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Exploration Of Mars


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#1    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 07 April 2006 - 09:02 AM

The Exploration of Mars

This original "Exploration of Mars" topic became excessively long. As a result the topic has been split into individual, mission based, topics. The "Exploration of Mars" topic is now for news and discoveries not specific to any one mission.

Links to the other topics can be found below:Waspie_Dwarf

----------------------------



Next phase reached in definition of Mars Sample Return mission

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Artist's view of the Mars Sample Return (MSR) ascent module lifting off from Mars' surface with the Martian soil samples.

Credits: ESA


7 April 2006
ESA has taken a further step in preparing for participation in Mars Sample Return (MSR), the landmark mission to return samples from the Red Planet, with the announcement of the next phase of industrial activity.

The Phase A2 activity will address many critical issues and identify key areas in which Europe can participate in this flagship of the Aurora Programme.
The search for evidence of life outside the Earth is one of the fundamental goals of space exploration, and has been one of the driving forces behind the efforts to explore the planet Mars. This investigation, key to unlocking the ‘big’ question regarding life in the universe, is increasing in pace and is already beginning to provide answers. This is also one of the leading scientific threads of ESA’s Aurora Space Exploration Programme that was approved at the ESA Council meeting at Ministerial level held in Berlin last December.  

Currently four orbiting explorers are scanning the surface of Mars in ever more detail, including Europe’s own Mars Express, while on the Red Planet itself two NASA rovers are due to be joined in 2013 by ESA’s ExoMars rover. The ExoMars mission will take Mars exploration and the search for life to a new level, with an advanced set of life detection instruments as well as the capability to drill into the Martian surface to search for signs of life, a first for Mars. These missions, while providing a wealth of data, are however somewhat limited in that they must take the laboratory to Mars, facing restrictions on power, mass and having to carry out scientific operations in a very harsh environment. The obvious question then arises; why not bring Mars to the laboratory? Hence, the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission.

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Artist's impression of the Mars Sample Return orbiter. As currently envisaged, the Mars Sample Return will be a two-stage endeavour: a spacecraft that includes a return capsule to be launched in 2011 and inserted into orbit around Mars, to be followed two years later by a second spacecraft carrying a descent module and a Mars ascent vehicle.

Credits: ESA

  
The MSR mission has been recognised by European and International scientists as one of the next major milestones in the exploration of the Red Planet, and would represent a quantum leap in the study of possible life there with scientists able to use the full range of Earth based facilities and laboratories. This mission also represents a critical step on the path to the ultimate goal of performing a human mission to Mars, since it involves the full sequence of landing, operating, launching from Mars and returning back to Earth. The technology developments required to enable a MSR mission are also to some extent common to future lunar exploration missions.

ESA recognises the importance of this mission in the frame of the European Aurora Programme, and is now embarking on a twelve month Mars Sample Return Systems Study. This work, which builds on a first study step initiated in 2003, will prepare the way for Europe to play a key role in an international MSR mission. Past ESA work has already defined as a starting point an MSR mission launched in two parts. The first consists of a Mars orbiter and an Earth return capsule, while the second carries the surface lander and the Mars ascent vehicle which will launch the sample into Mars orbit ready for return to Earth. The new ‘MSR Phase A2 Systems Study’, which will be undertaken by European industry in close coordination with ESA, will be performed in two main steps.

The first step will address the remaining options still to be assessed and choices to be made with respect to the overall mission design. This includes the option of having the orbiter ‘capture’ the sample container in Mars orbit, or having the ascent vehicle perform a docking manoeuvre. This trade-off, as with much of the work to be performed in this first step, will draw upon the technology development and experience gained during the initial phases of the Aurora Programme.

linked-image
Aurora Programme is part of Europe's strategy for space, endorsed by the European Union Council of Research and the ESA Council in 2001. The objective of the Aurora is first to formulate and then to implement a European long-term plan for the robotic and human exploration of solar system, with Mars, the Moon and the asteroids as the most likely targets. Future missions under the programme will carry sophisticated exobiology payloads to investigate the possibility of life forms existing on other worlds within the Solar System. The Programme will also provide for the missions and technology necessary to complement those planned in the existing ESA and national programmes, in order to bring about a coherent European framework for exploration and to progressively develop a unified European approach.

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab
  

The refinement of the mission architecture will also include interaction with international partners, in order to prepare for future cooperation on the MSR mission. Additional work will also be performed to assess the impact of features such as surface mobility on the MSR mission, i.e. what is the cost of being able to move around and select specific samples. Having refined the mission design, development paths will be identified for each of the critical capabilities involved in the mission.

The second step of the Phase A2 work will identify within the capability development paths, steps which might be accomplished through precursor missions. Such missions would include the demonstration of critical technologies associated with, for example, soft-precision landing. As an outcome of this, a shortlist of candidate precursor mission concepts will be made.


Both of these steps will be performed in close interaction with the scientific community, in particular through science workshops both covering the requirements and objectives of the MSR mission itself, but also the possible scientific elements of potential precursor missions. The details of these science workshops will be made available in the near future.

Through the MSR Phase A2 System Study, Europe not only aims to play a key role in this landmark mission, but is also pro-actively addressing the necessary steps to take in order to achieve its ambitious goals. These steps have already been initiated in the frame of ongoing technology development within the Aurora Programme, and may be continued through the possibility of intermediate precursor missions to both demonstrate the technologies associated with Mars Sample Return, while also advancing our scientific understanding of the Moon and Mars.

