Tag Archives: mars

What Mars Looked Like When It Had Water, Courtesy of NASA (Video)

Today, we think of Mars as having  a cold, dry, and desolate environment (because it does).

But that was not always the case. Four billion years ago, while our Sun was still in its infancy, Mars was covered with water.

Back then, it had a much thicker atmosphere, which kept the planet warm enough for water to exist in its liquid form. Some estimates say that at one point, up to 1640 ft (about half a kilometer) of water covered the whole planet.

Many features on the surface of Mars hint at the existence of water in the past. The image above, for example, seems to show the dried-out remnants of a river delta. Click to enlarge

NASA will launch its  Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) on November 18. MAVEN’s job is to determine exactly what happened to Mars’ atmosphere during those four billion years.

In the meantime, they had their Goddard Conceptual Image Lab create a video showing what Mars might’ve looked like four billion years ago and how it changed as the atmosphere thinned out over time:

There are a number of theories as to why Mars’ atmosphere disappeared, including a major asteroid impact and the loss of its magnetic field as a result of solar winds.

NASA hopes that the data collected by MAVEN will help them solve the issue once and for all.

(h/t IFL Science)

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NASA’s Opportunity Rover Just Set the Off-World Driving Distance Record

NASA’s Opportunity rover landed on the surface of Mars in January of 2004. As of Sunday (July 26), the Opportunity rover had driven a total distance of 25 miles (40 kilometers).

Opportunity took the top spot in total off-world distance traveled by surpassing Russia’s Lunokhod 2 lunar rover, which traveled a total distance of 39 kilometers across the surface of the moon between January and May of 1973.

The Russian rover helped to bring about a golden age of space exploration in the 70s. As a sign of respect, the Opportunity rover’s operators decided to commemorate the Russian rover by naming one of the first craters they encountered after it.

Tracing the path that Opportunity has taken since it landed on Mars in 2004. On the left rim of the large Endeavor Crater, you can see the Lunokhod 2 crater. Click to enlarge (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/NMMNHS)

The craziest part of this record is that the Opportunity rover was only expected to travel a short distance when it was first sent to Mars in 2004. Here’s John Callas, who manages the Mars Exploration Project at NASA’s Jet-Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California:

“This is so remarkable considering Opportunity was intended to drive about one kilometer and was never designed for distance. But what is really important is not how many miles the rover has racked up, but how much exploration and discovery we have accomplished over that distance.”

The Opportunity rover is collecting data on Mars as part of a long-term plan for a manned mission to the planet around the year 2030.

The infographic below compares the distances driven by different rovers throughout the years. Click to enlarge (courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech):

Read the original story from NASA here.

Ellen Stofan, Chief NASA Scientist: Our plan is to colonize Mars

Ellen Stofan, is one of NASA’s chief scientists, and is the principal advisor to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the agency’s science programs, planning and investments.

Yesterday, she sat down for an interview with The Guardian to talk about NASA, Mars, space and the future of space exploration and colonization.

NASA Scientist Ellen Stofan

During the interview, the host asked Stofan the following question:

“Is Nasa going to send humans to Mars just to show that it can?”

Stofan responded,

“Well, I’m biased because I’m a field geologist. Humans can actually read a landscape, go through a lot of rocks – crack them open, throw them, pick up the next one. Rovers are great, they do amazing science, but it is a lot more tedious process – they go much less far than a human can cover in a day. Having humans on the surface is how I think we are going to be able to demonstrate totally conclusively that life did evolve on Mars.”

The interviewer responded with the following:

“There is a lot of talk about settling Mars. Will Nasa be bringing its astronauts back?”

Stofan had this to say:

“We would definitely plan on bringing them back. We like to talk about pioneering Mars rather than just exploring Mars, because once we get to Mars we will set up some sort of permanent presence.”

Stofan also answered questions about NASA’s search for extra-terrestrial life, the risks of contaminating Mars, and space junk, among other things. You can listen to the interview below or read more of the transcripts from The Guardian here.

NASA Releases Video Outlining Their Plans to Eventually Land on Mars (Video)

NASA recently released the video below outlining their long term plans that they hope will eventually lead to humans landing and living on the surface of Mars.

Previously, the Higher Learning made a post NASA CHIEF SAYS THE “ULTIMATE” GOAL IS LANDING AND LIVING ON MARS, that highlighted the official announcement that NASA is still looking to land on Mars. Now NASA has gone a step further by releasing a video to the public. Check out the video below on NASA’s projected path to Mars. One of the future plans even includes capturing an asteroid and putting it into orbit around our moon!

 

 

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Takes Photo of a Strange Light on Mars

A photo recently captured by NASA’s Curiosity Rover has according to Space.com

“…set the Internet abuzz yet again about the possibility of life on Mars.”

Check out the photo that has created such a buzz below.

A bright flash of light appears to be visible in this image taken by the right-side navigation camera on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on April 3, 2014.
A bright flash of light appears to be visible in this image taken by the right-side navigation camera on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on April 3, 2014.

Although many UFO advocates are loving this photo and referring to it as evidence of extraterrestrial life, the rover’s handlers have made no such claims.

According to Space.com, they believe the light most likely came from a shiny rock or from,

“super-energetic cosmic rays slamming into the CCD device on Curiosity’s right-side navigation camera”.

Regardless of exactly what caused the light, the professionals don’t think it is anything too unusual so I’ll take their word for it. 

 

Does NASA Have the Right to Sell Moon-Mining Permits? (Poll)

The Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown program or CATALYST as it is often called, is taking the first steps towards exploring the moon for valuable resources.

A number of private companies have submitted applications to NASA, who will pick one or more of the applicants to build “prospecting robots” that will search the moon for valuable resources that are rare on Earth.

With their budget uncertain (the portion of the federal budget appropriated to NASA has declined pretty steadily since the early 90s), NASA has been trying creative ways to obtain funding for their continued research and space exploration- the CATALYST program being the latest example.

Image: NASA
Image: NASA

However, the United Nations’ 1967 Outer Space Treaty explicitly prohibits any one country from laying claim to the moon. Naturally, CATALYST has sparked a fierce debate about lunar property rights, discussed in more depth in this National Geographic article.

The way I see it, there’s two major questions we must ask ourselves here:

Read the full story from The Verge here.

Feature image courtesy of NOVA.org