Lockheed Martin’s VR School Bus Drives You Across Mars

If there is one thing we need to make sure that we keep innovating and reaching for that next step in technology, it is to get the next generation of potential scientists, engineers, and inventors interested in STEM careers. This is something that Lockheed Martin believe very firmly, with the aim of their new Generation Beyond initiative being to find exciting ways to inspire young people to want to be involved in the field. In order to do this, they have developed an experience that should give a small taste of just what our future could be like, a simulated bus ride across the surface of Mars.

The Mars Experience is an immersive virtual reality adventure that takes place entirely aboard an American school bus. The windows of the bus are covered, which allows a view of Mars’ vast and sprawling surface to be shown to those within and the movement of the bus will seem like it is really driving along the surface of the Red Planet.

To power this experience, Lockheed Martin has employed the same kinds of software used to develop the most advanced video games of today and used it to develop a VR experience not limited to a headset and capable of rendering over 200 square miles of Mars’ surface. Lockheed’s bus will be making a tour across the US to give students around the country a chance to experience it for themselves.

Generation Beyond isn’t just investing in the Mars Experience either, with the program offering a free curriculum on deep space to any middle school teacher as well as developing an app that provides real-time reports of the weather on Mars. It may seem like all fun and games, but it is great to see such an initiative attempt to engage the next generation in a manner that they can also enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5JTb_7qv78

Steve Wozniak Experience Mars Through VR

GTC 2016: As a special guest experience, NVIDIA enlisted Apple co-creator Steve Wozniak to take the helm in the Mars Rover.

As an person who has made it clear in the past of wanting to sign up for the one-way ticket to Mars, NVIDIA have made it possible to experience the same thing without leaving the comfort of your own couch. ‘Woz’ as part of the experience chucked a VR headset on and showed us how real the overall feel of being on Mars was.

Jen-Hsun and Wozniak joke about finally finding Matt Damon but you straight away get the feel as to how immersive the experience of Mars can be.

This was made possible from utilising the GeForce GTX Titan to give the best possible quality taking into consideration how realism is of the keypoint and this leads to IRAY VR technology.

IRAY VR utilises a pre-rendered source of light probes that is then rasterized and reconstructs the image based on what the eye expects to see as a completed composition.

NASA To Offer Virtual Mars Walks Using Hololens

We may be a number of years off the first humans walking on Mars, but NASA plans to give us a sneak peek at what it may be like to walk on the Red Planet. Their new exhibit, named “Destination: Mars” has them teaming up with Microsoft to let visitors take a virtual walk across the surface of Mars thanks to the power of the Hololens augmented reality headset.

Destination: Mars will be powered by the OnSight mission operations tool, a cooperative development between Microsoft and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It is capable of taking data recorded by the Curiosity rover, which has been roaming the Red Planet since 2012 and transfers the images to the Hololens which can make any room appear like it is actually the surface of Mars.

OnSight is already in use by NASA scientists, who use it to virtually experience Mars for themselves so they can better select future destinations for the Curiosity rover to visit. This new exhibit will be the first time that the experience will be available to the general public, allowing them to see the alien world in just the way a NASA mission scientist would.

The exhibition will be open at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida this summer where visitors will be able to virtually travel to a number of locations on Mars, accompanied by holographic guides like Aldrin and rover driver Erisa Hines who will point out the sites of key discoveries.

The Planet Mars Could be Recreated as a Theme Park in Las Vegas

A consortium of designers and investors has proposed a new attraction in Las Vegas, called Mars World, which aims to recreate the surface of The Red Planet. Should the proposal be successful, Mars World would offer visitors the opportunity to spacewalk across Mars at ¼ Earth’s gravity, ride a monorail around the rocky terrain, or even stay overnight in one of Mars World’s space habitats, members of the consortium told Space.com.

“The multi-acre simulated city will rise on yet-to-be purchased land somewhere between the I-15 freeway and Las Vegas Boulevard, if all goes according to plan,” Elizabeth Howell of Space.com writes. “Visitors will be treated to the music, costumes and culture of a Mars colony. They will take simulated “Marswalks” in one-fourth Earth gravity, ride a tram around the crater in which the city is built and even sleep overnight in rough habitats if they wish.”

Mars World would cost around $2 billion to fund, with the consortium hoping to build the Red Planet recreation by 2021. $500,000 has already been raised, with a second round of funding hoping to gather around $17 million.

“We’re really moving forward on this longstanding connection between science fiction and entertainment and real things,” Chief Designer John Spencer said. “We developed an approach — we call this a design approach —that what we’re doing is not science fiction. It’s science future.”