Further steps in the definition of a Mars Sample Return mission, building upon the outcomes of the Phase A2 work, will be implemented in the frame of the Exploration Core Programme the element within the Aurora Programme which covers activities for the preparation of the future exploration of the Moon and Mars, both robotically and ultimately with humans.


Source: ESA - News

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf, 15 May 2007 - 02:07 AM.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#2    Waspie_Dwarf

Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 08 April 2006 - 02:50 AM

Soggy Sands of Mars?

The University of California Davis press release is reproduced below:

April 6, 2006

user posted image  
This "razorback" feature was photographed by Mars Rover Opportunity at Endurance Crater, Mars in July 2004. (NASA/JPL)  

Cracks and fins in the sand in an American desert look very similar to features seen on Mars and may indicate the recent presence of water at the surface, according to a new study by researcher Greg Chavdarian and Dawn Sumner, associate professor of geology at UC Davis.

"Recent, as in ongoing now," Sumner said.

Images from the Mars rover "Opportunity" show patterns of cracks across the surface of boulders and outcrops. Some of these cracks are associated with long, thin fins that protrude from the surface.

Those features look very similar to cracks and fins that form on the sulfate-rich sands at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. The desert national park has a similar geological environment to the area of Mars visited by Opportunity, Sumner said.

Chavdarian spent weeks surveying the features at White Sands for an undergraduate research project. He conducted lab experiments to try and reproduce the effects. He found that the cracks at White Sands only form and grow in damp sand, especially during the wet months of the winter. In June, the sand was dry and cracks were filled in or worn away.

Cracks do form in drying mud, but this is not mud, Sumner said. There was no explanation for the formation of these types of cracks in sulfate sands before Opportunity landed, she said.

Chavdarian also looked at two types of thin, brittle fins poking a few inches out of the desert sand, usually facing into the wind. The most common type was found only in January when the sand was moist.

Chavdarian and Sumner think that the fins are formed when water seeps into cracks in the sand, carrying minerals with it. The water evaporates away, leaving behind those minerals, which are exposed as the wind blows sand away. Windblown material sticks to the exposed fin, making it larger and stronger.

If the cracks and fins seen by the Opportunity rover on Mars are formed in the same way as the features at White Sands, it would provide evidence for water at the surface of Mars away from the polar ice caps, Sumner said. Mars' ice caps are mostly carbon dioxide with some water ice.

The research is published in the April issue of the journal Geology.


Source: UC Davis Press Release

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf, 08 April 2006 - 02:51 AM.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#3    Waspie_Dwarf

Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 07:51 AM

Controlling robots that search for Mars life

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The ExoMars rover will be ESA's field biologist on Mars. Its aim is to further characterise the biological environment on Mars in preparation for robotic missions and then human exploration.
This mission calls for the development of a Mars orbiter, a descent module and a Mars rover. The Mars orbiter will have to be capable of reaching Mars and putting itself into orbit around the planet. On board will be a Mars rover within a descent module.

The Mars descent module will deliver the rover to a specific location by using an inflatable braking device or parachute system.

Using conventional solar arrays to generate electricity, the Rover will be able to travel a few kilometres over the rocky orange-red surface of Mars. The vehicle will be capable of operating autonomously by using onboard software and will navigate by using optical sensors. Included in its approximately 40 kg exobiology payload will be a lightweight drilling system, a sampling and handling device, and a set of scientific instruments to search for signs of past or present life.

Credits: ESA



11 July 2006
As part of ESA's ambitious, long-term Aurora exploration programme, ExoMars will search for traces of life on Mars. The mission requires entirely new technologies for self-controlled robots, built-in autonomy and cutting-edge visual terrain sensors.

The fourth decade of this century could see Europe participating in a manned mission to Mars in what would be one of humanity's grandest space expeditions ever.
Aurora is ESA's programme aimed at the long-term robotic and human exploration of the Solar System, with Mars and the Moon as the main targets.

linked-image
The Moon is one of the most likely targets of the Aurora Programme, a European long-term plan for the robotic and human exploration of Solar System.
Aurora is part of Europe's strategy for space, endorsed by the European Union Council of Research and the ESA Council in 2001. Future missions under the programme will carry sophisticated exobiology payloads to investigate the possibility of life forms existing on other worlds within the Solar System. The Programme will also provide for the missions and technology necessary to complement those planned in the existing ESA and national programmes, in order to bring about a coherent European framework for exploration and to progressively develop a unified European approach.

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab

  
A human mission to the Red Planet would be a major, multi-year undertaking requiring fantastic, entirely new capabilities such as automated cargo vessels, prepositioned supplies and tools, and communication and navigation satellites in Mars orbit similar to Earth's current GPS systems.
Scientists and engineers are already working on ESA's first robotic 'precursor' mission, ExoMars, due for launch around 2011.

ExoMars will explore the biological environment on Mars in preparation for further robotic and, later, human activity. Data from the mission will also provide invaluable input for broader studies of exobiology – the search for life on other planets.

The main element of the mission is a wheeled, robotic rover vehicle, similar in concept to NASA's current Mars Rover mission, but having different scientific objectives and improved capabilities.



ExoMars: a wheeled rover delivered in a dramatic direct approach

The mission will likely consist of a carrier spacecraft, a descent module, some sort of landing system, and the surface rover, and the mission profile is likely to include a dramatic direct approach to Mars, with the carrier spacecraft discarded after the rover detaches itself for descent to the surface.


The rover will use solar arrays to generate electricity, and will travel over the rocky orange-red surface of Mars, transporting an up to 12-kilogram experimental payload including a first-ever lightweight drilling system, as well as a sampling and handling device, and a set of scientific instruments to search for signs of past or present life.
Due to distance time-lag and complexity, ExoMars will self-navigate using 'smart' electro-optics to visually sense and interpret the surrounding terrain and will be capable of operating autonomously using intelligent onboard software.
  
