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A RADICAL new theory claims that humans are the descendants of Martian life which came to Earth billions of years ago.

Scientists believe life might have begin on Mars and then “contaminated” our own planet.

An artist’s illustration of the igloo-style Mars ice home suggested by Elon Musk

It’s believed life had a better chance of getting started on the now arid planet in ancient times because it used to have the right conditions for alien life – like water and a possible atmosphere.

They think that an asteroid collision caused by space rocks in our solar system smashing into each other might have caused a chunk of life from Mars to land on Earth.

Astronomer Caleb Sharf told Business Insider: “We can find pieces of Mars here on Earth and we suspect that there are pieces of Earth on Mars.

“If that material can carry living organisms on it, it’s possible that we are Martian.” 

Nasa reveals incredible formations formed by dry ice on Mars

Our neighbouring planet still harbours plenty of secrets, but we know these 'sightings' probably aren't legit
GETTY IMAGES

Our neighbouring planet still harbours plenty of secrets, but we know these 'sightings' probably aren't legit

Artist's impression of the European Space Agency's ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter entering orbit
PA:PRESS ASSOCIATION

Artist's impression of the European Space Agency's ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter entering orbit.

Author : MARGI MURPHY

Source : https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2686621/life-came-from-mars-and-was-carried-to-earth-on-an-asteroid-scientists-claim/

Categorized in Science & Tech

Our tale of two planets begins four billion years ago. One planet was Earth, and the other planet was Mars, and the two had much in common in their infancy. Rivers and lakes etched their surfaces, craters pockmarked their faces, and volcanoes rose from their plains. But something seems to have changed on one and not the other.

In Earth’s burbling warm water, fate and chemistry combined amino acids into complex molecules, and in a process we still don’t understand, these gave rise to single cells that figured out how to make copies of themselves. Tiny mistakes in those copies eventually turned them into oxygen-exhaling organisms we call algae. Endless forms flowed from these humble ancestors, and after eons, there we were: All of human culture and hope and possibility arising within a tiny slice of time.

Mars was not so lucky. Mars dried up. Mars is small, about half Earth’s diameter, so it cooled off faster than Earth did after their birth in the cloud of dust left over from the sun’s creation. Compared to its overall volume, more of Mars’ mass is exposed to the icy blackness of space. As it cooled, its iron-nickel core solidified. When this happened, we think, the Martian magnetic field shut down, robbing Mars of its protective shield, of the sort that still safeguards Earth from solar and cosmic rays. Time and the brightening sun stripped away the Martian atmosphere before the planet’s algae, if it existed, had a chance to make the air thick and warm. Mars turned to rust before any skeletons could adorn its deserts, before any creatures could look up and contemplate their place among the other dots in the night sky. While Earth is fecund and bursting with life, Mars is, and may have always been, barren.

To me, this is why Mars is the best planet. A few simple changes turn its history into our history, and vice versa. That’s the key thing; that could have been us.

Ashwin Vasavada has a similar view. He is the project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory, the six-wheeled robot car we know and love as Curiosity. He can quote the easy answer for why we go to Mars, the assumption most scientists and science writers make: Mars is close. It’s practically right next door, and you can fling a robot there in half a year.

“That’s the NASA answer. It’s the most accessible place for life other than on Earth. But I have my own answer,” he says. “It’s a place that you can go today that’s like going to early Earth. You remove that dusty exterior of Mars, and you have this planet that is just so reminiscent of Earth. It’s like finding a dusty Earth in your attic. Shake off the dust a little bit, and it’s this amazing place that you can recognize. That’s why I like it.”

Mars would seem familiar to anyone who has seen the national parks of the American West, especially the ones full of wind-whipped rock formations and surprising color. The terrain at Gale Crater’s Mount Sharp, where Curiosity has been trundling along since 2012, might as well be Utah or Colorado. The rocks are reddish brown, sun-baked, and partly blanketed in sand dunes. Their carved-away hillsides are jagged, however — no rivers or softening rains have given them Earth’s gentle countenance.

Of course, Mars was familiar to us long before we sent robots there. With Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn, Mars is one of the night sky’s unblinking wanderers, visible with eyes alone. The planets have accompanied human culture since we started writing stories. The next planet over has been a fixture in myths dating to the Babylonians, who called it Nergal, after the god of destruction. In Roman mythology, Mars was the god of war and destabilization. This figure also appears in various forms in Greek, Norse, and Hindu mythologies. To ancient Chinese, it was Ying-huo, the Shimmering Planet.

