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Topic: NASA Mars Exploration Program

NASA says new Study reveals Large Quantity of Water trapped in Mar’s Crust

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Billions of years ago, according to geological evidence, abundant water flowed across Mars and collected into pools, lakes, and deep oceans.

New NASA-funded research shows a substantial quantity of its water – between 30 and 99% – is trapped within minerals in the planet’s crust, challenging the current theory that due to the Red Planet’s low gravity, its water escaped into space.

Early Mars was thought to have enough water to have covered the whole planet in an ocean roughly 100 to 1,500 meters (330 to 4,920 feet) deep – a volume roughly equivalent to half of Earth’s Atlantic Ocean.

This global view of Mars is composed of about 100 Viking Orbiter images. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS)

This global view of Mars is composed of about 100 Viking Orbiter images. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS)

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NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover is set to launch soon

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is just over a month from its July 20th, 2020 targeted launch date. The rover’s astrobiology mission will seek signs of past microscopic life on Mars, explore the geology of the Jezero Crater landing site, and demonstrate key technologies to help prepare for future robotic and human exploration.

And the rover will do all that while collecting the first samples of Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) for return to Earth by a set of future missions.

In a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, engineers observed the first driving test for NASA's Mars 2020 rover on Dec. 17, 2019. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

In a clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, engineers observed the first driving test for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover on Dec. 17, 2019. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA explains Mars Solar Conjunction, Why Does It Matter?

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The daily chatter between antennas here on Earth and those on NASA spacecraft at Mars is about to get much quieter for a few weeks.

That’s because Mars and Earth will be on opposite sides of the Sun, a period known as Mars solar conjunction. The Sun expels hot, ionized gas from its corona, which extends far into space. During solar conjunction, this gas can interfere with radio signals when engineers try to communicate with spacecraft at Mars, corrupting commands and resulting in unexpected behavior from our deep space explorers.

This animation illustrates Mars solar conjunction, a period when Mars is on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth. During this time, the Sun can interrupt radio transmissions to spacecraft on and around the Red Planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This animation illustrates Mars solar conjunction, a period when Mars is on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth. During this time, the Sun can interrupt radio transmissions to spacecraft on and around the Red Planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s MAVEN Spacecraft to reduce Orbit around Mars

 

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s 4-year-old atmosphere-sniffing Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission is embarking on a new campaign today to tighten its orbit around Mars.

The operation will reduce the highest point of the MAVEN spacecraft’s elliptical orbit from 3,850 to 2,800 miles (6,200 to 4,500 kilometers) above the surface and prepare it to take on additional responsibility as a data-relay satellite for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which launches next year.

“The MAVEN spacecraft has done a phenomenal job teaching us how Mars lost its atmosphere and providing other important scientific insights on the evolution of the Martian climate,” said Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. “Now we’re recruiting it to help NASA communicate with our forthcoming Mars rover and its successors.”

Aerobraking plan for MAVEN. (left) Current MAVEN orbit around Mars: 6,200 kilometers (~3,850 miles) at highest altitude, and an orbit period of about 4.5 hours. (center) Aerobraking process: MAVEN performs a series of "deep dip" orbits approaching to within about 125 kilometers (~78 miles) of Mars at lowest altitude, causing drag from the atmosphere to slow down the spacecraft. (NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio/Kel Elkins and Dan Gallagher)

Aerobraking plan for MAVEN. (left) Current MAVEN orbit around Mars: 6,200 kilometers (~3,850 miles) at highest altitude, and an orbit period of about 4.5 hours. (center) Aerobraking process: MAVEN performs a series of “deep dip” orbits approaching to within about 125 kilometers (~78 miles) of Mars at lowest altitude, causing drag from the atmosphere to slow down the spacecraft. (NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Kel Elkins and Dan Gallagher)

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NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover’s landing site being debated by Scientists

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Hundreds of scientists and Mars-exploration enthusiasts will convene in a hotel ballroom just north of Los Angeles later this week to present, discuss and deliberate the future landing site for NASA’s next Red Planet rover – Mars 2020.