Automated control a major advance

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Michael McKay, ESOC Flight Operations Director

Credits: ESA


This automated mode of operation is a major advance for ESA, long used to controlling spacecraft directly using human controllers. And not only will the rover's onboard control systems be new.
"ExoMars will require entirely new techniques and technology for several aspects of the Earth-based rover control system, not just an upgrade of what we have today," says Mike McKay, a senior spacecraft controller and Mars expert based at ESOC, ESA's Spacecraft Operations Centre, in Darmstadt, Germany.



ESA spacecraft have long had some ability to make independent decisions based on external influences. For example, onboard instruments will automatically shut down if solar radiation suddenly rises, or the spacecraft will automatically switch into a diagnostic 'safe mode' if anything goes wrong. But for the most part, lengthy instructions still must be pre-programmed by mission controllers on Earth and sent up for later, step-by-step, execution.
And ESA controllers have never before operated a mission that moved about on the surface of another body; Huygens – which touched down successfully on Titan in 2005 – was an atmospheric probe and not a lander, although it functioned briefly after reaching Titan's surface.
  
Robotic task: traverse kilometres of terrain in search of life

[linked-image
Autonomous sequence for ExoMars path planning

Credits: ESA


In one typical example of the rover's autonomous operation, ground controllers might radio up a high-level command telling it to drive to a scientifically interesting spot anywhere from 500 to 2000 metres away and conduct science operations, such as drilling beneath the surface to sample soil for life signs. But the vehicle would handle the details of the move on its own.
It would survey the ground with a 3D camera, create a digital terrain model, verify its present location, run internal simulations and then make an autonomous decision on the best path to follow, based on obstacles, the rover's current status and risk/resource considerations.

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Bob Chesson, Head of the Human Spaceflight and Exploration Operations Department in ESA’s Operations directorate.

Credits: ESA-D.Scuka

  
"Then it will drive itself to the target. We expect its target accuracy to be within one-half metre over a traverse of 20 metres," says Bob Chesson, head of the Human Spaceflight and Exploration Operations Department in ESA’s Operations directorate.
ExoMars profits from current robotic explorers

As the next generation of robot, ExoMars will profit from lessons learned from the current generation, including NASA's Mars Explorer Rover (MER) mission, including the need for improved locomotion ability, improved local terrain sensing – to avoid ground slippage – and the need for higher autonomy to transverse cluttered terrain.



Earlier missions, such as NASA's Sojourner rover in 1997, used an even less sophisticated approach, with Sojourner sensing its surrounding terrain, but then with all processing and path planning being done on Earth. "We're not shy in trying to learn from the experiences of our sister agencies," says Chesson.


Innovative ground control to enable autonomous functioning

For ExoMars, the controllers on Earth would most likely be located in a 'rover dedicated control room', similar in concept to the dedicated control rooms (DCR) that ESA now sets up for individual missions that orbit planets.
ESOC will serve as the overall mission operations control centre (MOCC), controlling the launch and early orbit phase (LEOP), the cruise to Mars, the separation and landing of the Descent Module and the Rover egress, with management of rover surface operations likely to be conducted from the Rover Operation Centre located at ALTEC, the Advanced Logistic Technology Engineering Center, in Turin, Italy.

"The design of the rover ground control system, or ground segment, depends on the scientific and operational goals of the rover, which are not yet final, so the ground system is still evolving," says Chesson. "In principle, the basic telemetry and telecommand functions would be essentially the same as now, but it will have significantly new capabilities to allow for the rover's autonomous functioning."

The ground control system will at least require computing facilities to enable high-level mission planning tools and to allow monitoring of the rover's digital terrain and 3D modelling, ground path and trajectory planning, on-ground simulation and tight integration with the payload control and scientific operations.

"Classic direct control methods just won't work when we operate on the surface of Mars in an unstructured environment and with a significant signal time delay, says Reinhold Bertrand," a planning engineer and robotics expert at ESOC. "ExoMars will require a change in culture; we have to 'let the child walk on its own' while we develop a truly interdisciplinary operations concept."


Source: ESA - Spacecraft Operations

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#4    Waspie_Dwarf

Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 14 July 2006 - 09:59 PM

NASA Marks 30th Anniversary of Mars Viking Mission

The IPB Image press release is reproduced below:

July 14, 2006
Erica Hupp
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1237

Marny Skora
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.
757-864-3315

Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-6278

RELEASE: 06-279

NASA Marks 30th Anniversary of Mars Viking Mission


Thirty years after the first successful landing on Mars by NASA's Viking spacecraft, the ambitious mission continues to evoke pride and enthusiasm for future space exploration.

NASA's Viking 1 and 2 missions to Mars, each consisting of an orbiter and a lander, became the first space probes to obtain high resolution images of the Martian surface, characterize the structure and composition of the atmosphere and surface, and conduct on-the-spot biological tests for life on another planet.

Viking 1 was launched August 20, 1975, and arrived at Mars June 19, 1976. On July 20, 1976, the Viking 1 lander separated from the orbiter and touched down at Chryse Planitia. Viking 2 was launched September 9, 1975, and entered Mars orbit August 7, 1976. The Viking 2 lander touched down at Utopia Planitia September 3, 1976.

"The Viking team didn't know the Martian atmosphere very well, we had almost no idea about the terrain or the rocks, and yet we had the temerity to try to soft land on the surface," recalled Gentry Lee, Solar System Exploration chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We were both terrified and exhilarated. All of us exploded with joy and pride when we saw that we had indeed landed safely."

