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Life-seeking space probe blasts off for Mars

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The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) successfully launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan this morning.

The first of two ExoMars missions, the probe will arrive in orbit around the Red Planet in October where its lander, Schiaparelli, will detach and head down to the Martian surface.

Read More: http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/news/292514/life-seeking-space-probe-blasts-off-for-mars

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Sabbath

Interesting times we live in.

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ROGER

I'd like to see someone put a Bigalow Habitat on Phobos before I pass on . It would be a great " Proof of concept " mission .

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Ashyne

Why space programs that try to search for life always get lack of funding? It's one of the most significant endeavors of science and it will also provide an answer to one of the most frequently-asked questions in history, yet people do not seem to want to know more.

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kartikg

Why Not put a microscope . It will provide better answer.

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Calibeliever

Bon voyage.

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pallidin

Why Not put a microscope . It will provide better answer.

http://mars.nasa.gov/mer/mission/spacecraft_instru_mi.html

The Microscopic Imager is a combination of a microscope and a CCD camera that provides information on the small-scale features of martian rocks and soils. It complements the findings of other science instruments by producing close-up views of surface materials. Some of those materials are in their natural state, while others may be views of fresh surfaces exposed by theRock Abrasion Tool.

Microscopic imaging is used to analyze the size and shape of grains in sedimentary rocks, which is important for identifying whether water may have existed in the planet's past. 

The Microscopic Imager is located on the arm of the rover. Its field of view is 1024 x 1024 pixels in size and it has a single, broad-band filter so imaging is in black and white.

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pallidin

http://athena.cornell.edu/the_mission/ins_micro.html

The Microscopic Imager is a combination of a microscope and a camera. It will produce extreme close-up views of rocks and soils examined by other instruments on the instrument arm, providing contextual information for the interpretation of mineral and element composition data.

This instrument's detailed pictures will make other types of observations more useful since we will be able to associate them with a visual scene. Microscopic imaging will aid in the characterization of sedimentary rocks that formed in water, and thus will help scientists understand past watery environments on Mars. This instrument will also yield information on the small-scale features of rocks formed by volcanic and impact activity as well as tiny veins of minerals like the carbonates that may contain microfossils in the famous Mars meteorite, ALH84001.

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paperdyer

Does anyone know why we gave up on Venus? Too much methane and other stuff in the atmosphere?

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Calibeliever

Does anyone know why we gave up on Venus? Too much methane and other stuff in the atmosphere?

The biggest reason is the heat and atmospheric pressure. They eat probes for breakfast. It's very difficult to design something that can survive in that environment for more than a few minutes (without it weighing so much that strapping it to a rocket becomes impractical). There was talk last decade about designing an upper atmospheric probe, like a balloon, but I haven't heard anything recently on that.

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kartikg

Hi Pallidin. Thanks for the response. I ve one more query why not microscopes which can "see" bacteria or life forms are / were not included in the missions?

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pallidin

Hi Pallidin. Thanks for the response. I ve one more query why not microscopes which can "see" bacteria or life forms are / were not included in the missions?

Yeah. I don't know why the optics for microscopic imaging were not such to image such things as you describe.

Presumably NASA engineers had their reasons, but I don't know what they based their decision on.

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Waspie_Dwarf

Hi Pallidin. Thanks for the response. I ve one more query why not microscopes which can "see" bacteria or life forms are / were not included in the missions?

There are several reasons why this is not the best approach.

Firstly simply pointing a microscope at the ground might be a good way to see rock types, it is not the way to see bacteria. Samples need to be carefully prepared. I have no doubt that NASA (or in this case ESA) could produce a robotic way of doing this but it would be expensive and complicated.

A second problem is that high magnification is needed to see bacteria, at least 400x. That makes for a complex set of optics which need to be landed on Mars. Again doable but expensive.

Another problem is that microbes are not very easy to see through a microscope when alive. The best way to see them is by staining them with some sort of dye. However once you do that, and they are no longer alive it has the potential to make any results highly open to interpretation. An example of what I mean is the Alan Hills 84001 meteorite which originated on Mars.In 1996 it was announced that possible fossils of microbes had been discovered. This discovery was the result of microscopic analysis of the meteorite. Very few scientists now believe that what was found WAS signs of life, accepting instead that the "microbes " were the result of geological processes. This rather highlights the potential for microscopic analysis, particularly when done many millions of miles away, to give false positive results.

Another problem is that the methane which may, or may not, be a sign of life is not being observed over the whole of Mars. This means that if there is life it may be localised. Land in the wrong place and your microscope will find nothing, so there is a massive chance of a false negative.

Yet another problem is that most scientists do not believe life on Mars (if it is there) will be found on the surface. The surface of Mars is a rather harsh environment for life. Microbes are more likely to be found several feet below the surface. Now, as well as an expensive microscope and sample preparation system you have to include some sort of drill or digging device.

NASA is planning a sample return mission in the future (one of the jobs for the next NASA rover, due for launch in 2020 is to collect samples for future return). It would be far better to leave the microscopes on Earth and return the rocks to Earth. If something is found then new tests can be devised, something you can't do with a spacecraft on another planet.

In the meantime the best bet we have for discovering if there is life on Mars is for missions such as the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter to discover exactly what the source of this methane is.

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bigjonalien

So the question is- did we come from monkeys or did the aliens help us evolve?

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paperdyer

So the question is- did we come from monkeys or did the aliens help us evolve?

That's the $64,000 question, isn't it?

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Waspie_Dwarf

ExoMars performing flawlessly

23 March 2016 Following a spectacular liftoff, ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is performing flawlessly en route to the Red Planet.

The ESA–Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator are well on their way following the 14 March launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

arrow3.gifRead more...

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AustinHinton

So the question is- did we come from monkeys or did the aliens help us evolve?

Neither. We came from Savannah-living apes. :)

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Waspie_Dwarf

First light for ExoMars

14 April 2016 The ESA–Roscosmos ExoMars spacecraft are in excellent health following launch last month, with the orbiter sending back its first test image of a starry view taken en route to the Red Planet.

In the weeks following liftoff on 14 March, mission operators and scientists have been intensively checking the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli entry, descent, and landing demonstrator to ensure they will be ready for Mars in October.

arrow3.gifRead more...

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Waspie_Dwarf

Engine burn gives Mars mission a kick

Quote

28 July 2016 Following a lengthy firing of its powerful engine this morning, ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is on track to arrive at the Red Planet in October.

ExoMars made its first critical manoeuvre since its 14 March launch this morning, firing its engine for 52 minutes to help it intercept Mars on 19 October.

ExoMars, a joint mission with Russia’s Roscosmos, was launched on 14 March and has already travelled well over half way of its nearly 500 million km journey.

arrow3.gif  Read more: ESA

 

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