Even now, we acknowledge Mars on the third day of every week. In romance languages, the name comes from the Latin day of Mars, or “Dies Martis” — that became martes in Spanish, mardi in French. In Norse mythology, Mars is associated with the god Tyr, so our Tuesday comes from the Old English word Tiwesdæg. We also honor Mars on the third month of every year. Bellicose Mars was also a protector of the Roman people and a patron of agriculture, so the month named for this god marked the beginning of the growing season.

Mars has always stood out from the other wanderers, in part because it is so obviously red, a ruddy, unblinking dot hanging with an air of menace. Its hue — which comes from oxidized iron, in the same chemical reaction that turns blood red — linked Mars to war, and to death, long before we knew it was dead in a literal sense. What’s more, it moves backward, or seems to. The sun, moon and stars rise in the east and fall in the west because of Earth’s rotation. But the planets orbit the sun at different rates, and so sometimes, Earth will lap one of them, like a runner on an inside track lane. From our perspective on Earth, the other planet seems to be moving west to east. This aberrant behavior has long been associated with omens or astrological predictions.

Its omnipresence in our sky made Mars a prime target as soon as we figured out how to use glass to make the night sky’s features appear larger. By the 17th century, astronomers resolved its polar ice caps through telescopes — perhaps one of the earliest discoveries that the fourth planet shared something in common with ours. And the more we looked, the more we found these similarities. Mars is the best planet because Mars and Earth have more in common than any other worlds in the solar system. It cowers next to humongous Jupiter, but unlike that gas giant, its hard surface beckons visitors. Mars lacks our dewy, oxygen-rich atmosphere, but neither is it shrouded in a poisonous, bone-crushingly dense one like Venus. Its day (called a sol) is just 40 minutes longer than our own. Its axis is tilted slightly more than ours, at 25 degrees, unlike weirdly slanted Uranus. And anyone who argues it is ugly, especially compared to the art deco elegance of Saturn, is simply mistaken. Mars is lovely to behold. Mars has snow. It has mountains, and lake beds, and recognizable landscapes. Earth and Mars are the same in so many ways. And yet. The biggest difference is the only one that really matters. The only life on Mars is the kind we imagine.

Martian fantasies grew in complexity alongside Martian observations. Astronomers frequently turned to the red planet when Mars was opposed to the sun and close to Earth, making it appear larger and brighter. The most famous of these was the opposition of 1877, in which the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli observed networks of lines on Mars, which later turned out to be optical illusions (though Mars does have streaks of water lining its slopes today). He called them canali, which was translated into English as “canals.”

This momentous finding brought Mars closer to Earth than ever. It became even easier to imagine Mars as a place just like Earth, positively crawling with life. “The present inhabitation of Mars by a race superior to ours is very probable,” the French astronomer Camille Flammarion wrote in 1892. Around the same time, the American astronomer Percival Lowell scrutinized Mars extensively. He believed he saw “non-natural features,” including canals, which he imagined were devised to transport water from the drying planet’s ice caps. Mars soon loomed even larger in science fiction and pop culture. By 1897, H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” imagined Mars as a slowly drying planet full of desperate beings who launch rockets to Earth, where they feast on human blood.

If Mars was arguably the first place storytellers imagined we would find aliens, it was indeed the first place we went looking for them. Project Ozma, in which astronomer Frank Drake pointed a radio telescope at the stars Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani, is the traditional SETI origin story. But we listened to Mars first. In Aug. 22, 1924, the head of the U.S. Navy, Edward Eberle, instructed all naval stations to turn their receivers toward Mars. The red planet was at its closest approach to Earth in 120 years, and some astronomers thought Martians might use the opportunity to make contact over the airwaves. Onshore stations were advised to listen to as many frequencies as possible, and to “report any electrical phenomenon [of] unusual character,” according to a telegram from Eberle. If someone wanted to talk, the Navy was ready to listen.

No Martians made contact that day, because there are no Martians, as far as any of our satellites and robots can tell. But this has not stopped our storytellers, and it certainly has not stopped our scientists. We have been attempting to land spacecraft on Mars for nearly 50 years, and almost all of them have been looking for life, in one way or another.

The history of Mars landings has shown that the planet is anything but hospitable now, however. And that goes for machines just as much as microbes. More than half of the robots sent to Mars have been destroyed in the process, most recently last fall. The European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli lander plummeted through the atmosphere Oct. 19, but crashed after it cut its parachute too soon and its hovercraft-like retrorockets didn’t fire long enough.