"The Viking mission looms like a legendary giant, an incredible success against which all present and future missions will be measured," said Doug McCuiston, Mars Exploration Program director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Originally designed to function for 90 days, the Viking spacecraft continued collecting data for more than six years. The landers accumulated 4,500 up-close images of the Martian surface. The accompanying orbiters provided more than 50,000 images, mapping 97 percent of the planet. Measurements of the atmosphere and surface of Mars obtained by the orbiters and landers are still being analyzed and interpreted.

Viking provided the first measurements of the atmosphere and surface of Mars. The data suggested early Mars was very different from the present day planet. Viking performed the first successful entry, descent and landing on Mars. Derivations of a Viking-style thermal protection system and parachute have been used on every U.S. Mars lander mission, including Mars Pathfinder and the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., managed the Viking Program. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory built the orbiters, provided the deep space network and managed the science mission. NASA's Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, designed the Titan/Centaur rockets that propelled the spacecraft on their journey. NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., provided the launch facility for the program. Scientists from across NASA served on the Viking science teams.

For more information about Viking, visit

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/home

- end -

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Source: NASA Press Release 06-279

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#5    Waspie_Dwarf

Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 03 August 2006 - 12:42 AM

Mars' dust storms may produce peroxide snow


The UC Berkley press release is reproduced below:

Robert Sanders, Media Relations | 31 July 2006

BERKELEY - The planet-wide dust storms that periodically cloak Mars in a mantle of red may be generating a snow of corrosive chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, that would be toxic to life, according to two new studies published in the most recent issue of the journal Astrobiology.

user posted image
showing how electrical charge builds up as in terrestrial
thunderstorms. Though on Earth, lightning is common,
there is no evidence that lightning accompanies storms
on Mars.
(NASA)


Based on field studies on Earth, laboratory experiments and theoretical modeling, the researchers argue that oxidizing chemicals could be produced by the static electricity generated in the swirling dust clouds that often obscure the surface for months, said University of California, Berkeley, physicist Gregory T. Delory, first author of one of the papers. If these chemicals have been produced regularly over the last 3 billion years, when Mars has presumably been dry and dusty, the accumulated peroxide in the surface soil could have built to levels that would kill "life as we know it," he said.

"If true, this very much affects the interpretation of soil measurements made by the Viking landers in the 1970s," said Delory, a senior fellow at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory. A major goal of the Viking mission, comprised of two spacecraft launched by NASA in 1975, was testing Mars' red soil for signs of life. In 1976, the two landers aboard the spacecraft settled on the Martian surface and conducted four separate tests, including some that involved adding nutrients and water to the dirt and sniffing for gas production, which could be a telltale sign of living microorganisms.

The tests were inconclusive because gases were produced only briefly, and other instruments found no traces of organic materials that would be expected if life were present. These results are more indicative of a chemical reaction than the presence of life, Delory said.

"The jury is still out on whether there is life on Mars, but it's clear that Mars has very chemically reactive conditions in the soil," he said. "It is possible there could be long-term corrosive effects that would impact crews and equipment due to oxidants in the Martian soil and dust."

All in all, he said, "the intense ultraviolet exposure, the low temperatures, the lack of water and the oxidants in the soil would make it difficult for any microbe to survive on Mars."

The article by Delory and his colleagues appearing in the June issue of Astrobiology demonstrates that the electrical fields generated in storms and smaller tornadoes, called dust devils, could split carbon dioxide and water molecules apart, allowing them to recombine as hydrogen peroxide or more complicated superoxides. All of these oxidants react readily with and destroy other molecules, including organic molecules that are associated with life.

A second paper, coauthored by Delory, demonstrates that these oxidants could form and reach such concentrations near the ground during a storm that they would condense into falling snow, contaminating the top layers of soil. According to lead author Sushil K. Atreya of the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences at the University of Michigan, the superoxidants not only could destroy organic material on Mars, but accelerate the loss of methane from the atmosphere.

Coauthors of the two papers are from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; the University of Michigan; Duke University; the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; the SETI Institute; Southwest Research Institute; the University of Washington, Seattle; and the University of Bristol in England.  

user posted image
Greg Delory and a truck instrumented to measure
electric fields that he used to chase dust devils around
Arizona (2002).
(Greg Delory/UC Berkeley)


Delory and his colleagues have been studying dust devils in the American Southwest to understand how electricity is produced in such storms and how the electric fields would affect molecules in the air - in particular, molecules like those in the thin Martian atmosphere.

"We are trying to look at the features that make a planet habitable or uninhabitable, whether for life that developed there or for life we bring there," he said.

Based on these studies, he and his colleagues used plasma physics models to understand how dust particles rubbing against one other during a storm become positively and negatively charged, much the way static electricity builds up when we walk across a carpet, or electricity builds in thunderclouds. Though there's no evidence for lightning discharges on Mars, the electric field generated when charged particles separate in a dust storm could accelerate electrons to speeds sufficient to knock molecules apart, Delory and his colleagues found.

"From our field work, we know that strong electric fields are generated by dust storms on Earth. Also, laboratory experiments and theoretical studies indicate that conditions in the Martian atmosphere should produce strong electric fields during dust storms there as well," said co-author Dr. William Farrell of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Since water vapor and carbon dioxide are the most prevalent molecules in the Martian atmosphere, the most likely ions to form are hydrogen, hydroxyl (OH) and carbon monoxide (CO). One product of their recombination, according to the second study, would be hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). At high enough concentrations, the peroxide would condense into a solid and fall out of the air.

