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July 15, 2014

Curiosity Finds Iron Meteorite on Mars
This rock encountered by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is an iron meteorite called "Lebanon," similar in shape and luster to iron meteorites found on Mars by the previous generation of rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Lebanon is about 2 yards or 2 meters wide (left to right, from this angle). The smaller piece in the foreground is called "Lebanon B." This view combines a series of high-resolution circular images taken by the Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) of Curiosity's Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument with color and context from rover's Mast Camera (Mastcam). The component images were taken during the 640th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (May 25, 2014). The imaging shows angular shaped cavities on the surface of the rock. One possible explanation is that they resulted from preferential erosion along crystalline boundaries within the metal of the rock. Another possibility is that these cavities once contained olivine crystals, which can be found in a rare type of stony-iron meteorites called pallasites, thought to have been formed near the core-mantle boundary within an asteroid.

July 2, 2014

Martian salts must touch ice to make liquid water, study shows University of Michigan
In chambers that mimic Mars' conditions, University of Michigan researchers have shown how small amounts of liquid water could form on the planet despite its below-freezing temperatures. Liquid water is an essential ingredient for life as we know it. Mars is one of the very few places in the solar system where scientists have seen promising signs of it – in gullies down crater rims, in instrument readings, and in Phoenix spacecraft self portraits that appeared to show wet beads on the lander's leg several years ago. No one has directly detected liquid water beyond Earth, though. The U-M experiments are among the first to test theories about how it could exist in a climate as cold as Mars' climate. The researchers found that a type of salt present in Martian soil can readily melt ice it touches – just like salts do on Earth's slippery winter walkways and roads. But this Martian salt cannot, as some scientists suggested, form liquid water by sucking vapor out of the air through a process called deliquescence.

May 18, 2014

Curious George Goes to Mars with PBS Kids
The adventurous primate Curious George is heading to Mars for the first time in a special TV episode of the cartoon airing Monday (May 19). While Curious George has been to space before, this is the first time he is exploring the Red Planet. In the episode, "Red Planet Monkey," George needs to help engineers on Earth figure out what is making the rover's controls stick. The primate finds himself on an amazing adventure to Mars with his friend, the Man with the Yellow Hat.

February 14, 2014

Mars Rover Heads Uphill After Solving 'Doughnut' Riddle
Researchers have determined the now-infamous Martian rock resembling a jelly doughnut, dubbed Pinnacle Island, is a piece of a larger rock broken and moved by the wheel of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in early January. Only about 1.5 inches wide (4 centimeters), the white-rimmed, red-centered rock caused a stir last month when it appeared in an image the rover took Jan. 8 at a location where it was not present four days earlier. More recent images show the original piece of rock struck by the rover's wheel, slightly uphill from where Pinnacle Island came to rest.

February 4, 2014

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover looks to 'jump' sand dune
The Curiosity Mars rover is to try to drive over a one metre-high dune. The sand bank is currently blocking the robot's path into a small valley and a route with fewer of the sharp rocks that lately have been making big dents in the vehicle's aluminium wheels. US space agency engineers will take no risks, however. The rover will be commanded initially to climb only part way up the dune to see how it behaves. The team is mindful that NASA's Spirit rover was lost in a sand trap in 2009. And the Opportunity rover, which has just celebrated 10 working years on the planet, very nearly went the same way in 2005 when it became stuck for several weeks in a deep dirt pile later dubbed "Purgatory Dune".

January 22, 2014

Large international interest in riding with NASA’s next Mars Rover Spaceflight
The next NASA rover to be sent to the surface of Mars has received twice the usual amount of proposals for carrying science and exploration technology instruments. The agency is reviewing a total of 58 submitted proposals, 17 of which came from international partners, ahead of a proposed mission in 2020. Announced at the end of 2012, the next NASA rover will be based on the Curiosity Rover that is currently exploring the surface of Mars.

January 6, 2014

LEGO launches Mars Curiosity; Plus! Five toy brick spacecraft awaiting liftoff collectSPACE
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has landed in LEGO's toy catalog and is now available for order. The fifth in a line of fan-created, LEGO-produced building kits, the six-wheeled science laboratory could be followed by the now Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft, Hubble Space Telescope, or other space-themed kits, if the public votes for them online. The 295-piece "NASA Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover" is now for sale for $29.95 through the Danish toy company's webshop. Created and suggested by engineer Stephen Pakbaz, who worked on the real Curiosity before its launch to the Red Planet, the model faithfully recreates many of the actual car-size rover's features, including its "rocker-bogie" suspension.

