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Best Space Photos of the Week: Mars, Saturn, and Rune Stones

Best Space Photos of the Week: Mars, Saturn, and Rune Stones | Mars | Scoop.it
NASA is back in business, delivering views of Mars, Saturn, and distant galaxies, plus northern lights among the rune stones.
    

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NASA May Go Mars Geyser Hopping

NASA May Go Mars Geyser Hopping | Mars | Scoop.it

In showbiz, the adage has always been “leave ‘em wanting more.” So, following the brilliant opening salvos of its $2.5 billion Mars rover mission, what does NASA do for an encore? Current budget paradigms dictate that the space agency think economically in its approach to future Mars exploration. For surface-based exploration, that means a realistic return to NASA’s Discovery-class solar system exploration missions on budgets of $450 million or less.

 

Thus, NASA has just announced that it has selected InSight, a new $425 million Mars surface mission for launch in 2016. Building on the space agency’s Mars Phoenix Lander spacecraft technology, InSight will study the Red Planet’s deep interior for clues to how its planetary structure actually evolved. It should also determine whether Mars has a liquid or solid core and why unlike earth, its crust lacks drifting tectonic plates.

 

But then how about some good old-fashioned geyser hopping? Mars Geyser Hopper, a Discovery-class mission concept study that has largely gone unnoticed, is potentially a follow-on to the Phoenix Lander mission and would launch at earliest in 2018.

 

The spacecraft would represent the first attempt to land at Mars’ geographic South Pole and would offer the promise of some spectacular high-quality live-action video of carbon dioxide geysers spewing forth at the beginning of early spring. That’s when the sun is still only a few degrees above the horizon and temperatures are typically 150 degrees below zero Celsius.

 

Using automated detection equipment, the hopper would pick up the first signs of an erupting geyser which, in turn, would trigger high-speed particle motion detectors and high-resolution imagery. There would also be detailed chemical analysis of geyser fallout once it hit the Martian surface.

 

It wouldn’t be the first time NASA has played the hopping game; in 1967, the space agency’s Surveyor VI spacecraft made an eight-ft. repositioning hop after landing on the lunar surface.  But the Geyser Hopper mission would make at least two subsequent hops after landing. The first would enable the spacecraft to better study the geyser fields during southern polar summer. And the second would be to position itself to best wait out the harsh dark polar winter.

 

There have been hundreds of geysers seen from Mars polar orbit already. But thousands of springtime geysers are thought to potentially stretch over an area of several hundred kilometers; crowding the polar landscape at a density of roughly one geyser for every 2 kilometers.

 


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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SSMS Science's curator insight, October 29, 2013 1:18 PM

I think it would be really cool to see geysers on Mars. However, this article says that InSight will study Mars's deep interior for clues to how the planet evolved. If it does "find" how it evolved, the conclusion won't be true because God created everything including Mars during Creation. Nothing ever evolved. CB

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Mars Curiosity rover proves some meteorites on Earth are Martian

Mars Curiosity rover proves some meteorites on Earth are Martian | Mars | Scoop.it
Some pieces of rock that fell to Earth from space are indeed from Mars, new measurements reveal.Readings collected by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity have pinned down the exact ratio of two forms of the inert gas argon in the Martian atmosphere.

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NASA rover confirms Mars origin of some meteorites that landed on Earth

NASA rover confirms Mars origin of some meteorites that landed on Earth | Mars | Scoop.it

Examination of the Martian atmosphere by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover confirms that some meteorites that have dropped to Earth really are from the Red Planet.

 

A key new measurement of the inert gas argon in Mars’ atmosphere by Curiosity’s laboratory provides the most definitive evidence yet of the origin of Mars meteorites while at the same time providing a way to rule out Martian origin of other meteorites.

 

The new measurement is a high-precision count of two forms of argon — argon-36 and argon-38 — accomplished by the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument inside the rover. These lighter and heavier forms, or isotopes, of argon exist naturally throughout the solar system. On Mars the ratio of light to heavy argon is skewed because much of that planet’s original atmosphere was lost to space. The lighter form of argon was taken away more readily because it rises to the top of the atmosphere more easily and requires less energy to escape. That left the Martian atmosphere relatively enriched in the heavier isotope, argon-38.

 

Years of past analyses by Earth-bound scientists of gas bubbles trapped inside Martian meteorites had already narrowed the Martian argon ratio to between 3.6 and 4.5 (that is 3.6 to 4.5 atoms of argon-36 to every one of argon-38). Measurements by NASA’s Viking landers in the 1970s put the Martian atmospheric ratio in the range of four to seven. The new SAM direct measurement on Mars now pins down the correct argon ratio at 4.2.

 

“We really nailed it,” said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, lead author of an Oct. 16 paper reporting the finding in Geophysical Research Letters. “This direct reading from Mars settles the case with all Martian meteorites.”

 

One reason scientists have been so interested in the argon ratio in Martian meteorites is that it was — before Curiosity — the best measure of how much atmosphere Mars has lost since the planet’s wetter, warmer days billions of years ago. Figuring out the planet’s atmospheric loss would enable scientists to better understand how Mars transformed from a once water-rich planet, more like our own, into today’s drier, colder and less-hospitable world.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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