If this scenario has played out on Mars for much of its history, the accumulated peroxide in the soil could have fooled the Viking experiments looking for life. While the Labeled Release and the Gas Exchange experiments on the landers detected gas when water and nutrients were added to Martian soil, the landers' Mass Spectrometer experiment found no organic matter.

At the time, researchers suggested that very reactive compounds in the soil, perhaps hydrogen peroxide or ozone, could have produced the measurements, imitating the response of living organisms. Others suggested a possible source for these oxidants: chemical reactions in the atmosphere catalyzed by ultraviolet light from the sun, which is more intense because of Mars' thin atmosphere. The predicted levels were far lower than needed to produce the Viking results, however.

Production of oxidants by dust storms and dust devils, which seem to be common on Mars, would be sufficient to cause the Viking observations, Delory said. Thirty years ago, some researchers considered the possibility that dust storms might be electrically active, like Earth's thunderstorms, and that these storms might be a source of the new reactive chemistry. But this had been untestable until now.

"The presence of peroxide may explain the quandary we have had with Mars, but there is still a lot we don't understand about the chemistry of the atmosphere and soils of the planet," he said.

The theory could be tested further by an electric field sensor working in tandem with an atmospheric chemistry system on a future Mars rover or lander, according to the team members.

The team includes Delory, Atreya, Farrell, and Nilton Renno & Ah-San Wong of the University of Michigan; Steven Cummer of Duke University, Durham, N.C.; Davis Sentman of the University of Alaska; John Marshall of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif.; Scot Rafkin of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas; and David Catling of the University of Washington.

The research was funded by NASA's Mars Fundamental Research Program and by NASA Goddard internal institutional funds.


Source: UC Berkley Press Release

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#6    Waspie_Dwarf

Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 03 August 2006 - 12:56 AM

Mars surface probably can't support life


The University of Michigan press release is reproduced below:

July 31, 2006

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The question of whether the planet Mars can support life has entranced lay people and scientists for years. New research suggests that dust devils and storms on Mars produce oxidants that would render the planet's surface uninhabitable for life as we know it.

user posted image
Image:: This is an artist's concept of an
electrically-charged dust storm on Mars. The
"+" and "-" symbols represent positive and
negative electric charges, respectively.
Print-resolution image
Credit: NASA
  

"As a consequence, any nascent life (microorganisms, for example) or even prebiotic molecules would find it hard to get a foothold on the surface of Mars, as the organic material would be scavenged efficiently by the surface oxidants," said Sushil Atreya, University of Michigan professor in the Department of Atmospheric Oceanic and Space Sciences.

Atreya is lead author on one of two papers published last month in the journal  Astrobiology that discuss the findings. Atreya's paper: "Oxidant Enhancement in Martian Dust Devils and Storms: Implications for Life and Habitability."

The research for both papers was conducted by the U-M Department of Atmospheric Oceanic and Space Sciences, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of California, Berkley, with several other universities and institutes participating.

The results also explain inconsistencies in earlier space experiments that sought to determine if Mars had or did support life. Mars is thought to have formed with the same ingredients that on Earth led to the formation of molecules associated with life. Yet, organic molecules have never been detected on Mars' surface, Atreya said.

The first Astrobiology paper calculated the excess carbon monoxide, hydroxyl and eventually hydrogen atoms produced when electric fields generated by dust devils and storms cause carbon dioxide and water molecules to split.  Hydrogen and hydroxyl have been known to play a key role in the production of hydrogen peroxide in the Martian atmosphere.

UCLA-Berkeley's Gregory Delory, senior fellow at the Space Sciences Laboratory, is  first author, with co-authors Atreya and William Farrell of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Maryland. That paper is called "Oxidant Enhancement in Martian Dust Devils and Storms: Storm Electric Fields and Electron Dissociative  Attachment."

Atreya's team then calculated that the amounts of hydrogen peroxide produced during these reactions would be large enough to result in its condensation—essentially hydrogen peroxide would snow from the sky and contaminate the planet when it fell.

Atreya's paper suggests that the hydrogen peroxide would scavenge organic material from Mars, and it could also accelerate the loss of methane on Mars, requiring a larger source to explain the recent detection of this gas on Mars. "Methane is a metabolic byproduct of life as we know it, but presence of methane does not by itself imply existence of life on a planet", said Atreya.

Scientists regard Mars as Earth's closest relative. "Of all the planets in the solar system, Mars resembles the Earth most. And outside of the Earth, it has the best chance of being habitable now or in the past when the planet may have been warmer and wetter," Atreya said.  Presence of life below the surface of Mars now or in the past is not ruled out by this research.

The research also helps explain contradictory results in a series of experiments in 1970s that suggested microscopic life might have been present in Martian soil. Called the Viking Project, the  primary objective was to determine if there was life—dead or alive—on Mars. Biological experiments conducted by the two landers, Viking 1 and 2, yielded conflicting results.

In addition to lead authors Atreya and Delory, co authors of both papers are Farrell, and Nilton Renno  and Ah-San Wong, (University of Michigan), Steven Cummer (Duke University, Durham, N.C.), Davis Sentman (University of Alaska), John Marshall (SETI Inst., Mountain View, Calif.), Scot Rafkin (Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas) and David Catling (University of Washington). The research was funded by NASA's Mars Fundamental Research Program and NASA Goddard internal institutional funds.