December 18, 2013

An Updated Mars Exploration Family Portrait The Planetary Society
The Mars Exploration Family Portrait shows every dedicated spacecraft mission to Mars, and now includes India’s Mars Orbiter Mission and NASA's MAVEN. The dates listed are for launch.

December 10, 2013

Curiosity Finds A Former Lake On Mars Popular Science
Once upon a time, in the lowest part of Gale Crater on Mars, there was a lake about the length and width of one of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. It was fed by rivers that ran into it. If you stood on its shores, you might have seen snow or ice capping the mountains in the distance. After its first 100 Mars-days, or sols, on the Red Planet, NASA’s Curiosity rover trundled down into this now-dry lakebed. The rover took images of rocks along the way and drilled two holes to take samples. It’s from these samples scientists determined this lake existed and that its waters weren’t too alien, after all, compared to water on Earth. The water was of relatively neutral pH and low salinity. “I would be pretty confident it would be fresher than seawater,” says Scott McLennan, a geoscientist with Stony Brook University in New York who worked on this and other studies based on Curiosity data. This is water that microbes could have lived in, although Curiosity found no direct evidence of life on Mars, nor is it designed to do so, McLennan tells Popular Science.

October 24, 2013

UA Student Finds 'Hawaiian Beach' Sand on Mars University of Arizona
Most geology students are used to traveling far and wide to collect samples for their research, but University of Arizona Shaunna Morrison has everybody beat by a long shot: 140 million miles, on average, stand between her sampling sites and her lab. As part of NASA's designated science team in charge of CheMin, one of 10 scientific instruments mounted on the Mars rover Curiosity, Morrison never gets her hands on the samples she collects, but that's a small price to pay for the opportunity to analyze soil scooped up by a robot on another planet. Earlier this month, Morrison co-authored two scientific publications in the journal Science, reporting the first scientific results of Curiosity's digging into the soil near Mount Sharp in Gale Crater. Morrison provided the first detailed analyses of individual mineral compositions in the Martian surface. "We knew from previous Mars missions what elements are present in the Martian soil, but we didn't know how they are arranged, in other words, what minerals they form," said Morrison, a first-year PhD student in the UA Department of Geosciences.

October 17, 2013

Curiosity proves that bits of Mars fall to Earth as meteorites
Case closed. After several decades of speculation and the gathering of imperfect evidence, Mars rover Curiosity has positively identified hundreds of meteorites found all over the Earth as Martians. The discovery is not unexpected, but it allows the science to go forward with renewed confidence in conjectures about the Red Planet. In particular, Curiosity’s findings could help scientists figure out exactly how Mars lost the vast majority of its atmosphere, why, and how long ago it happened.

October 16, 2013

Millions Of Miles From Shutdown, Mars Rovers Keep Working NPR
The budget negotiations in Washington are not front-page news on Mars. There, millions of miles away, NASA's rovers continue to operate, taking photographs and collecting data as they prepare for the coming Martian winter. The two rovers are taking in data and getting into strategic locations before winter arrives on Mars in a few months. The scarcity of sunlight shouldn't pose a challenge for Curiosity, whose systems are powered by heat generated by the radioactive decay of plutonium. NASA hopes that the older Opportunity, which powers itself with solar panels, will be aided by its position on a north-facing slope.

October 2, 2013

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter achieves imaging of comet ISON from Mars The Planetary Society
Yesterday, the much-anticipated comet ISON made its closest pass by Mars. Despite the government shutdown, all NASA spacecraft are still operating normally, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Curiosity, and Opportunity have all attempted imaging over the last several days. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE camera is the first to achieve a positive detection of the somewhat-fainter-than-expected comet in its photos.

October 1, 2013

As Comet ISON sweeps past Mars today, most observations will happen EarthSky
Despite the U.S. government shutdown today, it appears that many planned observations of Comet ISON – as it sweeps dramatically close to the planet Mars today – will happen. NASA has a skeleton crew in support of the six crew members aboard International Space Station (ISS) in place, so presumably they will observe Comet ISON today, as previously announced. Likewise, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE instrument will be turned in Comet ISON’s direction today, according to Anjani Polit, the HiRISE Uplink Lead.
US government shutdown puts Mars rover to sleep The Independent
Just days after the Curiosity rover amazed the scientific community when it found water on Mars, it has been forced in hibernation by the shutdown of the US government. Curiosity will now enter ‘protective mode’ for its own security, according to NASA, and ‘no new data gathering will take place’.

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