Mars

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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Blood Falls give hope for life on Mars

Blood Falls give hope for life on Mars

In Antarctica, Blood Falls spew forth unto the white landscape, gushing dark red liquid into the purity of the snow and ice. This unsettling image is giving scientists hope that one day they might find a mass equally strange on the Red Planet. Blood Falls belch deep water from far beneath the surface of the Antarctic dry valley, showing how areas of low resistivity can be found in areas where otherwise dry permafrost or otherwise high resistivity in glacier ice are dominant. In this brine that bursts from the ice, life can be found.

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Mars is moist: evidence of water found in surface salt

Mars is moist: evidence of water found in surface salt

Because Mars no longer has the global magnetic fields required to retain water like we have on Earth, it's not likely we'll find a tiny pool to swim in any time soon. What NASA has found, on the other hand, is new evidence that water can indeed exist on the planet - and that salts on the surface are able to absorb water from the atmosphere, collecting it on land. Again, this isn't the same sort of water we're seeing after a long rainfall on Earth - but it is another positive sign for the future, a future in which humans live on Mars for long periods of time.

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Opportunity rover shows its age with double amnesia event

Opportunity rover shows its age with double amnesia event

In Mars news today, NASA has reported their Opportunity rover to be having a second bit of amnesia in so many weeks. This event is affecting the machine's flash memory banks, and scientists had, after the first incident, attempted to bypass the faulty bank. The first event happened back on March 20th, and another event happened on the 25th. NASA scientists suggest that they're disappointed at the second occurrence, but not surprised. Another memory reformat may be just the ticket to get this machine back in order.

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