NASA’s Curiosity Rover Found Something Strange on Mars


Sample drill hole in the Gale crater

As it’s the foundation for all life on Earth, discovering carbon on other planets always gets scientists excited – and the Curiosity Rover on Mars has found an unusual mix of the chemical element that could hypothetically point to the existence of alien life.

That’s by no means certain, but it’s a possibility. It’s one of three different scenarios that experts think might have produced the carbon found in sediment in the Gale crater, collected across nine years from August 2012 to July 2021…

…The third explanation…is that either ultraviolet light or microbes once upon a time converted methane produced by biological processes – that we’re looking at carbon created as a result of life. As with the other two possibilities, we’re going to need more surrounding evidence to know for sure, but there are some parallels on Earth…

Curiosity has recently been joined by the Perseverance rover, which is planning to return Martian rocks to Earth rather than experimenting on them in situ. Expect much more to be revealed by these two robotic explorers over the coming years…

The research has been published in PNAS.

Way cool!

The Long Arc of Time

By OM MALIK


Image enhanced

A few days back, I watched with wonder and awe as a copter flew on the Red Planet. Witnessing Ingenuity take off from the Mars Perseverance Rover and send images all the way back to us humans filled me with an immense sense of joy and tremendous gratitude for technology and science. These are feelings we all could and should enjoy more regularly, and maybe we would if it weren’t increasingly difficult to recognize and appreciate our own reality.

So much of human progress takes place in increments, and the most meaningful strides rarely get much attention. In roughly the same length of time that we have gone from flying gliders to flying solar-powered copters on Mars, the average human life span has doubled — and we have hardly noticed as it was happening…

Yet, even as our progress accelerates, appreciating it becomes increasingly difficult. We live in a world increasingly informed by memes, stories, and fables. Misinformation and distrust of science are the order of the day. For their own selfish and short-term needs, our leaders willfully sow doubt in what has served us so well — science and its offshoot, technology. For example, the technology behind the vaccines created to fight the dreaded coronavirus has been nearly three decades in the making. And now it could help find solutions for many other diseases. And yet, in the media, this incredible achievement is as much a flashpoint of controversy as a source of celebration.

Click the link higher up this page and read through the complete blog post. Few tech commentators speak with the authority of experience over time that colors Om’s writing.

Wheels down on Mars, once again


First image from Perseverance

NASA folks land on Mars, again. I switched onto the NASA Channel to check on how they were doing…and the lander had chute deployed and about 7 kilometers above the surface of Mars.

It was just halftime in the Europa League football match I was watching; so, I quick ran to get my wet-and-snow walking shoes – to change while watching. I usually start a couple laps of our fenceline at halftime if I’m watching footie and we got a few more inches of snow, last night.

They spiked the landing. Truly fun to watch for an old time science and scifi geek like me. Nice to see reality match fiction.

Check your local TV access for progress!

Dust devil…on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover spotted this dust devil with one of its Navigation Cameras on Aug. 9, 2020…Taken from the “Mary Anning” drill site, this dust devil appears to be passing through small hills just above Curiosity’s present location on Mount Sharp. The dust devil is approximately one-third to a half-mile away and estimated to be about 16 feet wide. The dust plume disappears past the top of the frame, so an exact height can’t be known, but it’s estimated to be at least 164 feet tall.

As we explore this tiny corner of our solar system, sometimes we discover new, sometimes we find same or similar. As someone with a basic understanding of what should be high school-level science…would know.

New images of Mars north polar icecap


Mars northern polar cap, showing the spiral troughs in the ice
Mars Global Surveyor/Malin Space Science Systems

The European Space Agency recently released an image of the red planet’s north polar region and its stunning ice caps…The image, taken by the Mars Express orbiter, highlights some of the natural processes that shape the planet’s surface…

Scientists think that this unique pattern is formed by katabatic winds, that carry higher-density air to lower elevations. On Mars, these winds ferry cold, dense air from the regions’ glaciers down to lower elevations containing valleys and depressions…At the same time, Mars is rotating (just like the Earth) creating another cool phenomenon called the coriolis effect, which manifests as the spiral pattern we see in the image.

Enjoy this brief article. Commenters seem agreed Elon Musk will get folks there sooner than NASA. Even with an administration [sooner or later] that understands science better than one relying on bigotry and ignorance to operate.

NASA Data Visualization Lets You Visit the Red Planet


Click to enlarge

❝ Have you ever wished you could go to Mars without taking on the long-term commitment and risks associated with spaceflight? Now you can explore the surface of Mars without leaving the comfort of planet Earth, thanks to troves of imagery from NASA spacecraft and a cool data-visualization software called OpenSpace.

With OpenSpace, you can fly over Martian mountaintops and swoop through the deep canyons of Valles Marineris with the highest-resolution views from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), creating sort of a Google Earth for Mars. And that’s just the beginning; the makers of OpenSpace said they aim to ultimately map the entire known universe with dynamic and interactive visualizations created from real scientific data.

❝ Using data and images from the Context Camera (CTX) on MRO and the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, researchers have already mapped 90 percent of the Red Planet’s surface down to a resolution of about 20 feet (6 meters) per pixel. Incorporating high-resolution images from the spacecraft’s HiRISE camera (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), OpenSpace has allowed researchers to image parts of Mars down to a resolution of about 25 centimeters (10 inches) per pixel. That’s 24 times sharper than before.

Way cool. As close as I’m ever gonna get!