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Topic: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover to search for Ancient Life

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover have discovered what may be one of the best places to look for signs of ancient life in Jezero Crater, where the rover will land on February 18th, 2021.

A paper published today in the journal Icarus identifies distinct deposits of minerals called carbonates along the inner rim of Jezero, the site of a lake more than 3.5 billion years ago. On Earth, carbonates help form structures that are hardy enough to survive in fossil form for billions of years, including seashells, coral and some stromatolites – rocks formed on this planet by ancient microbial life along ancient shorelines, where sunlight and water were plentiful.

NASA's Mars 2020 Will Hunt for Microscopic Fossils Lighter colors represent higher elevation in this image of Jezero Crater on Mars, the landing site for NASA's Mars 2020 mission. The oval indicates the landing ellipse, where the rover will be touching down on Mars. (NASA)

NASA’s Mars 2020 Will Hunt for Microscopic Fossils Lighter colors represent higher elevation in this image of Jezero Crater on Mars, the landing site for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. The oval indicates the landing ellipse, where the rover will be touching down on Mars. (NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Detects Changes in Martian Sand Dunes

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed that movement in sand dune fields on the Red Planet occurs on a surprisingly large scale, about the same as in dune fields on Earth.

This is unexpected because Mars has a much thinner atmosphere than Earth, is only about one percent as dense, and its high-speed winds are less frequent and weaker than Earth’s.

This is a picture of a sand dune on Mars. A study of images shows that Martian sand dunes have a movement similar to that of dunes in Antarctica on Earth. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/JHU-APL)

This is a picture of a sand dune on Mars. A study of images shows that Martian sand dunes have a movement similar to that of dunes in Antarctica on Earth. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/JHU-APL)

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NASA to Fly Deep Space Atomic Clock to Improve Space Navigation

 

Written by Priscilla Vega
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – When people think of space technologies, many think of high-tech solar panels, complex and powerful propulsion systems or sophisticated, electronic guidance systems. Another critical piece of spaceflight technology, however, is an ultra stable, highly accurate device for timing – essential to NASA’s success on deep-space exploration missions.

NASA is preparing to fly a Deep Space Atomic Clock, or DSAC, demonstration that will revolutionize the way we conduct deep-space navigation by enabling a spacecraft to calculate its own timing and navigation data in real time.

A computer-aided design, or CAD, drawing of the linear ion trap of the clock -- the "heart" of the Deep Space Atomic Clock's physics package -- is slightly smaller than two rolls of quarters laid side by side. The DSAC project is a small, low-mass atomic clock based on mercury-ion trap technology that will be demonstrated in space, providing unprecedented stability needed for next-generation deep space navigation and radio science. (Image credit: NASA/JPL)

A computer-aided design, or CAD, drawing of the linear ion trap of the clock -- the "heart" of the Deep Space Atomic Clock's physics package -- is slightly smaller than two rolls of quarters laid side by side. The DSAC project is a small, low-mass atomic clock based on mercury-ion trap technology that will be demonstrated in space, providing unprecedented stability needed for next-generation deep space navigation and radio science. (Image credit: NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter catches 12-Mile-High Martian Dust Devil in the Act

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A Martian dust devil roughly 12 miles high (20 kilometers) was captured whirling its way along the Amazonis Planitia region of Northern Mars on March 14th. It was imaged by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Despite its height, the plume is little more than three-quarters of a football field wide (70 yards, or 70 meters).

A Martian dust devil roughly 12 miles (20 kilometers) high was captured winding its way along the Amazonis Planitia region of Northern Mars on March 14, 2012 by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Despite its height, the plume is little more than three-quarters of a football field wide (70 yards, or 70 meters). (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA)

A Martian dust devil roughly 12 miles (20 kilometers) high was captured winding its way along the Amazonis Planitia region of Northern Mars on March 14, 2012 by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Despite its height, the plume is little more than three-quarters of a football field wide (70 yards, or 70 meters). (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Catches Twister in Action

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An afternoon whirlwind on Mars lofts a twisting column of dust more than half a mile (800 meters) high in an image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

HiRISE captured the image on February 16th, 2012, while the orbiter passed over the Amazonis Planitia region of northern Mars. In the area observed, paths of many previous whirlwinds, or dust devils, are visible as streaks on the dusty surface.

