Topic: NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity
Pasadena, CA – Mars is blanketed by a thin, mostly carbon dioxide atmosphere — one that is far too thin to keep water from freezing or quickly evaporating. However, geological evidence has led scientists to conclude that ancient Mars was once a warmer, wetter place than it is today.
To produce a more temperate climate, several researchers have suggested that the planet was once shrouded in a much thicker carbon dioxide atmosphere. For decades that left the question, “Where did all the carbon go?”
The solar wind stripped away much of Mars’ ancient atmosphere and is still removing tons of it every day. But scientists have been puzzled by why they haven’t found more carbon — in the form of carbonate — captured into Martian rocks. They have also sought to explain the ratio of heavier and lighter carbons in the modern Martian atmosphere.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – If you were looking for the signatures of life on another world, you would want to take something small and portable with you. That’s the philosophy behind the “Chemical Laptop” being developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California: a miniaturized laboratory that analyzes samples for materials associated with life.
“If this instrument were to be sent to space, it would be the most sensitive device of its kind to leave Earth, and the first to be able to look for both amino acids and fatty acids,” said Jessica Creamer, a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at JPL.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – On its way to higher layers of the mountain where it is investigating how Mars’ environment changed billions of years ago, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover will take advantage of a chance to study some modern Martian activity at mobile sand dunes.
In the next few days, the rover will get its first close-up look at these dark dunes, called the “Bagnold Dunes,” which skirt the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp. No Mars rover has previously visited a sand dune, as opposed to smaller sand ripples or drifts.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – Scientists now have a better understanding about a site with the most chemically diverse mineral veins NASA’s Curiosity rover has examined on Mars, thanks in part to a valuable new resource scientists used in analyzing data from the rover.
Curiosity examined bright and dark mineral veins in March 2015 at a site called “Garden City,” where some veins protrude as high as two finger widths above the eroding bedrock in which they formed.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – A new study from the team behind NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity has confirmed that Mars was once, billions of years ago, capable of storing water in lakes over an extended period of time.
Using data from the Curiosity rover, the team has determined that, long ago, water helped deposit sediment into Gale Crater, where the rover landed more than three years ago. The sediment deposited as layers that formed the foundation for Mount Sharp, the mountain found in the middle of the crater today.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – When fictional astronaut Mark Watney becomes stranded alone on the Red Planet in the novel and film “The Martian,” people and technology from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, play important roles in his castaway adventure.
Acclaimed for its attention to scientific and technical detail, “The Martian” is steeped in decades of real-life Mars exploration that JPL has led for NASA.
(There are mild spoilers in the next section — if you haven’t read or seen “The Martian,” you might want to skip to the following section.)
Written by DC Agle / Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – On Tuesday, September 29th, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover drilled its eighth hole on Mars, and its fifth since reaching Mount Sharp one year ago.
The drilling of the hole 2.6-inches (65 millimeters) deep in a rock the team labeled “Big Sky” is part of a multi-day, multi-step sequence that will result in the analysis of the Martian rock’s ingredients in the rover’s two onboard laboratories – the Chemistry and Mineralogy X-Ray diffractometer (CheMin) and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite.
Written by Guy Webster / DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.
Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time.
They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.
Written by Kathryn Mersmann
Greenbelt, MD – For years, science fiction writers from Edgar Rice Burroughs to C. S. Lewis have imagined what it would be like for humans to walk on Mars. As mankind comes closer to taking its first steps on the Red Planet, authors’ depictions of the experience have become more realistic.
Andy Weir’s “The Martian” begins with a massive dust storm that strands fictional astronaut Mark Watney on Mars. In the scene, powerful wind rips an antenna out of a piece of equipment and destroys parts of the astronauts’ camp.
Mars is infamous for intense dust storms, which sometimes kick up enough dust to be seen by telescopes on Earth.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – Some of the dark sandstone in an area being explored by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows texture and inclined bedding structures characteristic of deposits that formed as sand dunes, then were cemented into rock.
This sandstone outcrop — part of a geological layer that Curiosity’s science team calls the Stimson unit — has a structure called crossbedding on a large scale that the team has interpreted as deposits of sand dunes formed by wind.
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