According to NASA scientists, an analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover shows that ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Data returned by the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instruments. allowed scientists to identifiy sulphur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon -some of the key chemical ingredients for life – in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock at the Yellowknife Bay ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month.
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Mars once had fresh water, the right energy gradients and chemicals to support life say NASA scientists
Venezuela’s charismatic left-wing President Hugo Chavez has died from cancer at the age of 58. While his world reputation was mixed, given the company of dictators he kept and due to his apparent distaste of free speech, Hugo Chavez nevertheless remained much loved by many Venezuela’s people, especially for redirecting Venezuala’s oil wealth to the poor of his country. Chavez become most famous for making rabble-rousing diatribes against the “Yankee empire” and against the then US President George W. Bush in particular. Nevertheless, in reality, this was more of pantomime stance, as, in truth, Venezuela continued to sell oil to America. With respect to space, Flightglobal’s Hyperbola column briefly reported Chavez’s warning that Earth faced the same “desertification” fate as Mars if it did not give up its capalist ways. In a televised speech, Chavez suggested that a capatlism and imperilism may have affected a civilisation on Mars, which, in turn, may have ruined the planet.
According to NASA, there is a chance that the newly discovered comet, Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring), could strike the planet Mars on 19 October 2014. Original estimates of trajectory of the comet generated by the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena indicated that the comet would pass within 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) of Mars. However, the latest trajectory estmates now have it passing about 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers) from the Red Planet’s surface and NASA does not rule out the possibility of a strike. Rob McNaught discovered this new comet on 3 Jan 2013, at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.
On a lighter note: Round the planet Mars flight plan detailed by Dennis Tito but couple will have to get on
Denis Tito and his Inspiration Mars outfit has been giving full details of their plan to send humans around the planet Mars including using a capsule and inflatable living area. The full story is here.
Flightglobal Hyperbola column’s analysis of the new privately-led space race to land a man or woman on Mars (between Dennis Tito’s outfit, SpaceX and Mars One) has led us to consider how we would do it. Actually, we would go for the “Tuco” approach. Tuco was the villainous character in the Spaghetti western directed by Sergio Leone, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1967), who liked to use different parts of various revolvers: barrel, cylinder etc to build his ideal pistol.
While Elon Musk and his SpaceX outfit are planning their own Martian settlement having thousands of inhabitants, another firm, Mars One, is considering doing the same thing, albeit on a much smaller scale. It is inviting applications to become one of these pioneers and offers a flight to the planet once a Mars rover and cargo has been landed first and a communications relay satellite has been put into Martian orbit. The first four “colonists” will be landed in 2023. The only downside is that it is a one-way trip. The mission is to be funded as a “media event” with live (albeit delayed) day-to-day reality television coverage beamed back to Earth.
While the smell of methane is not always to be welcomed here on Earth, methane is usually a strong indication that something organic or animal related is going on. Consequently, it was with regret that NASA/JPL scientists working on data from the Mars Rover Curiosity noted that the gas analyser which uses laser spectrometry to examine the constituents of the Martian atmosphere had not found signifciant amounts of methane, with its concentration, at best, being at only circa 3 parts per billion.
NASA’s decision to choose yet another Mars lander for its 12th Discovery-class mission is unimaginative. While the chosen mission dubbed Mars Insight lander will, no doubt, produce interesting science with respect to the internal structure of Mars, the planet has, in a way, had too much time spent on it. NASA should note that there are other planetary bodies in the solar system to explore. Similarly NASA should note that it is usually the new and daring missions which result in new science and new techniques being discovered rather than those from the “play safe” category missions.
While India’s space programme has previously been praised for its activities that genuinely help its people i.e. remote sensing satellite applications for agriculture, satellite telecommunications applications for rural education etc. aid-giving nations are becoming increasingly irritated that India is now straying into more glamorous space activities.
While ratings for the UK TV talent show The Voice continue to decline on BBC television, one of the judges, Will.i.am, still has fans in the space business it seems. For according to the UK-based tabloid newspaper The Sun, NASA has asked the Black Eyed Peas band member to come up with a song to be broadcast back to Earth on a future NASA science mission to Mars. Will-i-am has previously worked with NASA before, on twitter to encourage interest in NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission, and as a narrator on a NASA TV documentary.
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