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Topic: NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity

NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity’s latest data adds to puzzle of liquid water on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Mars scientists are wrestling with a problem. Ample evidence says ancient Mars was sometimes wet, with water flowing and pooling on the planet’s surface. Yet, the ancient sun was about one-third less warm and climate modelers struggle to produce scenarios that get the surface of Mars warm enough for keeping water unfrozen.

A leading theory is to have a thicker carbon-dioxide atmosphere forming a greenhouse-gas blanket, helping to warm the surface of ancient Mars. However, according to a new analysis of data from NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, Mars had far too little carbon dioxide about 3.5 billion years ago to provide enough greenhouse-effect warming to thaw water ice.

Bedrock at this site added to a puzzle about ancient Mars by indicating that a lake was present, but that little carbon dioxide was in the air to help keep a lake unfrozen. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Bedrock at this site added to a puzzle about ancient Mars by indicating that a lake was present, but that little carbon dioxide was in the air to help keep a lake unfrozen. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA says New Test to help search for Life in the Universe

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A simple chemistry method could vastly enhance how scientists search for signs of life on other planets.

The test uses a liquid-based technique known as capillary electrophoresis to separate a mixture of organic molecules into its components. It was designed specifically to analyze for amino acids, the structural building blocks of all life on Earth.

The method is 10,000 times more sensitive than current methods employed by spacecraft like NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover, according to a new study published in Analytical Chemistry. The study was carried out by researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Mono Lake, California, with salt pillars known as "tufas" visible. JPL scientists tested new methods for detecting chemical signatures of life in the salty waters here, believing them to be analogs for water on Mars or ocean worlds like Europa. (Mono County Tourism)

Mono Lake, California, with salt pillars known as “tufas” visible. JPL scientists tested new methods for detecting chemical signatures of life in the salty waters here, believing them to be analogs for water on Mars or ocean worlds like Europa. (Mono County Tourism)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images reveal network of intersecting ridges on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Thin, blade-like walls, some as tall as a 16-story building, dominate a previously undocumented network of intersecting ridges on Mars, found in images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The simplest explanation for these impressive ridges is that lava flowed into pre-existing fractures in the ground and later resisted erosion better than material around them.

A new survey of polygon-forming ridges on Mars examines this network in the Medusae Fossae region straddling the planet’s equator and similar-looking networks in other regions of the Red Planet.

This view from the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows part of an area on Mars where narrow rock ridges, some as tall as a 16-story building, intersect at angles forming corners of polygons. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This view from the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows part of an area on Mars where narrow rock ridges, some as tall as a 16-story building, intersect at angles forming corners of polygons. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover discovers what appears to be Mud Cracks on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists used NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover in recent weeks to examine slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges that likely originated as cracks in drying mud.

“Mud cracks are the most likely scenario here,” said Curiosity science team member Nathan Stein. He is a graduate student at Caltech in Pasadena, California, who led the investigation of a site called “Old Soaker,” on lower Mount Sharp, Mars.

If this interpretation holds up, these would be the first mud cracks — technically called desiccation cracks — confirmed by the Curiosity mission.

The network of cracks in this Martian rock slab called "Old Soaker" may have formed from the drying of a mud layer more than 3 billion years ago. The view spans about 3 feet (90 centimeters) left-to-right and combines three images taken by the MAHLI camera on the arm of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The network of cracks in this Martian rock slab called “Old Soaker” may have formed from the drying of a mud layer more than 3 billion years ago. The view spans about 3 feet (90 centimeters) left-to-right and combines three images taken by the MAHLI camera on the arm of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover finds evidence of Wet Underground Environments, Chemical Environments favorable for Life on Mars

 

Written by Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Curiosity rover is climbing a layered Martian mountain and finding evidence of how ancient lakes and wet underground environments changed, billions of years ago, creating more diverse chemical environments that affected their favorability for microbial life.

Hematite, clay minerals and boron are among the ingredients found to be more abundant in layers farther uphill, compared with lower, older layers examined earlier in the mission. Scientists are discussing what these and other variations tell about conditions under which sediments were initially deposited, and about how groundwater moving later through the accumulated layers altered and transported ingredients.

This pair of drawings depicts the same location at Gale Crater on at two points in time: now and billions of years ago. Water moving beneath the ground, as well as water above the surface in ancient rivers and lakes, provided favorable conditions for microbial life, if Mars has ever hosted life. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This pair of drawings depicts the same location at Gale Crater on at two points in time: now and billions of years ago. Water moving beneath the ground, as well as water above the surface in ancient rivers and lakes, provided favorable conditions for microbial life, if Mars has ever hosted life. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover undergoes diagnostic tests on Drill Arm

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is studying its surroundings and monitoring the environment, rather than driving or using its arm for science, while the rover team diagnoses an issue with a motor that moves the rover’s drill.

