Category Archives: Mars

NASA designing its own ‘flying saucer’ for future Mars missions

Engineers work on the LDSD system design at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Credit: NASA / JPL

Engineers work on the LDSD system design at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Credit: NASA / JPL

It may sound like something from a movie but it’s not – NASA is working on building its own version of a “flying saucer” for a future mission to Mars. The disk-shaped spacecraft would be used to transport heavy payloads and even people down to the surface, it was just reported in New Scientist.

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Image Gallery: sunset in Gale crater

Sunset in Gale crater, as seen by Curiosity. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Damia Bouic

Sunset in Gale crater, as seen by Curiosity. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Damia Bouic

Another beautiful postcard panorama from Damia Bouic, this time showing a dusky sky during sunset as seen by Curiosity in Gale crater. In this view, the Sun is setting behind the western mountainous rim of the huge crater. Scenes like this are amazingly reminiscent of Earth, even though Mars is a truly alien world in many ways.

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Image Gallery: a heart in Ascraeus Mons

Interesting feature near the Ascraeus Mons volcano. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona

Interesting feature near the Ascraeus Mons volcano. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona

Mars has a lot of unusual geological features, and this new image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is a good example of that. Somewhat heart-shaped, south of the Ascraeus Mons volcano on the Tharsis volcanic plateau. How did it form?

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Image Gallery: ‘Australia’ rock with weird edges

"Australia" rock seen by Curiosity Click to view larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

“Australia” rock seen by Curiosity Click to view larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

This is an interesting rock slab just seen by the Curiosity rover on Mars. Kind of looks like Australia… It has very thin edges like other similar rock slabs seen before, but note the little pebbles stuck to the edges. How do they stay in place like that?

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Image Gallery: cracked dome

Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Click for larger version. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

An interesting circular mound in the Nilosyrtis region on Mars, photographed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. How did the flat top get all cracked like that? Original images are here.

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Planetary archive: Rosetta at Mars

The Rosetta spacecraft as it flew past Mars in 2007. Credit: ESA

The Rosetta spacecraft as it flew past Mars in 2007. Click for larger version. Credit: ESA

This is a nice “selfie” photo that the Rosetta spacecraft took of itself as it flew past Mars in 2007. Rosetta is still en route to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and will start approaching it in May of this year, then will enter orbit around the comet and later deploy a lander in November. Hopefully this will be the view that astronauts have in the not-too-distant future.

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Is this new evidence for ancient life on Mars?

Scanning electron microscope image from inside the Martian meteorite Yamato 000593 (Y000593), showing the tunnels and micro-tunnels. Credit: NASA

Scanning electron microscope image from inside the Martian meteorite Yamato 000593 (Y000593), showing the tunnels and micro-tunnels. Credit: NASA

The debate over possible evidence for life on Mars is one of the most hotly debated subjects in space science, and some news released today, February 27, is sure to add fuel to the fire. Studies of a Martian meteorite, known as Yamato 000593 (Y000593), have revealed signs of past liquid water activity as well as possible evidence of actual biological processes.

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Mount Sharp and outcrops

View of Mount Sharp and nearby outcrops on sol 548. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Damia Bouic

View of Mount Sharp and nearby outcrops on sol 548. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Damia Bouic

This is another beautiful new panoramic image from Damia Bouic, showing Mount Sharp in the distance and thinly layered outcrops in the foreground on sol 548. Curiosity has just passed through Violet Valley and is making good progress toward the base of Mount Sharp, which is still about 5 kilometres (3 miles) away. The full-size version of the image is here.

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Boulders provide new clues to ancient ocean on Mars

Illustration showing how the ancient Oceanus Borealis may have looked on Mars. Credit: ESA / C. Carreau

Illustration showing how the ancient Oceanus Borealis may have looked on Mars. Credit: ESA / C. Carreau

The possibility of an ancient Martian ocean is an enticing one, and there has been growing evidence that it did indeed exist (dubbed Oceanus Borealis), covering most of the northern hemisphere, and about a third of the planet, billions of years ago. Now, some new observations of boulders in what likely used to be the ocean bottom have given scientists additional clues as to what this ocean was like, it was announced this past Saturday (February 15, 2014).

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MIneral veins in Dingo Gap

Mineral veins in Dingo Gap. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Mineral veins in Dingo Gap on sol 538. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Curiosity has now moved well past Dingo Gap and into Moonlight Valley, but not before taking some close-up images of more of those interesting mineral veins. No word yet if any analysis was done, but similar veins seen before turned out to be gypsum. And like those, the minerals likely precipitated out of water filling in cracks in rocks and then long after, weathering eroded away softer rock around them, leaving them as veins standing up from the surface.

Mineral veins in Dingo Gap on sol 538. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Mineral veins in Dingo Gap on sol 538. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Mineral veins in Dingo Gap on sol 538. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

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