The three-day workshop is the fourth and final in a series designed to ensure NASA receives the broadest range of data and opinion from the scientific community before the agency chooses where to send the new rover.

The Mars 2020 mission is tasked with not only seeking signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life.

This artist's rendition depicts NASA's Mars 2020 rover studying a Mars rock outrcrop. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendition depicts NASA’s Mars 2020 rover studying a Mars rock outrcrop. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA studies Thickest Dust Storm ever seen on Mars

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – One of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars has been spreading for the past week and a half. The storm has caused NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, but also offers a window for four other spacecraft to learn from the swirling dust.

NASA has three orbiters circling the Red Planet, each equipped with special cameras and other atmospheric instruments. Additionally, NASA’s Curiosity rover has begun to see an increase in dust at its location in Gale Crater.

This set of images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows a fierce dust storm is kicking up on Mars, with rovers on the surface indicated as icons. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This set of images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows a fierce dust storm is kicking up on Mars, with rovers on the surface indicated as icons. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover discovers Ancient Organic Molecules on Mars

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

The new findings — “tough” organic molecules in 3-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere — appear in the June 8th edition of the journal Science.

NASA's Curiosity rover has discovered ancient organic molecules on Mars, embedded within sedimentary rocks that are billions of years old. (NASA/GSFC)

NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered ancient organic molecules on Mars, embedded within sedimentary rocks that are billions of years old. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA designs new Rover for 2020 Mission to Mars

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In just a few years, NASA’s next Mars rover mission will be flying to the Red Planet.

At a glance, it looks a lot like its predecessor, the Curiosity Mars rover. But there’s no doubt it’s a souped-up science machine: It has seven new instruments, redesigned wheels and more autonomy. A drill will capture rock cores, while a caching system with a miniature robotic arm will seal up these samples.

Then, they’ll be deposited on the Martian surface for possible pickup by a future mission.

This artist's rendition depicts NASA's Mars 2020 rover studying a Mars rock outrcrop. The mission will not only seek out and study an area likely to have been habitable in the distant past, but it will take the next, bold step in robotic exploration of the Red Planet by seeking signs of past microbial life itself. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendition depicts NASA’s Mars 2020 rover studying a Mars rock outrcrop. The mission will not only seek out and study an area likely to have been habitable in the distant past, but it will take the next, bold step in robotic exploration of the Red Planet by seeking signs of past microbial life itself. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover begins climbing Vera Rubin Ridge

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has begun the steep ascent of an iron-oxide-bearing ridge that’s grabbed scientists’ attention since before the car-sized rover’s 2012 landing.

“We’re on the climb now, driving up a route where we can access the layers we’ve studied from below,” said Abigail Fraeman, a Curiosity science-team member at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Researchers used the Mastcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover to gain this detailed view of layers in "Vera Rubin Ridge" from just below the ridge. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Researchers used the Mastcam on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover to gain this detailed view of layers in “Vera Rubin Ridge” from just below the ridge. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Pathfinder Lander ignited 20 years of Mars Exploration

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft approached its destination on July 4th, 1997, no NASA mission had successfully reached the Red Planet in more than 20 years.

Even the mission team anxiously awaiting confirmation that the spacecraft survived its innovative, bouncy landing could not anticipate the magnitude of the pivot about to shape the Space Age.

In the 20 years since Pathfinder’s touchdown, eight other NASA landers and orbiters have arrived successfully, and not a day has passed without the United States having at least one active robot on Mars or in orbit around Mars.

This portion of a classic 1997 panorama from the IMP camera on the mast of NASA's Mars Pathfinder lander includes "Twin Peaks" on the horizon, and the Sojourner rover next to a rock called "Yogi." (NASA/JPL)

This portion of a classic 1997 panorama from the IMP camera on the mast of NASA’s Mars Pathfinder lander includes “Twin Peaks” on the horizon, and the Sojourner rover next to a rock called “Yogi.” (NASA/JPL)

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