Curiosity is at a site on lower Mount Sharp selected for what would be the mission’s seventh sample-collection drilling of 2016. The rover team learned December 1st that Curiosity did not complete the commands for drilling. The rover detected a fault in an early step in which the “drill feed” mechanism did not extend the drill to touch the rock target with the bit.

This Dec. 2, 2016, view from the Navigation Camera (Navcam) on the mast of NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover shows rocky ground within view while the rover was working at an intended drilling site called "Precipice" on lower Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This Dec. 2, 2016, view from the Navigation Camera (Navcam) on the mast of NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover shows rocky ground within view while the rover was working at an intended drilling site called “Precipice” on lower Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Radio on Europe’s Trace Gas Orbiter completes first test

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Data from each of the two rovers active on Mars reached Earth last week in the successful first relay test of a NASA radio aboard Europe’s new Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).

The transmissions from NASA rovers Opportunity and Curiosity, received by one of the twin Electra radios on the orbiter on November 22nd, mark a strengthening of the international telecommunications network supporting Mars exploration. The orbiter’s main radio for communications with Earth subsequently relayed onward to Earth the data received by Electra.

A NASA radio on Europe's Trace Gas Orbiter, which reached Mars in October 2016, has succeeded in its first test of receiving data from NASA Mars rovers, both Opportunity and Curiosity. This graphic depicts the geometry of the relay from Opportunity to the orbiter, which then sent the data to Earth.

A NASA radio on Europe’s Trace Gas Orbiter, which reached Mars in October 2016, has succeeded in its first test of receiving data from NASA Mars rovers, both Opportunity and Curiosity. This graphic depicts the geometry of the relay from Opportunity to the orbiter, which then sent the data to Earth.

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NASA Techs work to make Bulk Metallic Glass Gears for Robots

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Throw a baseball, and you might say it’s all in the wrist.

For robots, it’s all in the gears.

Gears are essential for precision robotics. They allow limbs to turn smoothly and stop on command; low-quality gears cause limbs to jerk or shake. If you’re designing a robot to scoop samples or grip a ledge, the kind of gears you’ll need won’t come from a hardware store.

At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, technologist Douglas Hofmann and his collaborators are building a better gear.

Bulk metallic glass, a metal alloy, doesn't get brittle in extreme cold. That makes the material perfect for robotics operated in space or on icy planets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Bulk metallic glass, a metal alloy, doesn’t get brittle in extreme cold. That makes the material perfect for robotics operated in space or on icy planets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover discovers smooth Iron-Nickel Meteorite on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Laser-zapping of a globular, golf-ball-size object on Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover confirms that it is an iron-nickel meteorite fallen from the Red Planet’s sky.

Iron-nickel meteorites are a common class of space rocks found on Earth, and previous examples have been seen on Mars, but this one, called “Egg Rock,” is the first on Mars examined with a laser-firing spectrometer. To do so, the rover team used Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument.

The dark, smooth-surfaced rock at the center of this Oct. 30, 2016, image from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover was examined with laser pulses and confirmed to be an iron-nickel meteorite. It is about the size of a golf ball. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The dark, smooth-surfaced rock at the center of this Oct. 30, 2016, image from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover was examined with laser pulses and confirmed to be an iron-nickel meteorite. It is about the size of a golf ball. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA looks to use New Material to boost power in Spacecraft Nuclear Cells

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – No extension cord is long enough to reach another planet, and there’s no spacecraft charging station along the way. That’s why researchers are hard at work on ways to make spacecraft power systems more efficient, resilient and long-lasting.

“NASA needs reliable long-term power systems to advance exploration of the solar system,” said Jean-Pierre Fleurial, supervisor for the thermal energy conversion research and advancement group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “This is particularly important for the outer planets, where the intensity of sunlight is only a few percent as strong as it is in Earth orbit.”

Samad Firdosy, a materials engineer at JPL, holds a thermoelectric module made of four thermocouples, which are devices that help turn heat into electricity. Thermocouples are used in household heating applications, as well as power systems for spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Samad Firdosy, a materials engineer at JPL, holds a thermoelectric module made of four thermocouples, which are devices that help turn heat into electricity. Thermocouples are used in household heating applications, as well as power systems for spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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