Still, those lucky few that have made it, most notably Curiosity, have shown us Mars was habitable in its past. The fleet of orbiters looping around the planet have sent back data that suggests there is some water there today, mostly at the poles. But we are still not sure if Mars had lasting oceans, or just big lakes and rivers, says Ray Arvidson, a renowned planetary scientist who has directed or taken part in every NASA Mars mission since Viking. And we certainly don’t know whether it had life.

“It’s not a given. It’s not a shoo-in, by any means, that Mars developed life, and if it did, that the evidence is still there,” Arvidson says. “Whether or not you get organic molecules that move to prebiotic compounds, that then move to replicating systems, that’s a big leap.”

Even assuming that leap happened, Vasavada and others say we are more likely to find evidence of ancient life than modern life. Extant or extinct Martians would probably be bacteria or some other simple cells, definitely not limbed beings that communicate using light or language. In this way, Mars may seem disappointing to some. But it is the best planet precisely because a null result, as scientists would call it, would raise an even bigger question: Why here? Why us?

“I think it just becomes a real scientific mystery if we don’t find life. That tells us we don’t quite understand how unique life is on Earth,” Vasavada says. “If you don’t find it, that almost becomes more interesting, and makes you get more existential about life on Earth. That’s where I am now.”

For those who take an even longer existential view, Mars is important — vital, even. When Elon Musk unveiled his plans for giant rockets and spaceships to transport human settlers to Mars, he invoked not only exploration, but our shared future. Mars is an opportunity for humans to carry forward the light of consciousness, letting it propagate alongside us, and to survive after we are gone, much like the first cells on Earth found a way to send copies of themselves into the future. If Musk and other dreamers have their way, the first life forms on Mars might be us.

But make no mistake: It will be a horrible, destructive journey. Unlike the territories of colonial history — the West Indies, the American West and other frontiers — Mars does not tickle the mind with dreams of untold riches. Mars is no El Dorado. Its atmosphere does not hold any heat. It has no pressure to prevent your blood from vaporizing. Without a spacesuit, you would literally boil and freeze to death, simultaneously. Mars travelers would be consigned forever to pressurized domes or, more likely, radiation-shielding caves. They would never again see waves lapping at a shoreline. They would never again hear the wind singing through pine trees. They would never again be surprised by the sight of a silvery crescent moon.

Why go, then?

I was at JPL when Curiosity landed in August 2012, and I couldn’t help clapping along with the NASA engineers and scientists who whooped and hollered at the news. The dust had barely settled after Curiosity’s audacious sky crane landing when the rover sent back its first postcard, the grainy image you see here.

“It’s the wheel! It’s the wheel!” someone in the control room shouted. Squinting at the black-and-white image of a wheel on a rocky plain, I felt a rush of emotion. The rover’s belly cast a shadow in the afternoon sun. The scene looked so familiar, but felt so wrong. It could have been the mountain West where I grew up, only it was empty, lifeless but for the robot now perched on the sand.

If Saturn is a spur to the scientific imagination, letting us glimpse how far our minds must go to meet what the cosmos has in store, Mars does the opposite. It is a sign of how unlikely we are. It makes us confront how fragile the Earth is. It’s a reminder of how lonely we remain on our pale blue dot, the only home we have ever known. Mars is the best planet because Mars is a mirror. We look to it and we see ourselves — our past and possibility, and, with some imagination, our future.

Author: REBECCA BOYLE
Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/01/mars-is-the-best-planet/512654

Categorized in Science & Tech

Humankind has cast an eye toward another “giant leap” forward nearly half a century after the United States’ Apollo 11 spacecraft delivered humans to the moon for the first time.

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning to put a manned spacecraft into orbit around Mars in the 2030s, before sending humans to explore the red planet.

Similar in size to Earth, and relatively close, Mars is widely considered as the most promising and realistic candidate planet for manned space exploration.

The planet, however, is more than 50 million km away from Earth even when their orbits are at their closest. With a round-trip journey taking multiple years, a realistic approach to the journey calls for fuel and other required materials to be made available along the way.

NASA, therefore, plans to build a space station to put in orbit around the moon by the end of the next decade as a supply base for future journeys.

It is also developing a spacecraft, named Orion, which is capable of carrying a crew of four, and making preparations to build a Space Launch System, a powerful rocket to carry Orion into deep space.

Orion needs to be equipped with a variety of systems to support the long journey to Mars, which would take more than a year from a starting point in the moon’s orbit.

NASA also envisions building a base on Mars for resource exploration.

