January 8, 2015
Are there fossils on Mars?
The Christian Science Monitor
A careful study of images taken by the NASA rover Curiosity has revealed intriguing similarities between ancient sedimentary rocks on Mars and structures shaped by microbes on Earth. The findings suggest, but do not prove, that life may have existed earlier on the Red Planet.
The photos were taken as the Mars rover Curiosity drove through the Gillespie Lake outcrop in Yellowknife Bay, a dry lakebed that underwent seasonal flooding billions of years ago. Mars and Earth shared a similar early history. The Red Planet was a much warmer and wetter world back then.
On Earth, carpet-like colonies of microbes trap and rearrange sediments in shallow bodies of water such as lakes and coastal areas, forming distinctive features that fossilize over time. These structures, known asmicrobially-induced sedimentary structures (or MISS), are found in shallow water settings all over the world and in ancient rocks spanning Earth's history.
June 24, 2014
Next stop - Mars: China aims to send rover to Red Planet within six years
South China Morning Post
China has ambitious plans to touch down on Mars by 2020, likely with a rover, and to collect its own samples from the red planet 10 years after that, a top aerospace scientist has revealed.
China already sent a probe, the Jade Rabbit (or Yutu) to the moon last year. It is expanding its horizons this time.
Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of the country’s lunar project, said the new Mars programme aimed to create space probes – an orbiter and rover – for Mars, according to the Beijing Times.
June 16, 2014
Incredible Technology: Private Mars Mission Could Return Samples by 2020
A private mission could return Martian samples to Earth by 2020 without even touching down on the Red Planet.
The BoldlyGo Institute, a Colorado-based nonprofit, is working to develop the Sample Collection to Investigate Mars (SCIM) mission, which would send a spacecraft skimming through the atmosphere of Mars to gather dust and return home, without the difficulty of landing. SCIM could launch as soon as 2018, possibly returning samples to Earth in July 2020.
"It sounds very daring, but it's really very doable," Laurie Leshing, a member of the BoldlyGo board of directors, said during a presentation June 3 at the 224th American Astronomical Meeting in Boston. "This is something we can do today."
June 3, 2014
Mars spacecraft research lands University of Exeter student top international fellowship
Mid Devon Star
A student at the University of Exeter has been honoured with a prestigious international award, designed to promote female excellence in the pioneering sphere of aerospace research.
Anusha Mujumdar has been selected to receive a Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship – one of only 35 students worldwide to be bestowed with the coveted award.
The third year PhD student in Applied Mathematics, from Bangalore, received the award to assist in her pioneering research, which will be used to help develop space craft control for the proposed Mars Sample Return mission, scheduled to take place in the 2020s.
March 7, 2014
Project 'Red Dragon': Mars Sample-Return Mission Could Launch in 2022 with SpaceX Capsule
Scientists have blueprinted a low-cost Mars sample-return mission that would use a souped-up Dragon capsule from the private spacefligth company SpaceX and the firm's planned Falcon Heavy rocket to get to the Red Planet by the early 2020s.
The new study demonstrates the viability of the entry, descent and landing of the unmanned Dragon space capsule at Mars. Moreover, the spacecraft's descent technique would help set the stage for future human missions to the Red Planet, researchers said.
The idea is to leverage emerging commercial capabilities to achieve Mars sample-return (MSR) without breaking the bank, perhaps in 2022. Most scientists regard a sample-return trip as a "Holy Grail" mission — the best way to look for signs of past or present life on the Red Planet.
November 12, 2013
Martian moon samples will have bits of Mars
A Russian mission to the Martian moon Phobos, launching in 2020, would return samples from Phobos that contain bits and pieces of Mars itself. A new study calculates how much Martian material is on the surface of Phobos and how deep it is likely to go.
September 27, 2013
Cache and Not Carry: Next Mars Rover to Collect Samples for Return to Earth—Someday
Have rover, need payload. That’s the state of things for NASA, which is planning to launch its next rover to Mars in 2020. The rover has ambitious goals, including searching for signs of habitability and life on the Red Planet, and collecting rock samples to be stored for future return to Earth. Now, NASA is asking scientists to propose instruments that will help the spacecraft accomplish its mission.
The space agency released an “announcement of opportunity” on September 24 calling for proposals by December 23. Researchers who plan to put an instrument in the hat must file a heads-up about their plans, called a notice of intent, by October 15.
December 11, 2012
The resurrection of Mars Sample Return
The Space Review
There had been rumors for a couple of weeks that NASA would make a big announcement about Mars at one of the largest annual meetings of scientists, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference in San Francisco. The rumors were about the possibility that NASA’s Curiosity rover had discovered something very interesting on Mars. As it turned out, the Curiosity science results, although interesting, were not nearly up to the hype. But NASA did make a major announcement at AGU: NASA is taking the first step towards the ultimate scientific goal for the red planet, Mars Sample Return.
