Mars

life Astronomy Mars science - 8399865600
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Via MNN:

Ancient Mars featured flowing rivers and sizable lakes — but that doesn't mean the Red Planet definitely could have supported life, one prominent researcher stresses.

The presence of liquid water is just one of many factors that researchers need to take into account when investigating the past or present habitability of Mars or any other cosmic body, astrobiologist and mineralogist Pamela Conrad wrote in a "Perspectives" piece published online on Dec. 11 in the journal Science.

"The things that make a place livable are numerous, and sometimes, there's a showstopper you didn't think of," Conrad, deputy principal investigator for the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument aboard NASA's Curiosity rover, told SPACE.com. "So it's important to take a poll of the diversity of attributes that could contribute to making an environment livable or not."
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Mars may have once been capable of supporting microbial life for hundreds of millions of years in the distant past, new findings from a long-lived Red Planet rover suggest.

NASA's Opportunity rover, which celebrates 10 years of Mars exploration today (Jan. 24), has uncovered evidence that benign, nearly neutral-pH water flowed on the Red Planet around 4 billion years ago.
climate change Astronomy Mars science - 8396989440
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Via NY Times:

Today Mars is an arid, frigid desert, suggesting that the mother of all climate changes happened there, about four billion years ago or so. The question that haunts planetary scientists is why? And could it happen here?

"I think the short story is the atmosphere went away and the oceans froze but are still there, locked up in subsurface ice," said Chris McKay, an astrobiologist and Mars expert at NASA's Ames Research Center.

In September a new spacecraft known as Maven, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, swung into orbit around the planet. Its job is to get a longer answer to one part of the mysterious Martian climate change, namely where the planet's atmosphere went.

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Which leads us neatly onto the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK, which has devised a "mini magnetosphere" that essentially recreates the protection provided by the Earth's magnetic field. The scientists have so far used the magnetosphere to protect a scale spacecraft from radiation, and they're now working on a concept spacecraft, called Discovery, with a full-scale magnetosphere that could theoretically take humans to Mars.
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Death Mars science planet - 8265360640
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There once were two planets, new to the galaxy and inexperienced in life. Like fraternal twins, they were born at the same time, about four and a half billion years ago, and took roughly the same shape. Both were blistered with volcanoes and etched with watercourses; both circled the same yellow dwarf star—close enough to be warmed by it, but not so close as to be blasted to a cinder. Had an alien astronomer swivelled his telescope toward them in those days, he might have found them equally promising—nurseries in the making. They were large enough to hold their gases close, swaddling themselves in atmosphere; small enough to stay solid, never swelling into gaseous giants. They were "Goldilocks planets," our own astronomers would say: just right for life.