View the panorama here:
May 30, 2013 — Detailed analysis and review have borne out researchers’ initial interpretation of pebble-containing slabs that NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity investigated last year: They are part of an ancient streambed.
The rocks are the first ever found on Mars that contain streambed gravels. The sizes and shapes of the gravels embedded in these conglomerate rocks — from the size of sand particles to the size of golf balls — enabled researchers to calculate the depth and speed of the water that once flowed at this location.
“We completed more rigorous quantification of the outcrops to characterize the size distribution and roundness of the pebbles and sand that make up these conglomerates,” said Rebecca Williams of the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Ariz., lead author of a report about them in the journal Science this week. “We ended up with a calculation in the same range as our initial estimate last fall. At a minimum, the stream was flowing at a speed equivalent to a walking pace — a meter, or three feet, per second — and it was ankle-deep to hip-deep.”
The find has raised hopes that life may have once existed on the planet – and might even still be there.
Nasa said that the image “adds to an increasingly complex picture” of our nearest neighbouring planet.
Researchers analysed data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft as it looked down on the floor of the McLaughlin Crater, which is 57 miles in diameter and over 1.4 miles deep.
The picture showed that the crater was once deep enough to let underground water flow into its interior.
- By Adam Mann
- November 20, 2012 |
The report comes by way of the rover’s principal investigator, geologist John Grotzinger of Caltech, who said that Curiosity has uncovered exciting new results from a sample of Martian soil recently scooped up and placed in the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument.
“This data is gonna be one for the history books. It’s looking really good,” Grotzinger told NPR in an segment published Nov. 20. Curiosity’s SAM instrument contains a vast array of tools that can vaporize soil and rocks to analyze them and measure the abundances of certain light elements such as carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen – chemicals typically associated with life.
The mystery will be revealed shortly, though. Grotzinger told Wired through e-mail that NASA would hold a press conference about the results during the 2012 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco from Dec. 3 to 7. Because it’s so potentially earth-shaking, Grotzinger said the team remains cautious and is checking and double-checking their results. But while NASA is refusing to discuss the findings with anyone outside the team, especially reporters, other scientists are free to speculate.
Suit up, people — word is we’re heading back to the Moon.
According to space policy expert John Logsdon, there’s a decent chance NASA has already cleared plans to establish a manned base on the far side of the Moon with the Obama administration. Thing is, they’ve probably been keeping it under wraps in the event that Romney had won Tuesday’s election. Now that Obama has secured a second term, Logsdon says an accouncement from the Agency could be forthcoming.
“NASA has been evolving its thinking, and its latest charts have inserted a new element of cislunar/lunar gateway/Earth-moon L2 sort of stuff into the plan,” said Logsdon in an interview with SPACE.com’s Mike Wall.
“They’ve been holding off announcing that until after the election,” Logsdon added, noting that NASA’s mission, direction, and budget could have been revised under a Romney administration.
An announcement would certainly gel with the Obama administration’s ambitious agenda for space. In 2010, the President signed the NASA 2010 Authorization Act into law, freeing up close to $60 billion in NASA spending through 2013. This funding would serve as one of the first sparks in a plan to ignite a resurgence in space exploration, including an asteroid visit by 2025 and and a trip to Mars by the 2030s. A manned outpost at the Earth-moon L2 “gateway” — shown in the diagram below — could serve as an important stepping stone in our path out into the solar system.
ScienceDaily (Oct. 12, 2012) — The first Martian rock NASA’s Curiosity rover has reached out to touch presents a more varied composition than expected from previous missions. The rock also resembles some unusual rocks from Earth’s interior.
The rover team used two instruments on Curiosity to study the chemical makeup of the football-size rock called “Jake Matijevic” (matt-EE-oh-vick). The results support some surprising recent measurements and provide an example of why identifying rocks’ composition is such a major emphasis of the mission. Rock compositions tell stories about unseen environments and planetary processes.
“This rock is a close match in chemical composition to an unusual but well-known type of igneous rock found in many volcanic provinces on Earth,” said Edward Stolper of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who is a Curiosity co-investigator. “With only one Martian rock of this type, it is difficult to know whether the same processes were involved, but it is a reasonable place to start thinking about its origin.”