The Curiosity rover detects oxygen behaving strangely on Mars

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

The Curiosity rover detects oxygen behaving strangely on Mars

(CNN)Since it landed in Gale Crater in 2012, the Curiosity rover has been studying the Martian surface beneath its wheels to learn more about the planet’s history. But Curiosity also stuck its nose in the air for a big sniff to understand the Martian atmosphere.

So far, this sniffing has resulted in some findings that scientists are still trying to understand.
Earlier this year, the rover’s tune able laser spectrometer, called SAM, which stands for Sample Analysis at Mars, detected the largest amount of methane ever measured during its mission.
SAM has also found that over time, oxygen behaves in a way that can’t be explained by any chemical process scientists currently understand.
SAM has had plenty of time — about six years — to sniff and analyze the atmospheric composition on Mars. The data revealed that at the surface, 95% of the atmosphere is carbon dioxide, followed by 2.6% molecular nitrogen, 1.9% argon, 0.16% oxygen and 0.06% carbon monoxide.
Like Earth, Mars goes through its seasons; over the course of a year, the air pressure changes. This happens when the carbon dioxide gas freezes in winter at the poles, causing the air pressure to lower. It rises again in the spring and summer, redistributing across Mars as the carbon dioxide evaporates.
In relation to the carbon monoxide, nitrogen and argon also follow similar dips and peaks. But oxygen didn’t.
Surprisingly, the oxygen actually rose by a peak increase of 30% in the spring and summer before dropping back to normal in the fall.
Given the amount of time Curiosity has been monitoring the atmosphere, it was able to detect that this pattern repeated, albeit with varying amounts of oxygen.
The variation suggests that the oxygen is being created by something, then taken away.
“The first time we saw that, it was just mind boggling,” said Sushil Atreya, study author on a new paper about the oxygen levels and professor of climate and space sciences at the University of Michigan.
The study published Tuesday in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.
In order to rule out errors, the scientists checked to be sure SAM was operating properly, but found no issues.
“We’re struggling to explain this,” said Melissa Trainer, study author and planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “The fact that the oxygen behavior isn’t perfectly repeatable every season makes us think that it’s not an issue that has to do with atmospheric dynamics. It has to be some chemical source and sink (of elements into the soil) that we can’t yet account for.”
It relates back to the methane mystery.
The June reading indicated 21 parts per billion units by volume, or ppbv. That means of the volume of air on Mars being assessed, one billionth of the volume of air is methane.
So why is this unusually large amount of methane so interesting? On Earth, microbial life is a key source of methane. But NASA also warned that expectations of life should be managed due to the fact that interactions between rocks and water can also create methane, and Mars has water and an abundance of rocks.
“With our current measurements, we have no way of telling if the methane source is biology or geology, or even ancient or modern,” said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
This isn’t the first time methane has been detected on Mars by Curiosity. Over the course of its mission since landing in August 2012, Curiosity has detected methane many times and studies have been written about how the gas levels actually appear to rise and fall depending on the season. It can spike as much as 60% during the summer.
Could the two be connected to a similar chemistry since they’re fluctuating the same way?
“We’re beginning to see this tantalizing correlation between methane and oxygen for a good part of the Mars year,” Atreya said. “I think there’s something to it. I just don’t have the answers yet. Nobody does.”
The origin of the methane or oxygen won’t be evident because the rover doesn’t have any instruments that can trace or determine the source. And while both oxygen and methane can be created from biological sources, they can also arise due to chemistry, like the interaction of water and rocks.
“We have not been able to come up with one process yet that produces the amount of oxygen we need, but we think it has to be something in the surface soil that changes seasonally because there aren’t enough available oxygen atoms in the atmosphere to create the behavior we see,” said Timothy McConnochie, study co-author and assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland.
The scientists wanted to share their findings in the hopes that Martian experts may be able to help determine what process is creating these increases.
“This is the first time where we’re seeing this interesting behavior over multiple years. We don’t totally understand it,” Trainer said. “For me, this is an open call to all the smart people out there who are interested in this: See what you can come up with.”