As well as attracting the standard throng of Vegas tourists, with parts of the attraction designed to appeal to kids, Spencer also wants Mars World to appeal to the Burning Man crowd.

“They’re pretty rowdy, independent, artistic. Don’t agree with authority too much. At Burning Man, clothing is optional,” Spencer said. “If you take that as a foundation and extend that out further in the controlled environment, then we have amazing characters, artwork and costumes.”

European Mars Mission to Launch on Monday

The first phase of the joint venture between the European Space Agency and Russia, known as ExoMars is expected to be launching on Monday 14th of March. The launch will take place at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with a Proton-M rocket responsible for carrying the scientific payload onto a trajectory to Mars.

This mission will be to launch the Trace Gas Orbiter, which will hold an orbit around Mars in order to analyse the trace elements of the Mars’ atmosphere as well as deploying an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli. Despite the initial launch taking only 10 hours to place the TGO on its path to Mars, the satellite will then have to travel for seven months before reaching the red planet.

On the 16th of October, three days before arrival, Schiaparelli will be launched from the TGO, which has the dual duty of carrying scientific instruments to the surface of Mars, but more importantly, to provide data on the module’s performance during entry, descent and touchdown, with no assurance that it will survive the landing on October 19th. The data collected by Schiaparelli will be used to develop the landing module for the ExoMars rover which is expected to launch in 2018.

After detaching Schiaparelli, the TGO will spend almost a year positioning itself into a circular orbit around Mars at a height of 400km. It will then set about cataloguing the gasses of Mars, taking a special interest in those making up less than 1% of the planet’s atmosphere, including methane, water vapour, nitrogen dioxide, and sulphur dioxide. Special interest is placed on methane, which is unexpected to be in Mars’ atmosphere at all which makes the source of the gas all the more useful to discover.

This mission is crucial to understanding more about the red planet, with the results of its analysis bringing us one step closer to putting humans on Mars. Like many space launches recently, this one will be live streamed by the ESA the launch from 8:30 AM GMT, 1 hour ahead of the projected launch time of 9:30 which will doubtlessly prove interesting to any space fanatics out there.

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Captures Fantastic Sand Dunes Of Mars

Space exploration is a fascinating subject which encompasses a wide selection of avenues which include the search for other life forms to new discoveries both concerning known and also unknown distant plants. NASA has recently released images from the Curiosity Mars rover which show a fantastic selection of images of Sand Dunes from the red planet.

Below is a selection of images of Sand Dunes which have been both snapped and also transmitted back by Curiosity, it conveys an extremely steep surface where “cascading sand has sculpted very different textures”  Researchers are implementing the rover with the aim of examining examples of the Bagnold Dunes, “this is a band of dark sand dunes lining the northwestern flank of Mt. Sharp”. 

The Curiosity rover “conveys the downwind side of a dune at around about 13 feet high within the Bagnold Dunes field on Mars”. Below is an image which really does capture both the steepness and also the varying textures, The mission’s dune-investigation campaign is designed to increase understanding about how “wind moves and sorts grains of sand in an environment with less gravity and much less atmosphere than well-studied dune fields on Earth”

Below is another incredible image, the Curiosity rover has been stationed on Mars since August 2012 and had managed to reach the base of Mount Sharp in 2014. This image was also taken from the “telephoto-lens camera of the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, this reveals fine details of the downwind face of Namib Dune. Sand on this face of the dark dune has cascaded down a slope of about 26 to 28 degrees”.

 

It’s certainly impressive and what space discoveries are all about, it also makes you wonder what else will be found within the near future, perhaps there really is life on Mars, if not, the advancement within this area of tech will make it a possibility of deeper and more detailed space exploration.

NASA Wants to Install a Robot on an Asteroid and Push into Orbit around the Moon

NASA has unveiled its ambitious plan to collect a massive space rock, attach a robotic space craft, and move the rock into orbit around the Earth’s moon. The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), planned for some time during the 2020s, will allow astronauts to explore the surface of the rock and return with samples.

“NASA has identified multiple candidate asteroids and continues the search for one that could be redirected to near the moon in the 2020s,” the announcement on NASA’s website reads. “Since the announcement of the Asteroid Initiative in 2013, NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observation Program has catalogued more than 1,000 new near-Earth asteroids discovered by various search teams. Of those identified so far, four could be good candidates for ARM. Scientists anticipate many more will be discovered over the next few years, and NASA will study their velocity, orbit, size and spin before deciding on the target asteroid for the ARM mission.”

While the mission is intended as a primer for NASA’s proposed future voyages to Mars, one of the engineer who is working on ARM has drawn comparison with a celestial object from a galaxy far, far away. “It could provide the metals,” Brian Muirhead, Chief Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who is working on the ARM project, told Wired. “You have organic compounds, you have water—all the building blocks you would need to build your family Death Star.”