The Mars program will be promoted in close cooperation with various aerospace companies. For example, Lockheed Martin Corp. is proposing to build a Mars-orbiting base, the Mars Base Camp, to accommodate six astronauts. Given the U.S. company’s involvement in the development of Orion, it is considered likely that NASA would support this idea.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., a U.S. aerospace venture business known as SpaceX, envisions developing a large-scale reusable spacecraft capable of carrying more than 100 Mars settlers per flight, the first of which is reportedly planned for 2022 at the earliest.

There are also space projects elsewhere. The International Space Station (ISS) orbiting around Earth at an altitude of 400 km will be privatized over time.

Bigelow Aerospace LLC, another American space technology start-up, is planning to create a private sector-run space station that will serve as a “space hotel” consisting of balloon-like modules for tourists from Earth.

There are a number of hurdles to overcome if the challenge of completing long space journeys is to be realized. Among the issues of vital importance is how to secure sufficient amounts of food, as spacecraft can only carry a limited volume of materials.

The production of vegetables in space was proved possible when Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui grew lettuce using a light-emitting diode lamp, water and fertilizer during his stay of nearly five months aboard the ISS in 2015. Self-sufficiency may be achieved if a wide variety of food can be produced in space.

A system to allow the reuse of water and air is also a must. In addition, excrement can be processed into fertilizer for food production or into energy, using microorganisms, to run systems on a spacecraft.

Advances in 3-D printing technology are expected to be a boon for journeys between Earth and Mars because tools and parts to make repairs can be produced on demand.

The outer shell of a spacecraft also needs to be designed to reduce astronauts’ exposure to harmful cosmic radiation, while robots may be developed to replace humans on dangerous spacewalks.

To ease the stress that comes with prolonged time in a close, isolated space, artificial intelligence is expected to play an important role as an “adviser” or “conversation partner” for astronauts.

Donald Trump’s rise to the U.S. presidency may also put the Mars program in jeopardy. Some worry that the huge cost involved in such a project, including funds for the ISS, may not be palatable to someone with his business background.

An international forum will be held in Japan in the latter half of 2017 to discuss manned space exploration.

Although Japan has yet to decide whether to participate in a joint international program for the manned exploration of Mars, the country has been promoting the development of necessary technologies.

In the absence of its own manned spaceship, Japan currently relies on Russia to send astronauts to the ISS. Japan, however, has accumulated technologies to develop such a spacecraft through activities in its “Kibo” experiment module attached to the ISS.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is developing the upgraded model of the “Konotori” series of unmanned cargo ships for launch in fiscal 2021. The new transporter, code-named HTV-X, will be designed to be capable of unmanned flight.

“It is technologically possible to give spaceship-like functions to the transporter if it is equipped with a life-support system,” a JAXA official said.

Together with a large H-3 rocket currently under development, the transporter is expected to help expand Japan’s activities in space.

Russia, which has a proud history of space exploration and in 1961 was the first country to put a person into space, is planning to send humans to the moon by 2030 and build a lunar base.

China is looking to construct its own space station by around 2020. As part of preparations, the Asian power in October sent two astronauts to a space laboratory orbiting Earth for a 30-day stay and succeeded in lifting a large Long March 5 rocket into space the following month.

A Japanese expert familiar with China’s space program said the heavy-lift rocket has given the world’s second-largest economy “all it needs to build a space station.”

Interest is growing about whether, or how, China will be involved in any potential exploration of Mars.

Humans are moving into another stage of space exploration, working toward a time when the indelible words of American astronaut Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) may again be truly apt to use.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” said the commander of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing mission after climbing down the ladder to become the first person to set foot on the surface of the moon.

Author : KOTA ISHIKAWA

Source : http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/01/national/mankind-eyes-mars-next-giant-leap/#.WG3ENFV95dj

Categorized in Science & Tech

For years, the conventional wisdom was that Mars existed as little more than a cold, barren dust ball in space. The idea that it once supported life was considered unlikely. But then we started sending probes the the Red Planet, and more recently rovers like Curiosity. Since its arrival in 2012, Curiosity has covered more ground than all previous rovers, and now mission scientists are comfortable saying that Mars would have been capable of harboring life for hundreds of millions of years in the past.

Curiosity landed in a region known as Yellowknife in Gale Crater, and has been making its way up to higher elevations around Mount Sharp, which is in the middle of Gale Crater. This gives it a chance to investigate the strata as it ascends, essentially scanning the Martian past.

The new proclamation of Mars as a potential long-term home to ancient life comes from Curiosity science team member John Grotzinger, who spoke on the topic at a recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). We’ve known from samples all the way back to Yellowknife that Gale Crater most likely played host to a vast lake and stream system, but it was not present continuously. That doesn’t necessarily mean everything living there disappeared with the water, though.