A towering dust devil casts a serpentine shadow over the Martian surface in this image acquired by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

A towering dust devil casts a serpentine shadow over the Martian surface in this image acquired by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter provides Photo Showing Wind’s Handiwork

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Some images of stark Martian landscapes provide visual appeal beyond their science value, including a recent scene of wind-sculpted features from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The scene shows dunes and sand ripples of various shapes and sizes inside an impact crater in the Noachis Terra region of southern Mars. Patterns of dune erosion and deposition provide insight into the sedimentary history of the area.

This enhanced-color image shows sand dunes trapped in an impact crater in Noachis Terra, Mars. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This enhanced-color image shows sand dunes trapped in an impact crater in Noachis Terra, Mars. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA Orbiter Catches Mars Sand Dunes in Motion

 

Written by Dwayne Brown – NASA Headquarters
and Priscilla Vega – Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show sand dunes and ripples moving across the surface of Mars at dozens of locations and shifting up to several yards. These observations reveal the planet’s sandy surface is more dynamic than previously thought.

“Mars either has more gusts of wind than we knew about before, or the winds are capable of transporting more sand,” said Nathan Bridges, planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD, and lead author of a paper on the finding published online in the journal Geology. “We used to think of the sand on Mars as relatively immobile, so these new observations are changing our whole perspective.”

A dune in the northern polar region of Mars shows significant changes between two images taken on June 25th, 2008 and May 21st, 2010 by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Ariz./JHUAPL)

A dune in the northern polar region of Mars shows significant changes between two images taken on June 25th, 2008 and May 21st, 2010 by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Ariz./JHUAPL)

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NASA Study of Clays Suggests Watery Mars Underground

 

Written by Guy Webster – Jet Propulsion Laboratory
and Dwayne Brown – NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new NASA study suggests if life ever existed on Mars, the longest lasting habitats were most likely below the Red Planet’s surface.

A new interpretation of years of mineral-mapping data, from more than 350 sites on Mars examined by European and NASA orbiters, suggests Martian environments with abundant liquid water on the surface existed only during short episodes. These episodes occurred toward the end of a period of hundreds of millions of years during which warm water interacted with subsurface rocks. This has implications about whether life existed on Mars and how the Martian atmosphere has changed.

Impact cratering and erosion combine to reveal the composition of the Martian underground by exposing materials from the subsurface. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL)

Impact cratering and erosion combine to reveal the composition of the Martian underground by exposing materials from the subsurface. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL)

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Strange Hollows Discovered on Mercury

 

Written by Dauna Coulter
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft has discovered strange hollows on the surface of Mercury. Images taken from orbit reveal thousands of peculiar depressions at a variety of longitudes and latitudes, ranging in size from 60 feet to over a mile across and 60 to 120 feet deep. No one knows how they got there.

“These hollows were a major surprise,” says David Blewett, science team member from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “We’ve been thinking of Mercury as a relic – a place that’s really not changing much anymore, except by impact cratering. But the hollows appear to be younger than the craters in which they are found, and that means Mercury’s surface is still evolving in a surprising way.”

Hollows inside the Raditladi impact basin. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

Hollows inside the Raditladi impact basin. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

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The Strange Attraction of Gale Crater

 

Written by Dauna Coulter
Science@NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Curiosity is about to go to Mars.  The car-sized rover, also known as the Mars Science Lab, is scheduled for launch in late November or early December 2011 from the Kennedy Space Center.  After an eight-month voyage to Mars, Curiosity will land at the foot of a 3 mile high mountain in a crater named “Gale.”

It sounds a little odd—a mountain in the middle of an impact crater. Wouldn’t the impact have smashed it flat? Some scientists believe the 96 mile wide crater filled in with sediments over time and relentless Martian winds carved a mountain in the center, where it now stands nearly three times higher than the Grand Canyon is deep.

Gale crater photographed from above by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. Within Gale, an impressive layered mountain rises about 5 kilometers (3 miles) above the crater floor. (Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, ASU)

Gale crater photographed from above by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. Within Gale, an impressive layered mountain rises about 5 kilometers (3 miles) above the crater floor. (Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, ASU)

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