How long until people will be living on Mars?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

How long until people will be living on Mars?

Recently, researchers at NASA announced that the Mars rover Opportunity had ceased functioning, ending its 15-year analysis of Mars’s surface. The rover’s “death” has sparked renewed interest in the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) that NASA began back in 2003, leaving many people curious about whether it’s actually possible to live on Mars.

In truth, living on Mars is certainly in our future—but not for a long while.

Living on Mars: ETA

Credit: GM Stock Films / iStock

Researchers estimate that the first human to land on Mars will do so by 2040with others, like SpaceX founder Elon Musk, claiming we may have full-fledged colonies on the planet by 2060.

Of course, there’s plenty of debate around these projections, as we’re still decades away, and there’s just no telling what kind of technology may exi8st in a few years. And these tech advances are crucial to landing on Mars, as there are still several big problems with the planet that we’ll need to sort out before we can even think about living there.

More research is needed

Credit: NASA

While this won’t come as a surprise to anyone, researchers simply don’t yet have enough research to making living on Mars viable. NASA is still in the process of sending rovers to the Red Planet in the hope of learning more about its geography, seismic conditions, weather patterns, and habitable characteristics. While the Opportunity rover may be history, another rover named InSight landed late in 2018 and already bears the distinction of being the first rover to deploy a science instrument on the planet’s surface.

And of course, that’s just one drone of many in NASA’s long-term plans. Another rover is scheduled to be sent to Mars in 2020 and again in 2024—each collecting more advanced data on how we might survive on the planet’s surface. But given that we’re still trying to understand how to make it to Mars in the first place, it’s clear that there’s plenty of work to do before we can start talking long-term living arrangements.

We couldn’t land if we tried

Credit: gremlin / iStock

Even if we learned enough about the planet’s surface to make a trip feasible, we probably couldn’t land a human safely on the ground. While NASA has landed several rovers on Mars over the years, plenty of them have smashed into the planet’s surface or burned up in the atmosphere. If we wanted to get a human to Mars, researchers would need to develop a craft about 10 times the size of our current rovers and find a way to land astronauts safely on the surface. (Not to mention getting them back home, but that’s a whole other problem.)

Living with new hazards

Credit: NASA

Let’s say we knew enough to make it to the surface and that we had the means to land a human safely on the ground. These barriers to entry are only the beginning of our challenges, as living on the Mars surface isn’t an appetizing prospect for most:

  • The “air” is 95 percent carbon dioxide, not suitable for our lungs.
  • It’s cold; the average daily temperature on Mars is -80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Dust storms routinely ravage the planet’s surface for months at a time.
  • Soil conditions aren’t ideal for most types of crops.

All together, it’s a lot for researchers to deal with, despite the fact that Opportunity confirmed that there was indeed water on the planet’s surface. Before we can start building condos, we’ll need to find a way around these life-threatening conditions.

Dealing with aliens

Credit: science photo / Shutterstock.com

Yes, traveling to Mars means that we’ll need to learn how to deal with aliens.

We’re not joking. While we haven’t yet made contact with intelligent life (or have we?), saucer-flying beings aren’t the only type of aliens we may encounter. Rovers have found evidence of organic molecules on Mars’ surface, the so-called “building blocks of life.”

And while this discovery by itself doesn’t prove anything, scientists view it as an important step in understanding what kind of life forms may have existed—or may currently exist—on the Red Planet. And these sentiments are echoed by those in the know at NASA.

We’re not ready for Mars

Credit: gremlin / iStock

When you look at the wide range of problems inherent to living on Mars, it’s pretty obvious that we have a long way to go. However, with all the news about rovers discovering water and carbon-based material, it’s natural to be curious about timelines. Expect to stay earthbound for at least the next 20 years or so. After that, it’ll all depend on what kind of technology we have and what we find when we get there.