According to Grotzinger, analysis of Curiosity data from various levels in Gale Crater paint a picture of fresh, neutral pH water that got more acidic and salty over time. The lakes also completely dried up and refilled repeatedly over the course of millions of years. Despite this, simple microorganisms could have persisted in the groundwater, ready to take advantage when standing water again flooded the surface.

curiosity

Curiosity has also identified a great diversity of minerals on Mars, which points to a complex chemical history — just the sort of thing life requires. The rover has detected many of the same minerals we have on Earth, including clays, magnetite, and boron. There’s even silica, which scientists are particularly happy about. On Earth, silica has been good at preserving microscopic fossils. If life did exist on Mars in the past, we might find strong evidence for it in silica deposits.

This is all assuming alien life on Mars operates by the same rules as life on Earth. That’s certainly not a given. Even life on Earth can seem almost alien at times. Single-celled extremophiles can survive (and even thrive) in conditions too hot, acidic, or salty for any other organism. Maybe something like that lived (or lives?) on Mars. We might find more clues when NASA’s 2020 rover project heads to the Red Planet.

Author : Ryan Whitwam

Source : https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/241105-ancient-mars-may-harbored-life-hundreds-millions-years

Categorized in Science & Tech

The ESA orbiter gives us a fresh viewpoint of Mars during its mission to sniff out rare gasses.

The European Space Agency's ExoMars spacecraft tested out its imaging system from orbit around Mars, giving us a tantalizing teaser of what's to come as the mission continues to investigate the Red Planet. The ESA compiled a series of images taken in November into a video released on Tuesday.

The video gives us a fly-over view of craters, sweeping formations and sharp valleys. The video concludes with a message saying "...and this is just the beginning..."

The Trace Gas Orbiter's main purpose is to catalog the rare gases in Mars' atmosphere, which include nitrogen dioxide and methane, but the Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) is on board to send visuals back to Earth. According to the ESA, CaSSIS "will characterise sites that have been identified as potential sources of trace gases and investigate dynamic surface processes."

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ExoMars reached its destination in October after launching back in March. Part of the mission didn't pan out when the Schiaparelli lander crashed into the planet's surface rather than landing safely. The rest of the mission is healthy and is expected to operate in Mars orbit for many years to come.

marsface.gif

Author: 

Source : https://www.cnet.com/news/exomars-mars-esa-pictures/

Categorized in Science & Tech

SAN FRANCISCO — Parts of Mars were capable of supporting life as we know it for lengthy stretches in the ancient past — perhaps hundreds of millions of years at a time, new observations by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity suggest.

Since it landed inside the Red Planet's Gale Crater in August 2012, Curiosityhas studied a number of different rocks over an elevational range of about 650 feet (200 meters), which represents a time span of tens of millions to hundreds of millions of years.

The rovers' analyses indicate that the environment within Gale Crater changed considerably during this period, but never in a way that would preclude life from forming or surviving, mission scientists said today (Dec. 13) during a news conference here at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). [The Life on Mars Search: Photo Time Line]

The highest concentration of boron measured on Mars, as of late 2016, is in this mineral vein, called "Catabola," which NASA's Curiosity rover examined with its ChemCam instrument Aug, 25, 2016.

The highest concentration of boron measured on Mars, as of late 2016, is in this mineral vein, called "Catabola," which NASA's Curiosity rover examined with its ChemCam instrument Aug, 25, 2016.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/LANL/CNES/IRAP/LPGNantes

"For that entire history [of Mars], it seems to have been favorable" for life, said Curiosity science team member (and former project scientist) John Grotzinger, a geologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Curiosity's observations — made by drilling into rocks, then studying the resulting samples — had already allowed scientists to determine that Gale Crater harbored a potentially habitable lake-and-stream system billions of years ago. (Like the rest of Mars, the area is dry today, at least on the surface.)

The new results paint a more detailed picture of that environment and how it changed over time. The results incorporate additional analyses that Curiosity has performed as it climbs the foothills of Mount Sharp, which rises 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) into the sky from Gale Crater's center.

The initial observations, made by Curiosity at lower elevations, suggest that the lake was first composed of fresh, neutral-pH water. That water got a bit more acidic over time, and then a bit saltier. The lake system probably dried up at times and then filled back in again, as the groundwater level rose, Grotzinger said.

But, despite all these changes, the area remained hospitable to microbial life, he added. (Simple organisms could have persisted in groundwater even during the lake system's "dry" stages.)

"This is all very good for habitability over long periods of time," Grotzinger said.

