We've talked here before about the Office of Planetary Protection
and efforts to make sure that we Earthlings don't contaminate the rest of the galaxy with our bacteria, viruses, and other assorted detritus. Now, some scientists are arguing that we've done this job too well
, effectively barring ourselves from exploring the parts of Mars that are most likely to be hospitable to life precisely because they could also be hospitable to tagalong life from Earth. — Maggie
In an alternate universe — one where Americans had a LOT more enthusiasm for spending money on massive space projects
than we've ever actually demonstrated — the 1970s and 1980s might have been the era of manned missions to Mars and Venus. Amy Shira Teitel writes about how this could have been possible, using only the now-antiquated technology
that got us to the Moon and back. — Maggie
Photo: Two of the first images transmitted back by Curiosity, as seen on monitors at JPL 20 minutes after the rover landed on Mars. (Xeni Jardin)
One year ago today, a one-ton, SUV-sized spacecraft "blasted into the Mars atmosphere at more than 13,000 miles an hour, deployed a supersonic parachute, fired eight rocket engines, unfurled a giant sky crane and lowered itself to the Martian soil." PBS NewsHour's Jenny Marder has a post
up today looking back at that incredible milestone. Yours truly was there
, and it was an amazing thing to witness. (HT: Aileen Graef)
Kate Greene is on a mission to Hawaii. For the last 65 days, she has lived in a mostly windowless dome on the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano, only venturing outside occasionally — and then through an airlock while dressed in a head-to-toe safety suit. She's part of HI-SEAS, a project aimed at studying the way humans might eat, cook, and stay healthy on a long-term Mars mission.
Greene's adventure will last another 53 days. In this video, she walks you through a typical day in a simulated Martian environment — which involves (surprisingly) P-90x workouts and (unsurprisingly) powdered eggs.
Keep up with Kate Green's updates at Discover's "Field Notes" blog
Reduced version of panorama from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity with 1.3 billion pixels in the full-resolution version. Image shows Curiosity at the "Rocknest" site where the rover scooped up samples of windblown dust and sand. Explore here. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
NASA JPL sends word today that image processing lab specialists have assembled a billion-pixel view from the surface of Mars, from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. The 1.3-billion-pixel image is offered with pan and zoom tools here.
It's the first NASA-produced view from the surface of Mars at this resolution, and is stitched together from close to 900 exposures taken by cameras onboard Curiosity, revealing details of the landscape along the rover's route.
Here's a "manageable" download of the full image. More from the JPL news release, below.
Read the rest
In the Boing Boing Flickr Pool, reader JMV shares this wonderful scan of a 1952 feature from the Vancouver Sun's "Weekend Picture Magazine" on the coming age of travel to Mars.
Illustration by Edgar Ainsworth.
"It will probably be some 50 years before any safe space flight from Earth to another planet and back is made, but there seems now to be very little doubt that the dreams of Roger Bacon in AD 1249 and Albertus Magnus in 1280 have left the realm of Wellsian imaginings and become a practical proposition."
Here's a larger size. Guess they didn't think of Rovers!
Mars' landscape was formed by flowing water, and the proof is in the pebbles
Mars One wants to send human beings on a one-way trip to Mars by 2023, funding the mission via the proceeds of a reality television show about human settlers on Mars. If you're like me, part of your brain is going "Awesome!" and part of it is going "Aw, hell no!" And there's good reason to listen to your pessimistic side, says space junkie Amy Shira Teitel. If Mars One actually happens, there are many ways this could go horribly wrong — from the funding model to the technology
. — Maggie
Combining NASA data with the eyes of citizen scientists might have turned up evidence of Mars 3
— a Soviet probe that was the first to make a soft landing (as opposed to a hard crash) on the planet's surface. Mars 3 has been lost since it stopped working, approximately 15 seconds after its successful landing. — Maggie
Tonight is Yuri's Night — a holiday celebrating the first human spaceflight. You can throw a Yuri's Night party yourself, or simply join one of the 340 parties that are already scheduled
. Scheduled events range from the ubiquitous "let's drink vodka shots in a Russian restaurant" to more kid-friendly, telescope-centric themes. And this year, you can even virtually join the Mars Curiosity Rover as it throws itself the first Yuri's Night party to be held on another planet
. (Which, frankly, sounds a little lonely and sad, so hopefully people turn up for the virtual side of that shindig.) — Maggie
A television company in Holland is seeking volunteers for a one-way trip to Mars. The good news is that the sort of people who would volunteer to be on a reality TV show will be on a one-way trip to Mars.
Read the rest
These images compare rocks seen by NASA's Opportunity rover and Curiosity rover at two different parts of Mars. On the left is " Wopmay" rock, in Endurance Crater, Meridiani Planum, as studied by the Opportunity rover. On the right are the rocks of the "Sheepbed" unit in Yellowknife Bay, in Gale Crater, as seen by Curiosity. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/MSSS
Big news from NASA JPL this afternoon
An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA's Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon -- some of the key chemical ingredients for life -- in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month.
"A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."
More at the MSL mission website
"The Tribune followed up this story on the very next page with one on how the English aristocracy was turning into gorillas."
Mars peopled by one vast thinking vegetable!
Minnesota Public Radio is hosting a live Science Night on May 21st in St. Paul
, featuring John Grotzinger, the head of the NASA Curiosity mission. And I get to join him on stage to talk about outer space, Mars, and all sorts of awesomeness. If you're an MPR member, you can buy tickets now. Otherwise, they go on sale on March 12.
Living on Mars time is making Katie Worth fat.
The journalist is attempting to live, on Earth, as if she's operating in a Martian time zone and blogging about the experience for Scientific American. On the 15th day of her experiment, she writes about how Mars time has changed her eating habits ... and made her drinking habits a whole lot sketchier-sounding. — Maggie