Mars

NASA begins prototyping first airplane to fly over Mars

NASA begins prototyping first airplane to fly over Mars

NASA has revealed a new prototype design for an aircraft that will eventually be the first to fly on Mars in the 2020's. Dubbed the Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars, or "Prandtl-m" for short, features a flying-wing design and is said to be ready for testing later this year via launching from a balloon at an altitude of 100,000 feet to simulate Mars' atmosphere.

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NASA will launch CubeSats as part of next year’s Mars mission

NASA will launch CubeSats as part of next year’s Mars mission

NASA has announced that when it launches a stationary lander next year as part of its Mars effort, it will include a pair of CubeSats. This will mark the first time CubeSats have been flown into deep space, says the space agency, and a success will demonstrate that the technology is able to rapidly transmit data about the status of the primary spacecraft destined for Mars. The CubeSats were both built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and will fly independent of the InSight lander, which will land on Mars next September.

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Life on Mars may be preserved in meteorite-made glass

Life on Mars may be preserved in meteorite-made glass

A paper released this week by K. Cannon and J. Mustard shows how ancient life on Mars could be preserved by meteorite glass. Impact glass, or glass-rich impactites, have the ability to both encapsulate and preserve biosignatures on Earth. Because of this, these scientists show how Mars may have bio-rich preserves that rovers on Mars may not have even begun to explore. While we've been looking for signs of life - or ancient life - on Mars for many years, we might just have not been looking in the right place!

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NASA finds glass on Mars, could hold signs of life

NASA finds glass on Mars, could hold signs of life

Every mark on a planet's surface details its history. Mars is long suspected of being home to signs of life, so its history is of particular interest to researchers. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has found glass deposits sitting at the nadir of some impact craters on Mars. Previous scientific inquiries into impact glass on earth have been led by Peter Schultz from Brown University. While working on an expedition in Argentina he discovered ancient plant matter and organic material embedded in glass that was formed by an impact from millions of years ago. He proposed that the similar impacts could preserve signs of life on other planets. If they could isolate glass deposits on Mars, there is a chance they could detect and analyze the biosignatures.

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Mars solar conjunction will cause spacecraft communications to degrade in June

Mars solar conjunction will cause spacecraft communications to degrade in June

Every 26 months Mars ends up behind the sun when seen from the perspective of Earth. That means that while the Red Planet is behind the Sun, communications between the spacecraft on and orbiting the planet will be diminished. The phenomenon is known as the Mars solar conjunction and leads to disrupted radio communications between the planets. To prevent any garbled communications between Earth and Mars from causing potential harm to spacecraft, communications are stopped temporarily.

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Watch NASA prep LDSD flying saucer test here and now

Watch NASA prep LDSD flying saucer test here and now

This is not a test in science fiction, but a real release of one massive payload headed for space, courtesy of NASA. What you're about to see - as early as Wednesday of this week - is NASA's second flight of its saucer-shaped Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator. That's also known as LDSD. This craft was first launched aboard a giant helium balloon from the United States Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii all the way back in June of last year. This time, it's headed for a cool 180,000 feet above the surface of the earth.

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ESA Mars Explorer images shows effects of wind on Mars

ESA Mars Explorer images shows effects of wind on Mars

We all see the effect of the wind here on Earth every day. Winds can be mild breezes that shake the leaves up to gales that can topple trees and destroy homes. On Mars, the winds can be much the same as they are here on Earth and the ESA has released a new image that shows a bit of what the wind on Mars does to the surface of the red planet.

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Did stowaway gas foul Curiosity’s Mars methane findings?

Did stowaway gas foul Curiosity’s Mars methane findings?

NASA's Curiosity rover has sparked an unexpected argument over methane on Mars, as operators attempt to figure out whether the gas is local or imported. The existence of methane on the red planet could be a strong indicator either of biological life or even just lingering geological activity, hence scientists' collective interest in whether it's present or not. However, while Curiosity seems to have spotted the gas, there are some who think it itself is responsible for it.

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NASA sets $2.25m prize for 3D printed Mars habitats

NASA sets $2.25m prize for 3D printed Mars habitats

Getting astronauts safely to Mars is only the start of your problems when you're trying to explore the red planet: then you have to give them somewhere to live. NASA has kick-started a competition to figure out just how to do that, challenging inventors to come up with a way to not only 3D print a habitat - preferably using materials found on-site - but do so at least semi-autonomously. To encourage the best brains in construction, NASA is dangling a $2.25m prize in the 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge.

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This stunning blue Mars sunset makes Monday feel easier

This stunning blue Mars sunset makes Monday feel easier

Monday can be tough, but spare a thought for NASA's Curiosity rover, up on Mars witnessing spectacular blue sunsets but with no-one to watch them with. The first such sunset to be captured in color by the plucky robot rover, the four shots - you can see the animation after the cut - were snapped on April 15, 2015 from Mars' Gale Crater, as Curiosity marked its 956th Martian day on the red planet.

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