Furthermore, Curiosity's analyses show a complexity of minerals at the rover's various drill sites, from clays and magnetite lower down to hematite higher up. The six-wheeled robot also detected boron in Gale Crater, marking the first time this element has been discovered on Mars.

Again, this is all good news for ancient Mars' habitability, mission team members said.

This pair of drawings depicts the same location at Mars' Gale Crater at two points in time: now and billions of years ago. Water moving beneath the ground, as well as water above the surface in ancient rivers and lakes, provided favorable conditions for microbial life, if Mars has ever hosted life.
 
 
This pair of drawings depicts the same location at Mars' Gale Crater at two points in time: now and billions of years ago. Water moving beneath the ground, as well as water above the surface in ancient rivers and lakes, provided favorable conditions for microbial life, if Mars has ever hosted life.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/LANL/CNES/IRAP/LPGNantes

"Variations in these minerals and elements indicate a dynamic system," Grotzinger said in a statement. "They interact with groundwater as well as surface water. The water influences the chemistry of the clays, but the composition of the water also changes. We are seeing chemical complexity indicating a long, interactive history with the water. The more complicated the chemistry is, the better it is for habitability. The boron, hematite and clay minerals underline the mobility of elements and electrons, and that is good for life."

Some samples also showed abundances of silica, which here on Earth is great at preserving ancient microbes, Grotzinger said. This find, of course, does not suggest that organisms have ever survived on Mars, but it could aid the planning of future life-hunting missions such as NASA's 2020 Mars rover, Grotzinger said.

"I think this is a tremendously exciting discovery," he said.

Curiosity will continue climbing up Mount Sharp's lower reaches, further fleshing out scientists' understanding of the ancient Martian environment and how it changed over time. The rover is in good health, though a problem with Curiosity's drill that cropped up earlier this month persists, mission team members said today.

Author : Mike Wall

Source : http://www.space.com/35018-mars-support-life-millions-years-curiosity-rover.html

Categorized in Science & Tech

Water untouched for two billion years has been found three kilometres underground in Canada, making it the oldest water in the world.

Key points:

  • Discovery surpasses water found three years ago that was 1.5 billion years old
  • Helps to show that life can survive below the surface and away from the sun
  • Could reveal clues about possibility of extraterrestrial life residing beneath Mars' surface

The research community said the discovery may reveal clues about the possibility of extraterrestrial life residing within underground pockets of water on Mars.

Three years ago, scientists discovered liquid which was 1.5 billion years old at the same site in a copper, zinc and silver mine, 2.4 kilometres underground.

But this deeper source of water, at a depth of nearly three kilometres, outdates the first finding by at least 500 million years.

The work was presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar, from the University of Toronto, led the team that discovered the original underground lake.

She described the smell and taste of the water as not "something to write home about".

"It's highly saline — another aspect of it that [which] tells us that this fluid has been in this sub-surface for really long time of period," she said.

"So sometimes up to ten times the salinity of sea water, it's really quite a nasty business really.

"It's nothing like the sort of fresh water that people think about when they think about groundwater.

"To us it makes it much more interesting, it's full of chemical energy for life, which is part of the reason why we're investigating it."

Professor Sherwood Lollar said it was an exciting find on a number of levels, including helping to understand what life was like in the deep sub-surface.

"For many years we still thought that life was really just a thin veneer on the surface of the planet, that life was largely dependent just on the sun's energy," she said.

"What we have learnt since then through work done at the hydro thermal vents, the ocean bottoms and caves and in the sub-surfaces, is in fact there is life on this planet as well in the deep dark places."

Could provide clues to life hidden beneath Mars' surface

Professor Simon George, a geochemist with the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Macquarie University and a member of the Australian Centre of Astrobiology, said the water could provide clues as to what might be discoverable elsewhere on other planets.

"[It is] also highly significant when we're exploring our solar system for other places that there might be life, such as Mars or some of the moons around Saturn or Jupiter," he said.

"So for example the surface of Mars is extremely inhospitable for life.

"But many scientists speculate that going below the surface might be where we might find life sheltering from the harsh conditions.

"And the work that's been published recently here has now shown the possibility of this deep biosphere really working quite separately from the atmosphere of a planet.

"It is quite an incredible geological process that's been explored there."

Author : Nick Grimm

Source : http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-15/oldest-water-on-earth-could-provide-clues-to-hidden-life-on-mars/8122468

Categorized in Science & Tech

Fascinated by the outlandish? These images of the planet Mars are bound to have you hooked!

The base of Mars' Mount Sharp.

The surface of Mars

A view of Ophir Chasma on the northern portion of the vast Mars canyon system, Vallles Marineris, taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The surface of Mars

Nili Patera, one of the most active dune fields on the planet Mars.