Mystery of sudden methane ‘plume’ detected by NASA Mars rover

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF YAHOO NEWS)

 

Mystery of sudden methane ‘plume’ detected by NASA Mars rover

Rob Waugh

Contributor

Yahoo News UK
The Curiosity rover detected a sudden rise in methane (Getty)
The Curiosity rover detected a sudden rise in methane (Getty)

A spike of methane on Mars has fuelled discussions that it could be caused by alien life on the Red Planet – after NASA’s Curiosity rover detected the highest levels of the gas yet.

This week, the methane levels have dropped once again, down to background levels, and NASA has described the event as a ‘transient methane plume’.

Last week’s measurement is the highest concentration the mission has recorded since landing on the planet in August 2012.

This change matches up with previous highs and lows picked up by Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM), an instrument tasked with analysing gases, although l’

‘We did make the run again, the data just came back and in fact the methane plume went away,’ said Paul Mahaffy, principal investigator for SAM.

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Curiosity is not fitted with equipment to figure out the source of the methane, making it impossible to tell whether it is biological or geological.

Methane is destroyed by solar radiation within several hundred years when it enters the atmosphere, so it must have been released quite recently.

Despite this, there remains the possibility that the gas could have been trapped underground for millions or billions of years, and only just been released.

‘The methane mystery continues,’ said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

‘We’re more motivated than ever to keep measuring and put our brains together to figure out how methane behaves in the Martian atmosphere.’

What planet was NASA’s Curiosity Rover sent to?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

What planet was NASA’s Curiosity Rover sent to?

Venus

3%

Jupiter

9%

Mars

84%

Mercury

4%
LEARN MORE
Launched in November 2011, the Curiosity Rover was sent to Mars to collect data and, hopefully, answer the question “Did Mars ever have the right conditions to support life?” Curiosity answered this question early on, when it discovered chemical and mineral evidence of past habitable environments on the Red Planet. Though other missions have been sent to Mars, Curiosity carries the most advanced scientific instruments of any of them and can travel farther on Mars’ surface due to increased power capacity.
Source: NASA | Date Updated: June 5, 2019
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The farthest-away manmade objects in space

Right now, somewhere in the world, children stand at the edge of a lake counting the hops of stones skidding across the surface of the water. It’s hard to explain the tranquil pleasure of watching the ripples emanate farther and farther till nearly out of sight, but it’s even more of a challenge to fathom the distances to which we’ve launched objects into the dark ocean of space. As of February 2018, the Voyager 1 drifts 13 billion miles away from the surface of the earth, 42 years since its launch. It is one of five man made objects that has ever left our solar system.

Pioneer 10

Credit: NASA.gov

Five years before the launch of the Voyager probes, on March 2, 1972, NASA launched the Pioneer 10 to investigate the surface of Jupiter. Weighing 569 pounds, the Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to cross the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and, eventually, escape our solar system by nature of its velocity. It was also the first spacecraft to launch from the three-stage Atlas-Centaur launch vehicle to achieve its launch speed of 32,400 mph. It took the Pioneer 10 twelve weeks to cross the orbit of Mars. On December 3, 1973, the Pioneer 10 passed by the cloud tops of Jupiter to obtain the first close-up images of the planet.

Following its flyby of Jupiter, Pioneer 10 continued to gather data for NASA of the outer solar system until the end of its mission in March 31, 1977. The last faint signal from Pioneer 10 was received on January 23, 2003, as its radioisotope power source had decayed to the point of being unable to send further signals.

Pioneer 11

Credit: NASA.gov

The launch of Pioneer 10 was succeeded just a year later on April 5, 1973. The launch this time was accelerated by an additional 210 ft/sec and aimed to pass Jupiter at a point closer to its surface. The closer proximity to Jupiter caused the spacecraft to accelerate by gravitational pull to the muzzle velocity of a rifle (110,000 mph), allowing it to obtain the velocity and direction necessary to approach Saturn.

On September 1, 1979, Pioneer 11 flew to within 13,000 miles of Saturn to obtain the first close-up images of the planet and discover two previously-unobserved moons. By September of 1995, the spacecraft could no longer make observations and by November, the last communication with the spacecraft was made.

