Find Life on Mars? NASA's now on-duty Mars rover, Curiosity, is on the hunt to judge whether the Red Planet ever had an environment capable of supporting microbial life.

The rover's above-the-wheels intellect is designed to mull over the question of Mars' habitability. However, Curiosity will likely stop short of solving the ultimate question: Has there ever been life on Mars? The $2.5 billion robotic explorer, the centerpiece of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, landed on the Red Planet Aug. 5 (PDT), beginning a two-year trek around Mars' Gale Crater. In determining whether Mars is or ever was habitable to life, Curiosity should give scientists a major boost toward understanding whether life has ever existed there, and where to look for it in the future. It's not a new inquiry, but a question that has dogged the "search for life" community for decades. Newfound Streambed Latest Evidence for Wet Ancient Mars. Mars Water: NASA's Curiosity Rover Finds Signs Of Ancient Stream. Mars 'Blueberries': Iron Baubles Spotted By NASA Opportunity Rover, Suggests Life Existed On Red Planet.

Mars Soil Similar To Volcanic Sand On Hawaii's Mauna Kea, NASA Curiosity Rover Finds. Scientists To Put Genome-Sequencers On Mars To Find Alien DNA. Two high-profile entrepreneurs say they want to put a DNA sequencing machine on the surface of Mars in a bid to prove the existence of extraterrestrial life.In what could become a race for the first extraterrestrial genome, researcher J. Craig Venter said Tuesday that his Maryland academic institute and his company, Synthetic Genomics, would develop a machine capable of sequencing and beaming back DNA data from the planet. Separately, Jonathan Rothberg, founder of Ion Torrent, a DNA sequencing company, is collaborating on an effort to equip his company’s “Personal Genome Machine” for a similar task.Venter said researchers working with him have already begun tests at a Mars-like site in the Mojave Desert.

Their goal, he said, is to demonstrate a machine capable of autonomously isolating microbes from soil, sequencing their DNA, and then transmitting the information to a remote computer.Discovering and sequencing extraterrestrial life would be an immense scientific prize. Scientists probe fresh Martian meteorite  Curiosity sends back weather and radiation data. NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now sending back weather reports and radiation measurements. Curiosity Rover's Chemistry Lab Gets First Taste of Mars Soil. ESA's Mars Express relays Curiosity data.

Mars Dust Storm May Affect NASA Rovers Opportunity, Curiosity. By: Staff Published: 11/24/2012 09:19 AM EST on Organics On Mars: Curiosity Rover Finds Evidence Of Organic Compounds On Red Planet. Giant Mars Crater Shows Evidence of Ancient Lake. Mars Rover Curiosity's Tracks Spied From Space. New evidence of groundwater-fed lake on Mars.