The surface of Mars

Rough spherical features in an area called Yellowknife Bay. These features are interpreted as concretions, implying they formed in water that percolated through pores in the sediment. Spherical concretions have previously been discovered in other rocks on Mars.

The surface of Mars

Curiosity appears as a bluish dot near the lower right corner of this enhanced-color view from Orbiter taken June 2013.

The surface of Mars

The surface of the planet Mars inside Gale Crater.

The surface of Mars

A rock outcrop called Link pops out from a Martian surface. Rounded gravel fragments, or clasts, up to a couple inches in size are in a matrix of white material. The outcrop characteristics are consistent with a sedimentary conglomerate, or a rock that was formed by the deposition of water and is composed of many smaller rounded rocks cemented together. Scientists enhanced the color in this version to show the Martian scene as it would appear under the lighting conditions we have on Earth.

The surface of Mars

Portions of the Martian surface showing many channels from 1 meter to 10 meters wide on a scarp in the Hellas impact basin.

Fascinated by the outlandish? These images of the planet Mars are bound to have you hooked!The base of Mars' Mount Sharp.

The surface of Mars

REUTERSA view of Ophir Chasma on the northern portion of the vast Mars canyon system, Vallles Marineris, taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The surface of Mars

Nili Patera, one of the most active dune fields on the planet Mars.

The surface of Mars

Rough spherical features in an area called Yellowknife Bay. These features are interpreted as concretions, implying they formed in water that percolated through pores in the sediment. Spherical concretions have previously been discovered in other rocks on Mars.

The surface of Mars

Curiosity appears as a bluish dot near the lower right corner of this enhanced-color view from Orbiter taken June 2013.

The surface of Mars

The surface of the planet Mars inside Gale Crater.

The surface of Mars

A rock outcrop called Link pops out from a Martian surface. Rounded gravel fragments, or clasts, up to a couple inches in size are in a matrix of white material. The outcrop characteristics are consistent with a sedimentary conglomerate, or a rock that was formed by the deposition of water and is composed of many smaller rounded rocks cemented together. Scientists enhanced the color in this version to show the Martian scene as it would appear under the lighting conditions we have on Earth.

The surface of Mars

Portions of the Martian surface showing many channels from 1 meter to 10 meters wide on a scarp in the Hellas impact basin.

The surface of Mars

Part of the wall of Gale Crater. Here, a network of valleys believed to have formed by water erosion enters Gale Crater from the outside.

The surface of Mars

The northern-most sand dunes are seen as they begin to emerge from their winter cover of seasonal carbon dioxide (dry) ice.

The surface of Mars

A location on Mars associated with the best-selling novel and Hollywood movie, "The Martian" This area is in the Acidalia Planitia region and in the novel and the movie, it is the landing site of a crewed mission named Ares 3.

The surface of Mars

An impact crater on Mars is seen in an image taken by Orbiter.

The surface of Mars

A view of the Noctis Labyrinthus region of Mars, perched high on the Tharsis rise in the upper reaches of the Valles Marineris canyon system.

The surface of Mars

Inclined layering known as cross-bedding in an outcrop called Shaler on a scale of a few tenths of a meter.

The surface of Mars

Two trenches dug by Phoenix's Robotic Arm.

The surface of Mars

Mars' Victoria Crater at Meridiani Planum.

The surface of Mars

An iron meteorite on Mars in an image taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity.

The surface of Mars

This image, cropped from a larger panoramic image mosaic taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit panoramic camera shows the rover's destination toward the hills nicknamed the Columbia Hills. 

The surface of Mars

A portion of the west rim of Endeavour crater sweeps southward in this color view from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity.

The surface of Mars

A high-resolution image, using data from the NASA Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity's panoramic camera's near-infrared, blue and green filters combined to create an approximate true-color image, of a puzzling rock outcropping to the northwest of the rover.

The surface of Mars

Author:  REUTERS

Source:  http://www.indiatimes.com

Categorized in Science & Tech

Ellen Stofan, current NASA chief scientist, said sending humans to Mars would be a powerful step in the search for life beyond Earth.

"I am someone who believes it is going to take humans on the surface [of Mars] … to really get at the question of not just did life evolve on Mars, but what is the nature of that life," Stofan said at a scientific workshop in Irvine, California, hosted by the National Academy of Sciences. "To me, we're going to go Mars because Mars holds the answers to such fundamental scientific questions that we're trying to ask."