Voyager 1 & 2

Credit: NASA.gov

The Voyager spacecrafts were initially tasked with observing the properties and magnetospheres of our neighboring planets using their onboard instrumentation. Target planets included Jupiter, Saturn, and Saturn’s moon Titan. Data from the Pioneer 10 mission was used to create more robust spacecraft to tolerate the intense radiation around Jupiter. Voyager 1 started its observation of Saturn, the final phase of its initial mission, on August 22, 1980, whereas the Voyager 2 was sent on a longer trajectory to observe Uranus and Neptune, reaching Neptune on August 25, 1989.

In addition to their planetary observations, both Voyager spacecrafts were also tasked with interstellar missions. They were designed to continue scientific observations and signal transmission after escaping the heliosphere and exiting our solar system. They are both still active, with a projected lifetime of about five more years.

New Horizons

Credit: NASA.gov

In 2006, NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft with a primary mission of observing the dwarf planet Pluto. New Horizons was launched as the fastest man-made object ever launched from Earth with a speed of 36,400 mph. New Horizons started its flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015. Three years later, in August of 2018, it confirmed the existence of a hydrogen wall previously observed by the Voyager launch.

750 FT asteroid barreling towards an Earth APPROACH at 18,800MPH

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE UK EXPRESS NEWS)

 

NASA asteroid tracker: A 750 FT asteroid barreling towards an Earth APPROACH at 18,800MPH

AN ASTEROID nearly twice as tall as the Great Pyramid of Giza is hurtling in Earth’s direction at more than 18,800mph, NASA’s asteroid trackers have revealed.

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The -tracked asteroid, dubbed Asteroid 2011 HP, is flying towards our planet on a so-called Earth Close Approach trajectory. NASA predicts the imposing space rock will shoot past Earth on the morning of Thursday, May 30. According to NASA’ Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the asteroid will approach the planet around 11.48am BST or 6.48am Eastern Time. When this happens, NASA said the asteroid will break speeds of around 8.43km per second or 18,857.4mph (30,348kmh).

Asteroid HP is an Apollo-type Near-Earth  (NEA) or Near-Earth Object (NEO).

NASA’s JPL estimates the space rock measures somewhere in the range of 328ft to 754.6ft (100m to 230m) in diameter.

At the upper end of that scale, the asteroid is as tall as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, US, and the Space Needle in Seattle.

However, even at the lower end of the estimate, the space rock is still almost as tall as Big Ben’s clock tower in London, UK.

READ MORE: 

NASA asteroid tracker: Giant space rock over Earth

NASA asteroid tracker: A colossal space rock will zip past the Earth on Thursday, May 30 (Image: GETTY)

The space rock orbits the inner circles of the solar system on a trajectory similar to that of asteroid 1862 Apollo.

The asteroid’s trajectory takes it beyond the orbit of Mars but it does not fly past the Asteroid Belt in-between Mars and the gas giant Jupiter.

All NEOs are comets and asteroids on paths, which orbit the Sun from distances smaller than 1.3 astronomical units or 120.8 million miles (194.5 million km).

One astronomical unit measures approximately 93 million miles (149.6 million km) – the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

READ MORE: 

Next week, Asteroid HP will significantly cut this distance down to around 0.03149 astronomical units.

Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth

NASA

This means the asteroid will near-miss the Earth from a distance of just 2.92 million miles (4.7 million km).

In other words, the  rock will approach our home-world 12.26 times as far as the Moon is.

NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth.

READ MORE: 

NASA asteroid tracker: Giant space rock over Earth

NASA asteroid tracker: The asteroid was discovered on April 13, 2011 (Image: GETTY)

NASA asteroid tracker: Giant space rock over Earth

NASA asteroid tracker: Thankfully, the space rock will not hit the Earth and pass safely (Image: GETTY)

“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.”

After the asteroid ups past the Earth next week, NASA predicts HP will visit us again on May 17, 2027.

Then, the space rock will make many more approaches every few years until September 2, 2184.

NASA asteroid trackers first observed the asteroid on April 13, 2011.