You can be forgiven if you missed it, because NASA was careful not to use the words “Mars Sample Return” in their press release. Instead, they announced that they are going to build another rover, based on the successful Curiosity design and using some spare parts manufactured for Curiosity, to be launched in 2020. In the official press release, NASA stated that the instrument suite is still to be determined. But make no mistake, this is the first step toward sample return, and in many ways represents a major reversal for the Obama Administration.
To understand what happened, you have to know the context.
November 6, 2012
Making Rocket Fuel on Mars (1978)
In the late 1970s, through the initiative of its director, Bruce Murray, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) studied a range of possible Mars missions, including Mars Sample Return (MSR). Murray and others at the Pasadena, California-based lab were aware that funds for new Mars missions would be hard to come by; the U.S. economy was under strain and NASA, JPL’s main customer, was devoting most of its resources to developing the Space Shuttle. In addition, equivocal data from the astrobiology experiments on the twin Vikings, the first successful Mars landers, had damped public enthusiasm for the Red Planet. Would-be Mars explorers reasoned that, if an MSR mission would stand a chance of acceptance, then they would need to find technologies and techniques that could dramatically trim its anticipated cost.
October 26, 2012
Mars visits remain a top NASA priority
NASA will continue its plans to explore Mars despite uncertainty about where the country’s space program is headed , experts said Thursday.
Recent missions have been successful and future missions are on track, said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters.
“We now know enough about Mars to know where to go,” he said .
Green made his comments at a two-day NASA-sponsored event at Lockheed Martin’s Global Visions Center in Arlington, Va., marking the 50th anniversary of planetary exploration.
A major goal of NASA’s Mars program is to bring pieces of the planet back to Earth for analysis, Green said.
October 18, 2012
‘Biological Teleporter’ Will Find Martian DNA, Beam It Back to Earth
Scientific maverick J. Craig Venter says he is confident there is life on Mars and this week announced plans to send a "biological teleporter" to the Red Planet to find Martian DNA and beam it back to Earth.
“There will be life forms there,” Venter, who is best known for helping to sequence the human genome, said at a Wired Health conference held in New York this week.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Venter said he plans to send a machine to Mars to seek out Martian life and sequence its DNA. The alien genome could then be beamed back to Earth, where it could be reassembled in a super-secure space lab.
"People are worried about the Andromeda strain," Venter said. "We can rebuild the Martians in a P-4 spacesuit lab instead of having them land in the ocean."
October 10, 2012
China considers more Mars probes before 2030
China is planning a three-phase probe to collect samples from the Mars by 2030, the chief scientist of the country's lunar orbiter project said Wednesday.
The three stages are remote sensing, softlanding and exploration, and return after automatic sampling, said Ouyang Ziyuan at a lecture organized by Chinese Society of Astronautics.
Ouyang also briefed on the imminent tests of China's lunar probe of the Chang'e-3, a moon-landing orbiter expected to be launched in the second half of 2013.
October 2, 2012
ESA May Have Role In NASA Mars Sample Mission
Aviation Week & Space Technology
NASA has decided it can do a Mars sample-return mission on its own, but it will continue to collaborate with the European Space Agency on Mars exploration despite dropping out of Europe's ExoMars program last year.
Even though Europe has shifted to working with Russia on ExoMars, the program's 2016 orbiter could help provide data and command relays between Earth and a 2018 NASA rover on the surface of Mars. However, it remains to be seen if there will be such a rover, and what it could do if NASA finds the funds to build it.
The U.S. space agency has 4-6 months to decide how it will proceed under its reduced Mars-exploration funding plan. That decision will be shaped by a new set of mission options from the agency's Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) instrument landing system, and possibly by congressional signals on fiscal 2013 funding levels for Mars. Also in the mix is the role of potential collaborators outside NASA's Science Mission Directorate, including the European Space Agency (ESA).
September 26, 2012
Mars Sample-Return Goal Drives NASA's Exploration of Red Planet
The next steps in NASA's Mars exploration strategy should build toward returning Martian rocks and dirt to Earth to search for signs of past life, a new report by the space agency's Red Planet planning group finds.
The report, released September 25th, 2012 by the Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG), lays out a series of options that NASA could employ to get pieces of the Red Planet in scientists' hands here on Earth. The space agency is now mulling those options and could announce its chosen path by early next year, when the White House releases its proposed budget for fiscal year 2014.
"The first public release of what plans, you know, we definitively have would not be until the president presents that budget to Congress in February of 2013," John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, told reporters today.
August 22, 2012
How a Mars Sample Return Mission Can Go Electric
Solving the mystery of life on Mars requires robots to collect Martian samples for a return to Earth — a mission that may come with the astronomical price tag of $5 billion to $10 billion. That round trip to the Red Planet could become cheaper by using electric propulsion.
The Mars sample return (MSR) mission would require powerful electric thrusters and efficient solar panels which are presently under development worldwide or even already existing. Such technology would allow the Mars mission to lighten the load of chemical propellant carried by traditional rockets and spacecraft — and it's within reach for a mission to try recovering Martian rocks and soil in the next decade or two.
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