Topic: NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – Eighth graders didn’t have Facebook or Twitter to share news back then, in January 2004. Bekah Sosland, 14 at the time, learned about a NASA rover landing on Mars when the bouncing-ball video on the next morning’s Channel One news in her Fredericksburg, Texas, classroom caught her eye.
“I wasn’t particularly interested in space at the time,” she recalled last week inside the spacecraft operations facility where she now works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. “I remember I was talking with friends, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed this thing bouncing and rolling on a red surface. I watched as it stopped and opened up, and it had this rover inside.”
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Billions of years ago when the planets of our solar system were still young, Mars was a very different world. Liquid water flowed in long rivers that emptied into lakes and shallow seas. A thick atmosphere blanketed the planet and kept it warm.
In this cozy environment, living microbes might have found a home, starting Mars down the path toward becoming a second life-filled planet next door to our own.
But that’s not how things turned out.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – Examination of the Martian atmosphere by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover confirms that some meteorites that have dropped to Earth really are from the Red Planet.
A key new measurement of the inert gas argon in Mars’ atmosphere by Curiosity’s laboratory provides the most definitive evidence yet of the origin of Mars meteorites while at the same time providing a way to rule out Martian origin of other meteorites.
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover will mark one year on Mars next week and has already achieved its main science goal of revealing ancient Mars could have supported life. The mobile laboratory also is guiding designs for future planetary missions.
“Successes of our Curiosity — that dramatic touchdown a year ago and the science findings since then — advance us toward further exploration, including sending humans to an asteroid and Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Wheel tracks now, will lead to boot prints later.”
Pasadena, CA – A pair of new papers report measurements of the Martian atmosphere’s composition by NASA’s Curiosity rover, providing evidence about loss of much of Mars’ original atmosphere.
Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of laboratory instruments inside the rover has measured the abundances of different gases and different isotopes in several samples of Martian atmosphere. Isotopes are variants of the same chemical element with different atomic weights due to having different numbers of neutrons, such as the most common carbon isotope, carbon-12, and a heavier stable isotope, carbon-13.
Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Over the years, the spacefaring nations of Earth have sent dozens of probes and rovers to explore Mars. Today there are three active satellites circling the red planet while two rovers, Opportunity and Curiosity, wheel across the red sands below. Mars is dry, barren, and apparently lifeless.
Soon, those assets could find themselves exploring a very different kind of world.
Written by Claire De Saravia
Greenbelt, MD – When the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission begins its journey to the Red Planet in 2013, it will carry a sensitive magnetic-field instrument built and tested by a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD.
Scheduled for launch in late 2013, MAVEN will be the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.
The goal of MAVEN is to determine the history of the loss of atmospheric gases to space through time, providing answers about Mars’ climate evolution.
Written by Nancy Neal Jones
Greenbelt, MD – NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft is assembled and is undergoing environmental testing at Lockheed Martin Space Systems facilities, near Denver, CO. MAVEN is the next mission to Mars and will be the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.
During the environmental testing phase, the orbiter will undergo a variety of rigorous tests that simulate the extreme temperatures, vacuum and vibration the spacecraft will experience during the course of its mission. Currently, the spacecraft is in the company’s Reverberant Acoustic Laboratory being prepared to undergo acoustics testing that simulates the maximum sound and vibration levels the spacecraft will experience during launch.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s car-sized rover, Curiosity, has taken significant steps toward understanding how Mars may have lost much of its original atmosphere.
Learning what happened to the Martian atmosphere will help scientists assess whether the planet ever was habitable. The present atmosphere of Mars is 100 times thinner than Earth’s.
A set of instruments aboard the rover has ingested and analyzed samples of the atmosphere collected near the “Rocknest” site in Gale Crater where the rover is stopped for research.
Written by Bill Steigerwald
Greenbelt, MD – Maybe because it appears as a speck of blood in the sky, the planet Mars was named after the Roman god of war. From the point of view of life as we know it, that’s appropriate.
The Martian surface is incredibly hostile for life. The Red Planet’s thin atmosphere does little to shield the ground against radiation from the Sun and space. Harsh chemicals, like hydrogen peroxide, permeate the soil.
Liquid water, a necessity for life, can’t exist for very long here—any that does not quickly evaporate in the diffuse air will soon freeze out in subzero temperatures common over much of the planet.
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