NASA’s Curiosity rover digs up clay samples – Is it PROOF of water on Mars?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE U.K.’S ‘EXPRESS’ NEWS)

 

Life on Mars: NASA’s Curiosity rover digs up clay samples – Is it PROOF of water on Mars?

NASA’s Curiosity rover is drilling into the Red Planet to collect samples of Martian clay, which scientists believed formed in the presence of water – but could this also help find life on Mars?

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’s lonely Mars rover has successfully retrieved its first batch of soil from a “clay-bearing unit” near Mars’ Mount Sharp region. The US space agency has targeted this part of Mars for a drilling mission even before Curiosity blasted off towards the planet in November 2011. NASA has now confirmed Curiosity retrieved samples of bedrock material from a rock dubbed Aberlady on Sunday, April 6. The rover then delivered the soil samples to its onboard laboratory equipment on April 10 and scientists are waiting for the analysis results with bated breath.

Water is one of the most fundamental building blocks of life by human standards and is key to discovering alien life in other parts of the cosmos.

Scientists have long suspected Mars once hosted a lush and wet atmosphere with a landscape not too different from that of Earth’s.

Today, however, the planet is a harsh and inhospitable desert with a paper-thin atmosphere blasted by intense solar radiation.

The only signs of water present on Mars have been found in the form of ice caps around the freezing south pole.

READ MORE: 

Life on Mars: NASA Curiosity rover drilling clay

Life on Mars: Curiosity is drilling out samples of clay from Martian bedrock (Image: NASA)

But the presence of clay in Martian soil promises to update NASA’s understanding of Mars’s ancient past.

And the results of the rover’s drilling operation so far appear to be promising.

Jim Erickson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said: “Curiosity has been on the road for nearly seven years.

“Finally drilling at the clay-bearing unit is a major milestone in our journey up Mount Sharp.”

READ MORE: 

According to NASA, the remote rover’s drill “chewed easily” through the Martian rock, suggesting the bedrock was much softer than expected.

The space agency said in a statement: “It was so soft, in fact, that the drill didn’t need to use its percussive technique, which is helpful for snagging samples from harder rock.

“This was the mission’s first sample obtained using only rotation of the drill bit.”

However, it is unlikely the drilling mission will provide any major breakthrough in the hunt for liquid water.

READ MORE: 

Life on Mars: NASA Curiosity rover on Mars

Life on Mars: Clay samples could be proof of ancient water could boost hopes of finding ancient life (Image: NASA)

Instead, NASA expects to learn more about how ancient waters helped shaped the three-mile-tall (five kilometres) Mount Sharp.

Finally drilling at the clay-bearing unit is a major milestone

Jim Erickson, NASA

NASA said Curiosity has so far encountered clay minerals and mudstones at every step of its journey through Mars.

These rocks are believed to have formed in ancient lakebeds by settling river sediments some 3.5 billion years ago.

The space agency said: “As with water elsewhere on Mars, the lakes eventually dried up.”

Mars ANOMALY: NASA images reveal ‘manufactured object’

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And Ashwin Vasavada, a JPL Curiosity scientist said: “Each layer of this mountain is a puzzle piece. They each hold clues to a different era in Martian history.

“We’re excited to see what this first sample tells us about the ancient environment, especially about water.”

But what does all of this mean for the potential to find life on Mars?

Scientists widely agree life here on Earth started in water and it is water, which made life on Earth possible.

Life on Mars: Martian clay bedrock

Life on Mars: The remote rover drilled into this soft bed of exposed Martian rock (Image: NASA)

And if scientists can prove the same conditions once existed on Mars, the probability simple, single-celled life evolved on Mars will skyrocket.

NASA said: “Whether the water is boiling hot or frozen, some sort of creature seems to thrive in it. Is it the same on other planets?

“If water once flowed on Mars, did life once thrive there too? Or, maybe there is still water on Mars, only it has gone underground.

“Could there be tiny life forms—like bacteria—on Mars even now?”

NASA reveals what WIND sounds like on Mars

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Was there ever life on Mars in the past?

