April 17, 2014
Our Mars Orbiter Looks Down and Saw Our Mars Rover

Right now, five human spacecrafts study Mars by hanging out near it. Two do it from the Martian surface—the Curiosity rover, which began its mission in 2012, and the more-than-a-decade-old Opportunity rover—and three do it while orbiting around the red planet. 
Earlier this month, one of those kinds of spacecraft happened to see the other. 
On April 11, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter passed near Aeolis Mons, a mountain near the equator in the planet’s eastern hemisphere. It photographed a hilly region nearby known as the Kimberley, and there it caught a robot that’s been hanging out among the hills for the past few months: the Mars Curiosity Rover.
Read more. [Image: NASA]

Our Mars Orbiter Looks Down and Saw Our Mars Rover

Right now, five human spacecrafts study Mars by hanging out near it. Two do it from the Martian surface—the Curiosity rover, which began its mission in 2012, and the more-than-a-decade-old Opportunity rover—and three do it while orbiting around the red planet. 

Earlier this month, one of those kinds of spacecraft happened to see the other. 

On April 11, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter passed near Aeolis Mons, a mountain near the equator in the planet’s eastern hemisphere. It photographed a hilly region nearby known as the Kimberley, and there it caught a robot that’s been hanging out among the hills for the past few months: the Mars Curiosity Rover.

Read more. [Image: NASA]

April 2, 2014
What Will Mars Do To Our Minds?

When human space travel made its transition from pipe dream to reality, one of the unknowns humans contended with concerned not just the physics of space, but the psychology of it. How would the human mind react to the final frontier? Would microgravity, combined with the isolation of a spaceship, cause a kind of claustrophobia? Would propulsion outside of Earth’s bounds, in the end, cause astronauts to experience a psychic break? Was there such thing, as science fiction writers had long feared, as “space madness”?
Space, fortunately, does not drive us crazy. But that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped caring about the effects its new environments will have on our psychology. The new version of the old “space madness” question is how time away from our home planet will affect us—in the long term. What could life on Mars do to that that other cosmic mystery: the human emotional state? 
NASA is hoping to find out. This week, in partnership with the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the agency launched the latest version of its Mars simulation experiment, the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation mission. On Hawaii’s Big Island, 8,200 feet above sea level, conditions are as Martian as they can be on Earth: Mauna Loa’s volcanic soil is quite similar to the volcanic regolith that can be found on Mars. HI-SEAS in general aims to replicate, as closely as is possible on Earth, what life would be like on Mars—and its latest iteration will put human emotions to the test.  
Read more. [Image: NASA/HI-SEAS]

What Will Mars Do To Our Minds?

When human space travel made its transition from pipe dream to reality, one of the unknowns humans contended with concerned not just the physics of space, but the psychology of it. How would the human mind react to the final frontier? Would microgravity, combined with the isolation of a spaceship, cause a kind of claustrophobia? Would propulsion outside of Earth’s bounds, in the end, cause astronauts to experience a psychic break? Was there such thing, as science fiction writers had long feared, as “space madness”?

Space, fortunately, does not drive us crazy. But that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped caring about the effects its new environments will have on our psychology. The new version of the old “space madness” question is how time away from our home planet will affect us—in the long term. What could life on Mars do to that that other cosmic mystery: the human emotional state? 

NASA is hoping to find out. This week, in partnership with the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the agency launched the latest version of its Mars simulation experiment, the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation mission. On Hawaii’s Big Island, 8,200 feet above sea level, conditions are as Martian as they can be on Earth: Mauna Loa’s volcanic soil is quite similar to the volcanic regolith that can be found on Mars. HI-SEAS in general aims to replicate, as closely as is possible on Earth, what life would be like on Mars—and its latest iteration will put human emotions to the test. 

Read more. [Image: NASA/HI-SEAS]

March 6, 2014
The NASA Rover That Hovers Like a Helicopter (and Could Land on Mars)

Yesterday, a NASA test vehicle lifted off from the ground in Florida, flew freely through the air, and landed about 650 feet away. It landed, crucially, in the same position it launched—upright—and that makes it look kind of like a science fiction film.
Read more. [Image: NASA]

The NASA Rover That Hovers Like a Helicopter (and Could Land on Mars)

Yesterday, a NASA test vehicle lifted off from the ground in Florida, flew freely through the air, and landed about 650 feet away. It landed, crucially, in the same position it launched—upright—and that makes it look kind of like a science fiction film.

Read more. [Image: NASA]

January 2, 2014
Right Now, It’s as Cold in Canada as Where Our Rover Is on Mars

A frigid spell has brought Winnipeg’s temperature down to that of a planet more than 100 million miles further from the sun than we are.
Read more. [Image: NASA/JPL/MSSS]

Right Now, It’s as Cold in Canada as Where Our Rover Is on Mars

A frigid spell has brought Winnipeg’s temperature down to that of a planet more than 100 million miles further from the sun than we are.