For more information on Atreya, visit:
http://www-personal....reya/index.html


To see the abstracts at the journal Astrobiology, visit:
http://www.lieberton...com/toc/ast/6/3


The University of Michigan College of Engineering is ranked among the top engineering schools in the country. Michigan Engineering boasts one of the largest engineering research budgets of any public university, at more than $130 million. Michigan Engineering has 11 departments and two NSF Engineering Research Centers. Within those departments and centers, there is a special emphasis on research in three emerging areas: nanotechnology and integrated microsystems; cellular and molecular biotechnology; and information technology. Michigan Engineering is seeking to raise $110 million for capital building projects and program support in these areas to further research discovery. Michigan Engineering's goal is to advance academic scholarship and market cutting - edge research to improve public health and well-being.  For more information, see the Michigan Engineering home page: http://www.engin.umich.edu


Source: University of Michigan press release

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#7    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 12:31 AM

NASA Findings Suggest Jets Bursting From Martian Ice Cap

August 16, 2006  

Every spring brings violent eruptions to the south polar ice cap of Mars, according to researchers interpreting new observations by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter.

user posted image
Artist concept showing sand-laden jets shoot into the Martian polar sky. Image credit: Arizona State University/Ron Miller

Full image and caption


Jets of carbon dioxide gas erupting from the ice cap as it warms in the spring carry dark sand and dust high aloft. The dark material falls back to the surface, creating dark patches on the ice cap which have long puzzled scientists. Deducing the eruptions of carbon dioxide gas from under the warming ice cap solves the riddle of the spots. It also reveals that this part of Mars is much more dynamically active than had been expected for any part of the planet.

"If you were there, you'd be standing on a slab of carbon-dioxide ice," said Phil Christensen of Arizona State University, Tempe, principal investigator for Odyssey's camera. "All around you, roaring jets of carbon dioxide gas are throwing sand and dust a couple hundred feet into the air."

You'd also feel vibration through your spacesuit boots, he said. "The ice slab you're standing on is levitated above the ground by the pressure of gas at the base of the ice."

The team began its research in an attempt to explain mysterious dark spots, fan-like markings, and spider-shaped features seen in images that cameras on Odyssey and on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor have observed on the ice cap at the Martian south pole.

The dark spots, typically 15 to 46 meters (50 to 150 feet) wide and spaced several hundred feet apart, appear every southern spring as the sun rises over the ice cap. They last for several months and then vanish -- only to reappear the next year, after winter's cold has deposited a fresh layer of ice on the cap. Most spots even seem to recur at the same locations.

user posted image
Dark spots (left) and 'fans' appear to scribble dusty hieroglyphics on top of the Martian south polar cap. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

Full image and caption
  
  

An earlier theory proposed that the spots were patches of warm, bare ground exposed as the ice disappeared. However, the camera on Odyssey, which sees in both infrared and visible-light wavelengths, discovered that the spots are nearly as cold as the carbon dioxide ice, suggesting they were just a thin layer of dark material lying on top of the ice and kept chilled by it. To understand how that layer is produced, Christensen's team used the camera -- the Thermal Emission Imaging System -- to collect more than 200 images of one area of the ice cap from the end of winter through midsummer.

Some places remained spot-free for more than 100 days, then developed many spots in a week. Fan-shaped dark markings didn't form until days or weeks after the spots appeared, yet some fans grew to half a mile in length. Even more puzzling was the origin of the "spiders," grooves eroded into the surface under the ice. The grooves converge at points directly beneath a spot.

"The key to figuring out the spiders and the spots was thinking through a physical model for what was happening," said Christensen. The process begins in the sunless polar winter when carbon dioxide from the atmosphere freezes into a layer about three feet thick on top of a permanent ice cap of water ice, with a thin layer of dark sand and dust in between. In spring, sunlight passing through the slab of carbon dioxide ice reaches the dark material and warms it enough that the ice touching the ground sublimates -- turns into gas.

Before long, the swelling reservoir of trapped gas lifts the slab and eventually breaks through at weak spots that become vents. High-pressure gas roars through at speeds of 161 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour) or more. Under the slab, the gas erodes ground as it rushes toward the vents, snatching up loose particles of sand and carving the spidery network of grooves.

Christensen, Hugh Kieffer (U.S. Geological Survey, retired) and Timothy Titus (USGS) report the new interpretation in the Aug. 17, 2006, issue of the journal "Nature."

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages Mars Odyssey and Mars Global Surveyor missions for the NASA Science Mission Directorate. Odyssey's Thermal Emission Imaging System is operated by Arizona State University.

For additional information about Odyssey and the new findings, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mars
and http://themis.asu.edu.


###
Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Carolina Martinez 818-354-9382
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

Robert Burnham 480-458-8207
Arizona State University, Tempe
NEWS RELEASE: 2006-100

Source: NASA/JPL - Mars Exploration Program

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#8    crawler2000

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 11:10 PM

exploring mars will only lead to the theory if we can live there or not. it is true that eventualy the sun will consume everything in the solar system because it will implode  and that we can delay maybe a couple of decades till the sun becomes to large and engulfs mars.


#9    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 01:18 AM

Quote

exploring mars will only lead to the theory if we can live there or not. it is true that eventualy the sun will consume everything in the solar system because it will implode  and that we can delay maybe a couple of decades till the sun becomes to large and engulfs mars.


If I understand what you are trying to say correctly then I doubt that mankind will be restricted to this solar system by the time the sun becomes a red giant as we have 3-4 billion years before that happens.

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf, 29 March 2007 - 01:30 AM.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#10    Amalgamut

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 01:39 AM

Quote


If I understand what you are trying to say correctly then I doubt that mankind will be restricted to this solar system by the time the sun becomes a red gian as we have 3-4 billion years before that happens.