If NASA’s scientists can prove Mars once hosted liquid lakes and rives, the next question is whether the conditions were ripe for microbial life to develop.

NASA said: “Is there any evidence of life in the planet’s past? If so, could any of these tiny living creatures still exist today?

“Imagine how exciting it would be to answer, ‘Yes!’”

Ellen Stofan, head of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, has argued before the US Senate .

She said: “Life rose here on Earth rapidly once conditions stabilised, so you know, for the first several hundred million years on Earth the conditions were probably hostile.

“It was as soon as conditions stabilised within 100 million years or so we are fairly confident that the first microbial life evolved on Earth.

“The problem is life remained in the oceans for a billion years and it took well over a billion years for life to gain any complexity. That’s why I’m optimistic life did evolve on Mars.”

Elon Musk Just Revealed Who The First Civilian To Fly Around The Moon Is

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

Elon Musk just revealed who will fly to the moon on SpaceX’s new rocket ship

yusaku maezawa
Yusaku Maezawa
 SpaceX
  • Elon Musk and his rocket company, SpaceX, plan to launch a private passenger named Yusaku Maezawa around the moon.
  • Yusaku Maezawa is a Japanese entrepreneur and art collector. If all goes according to plan, Maezawa will take a lunar voyage on the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR: a launch system that SpaceX is developing to colonize Mars.

  • Maezawa purchased all seats on the spaceship, and plans to select six to eight artists from a variety of disciplines to take the lunar journey with him in 2023.

  • The mission won’t land on the surface of the moon but will ferry Maezawa and his artist crewmates around Earth’s natural satellite.

HAWTHORNE, California — Elon Musk and his rocket company, SpaceX, have revealed who will fly their spaceship around the moon for the first time: a Japanese entrepreneur and billionaire named Yusaku Maezawa.

“Finally I can tell you that I choose to go to the moon!” Maezawa said during an announcement Monday evening.

Maezawa also revealed that he has purchased all seats on the first crewed flight of SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket— anew launch system that’s being designed to colonize Mars. Besides himself, Maezawa plans to select six to eight artists to accompany him on his journey around the moon. The artists have not yet been chosen, but part of the project will involve them creating work inspired by their lunar journey after they return to Earth.

“If you should hear from me, please say yes and accept my invitation. Please don’t say no,” Maezawa said.

SpaceX did not reveal how much Maezawa paid for the lunar flight, but said it was a significant sum and that he already made a down payment.

“He’s paying a lot of money that would help with the ship and its booster,” Musk said on Monday. “He’s ultimately paying for the average citizen to travel to other planets.”

yusaku maezawa
Yusaku Maezawa
 SpaceX

Maezawa was a skateboarder and drummer in his youth, and founded the custom fashion company Zozo 20 years ago. The billionaire made news last year when he spent $110 million on a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. He said that he was inspired to bring a group of renowned artists with him around the moon after thinking of the masterpieces Basquiat would have created had he flown through space.

If all goes according to plan, Maezawa and his artist crew may become the first-ever private lunar tourists in history. The mission is slated to launch as soon as 2023, though Musk said he can’t be sure about that timeline yet.

Musk described Maezawa as incredibly brave.

“This is going to be dangerous. This is no walk in the park,” Musk said.

spacex moon mission big falcon rocket spaceship bfr bfs illustration
SpaceX’s rendering of a Big Falcon Rocket spaceship carrying a passenger around the moon.
SpaceX/Twitter

Musk also revealed some major design changes to the BFR. Instead of standing 347 feet tall, it will be 387 feet tall. It will have front actuator fins, as well as three back wings that will function as its landing pads.

The system’s spaceship, which will ride atop a rocket booster, is expected to carry up to 100 people and 150 tons of supplies.

SpaceX is currently prototyping the spaceship and other BFR hardware inside a 20,000-square-foot tent at the Port of Los Angeles — at least until a much bigger permanent facility is completed. The first portion of the system has already been built, Musk said.

The project is incredibly ambitious and expensive — the total development costs for BFR are somewhere between $2 billion and $10 billion, Musk said.