The workshop, titled "Searching for Life Across Space and Time," drew together leading scientists who are, through various avenues, working to find signs of alien life in Earth's solar system and beyond. Stofan has argued before for the scientific benefits of a human mission to the Red Planet.

Stofan said she believes strongly in sending humans to Mars to search for signs of life because humans can perform tasks that would be difficult for a rover. Humans can operate drills that could go deeper than the few inches plumbed by the Curiosity rover, or even beyond a depth of 6.5 feet (2 meters), which is the expected limit for the Mars 2020 rover. Humans could potentially explore more locations than a rover could and perform deeper scientific analysis than what is possible using a remote, robotic scientific laboratory, she said.

"We now know water was stable for long periods of time on the surface [of Mars], and Mars' potential for habitability, I think, is huge," Stofan said. "I do believe that we need … brave people to spend time on Mars, to have a scientific laboratory on Mars, to do the work that we need to do to truly understand what life on Mars tells us about life beyond Earth."

Multiple sessions at the meeting focused on the search for signs of ancient life or even present-day life on Mars. Today, the surface of the Red Planet appears to be inhospitable to the kind of life that exists on Earth, mainly because liquid water exists only in very small amounts, and is extremely salty. Other factors would also make life hard on the Red Planet, including high doses of space radiation (because Mars lacks the protective atmosphere and magnetic field that Earth has),and wildly oscillating surface temperatures: During the Martian summer months, the surface of the planet might be 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) during the day, but plummet to minus 100 F (minus 73 C) at night.

Image:

There are examples of extreme life-forms on Earth that can survive in some of those conditions, including frigid temperatures and exposure to high doses of radiation. However, liquid water is a necessity for all known Earth-based life-forms. But based on the discovery of brines on the surface of Mars, some people think it's possible that life exists on the Red Planet today. With that in mind, some people are concerned that sending rovers and humans to Mars could risk contaminating the planet with Earth-based microbes.

Right now, NASA has plans that could allow scientists to bring rock samples backto Earth from Mars, Stofan said. An in-depth analysis of a Martian rock might help the scientific community make a more informed decision about whether life likely exists on Mars today, and thus what steps would be needed to prevent biological contamination from a human visit to the Red Planet, Stofan said.

"I think these are questions that should be in the hands of the science community via the [NAS]," she said.

Stofan briefly addressed concerns about whether NASA could actually pull off its plan to send humans into orbit around Mars by the early 2030s and onto the planet's surface by the late 2030s, saying that she is an "incredible optimist on this."

The scientist added that she has also heard people say that there is "no real reason" to send humans to the surface of Mars (as opposed to robotic missions), and she called on members of the science community to "speak up" if they disagree.

Image: Martian sand dunes

The scientific interest in Mars extends beyond NASA. The European, Indian and Chinese space agencies are all sending probes or rovers to Mars. Private companies (primarily Elon Musk's SpaceX) are also working on plans related to Mars. Someone in the audience asked Stofan if she thought the global scientific community is engaged in a sort of "soft space race" to Mars.

"I really don't see it as a soft race. I see it as this amazing confluence of interests," Stofan said. "I think Mars has incredible public appeal. .... It engages the public in a way that very few other things do, which is great.

Author:  CALLA COFIELD

Source:  http://www.nbcnews.com/

Categorized in Science & Tech

THE HAGUE: A British-Dutch project aiming to send an unmanned mission to Mars by 2018 has announced that the shareholders of a Swiss financial services company have agreed a takeover bid.

“The acquisition is now only pending approval by the board of Mars One Ventures,” the company said in a joint statement with InFin Innovative Finance AG, adding approval from the Mars board would come “as soon as possible.”

“The takeover provides a solid path to funding the next steps of Mars One’s mission to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars,” the statement added.

Mars One consists of two entities: the Dutch not-for-profit Mars One Foundation and a British public limited company Mars One Ventures.

Mars One aims to establish a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet, and is currently “in the early mission concept phase,” the company says, adding securing funding is one of its major challenges.

Some 200,000 hopefuls from 140 countries initially signed up for the Mars One project, which is to be partly funded by a television reality show about the endeavour.

Those have now been whittled down to just 100, out of which 24 will be selected for one-way trips to Mars due to start in 2026 after several unmanned missions have been completed.

“Once this deal is completed, we’ll be in a much stronger financial position as we begin the next phase of our mission. Very exciting times,” said Mars One chief executive Bas Lansdorp.

NASA is currently working on three Mars missions with the European Space Agency and plans to send another rover to Mars in 2020. NASA has no plans for a manned mission to Mars until the 2030s.

Source : http://arynews.tv/

Auhtor : AFP

Categorized in Science & Tech
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