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Topic: NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity

NASA scubs InSight Spacecraft launch planned for March 2016

 

Written by Dwayne Brown and Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – After thorough examination, NASA managers have decided to suspend the planned March 2016 launch of the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission. The decision follows unsuccessful attempts to repair a leak in a section of the prime instrument in the science payload.

“Learning about the interior structure of Mars has been a high priority objective for planetary scientists since the Viking era,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “We push the boundaries of space technology with our missions to enable science, but space exploration is unforgiving, and the bottom line is that we’re not ready to launch in the 2016 window. A decision on a path forward will be made in the coming months, but one thing is clear: NASA remains fully committed to the scientific discovery and exploration of Mars.”

This artist's concept from August 2015 depicts NASA's InSight Mars lander fully deployed for studying the deep interior of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept from August 2015 depicts NASA’s InSight Mars lander fully deployed for studying the deep interior of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover discovery of high concentrations of Silica on Mars puzzles Scientists

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In detective stories, as the plot thickens, an unexpected clue often delivers more questions than answers. In this case, the scene is a mountain on Mars. The clue: the chemical compound silica. Lots of silica. The sleuths: a savvy band of Earthbound researchers whose agent on Mars is NASA’s laser-flashing, one-armed mobile laboratory, Curiosity.

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found much higher concentrations of silica at some sites it has investigated in the past seven months than anywhere else it has visited since landing on Mars 40 months ago.

This May 22, 2015, view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) in NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the "Marias Pass" area where a lower and older geological unit of mudstone -- the pale zone in the center of the image -- lies in contact with an overlying geological unit of sandstone. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This May 22, 2015, view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) in NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the “Marias Pass” area where a lower and older geological unit of mudstone — the pale zone in the center of the image — lies in contact with an overlying geological unit of sandstone. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA Space Technology put to work in applications on Earth

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA technology is all around us, turning trash into oil, saving women from a deadly complication of childbirth, and putting the bubbles in beer.

These technologies and more, including seven connected with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, are featured in the 2016 edition of NASA’s annual Spinoff publication, highlighting the many places NASA shows up in daily life and the aeronautics and space programs where the innovations got their start.

Technology developed for Mars rovers at NASA¹s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has led to a variety of spinoff applications on Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Technology developed for Mars rovers at NASA¹s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has led to a variety of spinoff applications on Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover studies Martian Sand Dunes near Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has begun an up-close investigation of dark sand dunes up to two stories tall. The dunes are on the rover’s trek up the lower portion of a layered Martian mountain.

The dunes close to Curiosity’s current location are part of “Bagnold Dunes,” a band along the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp inside Gale Crater. Observations of this dune field from orbit show that edges of individual dunes move as much as 3 feet (1 meter) per Earth year.

The rippled surface of the first Martian sand dune ever studied up close fills this Nov. 27, 2015, view of "High Dune" from the Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The rippled surface of the first Martian sand dune ever studied up close fills this Nov. 27, 2015, view of “High Dune” from the Mast Camera on NASA’s Curiosity rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA scientists explain the Carbon loss in Mars’ Atmosphere

 

Deborah Williams-Hedges
California Institute of Technology

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

This graphic depicts paths by which carbon has been exchanged among Martian interior, surface rocks, polar caps, waters and atmosphere, and also depicts a mechanism by which it is lost from the atmosphere with a strong effect on isotope ratio. (Lance Hayashida/Caltech)

This graphic depicts paths by which carbon has been exchanged among Martian interior, surface rocks, polar caps, waters and atmosphere, and also depicts a mechanism by which it is lost from the atmosphere with a strong effect on isotope ratio. (Lance Hayashida/Caltech)

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NASA researches develop Chemical Laptop that could look for life on other Planets

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

Researchers took the Chemical Laptop to JPL's Mars Yard, where they placed the device on a test rover. This image shows the size comparison between the Chemical Laptop and a regular laptop. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Researchers took the Chemical Laptop to JPL’s Mars Yard, where they placed the device on a test rover. This image shows the size comparison between the Chemical Laptop and a regular laptop. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover to investigate Martian Sand Dunes

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

This Sept. 25, 2015, view from the Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows a dark sand dune in the middle distance. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This Sept. 25, 2015, view from the Mast Camera on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows a dark sand dune in the middle distance. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover examines minerals on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

This March 27, 2015, view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows a site with a network of prominent mineral veins below a cap rock ridge on lower Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This March 27, 2015, view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows a site with a network of prominent mineral veins below a cap rock ridge on lower Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity data helps scientists confirm Ancient Lakes on Mars

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

A view from the "Kimberley" formation on Mars taken by NASA's Curiosity rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

A view from the “Kimberley” formation on Mars taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory works to make “The Martian” a Reality

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.)

Producers of "The Martian" turned to JPL for inspiration in bringing the story to life on screen. (20th Century Fox)

Producers of “The Martian” turned to JPL for inspiration in bringing the story to life on screen. (20th Century Fox)

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