Cool new technology will allow scientists to work virtually on Mars in 3-D

A screen view from OnSight, showing how scientists can meet together in a virtual 3-D simulation on the Martian surface. Such technology will allow scientists to better study features of interest and plan rover or lander activities. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
A screen view from OnSight, showing how scientists can meet together in a virtual 3-D simulation on the Martian surface. Such technology will allow scientists to better study features of interest and plan rover or lander activities. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The rover and lander missions on Mars have been cool enough with their high-tech cameras, lasers, and on-board laboratories, but now they are about to get even better, thanks to a new partnership between NASA and Microsoft. New technology being developed, called OnSight, will allow scientists to work virtually on Mars within 3-D simulations, changing how they interact with the machines and conduct science operations.

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Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.

Has Curiosity found evidence for ancient microbial life on Mars? Maybe, says noted geobiologist

Curiosity image from Yellowknife Bay, where the potential microbial mat features were first seen in sandstone rocks. Gillespie Lake Member is the series of flat rocks in the central-left area of the image. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Curiosity image from Yellowknife Bay, where the potential microbial mat features were first seen in sandstone rocks. Gillespie Lake Member is the series of flat rocks in the central-left area of the image. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This is an update to a previous post.

There is a report about Mars which has been getting a lot of attention the past few weeks (in addition to the methane and organics found): that the Curiosity rover may have found evidence for ancient microbial life itself. Specifically, microbial mats, which are common on Earth; the report comes from noted geobiologist Nora Noffke, who has been studying images sent back by the rover since it landed in 2012.

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Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.

Image Gallery: rocky hill in Pahrump Hills

Rocky hill in the Pahrump Hills area. Image Credit: Hortonheardawho/JPL/NASA
Rocky hill in the Pahrump Hills area. Larger image versions here. Image Credit: Hortonheardawho/JPL/NASA

This is a great image to start 2015 with: a new panoramic view of a small but very rocky hill in the Pahrump Hills area on Mars, taken by the Curiosity rover. You can see the larger versions here on Flickr. When you zoom in, you can see a lot of small lighter-coloured patches on rocks in the right side of the panorama and even a small “cave” with a flow of sand coming out of it. There’s a lot of geology and history here; as we’ve seen before, the scenery is very reminiscent of the American southwest. Thanks to Hortonheardawho from the Mars Forum for his excellent panorama stitched together from individual Curiosity images.

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Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.

Has Curiosity found evidence for ancient microbial life on Mars?

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Curiosity image from Yellowknife Bay, where the potential microbial mat features were first seen in sandstone rocks. Gillespie Lake Member is the series of flat rocks in the central-left area of the image. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

There is a report which has been getting a lot of attention the past few days (in addition to the methane and organics found), that the Curiosity rover may have found evidence for ancient microbial life itself on Mars. Specifically, microbial mats, which are common on Earth. The report comes from noted geobiologist Nora Noffke, who has been studying images sent back by the rover since it landed in 2012.

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Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.

Image Gallery: fog in Valles Marineris

Water fog in the Valles Marineris canyons. Image Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin
Water fog in the Valles Marineris canyons. Image Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

After yesterday’s exciting news about the Curiosity rover finding methane and organics on Mars, here is a reminder that the planet is rather Earth-like in other ways too, such as having water clouds and fog. This well-known image is from the Mars Express spacecraft, showing dense fog filling canyons in Valles Marineris, the giant canyon system that dwarfs Earth’s Grand Canyon. Even in Mars’ thin atmosphere, clouds and fog can still often easily form.

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Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.

Curiosity rover finds methane and organics on Mars

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity drilled into this rock target, "Cumberland," during the 279th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (May 19, 2013) and collected a powdered sample of material from the rock's interior.
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity drilled into this rock target, “Cumberland,” during the 279th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (May 19, 2013) and collected a powdered sample of material from the rock’s interior. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

PRESS RELEASE
12.16.2014
Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA Rover Finds Active and Ancient Organic Chemistry on Mars

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory’s drill. “This temporary increase in methane — sharply up and then back down — tells us there must be some relatively localized source,” said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a member of the Curiosity rover science team. “There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock.”

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Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.

Image Gallery: mesas and buttes on Mount Sharp

Mesas and buttes in the foothills of Mount Sharp. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Mesas and buttes in the foothills of Mount Sharp. Click for larger version. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The Curiosity rover has taken some great images of the mesas and buttes in the foothills of Mount Sharp. This newly released montage is a mosaic of images taken last year, Sep. 7, 2013. The rover is now much closer to these landforms, but even from this previous vantage point, remarkable detail can be seen. The scene is reminiscent of the desert regions in American southwest. Larger versions of the image are available here.

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Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.