“It’s hard to say what the development cost is,” he said. “I think it’s roughly $5 billion”

Prior to Monday’s announcement, Musk last publicly described the BFR and showed renderings of the system at the 2017 International Aeronautical Congress.

Although the design for the exterior has been altered since then, Musk said on Monday that SpaceX still only has “some concepts” for the interior of the ship.

“What is the most fun you can have in zero G?” Musk said when asked about the interior design. “We’ll do that”

Aerospace experts who follow Musk and SpaceX’s activities suggest that there could likely be more iterations of the BFR design before the company’s first lunar voyage lifts off the launch pad.

“I think it is really healthy to see this iterative change happening, because I believe we can assume it is based on actual development and simulation going on,” Greg Autry, the director of the Southern California Spaceflight Initiative, told Business Insider in an email before Musk’s announcement.

But Musk said “this is the final iteration in terms of broad architectural design.”

spacex big falcon rocket bfr spaceship booster launch bfs bfb rendering illustration elon musk twitter
A Sept. 2018 rendering of SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket launching through the cloud tops and toward space.
Elon Musk/SpaceX via Twitter

He added that SpaceX plans to shift a majority of the company’s engineering efforts towards BFR by the end of next year, and welcomes the growing competition in the private space race.

“Why is it 2018 and there’s no damn base on the moon?” Musk said. “We should have one and go there. A lot.”

This story is developing. Please refresh this page for updates.

Dana Varinsky contributed reporting to this post.

SEE ALSO: Elon Musk is building a spaceship that’s so ambitious that some experts are calling it ‘science fiction.’ Here’s what SpaceX and its engineers are up against.

DON’T MISS: Astronauts explain why nobody has visited the moon in more than 45 years — and the reasons are depressing

Thick Layers Of Ice Water Discovered Below Surface Of Mars

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TECH TIMES)

 

Thick Layers Of Ice Water Discovered Below Surface Of Mars

 By Maui Hermitanio Tech Times
Nasa building new rover for Mars 2020 mission
Underground ice found beneath Mars’ surface extending to its middle latitude. This discovery is a game changer in mankind’s exploration of the read planet.   ( Aynur Zakirov | Pixabay )

Geological features comprising 300 feet of thick ice was exposed in the surface of Mars.

Eroded slopes of pure water ice called scarps were scanned by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. At least eight scarps were found in both northern and southern hemisphere of Mars’ middle latitudes.

Pure Water Ice Discovered From Mars’ Surface

The pictures sent back to Earth by MRO showed a more detailed cross-section view of thick ice sheets below a layer of ice-cemented rock and dust on Mars’ surface. The 3D images were studied by scientists using the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera.

In 2001, the Mars Odyssey spacecraft discovered that a third of Mars’ surface is covered in shallow ice. Also, its poles are full of ice deposits through the detection of hydrogen using gamma rays.

In 2008, the Phoenix lander analyzed and confirmed the Odyssey findings as it discovered buried water ice at 68 degrees north latitude or about one-third into the planet’s pole. However, previous scans using the MRO’s Shallow Radar instrument were not enough to determine the extent and makeup of ice on the Red Planet.

Scientists were astonished to discover that Mars’ mid-latitudes contained pure water ice.

“It was surprising to find ice exposed at the surface at these places. In the mid-latitudes, it’s normally covered by a blanket of dust or regolith,” loose bits of rock atop a layer of bedrock, said Colin Dundas, research geologist of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The ice sheets appear bluish in the high-resolution images and look like steep cliffs of glaciers, up to 100 meters tall. The discovery points to a vast area of underground ice buried only a meter or two below Martian ground surface. The location of the scarps was at 55 to 58 middle latitudes or the equivalent of Scotland or the tip of South America on Earth.

Shayne Byrne of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson said the discovery was like looking at an ant farm from a glass on the side and seeing what’s hidden beneath the ground.