Read more. [Image: NASA/JPL/MSSS]

October 29, 2013

If You Took a Helicopter Ride on Mars, This Is What You’d See

6:10pm
  
Filed under: Technology Science Space Mars 
September 27, 2013
Water on Mars: A Brief (and Extremely Long) History

The Curiosity rover has found water in the soil of Mars. Which is, on the one hand, big news: Water! Right in the soil of the seemingly barren planet! On the other hand, though, it’s news that isn’t terribly surprising: Scientists have long speculated that Mars was once Earth-like in its capacity to host water. And the planet, of course, is already known to host both ice and snow at its poles.

Still, though, the water detected in the soil (in this case, of the Gale Crater, the area the rover is exploring) is a big deal — a confirmation of yet another way that Mars and Earth are more similar than it may appear to the naked eye. The news came via a series of five papers published in the journal Science — the first set, The Guardian's Alok Jha notes, “of formal, peer-reviewed results from the Curiosity mission.” The papers offer details of the scientific experiments Curiosity carried out during the first four months it spent tooling around on the Martian surface. And investigations into the planet’s water content were among them. 
How much water, actually, is present in the soil of Mars? A decent amount, it seems.
Read more. [Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/University of Rome/Southwest Research Institute]

Water on Mars: A Brief (and Extremely Long) History

The Curiosity rover has found water in the soil of Mars. Which is, on the one hand, big news: Water! Right in the soil of the seemingly barren planet! On the other hand, though, it’s news that isn’t terribly surprising: Scientists have long speculated that Mars was once Earth-like in its capacity to host water. And the planet, of course, is already known to host both ice and snow at its poles.

Still, though, the water detected in the soil (in this case, of the Gale Crater, the area the rover is exploring) is a big deal — a confirmation of yet another way that Mars and Earth are more similar than it may appear to the naked eye. The news came via a series of five papers published in the journal Science — the first set, The Guardian's Alok Jha notes, “of formal, peer-reviewed results from the Curiosity mission.” The papers offer details of the scientific experiments Curiosity carried out during the first four months it spent tooling around on the Martian surface. And investigations into the planet’s water content were among them. 

How much water, actually, is present in the soil of Mars? A decent amount, it seems.

Read more. [Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/University of Rome/Southwest Research Institute]

September 19, 2013
Is There Life on Mars? No

August 16, 2013
Here's What the Two Moons of Mars Look Like From the Planet's Surface

August 14, 2013
Good News, Future Colonists! Mars Meals May Feature Nutella

On the northern slope of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, on a barren lava field at 8,000 feat above sea level, six researchers have spent the last four months living in a dome. And, when venturing beyond the dome, wearing space suits. And, beyond that, sleeping. And eating. And cooking.

Their task? To simulate what life on Mars might be like for humans — barren terrain, clothing requirements, and all. Their specific task in all this was to focus on the food: to think about what culinary concoctions might be appropriate for the Mars colonists of the future.
To do this, the researchers — selected by both the University of Hawaii and Cornell University and funded by NASA — prepared meals from a pre-determined list of foods: foods that are dehydrated, preserved, un-perishable, and, for all that, generally unpalatable. It was essentially Iron Chef, with the mystery ingredient being Mars.
Read more. [Image: NASA]

Good News, Future Colonists! Mars Meals May Feature Nutella

On the northern slope of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, on a barren lava field at 8,000 feat above sea level, six researchers have spent the last four months living in a dome. And, when venturing beyond the dome, wearing space suits. And, beyond that, sleeping. And eating. And cooking.

Their task? To simulate what life on Mars might be like for humans — barren terrain, clothing requirements, and all. Their specific task in all this was to focus on the food: to think about what culinary concoctions might be appropriate for the Mars colonists of the future.

To do this, the researchers — selected by both the University of Hawaii and Cornell University and funded by NASA — prepared meals from a pre-determined list of foods: foods that are dehydrated, preserved, un-perishable, and, for all that, generally unpalatable. It was essentially Iron Chef, with the mystery ingredient being Mars.

Read more. [Image: NASA]

August 5, 2013
How Curiosity Became an Astronaut

The most memorable thing was the tears. They were the result, for the most part, of the tensions of the “Seven Minutes of Terror.” And of hope. And of anticipation. And of the knowledge that so many people had invested a significant portion of their lives in this one moment — and the knowledge, as well, of how easily it could all go wrong.
Nothing went wrong. At approximately 1:30 am East Coast time on August 5, 2012, the control room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, erupted with cheers, high fives, hugs, relief, and, yes, tears. The Curiosity rover, which had taken several years to be built and another year to travel away from Earth, had landed safely on the surface of Mars. 
Read more. [Image: NASA]

How Curiosity Became an Astronaut

The most memorable thing was the tears. They were the result, for the most part, of the tensions of the “Seven Minutes of Terror.” And of hope. And of anticipation. And of the knowledge that so many people had invested a significant portion of their lives in this one moment — and the knowledge, as well, of how easily it could all go wrong.

Nothing went wrong. At approximately 1:30 am East Coast time on August 5, 2012, the control room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, erupted with cheers, high fives, hugs, relief, and, yes, tears. The Curiosity rover, which had taken several years to be built and another year to travel away from Earth, had landed safely on the surface of Mars.

Read more. [Image: NASA]

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