But thats only if humans can escape the greenhouse effect that is slowly dooming this planet.  hmm.gif

Why tiptoe quietly through life just to arrive safely at death?

#11    Altheia

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Posted 25 September 2006 - 01:46 PM

Conspiracy theorists must face the truth of Mars hill

New images of the "face" on Mars have been obtained by Europe's Mars Express spacecraft. They reinforce what scientists thought from the beginning – that the face is just a naturally sculpted hill.

The "face" appeared in a photo of Mars's Cydonia region taken in 1976 by NASA's Viking 1 spacecraft. NASA scientists believed from the beginning that the feature was simply a hill that happened to look like a face because of the way the Sun cast shadows across it at the time the photo was taken.

However, the image sparked speculation that the face was built by aliens and that NASA was trying to cover it up.

The agency used the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft to take new images of the region in 1998 and 2001. The new, much more detailed images showed a hill with no particular resemblance to a face (see Martian conspiracy theorists lose face).
Email campaign

But since the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft arrived at Mars in 2003, many unconvinced members of the general public have been asking mission scientists to take more images of the feature.

"So many people wrote me emails – hundreds – saying, 'Why don't you image Cydonia, tell us the truth, we don't believe NASA,'" says Gerhard Neukum of the Free University of Berlin, Germany, chief scientist for Mars Express's High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC).

Mission controllers have been trying to get images of the region since 2004 but had been thwarted until recently by dust and haze in the atmosphere. Finally, on 22 July 2006, the team obtained clear images of the region with the HRSC.

By making observations of the area from slightly different angles as the spacecraft moved through its orbit, mission scientists have been able to build a 3D map of the "face" and the surrounding area.
Sculpted by erosion

The hill that sparked so much speculation is clearly seen in the new images to be a natural feature shaped by erosion, says Agustin Chicarro, ESA's chief scientist for Mars Express.

"My grandfather used to collect pieces of wood that look like birds or dogs or things like that," he told New Scientist. "This is the same thing – people get excited and see what they want to see. What has modelled these reliefs is simply erosion."

Neukum agrees. "It’s a mountainous structure and there's no artificial thing. These are mounds that have survived a general erosional process," he told New Scientist.

The whole area was once as high as the tops of the hills in the region, he says, but most of it has eroded down, with a few more resistant areas surviving as hills. The erosion is probably the result of ancient glaciers or perhaps liquid water carving into the rock, he says.

http://www.newscientistspace.com/article/d...-mars-hill.html


#12    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 26 September 2006 - 08:51 AM

NASA Mars Spacecraft Gear Up for Extra Work
September 25, 2006

NASA's Mars robotic missions are performing so well, they are being prepared for additional overtime work.

The team operating the twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, since January 2004, won approval for an additional year of exploration. NASA funded the extensions on recommendations from an outside panel of scientists. NASA also is adding two more years of operations for Mars Global Surveyor, which has been orbiting Mars since 1997, and the Mars Odyssey orbiter, at the red planet since 2001.

user posted image
Old and new come together in this image of
the floor of an unnamed impact crater. The
light-toned, layered mounds scattered across
the image are old. The dark-toned sand dunes
and intermediate-toned ripples are new.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
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+ Browse image


These mission extensions will begin Oct. 1, 2006. The spacecraft beginning extended missions have already completed a successful prime mission plus years of additional service. The extensions occur when NASA's newest Mars spacecraft, named the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, is about to begin its main science phase.

"Each of these missions increases the value of the others and of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter," said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington. "By extending these missions, we gain very cost-effective additional benefits from the investments in developing them and getting them to Mars."

Each orbiter has a different set of instruments, and the spacecraft complement each other in helping scientists understand Mars. Also, observations by the rovers on the ground validate interpretation of information from the orbiters. Observations by the orbiters allow extrapolation from what the rovers find in small areas. The orbiters support current and future surface missions with landing-site assessments and communication relays.

Both rovers are still healthy, more than 31 months into what was originally planned as a three-month exploration of their landing areas. Provided they remain operable, their fourth mission extension will take them into Martian spring and summer, increasing their solar-energy supply and daily capabilities. Spirit has been studying its surroundings from a stationary, sun-facing tilt for several months. "As we get into the Martian spring, Spirit will resume exploring the inner basin of the 'Columbia Hills,'" said Dr. Bruce Banerdt, rover project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Opportunity will spend the extension at "Victoria Crater."

Each Martian year lasts nearly two Earth years. The longevity of Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey has allowed researchers to watch how Mars changes not just from season to season, but from year to year. Mars Global Surveyor has observed shrinking of the south polar carbon-dioxide ice cap from one summer to the next.  "This extension will take us through our fifth annual cycle of Martian summers and winters," said Thomas Thorpe of JPL, project manager for Mars Global Surveyor.  

"With the additional years of observations, we are able to monitor the Martian climate, not just the weather. There is a hypothesis that Mars' climate is changing, perhaps rapidly. The combination of instruments from different orbiters strengthens our ability to study that possibility. With Odyssey, for example, we can monitor the mass of carbon-dioxide frost in winter to help understand the changes that Global Surveyor is seeing in the summers," said JPL's Dr. Jeffrey Plaut, project scientist for Mars Odyssey.  

The Odyssey flight team at JPL and at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, plans to teach the spacecraft some new tricks during the mission extension. New software will enable the spacecraft to make choices about which images are high priority. Also, the team will begin pointing Odyssey slightly off the straight-down view it has flown so far. This will enable imaging of polar areas it never flies directly over. Odyssey also will continue serving as the primary communications relay for the rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

NASA also has extended the U.S. participation in the European Space Agency's Mars Express mission.  That orbiter reached Mars in 2003 and is in an extended mission.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and Mars Exploration Rover projects for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the Global Surveyor and Odyssey projects and built those spacecraft.