How Scarps Were Formed

No definitive information was provided on how the scarps were formed. Scientists said once the buried ice is exposed to Mars’ atmosphere, a scarp likely grows wider and taller as it retreats. It is also possible that layers of snow were compressed every climate cycle, resulting in the building deposits of ice over time.

The varying shades of light to a dark blue color of ice as shown on the images suggest that the thick slabs of ice are stacked. The ice could also be remnants of glaciers that existed millions of years ago.

Unlimited Source Of Water And Possible Life On Mars

The discovery is considered a game changer in mankind’s exploration of Mars. Scientists have raised the possibility that the thick ice sheets could become a potential accessible source of water for future scientific exploration and visit to Mars. Byrne suggested that would-be visitors to Mars can just use a bucket and shovel and collect water from the sources.

The latest research gave scientists a glimpse of Mars’ climate history and would be the basis for further study of its water sources. It will also help NASA and other agencies plan upcoming rover and human missions to Mars.

The study was published in the journal Science.

 TAG

Chinese runaway space station will crash to Earth within months

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS AND ‘THE SUN’)

 

Chinese runaway space station will crash to Earth within months, expert warns

A Chinese space station will crash into Earth in a matter of months – and it could kill anyone who is standing beneath.

The 8.5-ton Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace”, satellite is now out of control and is doomed to plunge into the atmosphere, a top academic has warned.

“I expect it will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018,” Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard University astrophysicist, told The Guardian. 

He previously warned that there was no way of telling exactly where the space station was going to plunge to Earth.

 

 

“You really can’t steer these things,” he said last year.

“Even a couple of days before it re-enters we probably won’t know better than six or seven hours, plus or minus, when it’s going to come down.”

The station will reduce significantly in size as the Earth’s atmosphere burns it up.

However, large chunks of metal could still fall to Earth and injure or kill anyone standing the impact site.

A spokesperson for China’s space agency said: “Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling.”

But a huge clump of metal could still rain down on unwitting victims.

He added: “There will be lumps of about 100 [kilograms] or so, still enough to give you a nasty wallop if it hit you.

As well as building a space station, it intends to eventually put one of its citizens on the surface of the moon.

In April, China vowed to send a craft to orbit Mars, land and deploy a rover to explore the surface by 2020.

This story originally appeared in The Sun.

Curiosity Has Discovered Something That Raises More Questions About Life on Mars

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GIZMODO)

 

Curiosity Has Discovered Something That Raises More Questions About Life on Mars

Image: NASA/JPL-CALTECH

Everyone from David Bowie to astrobiologists to tinfoil hat believers has pondered the question: is there life on Mars? While we’ve found direct evidence of liquid water on the Red Planet, we have yet to find any microbes there. But not all hope is lost—new discoveries from NASA’s Curiosity rover have brought forth more compelling evidence of habitability on Mars. I mean, in theory, all that life has been dead for billions of years, but still.

Researchers studying Curiosity’s data say the rover has detected boron in the 3.8 billion year-old Gale crater. Boron is an element that can catalyze the formation of RNA—or ribonucleic acid, the single-stranded carbon copy of DNA found in all living cells—when dissolved in water. The boron was discovered in calcium sulfate mineral veins suggestive of ancient groundwater, so the team believes this could mean at least some of the water once present in Gale Crater had conditions favorable to the emergence of life. The findings have been published in the Geophysical Research Letters.

“Because borates may play an important role in making RNA—one of the building blocks of life—finding boron on Mars further opens the possibility that life could have once arisen on the planet,” the study’s lead author, Patrick Gasda, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, said in a statement. “Borates are one possible bridge from simple organic molecules to RNA. Without RNA, you have no life. The presence of boron tells us that, if organics were present on Mars, these chemical reactions could have occurred.”

Hopefully, NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover will be able to answer the many lingering questions we have about ancient Martian life. According to Los Alamos National Laboratory, this rover will be specially equipped with a “SuperCam” that can “search for signs of past life” on Mars. (More about that instrument’s capabilities here.) Fingers crossed we find something—humanity really needs a win right now.

[Geophysical Research Letters]

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Rae Paoletta

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