Saturday, July 19, 2014

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover finds Iron Meteorite called "Lebanon."

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.
Iron meteorites are not rare among meteorites found on Earth, but they are less common than stony meteorites. On Mars, iron meteorites dominate the small number of meteorites that have been found. Part of the explanation could come from the resistance of iron meteorites to erosion processes on Mars.
ChemCam is one of 10 instruments in Curiosity's science payload. The U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory, in Los Alamos, New Mexico, developed ChemCam in partnership with scientists and engineers funded by the French national space agency (CNES), the University of Toulouse and the French national research agency (CNRS). More information about ChemCam is available at .  The rover's MastCam was built by and is operated by Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego.

Monday, May 19, 2014

NASA's Curiosity Rover's current location as of May 15

NASA's Curiosity Rover's current location as of May 15.
NASA's Curiosity Rover's current location as of May 15.  NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Curiosity Drills Windjana Martian Rock

 Curiosity rover drills a rock sample for analysis. Photo Credit: NASA/JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is set to drill into a rock for the third time on the red planet to collect a sample for analysis. Over the weekend, the rover used a wire-bristle-brush to clear away dust from a slab of sandstone that has been given the name "Windjana," after a gorge in Western Australia. The rover will drill into the area “in order to understand the chemistry of the fluids that bound these grains together to form the rock,” said Melissa Rice of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, a Curiosity science team member. In the coming days, the rover will conduct a preparatory “mini-drill” operation to check the area for readiness, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement. The hammering drill on Curiosity collects powdered sample material from rocks and then delivers portions to laboratory instruments onboard. The first two Martian rock samples inspected this way, which were taken last year about 2.5 miles from the rover’s current location, yielded evidence of an ancient lakebed environment with conditions favorable for microbial life billions of years ago, NASA says

Monday, April 21, 2014

Asteroid Impact Glass May Reveal Ancient Life on Mars

In a new study, scientists have analyzed ancient materials preserved astonishingly in glass generated by an asteroid's collision with the Earth.

According to BBC News, the scientists published their new study in the journal Geology. The samples were found in the Pampas in Argentina and represent a new way of looking into the environmental history of other planets, Mars in particular.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

NASA Plans Mars Human Exploration in 2030s

William H. Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, likened the steps the agency is taking to the Mercury and Gemini programs, both of which were building blocks toward putting men on the Moon with the Apollo missions.
Wednesday, before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee, Gerstenmaier said NASA is taking steps to “that will allow us to make sustained progress toward a human presence on the surface of Mars.” "There is real hardware in manufacture for the path to Mars," Gerstenmaier told senators. In 2017, for example, the agency plans an unmanned test of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle, which will be used to take astronauts to Mars. These initial steps toward Mars are comprised of “Earth-reliant” missions, such as the International Space Station, landing on an asteroid in lunar orbit, and finally, a “Mars-ready” mission. During the first stage, NASA, along with international partners and private entities, will conduct research on how to keep space crews safe and productive on long duration spaceflights. The joint effort will also explore how to transport cargo and crew affordably into low Earth orbit. The second major stepping stone was approved by House subcommittee yesterday. That mission calls for NASA to redirect an asteroid into lunar orbit, land astronauts on the asteroid, and return them safely to Earth. “We're going to grab a piece of the solar system, we're going to deflect it around the moon and insert it into a distant retrograde orbit around the moon where our crews can go visit," said Gerstenmaier. The mission he said would develop skills and techniques needed to “push the human presence into the solar system.”

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

NASA Mars Rover Curiosity Photo of Mars Light on Martian Mountain : "Curiosity takes cosmic ray hit"

Doug Ellison from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a man who would very much like to find evidence of life on Mars considering what it would do for JPL's budget,  tweeted that the image appears to be the result of Curiosity taking a cosmic ray hit, rather than a sign of little green men.