For additional information about NASA Mars missions, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/...pages/mars/main
.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Media contacts: Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Erica Hupp/Dwayne Brown 202-358-1237/1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington

Source: NASA/JPL News Release

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#13    crystal sage

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Posted 03 October 2006 - 12:14 AM

This all looks interesting... only a matter of years!!!!!!1

About the Mars Homestead Project

Utilizing concepts and designs from the past several decades, the Mars Homestead Project seeks to develop a unified plan for building the first habitat on Mars utilizing local materials. The ultimate goal of the project is to build a growing, permanent settlement beyond the Earth, thus allowing civilization to spread beyond the limits of our small planet. The Project's website is located at www.MarsHome.org.



http://www.marshome.org/about/


The 6th European Mars Societyh Convention (EMC6),organized by Association Plančte Mars is scheduled for Friday, October 20, 2006. The conference opens at 6:00 PM and will close down on Sunday, October 22, 2006 at 5:00 PM.

http://www.marssociety.org/

Edit: post moved from "Vision For Space Exploration" thread as it seemed more suited to this one - Waspie_Dwarf

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf, 06 October 2006 - 06:56 PM.


#14    crystal sage

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Posted 03 October 2006 - 12:48 AM


On February 25, in an interview with Buzz Aldrin video
taped by Space.com, Arthur C. Clarke said:

" I'm fairly convinced that we have discovered life on Mars. There are some incredible photographs from [the Jet Propulsion Laboratory], which to me are pretty convincing proof of the existence of large forms of life on Mars! Have a look at them. I don't see any other interpretation."



http://www.msss.com/moc_gallery/m07_m12/im...8/M0804688.html


#15    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 06 October 2006 - 05:26 PM

NASA's Mars Rover and Orbiter Team Examines Victoria Crater

NASA's long-lived robotic rover Opportunity is beginning to explore layered rocks in cliffs ringing the massive Victoria crater on Mars.

While Opportunity spent its first week at the crater, NASA's newest eye in the Martian sky photographed the rover and its surroundings from above. The level of detail in the photo from the high-resolution camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will help guide the rover's exploration of Victoria.

"This is a tremendous example of how our Mars missions in orbit and on the surface are designed to reinforce each other and expand our ability to explore and discover," said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program in Washington. "You can only achieve this compelling level of exploration capability with the sustained exploration approach we are conducting at Mars through integrated orbiters and landers."

user posted image
Image above: An image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
shows the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity near the rim of "Victoria
Crater."
Image credit: NASA/JPL/UA
+ Full image and caption


"The combination of the ground-level and aerial view is much more powerful than either alone," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. Squyres is principal investigator for Opportunity and its twin, Spirit. "If you were a geologist driving up to the edge of a crater in your jeep, the first thing you would do would be to pick up the aerial photo you brought with you and use it to understand what you're seeing from ground level. That's exactly what we're doing here."

Images from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, orbiting the red planet since 1997, prompted the rover team to choose Victoria two years ago as the long-term destination for Opportunity. The images show the one-half-mile-wide crater has scalloped edges of alternating cliff-like high, jutting ledges and gentler alcoves. The new image by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter adds significantly more detail.

Exposed geological layers in the cliff-like portions of Victoria's inner wall appear to record a longer span of Mars' environmental history than the rover has studied in smaller craters. Victoria is five times larger than any crater Opportunity has visited during its Martian trek.

High-resolution color images taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera since Sept. 28 reveal previously unseen patterns in the layers. "There are distinct variations in the sedimentary layering as you look farther down in the stack," Squyres said. "That tells us environmental conditions were not constant."

user posted image
Image above: This view of "Victoria crater" from Opportunity is
looking southeast from "Duck Bay" towards the dramatic promontory
called "Cabo Frio."
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
+ Full image and caption


Within two months after landing on Mars in early 2004, Opportunity found geological evidence for a long-ago environment that was wet. Scientists hope the layers in Victoria will provide new clues about whether that wet environment was persistent, fleeting or cyclical.

The rovers have worked on Mars for more than 10 times their originally planned three-month missions. "Opportunity shows a few signs of aging but is in good shape for undertaking exploration of Victoria crater," said John Callas, project manager for the rovers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

"What we see so far just adds to the excitement. The team has worked heroically for nearly 21 months driving the rover here, and now we're all rewarded with views of a spectacular landscape of nearly 50-foot-thick exposures of layered rock," said Jim Bell of Cornell. Bell is lead scientist for the rovers' panoramic cameras. NASA plans to drive Opportunity from crater ridge to ridge, studying nearby cliffs across the intervening alcoves and looking for safe ways to drive the rover down. "It's like going to the Grand Canyon and seeing what you can from several different overlooks before you walk down," Bell said.

The orbiter images will help the team choose which way to send Opportunity around the rim, and where to stop for the best views. Conversely, the rover's ground-level observations of some of the same features will provide useful information for interpreting orbital images.

"The ground-truth we get from the rover images and measurements enables us to better interpret features we see elsewhere on Mars, including very rugged and dramatic terrains that we can't currently study on the ground," said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson. He is principal investigator for the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera.

JPL manages the rovers and orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For images and information about the rovers, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/rovers


For images and information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/mro.


Media contacts: Guy Webster /Natalie Godwin 818-354-6278/0850
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown/Erica Hupp 202-358-1726/1237
NASA Headquarters, Washington

2006-121


Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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