Mars is currently 2.24 astronomical units away.
We tend to think of places as being a fixed distance from one another, and this works on scales terrestrial (it's 3,459 miles from London to New York) and cosmic (it's 4.36 light years to Alpha Centauri). But within the solar system, things change quicker. John D. Cook offers the code to let you calculate Mars' distance from Earth at any given time. [via Hacker News]
Some interesting take-home facts for the laymen among us: the two worlds orbit anticlockwise; Martian years last 687 days, and the is Earth traveling about 20% faster to boot; and there is no evidence that Mars needs women, though it does show evidence of running water.
Here's code for all the planets, sans the useful explanation.
Make it easy on yourself with this solar system visualizer. Read the rest
NASA says these streaks are proof that water flows on Mars. NASA
Well, this is big. NASA today revealed that new findings from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide “the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.” Read the rest
Mars Curiosity Rover has spotted many interesting things on its mission, like this UFO, a tiny Millennium Falcon type star freighter, heavily modded for use on Mars. Read the rest
Earlier this morning David posted a photo of a woman on Mars. We now know why she's there. Her 4-wheeled pareidoliaopede broke down and she is walking home. This is a photo of the axle and two wheels that broke off.
Here's the original photo at NASA's site. Read the rest
This mysterious humanoid figure was photographed on the red planet by the Mars Curiosity Rover. Read the rest
Comic master Jack Kirby showed us the mysterious "Face on Mars" decades before it was imaged by the Viking 1 orbiter in 1976 and ultimately became an iconic example of pareidolia or proof of an ancient civilization on the red planet. Read the rest
NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS) is about to go into full-scale fabrication after a detailed review. SLS Block 1, which just passed a design review milestone, will go to an asteroid placed in lunar orbit, and eventually to Mars. Read the rest
The brave little robot's covered 42.2km on its suicide mission to the Red Planet; this footage spans Jan 2004 to Apr 2015. (Thanks, Robbo!)
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Here's the trailer for The Martian, based on the excellent novel by Andy Weir about an astronaut stranded on Mars. It's coming out in November.
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During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return. Based on a best-selling novel, and helmed by master director Ridley Scott, The Martian features a star studded cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover.
Examining the planet's deep interior could reveal clues about how all rocky planets, including Earth, formed and evolved.
Ryan MacDonald, the intelligent young virgin who volunteered to die on Mars, just found out he made it into round 3 of the Mars One astronaut selection process. He's in the top 100. Watch Ryan learning the good news and sharing it with his grandparents.
Also selected, 24-year-old Maggie Lieu (above), who said, "I’m very open to having a baby on Mars … My baby could be the first ever Martian: we’d be the Adam and Eve of Mars." Read the rest
Nasa's Curiosity rover found methane at about 1 part per billion in the atmosphere of Mars. That's 4,000 times less than in the air on our own planet. Gotta be all the farts. Photograph: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/EPA
NASA scientists reported results from the Mars Curiosity roving science lab at the American Geophysical Union to a packed room of press chomping at the bit for a big story. It turns out Mars has gas. It burps methane "sporadically, and episodically," according to Curiosity co-investigator, Sushil Atreya. Read the rest
Have you ever wanted to be alone in the woods, drinking your own urine to survive? Probably not, that'd be weird. But you've wondered if you could do it, right? An exclusive essay by the author of the new science fiction novel, The Martian, out in paperback today
(photographer unknown): India's Mangalyaan satellite attained Martian orbit on Wednesday; at $74m, it's "staggeringly cheap" for an orbiter.
Martian spacecraft staffers at Indian space control, September 2014
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The US space agency today revealed plans for a new rover: Mars 2020.
The rover "will carry seven carefully-selected instruments to conduct unprecedented science and exploration technology investigations on the Red Planet," NASA announced.
Designing, launching, and landing a rover that can withstand the rigors of space travel and the brutal challenges of the Red Planet's surface is no big deal for JPL engineers. But how they'll pull it off by 2020 with the currently projected federal space budget is anyone's guess.
May we suggest Kickstarter?
From the official press release:
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NASA announced the selected Mars 2020 rover instruments Thursday at the agency's headquarters in Washington. Managers made the selections out of 58 proposals received in January from researchers and engineers worldwide. Proposals received were twice the usual number submitted for instrument competitions in the recent past. This is an indicator of the extraordinary interest by the science community in the exploration of the Mars. The selected proposals have a total value of approximately $130 million for development of the instruments.
The Mars 2020 mission will be based on the design of the highly successful Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, which landed almost two years ago, and currently is operating on Mars. The new rover will carry more sophisticated, upgraded hardware and new instruments to conduct geological assessments of the rover's landing site, determine the potential habitability of the environment, and directly search for signs of ancient Martian life.
"Today we take another important step on our journey to Mars," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.” While getting to and landing on Mars is hard, Curiosity was an iconic example of how our robotic scientific explorers are paving the way for humans to pioneer Mars and beyond.
The NASA Opportunity Mars rover landed on Mars ten years ago, and was not expected to be trucking along in the dust an entire decade later. But truck along it has, and NASA this week announced that Opportunity now "holds the off-Earth roving distance record after accruing 25 miles (40 kilometers) of driving." The previous record was held by the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 2 rover.
"Opportunity has driven farther than any other wheeled vehicle on another world," said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "This is so remarkable considering Opportunity was intended to drive about one kilometer and was never designed for distance. But what is really important is not how many miles the rover has racked up, but how much exploration and discovery we have accomplished over that distance."
A drive of 157 feet (48 meters) on July 27 put Opportunity's total odometry at 25.01 miles (40.25 kilometers). This month's driving brought the rover southward along the western rim of Endeavour Crater. The rover had driven more than 20 miles (32 kilometers) before arriving at Endeavour Crater in 2011, where it has examined outcrops on the crater's rim containing clay and sulfate-bearing minerals. The sites are yielding evidence of ancient environments with less acidic water than those examined at Opportunity's landing site.
More at NASA JPL website.
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A team of researchers have been living in a simulated Mars habitat on a Hawaiian volcano for the past 4 months, to better understand what it would be like to live on Mars.