Mars is the fourth Planet from the Sun and the second smallest planet in the Solar System. Named after the Roman god of war, it is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, having surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the volcanoes, valleys, deserts, and polar ice caps of Earth. The rotational period and seasonal cycles of Mars are likewise similar to those of Earth, as is the tilt that produces the seasons. Mars is the site of Olympus Mons, the second highest known mountain within the Solar System (the tallest on a Planet), and of Valles Marineris, one of the largest canyons. The smooth Borealis basin in the northern hemisphere covers 40% of the planet and may be a giant impact feature. Mars has two known moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped. These may be captured asteroids, similar to 5261 Eureka, a Martian trojan asteroid.
Until the first successful Mars flyby in 1965 by Mariner 4, many speculated about the presence of liquid water on the Planet's surface. This was based on observed periodic variations in light and dark patches, particularly in the polar latitudes, which appeared to be seas and continents; long, dark striations were interpreted by some as irrigation channels for liquid water. These straight line features were later explained as optical illusions, though geological evidence gathered by unmanned missions suggest that Mars once had large-scale water coverage on its surface. In 2005, radar data revealed the presence of large quantities of water ice at the poles and at mid-latitudes. The Mars rover Spirit sampled chemical compounds containing water molecules in March 2007. The Phoenix lander directly sampled water ice in shallow Martian soil on July 31, 2008.
Mars is currently host to five functioning spacecraft: three in orbit -- the Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter; and two on the surface -- Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity and the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity. Defunct spacecraft on the surface include MER-A Spirit and several other inert landers and rovers such as the Phoenix lander, which completed its mission in 2008. Observations by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.
Mars can easily be seen from Earth with the naked eye, as can its reddish coloring. Its apparent magnitude reaches −3.0, which is surpassed only by Jupiter, Venus, the Moon, and the Sun. Optical ground-based telescopes are typically limited to resolving features about 300 km (186 miles) across when Earth and Mars are closest because of Earth's atmosphere.
In the selection procedure, the groups of astronauts will be tested for short duration tests, for example 2-7 days. This will probably take place in the recording studio. The ten groups that are finally selected to train to go to Mars will be trained and tested once per two years, for a period of about three months. With ten groups that are training, Mars One will need two of these analog outposts which will be manned permanently. This will probably take place in a place that is easy to reach, for example in Iceland. Final preparations of the group that was selected to go to Mars and the first and second backup crew will probably take place in a place that is as much as possible like Mars, like the dry regions of Antarctica. Mars One will make sure that legal issues for the astronauts are taken care of.
Man could set foot on Mars in the next 5 to 15 years, says Anita Sengupta, an Indian origin scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). “Future manned missions to Mars are an eminently doable ...
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eWeek Mars Rover Curiosity's Rock-Blasting Laser Reaches Milestone eWeek Since landing on Mars Aug. 6, 2012, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has been exploring the planet's surface and conducting science experiments on soil and rocks.
Researchers have said that much like the Grand Canyon, Nanedi Valles snakes across the Martian surface suggesting that liquid water once crossed the landscape.
The researchers said that the presence of molecular hydrogen, in addition to carbon dioxide and water, could have created a greenhouse effect on Mars 3.8 billion years ago that pushed temperatures high enough to allow for liquid water.
The team includes Ramses M. Ramirez, a doctoral student working with James Kasting, Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences, Penn State used a model to show that an atmosphere with sufficient carbon dioxide, water and hydrogen could have made the surface temperatures of Mars warm to above freezing.
Those above-freezing temperatures would allow liquid water to flow across the Martian surface over 3.8 billion years ago and form the ancient valley networks, such as Nanedi Valles, much the way sections of the Grand Canyon snake across the western United States today.
Ramirez said that the findings are exciting because explaining how early Mars could have been warm and wet enough to form the ancient valleys had scientists scratching their heads for the past 30 years.
Ramirez and post-doctoral researcher Ravi Kopparapu co-developed a one-dimensional climate model to demonstrate the possibility that the gas levels from volcanic activity could have created enough hydrogen and carbon dioxide to form a greenhouse and raise temperatures sufficiently to allow for liquid water.
Once they developed the model, Ramirez ran the model using new hydrogen absorption data and used it to recreate the conditions on early Mars, a time when the sun was about 30% less bright than it is today.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Winter Means Less Power for Solar Panels - sols 3486-3494, Nov. 13, 2013-Nov. 21, 2013:
Opportunity is ascending 'Solander Point' at the rim of 'Endeavour Crater.' The rover is maintaining favorable northerly tilts for improved energy production.
Opportunity is experiencing the power constraints of the winter season. On Sol 3489 (Nov. 16, 2013), the planned drive had to be shortened considerably owing to the constraint of the expected state of charge of the rover battery. As such, the rover only turned to face the future destination and bumped 4 inches (10 centimeters). Panoramic Camera (Pancam) and Navigation Camera (Navcam) images were taken of the near destination. On Sol 3492 (Nov. 19, 2013), the rover bumped forward about 11 feet (3.5 meters) to approach the target outcrop, called 'Moreton Island.'
As of Sol 3494 (Nov. 21, 2013), the solar array energy production was 302 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.668 and a solar array dust factor of 0.498.
Total odometry is 24.01 miles (38.65 kilometers).
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Here is a trivia question: Not including our own Planet Earth, how many Planets are visible without using any optical aid, be it binoculars or a telescope? Most people will usually answer five: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
But in actuality, the correct answer is six.
The sixth Planet which can be spied without optical aid is the Planet Uranus. This week will be a fine time to try and seek it out, especially since it favorably placed for viewing in our evening sky now that the bright Moon has finally moved out of the way. In addition, on Oct. 3 Uranus will be at opposition to the sun all will be visible in the sky all night. [Photos of Uranus, the Odd Tilted Planet]
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