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Topic: Red Planet

Three possible landing sites selected for NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Participants in a landing site workshop for NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 mission have recommended three locations on the Red Planet for further evaluation.

The three potential landing sites for NASA’s next Mars rover include Northeast Syrtis (a very ancient portion of Mars’ surface), Jezero crater, (once home to an ancient Martian lake), and Columbia Hills (potentially home to an ancient hot spring, explored by NASA’s Spirit rover).

Three potential landing sites for NASA's next Mars rover. (NASA)

Three potential landing sites for NASA’s next Mars rover. (NASA)

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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’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 advances Exploration Objectives in 2016

 

Written by Bob Jacobs / Allard Beutel
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – In 2016, NASA drove advances in technology, science, aeronautics and space exploration that enhanced the world’s knowledge, innovation, and stewardship of Earth.

“This past year marked record-breaking progress in our exploration objectives,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We advanced the capabilities we’ll need to travel farther into the solar system while increasing observations of our home and the universe, learning more about how to continuously live and work in space, and, of course, inspiring the next generation of leaders to take up our Journey to Mars and make their own discoveries.”

This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft at Jupiter, with its solar arrays and main antenna pointed toward the distant sun and Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft at Jupiter, with its solar arrays and main antenna pointed toward the distant sun and Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter recovering from Protective Status

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, which has been in service at Mars since October 2001, put itself into safe mode — a protective standby status — on December 26th, while remaining in communication with Earth.

The Odyssey project team has diagnosed the cause — an uncertainty aboard the spacecraft about its orientation with regard to Earth and the sun — and is restoring the orbiter to full operations.

Artist's concept of NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Journey to Mars builds ground work for missions beyond our Solar System

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Humanity’s great leap into the space between the stars has, in a sense, already begun. NASA’s Voyager 1 probe broke through the sun’s magnetic bubble to touch the interstellar wind. Voyager 2 isn’t far behind. New Horizons shot past Pluto on its way to encounters with more distant dwarf worlds, the rubble at the solar system’s edge.

Closer to home, we’re working on techniques to help us cross greater distances. Astronauts feast on romaine lettuce grown aboard the International Space Station, perhaps a preview of future banquets en route to Mars, or to deep space.

A selfie taken by Curiosity the Mars rover in the Murray Buttes area. NASA’s Journey to Mars, a plan aimed at building on robotic missions to send humans to the red planet, could be helping lay the groundwork. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

A selfie taken by Curiosity the Mars rover in the Murray Buttes area. NASA’s Journey to Mars, a plan aimed at building on robotic missions to send humans to the red planet, could be helping lay the groundwork. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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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 Study finds patterns in the occurrence of Global Dust Storms on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Global dust storms on Mars could soon become more predictable — which would be a boon for future astronauts there — if the next one follows a pattern suggested by those in the past.

A published prediction, based on this pattern, points to Mars experiencing a global dust storm in the next few months. “Mars will reach the midpoint of its current dust storm season on October 29th of this year. Based on the historical pattern we found, we believe it is very likely that a global dust storm will begin within a few weeks or months of this date,” James Shirley, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Two 2001 images from the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter show a dramatic change in the planet's appearance when haze raised by dust-storm activity in the south became globally distributed. The images were taken about a month apart. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Two 2001 images from the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor orbiter show a dramatic change in the planet’s appearance when haze raised by dust-storm activity in the south became globally distributed. The images were taken about a month apart. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA developing systems to utilize resources available in the Solar System

 

Written by Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationFlorida – As NASA continues preparing for the Journey to Mars, the technology now in development is expanding beyond the spacecraft and propulsion systems needed to get there. NASA scientists and engineers also are developing systems to harness abundant resources available in the solar system to support these pioneering missions.

The practice is called in-situ resource utilization, or ISRU. Like early European settlers coming to America, planetary pioneers will not be able to take everything they need, so many supplies will need to be gathered and made on site.

NASA’s Resource Prospector mission, currently being developed, is designed to be the first mining expedition on the moon. Using resources found in extraterrestrial soil, or in-situ resource utilization, will foster more affordable and sustainable human exploration to many deep-space destinations. (NASA)

NASA’s Resource Prospector mission, currently being developed, is designed to be the first mining expedition on the moon. Using resources found in extraterrestrial soil, or in-situ resource utilization, will foster more affordable and sustainable human exploration to many deep-space destinations. (NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover discovers evidence that Mars Surface Material contributes to Atmosphere

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover has found evidence that chemistry in the surface material on Mars contributed dynamically to the makeup of its atmosphere over time. It’s another clue that the history of the Red Planet’s atmosphere is more complex and interesting than a simple legacy of loss.

The findings come from the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument suite, which studied the gases xenon and krypton in Mars’ atmosphere. The two gases can be used as tracers to help scientists investigate the evolution and erosion of the Martian atmosphere.

Processes in Mars' surface material can explain why particular xenon (Xe) and krypton (Kr) isotopes are more abundant in the Martian atmosphere than expected, as measured by NASA's Curiosity rover. Cosmic rays striking barium (Ba) or bromine (Br) atoms can alter isotopic ratios of xenon and krypton. (NASA/GSFC/JPL-Caltech)

Processes in Mars’ surface material can explain why particular xenon (Xe) and krypton (Kr) isotopes are more abundant in the Martian atmosphere than expected, as measured by NASA’s Curiosity rover. Cosmic rays striking barium (Ba) or bromine (Br) atoms can alter isotopic ratios of xenon and krypton. (NASA/GSFC/JPL-Caltech)

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