Elon Musk Fearful World War III Could Prevent His Mars Mission

Entrepreneur and budding supervillain Elon Musk, founder of electric car company Tesla and astronautics outfit SpaceX, fears that his audacious plan to force a habitable atmosphere on to Mars by nuking it into submission could be put at risk by the possibility of a Third World War. Speaking to GQ magazine, Musk said that his ambitions for colonising Mars  – a task he sees as a moral responsibility for the good of future mankind – might be hampered by more terrestrial concerns.

“I mean, I don’t think we can discount the possibility of a third World War,” Musk said. “You know, in 1912 they were proclaiming a new age of peace and prosperity, saying that it was a golden age, war was over. And then you had World War I followed by World War II followed by the Cold War. So I think we need to acknowledge that there’s certainly a possibility of a third World War, and if that does occur it could be far worse than anything that’s happened before.”

Musk’s view of colonising Mars is almost childlike; he sees it the same way as a computer, saying, “You back up your hard drive…. Maybe we should back up life, too?”

Elon Musk’s “Nuke Mars” Plan Aims to Create Artificial Suns

Last month, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, threatened to go full supervillain by revealing his Lex Luthor-esque plan to detonate a series of thermonuclear devices on the surface of Mars in an effort to, seemingly counterintuitively, make the planet habitable for human life. Musk has now elucidated on his idea, explaining that the nuclear detonations would effectively create artificial “suns” above the surface of each pole of the Red Planet, which he has previously described as “a fixer upper of a planet,” and one that he is determined to colonise.

“They’re really above the planet, they’re not on the planet,” Musk disclosed during an event for Solar City at Times Square in New York, adding, “A lot of people don’t appreciate that our Sun is a large fusion explosion.” A series of detonations would occur at regular intervals to maintain the heat and light of these man-made suns, the heat from which should melt any frozen CO2, creating a planetary atmosphere that would absorb and trap heat to support a habitable climate.

Musk was asked how difficult his audacious plan would implement. He responded, “Yeah, absolutely, no problem,” to much laughter from the event’s crowd.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information.

NASA Discovers Flowing Water on Mars

A decades-old investigation into the possibility of life on Mars – a question even David Bowie was asking during the Seventies – has had one of its most important pre-requisites finally fulfilled: NASA has found evidence of flowing water on Mars. Not ice, not vapour, but actual liquid water.

“There is liquid water today on the surface of Mars,” Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the NASA Mars exploration programme, said. “Because of this, we suspect that it is at least possible to have a habitable environment today.”

NASA’s findings, revealed in science journal Nature Geoscience, explain previously discovered streaks seen running down Martian slopes. The dark marks (above), first discovered in 2010, now appear to be salt deposits from evaporated water, quickly stripped away by the planet’s thin atmosphere. The water itself has not been observed, but its effects are now recognised.

While the source of this water is still unknown, NASA scientists presume that it emerges to the surface of the Red Planet from underground aquifers or ice deposits. “The mystery has been, what is permitting this flow? Presumably water, but until now, there has been no spectral signature,” Meyer added. “From this, we conclude that the RSL are generated by water interacting with percholorates, forming a brine that flows downhill.”

Thank you The Guardian for providing us with this information.

SpaceX Raises Over $7 Billion to Fund New Missions

Elon Musk’s astronautics startup SpaceX has announced that it has raised over $7 billion dollars in total after signing a series of new contracts to employ its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles for 60 new missions. It made the announcement at the World Satellite Business Conference in Paris, France on Monday.

“We are pleased to add these additional launches to our manifest,” Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operations Officer of SpaceX, said in a press release. “The diversity of our missions and customers represents a strong endorsement of our capabilities and reflects SpaceX’s efforts to provide a breadth of launch services to our growing customer base.”

SpaceX has long denied that it has reached a $10 billion valuation, but the funds from its new contracts and the fact that it raised another $1 billion from Google and Fidelity during a funding round back in January this year, it can’t be far off.

The new missions, which include the launch of a communications satellite for HISPASAT and a Saudi Arabian Arabsat 6A communications satellite, are due to launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station sometime between late-2017 and 2018.

In related news, NASA has revealed that it may use SpaceX to extract rock and mineral samples from Mars as part of its ‘Red Dragon’ project, which could launch as early as 2022.

Thank you TechCrunch for providing us with this information.

Elon Musk Wants to Nuke Mars

Billionaire philanthropist and CEO of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX Elon Musk is planning to graduate to the status of full supervillian with his audacious plan to nuke the planet Mars. Speaking to Stephen Colbert on the Late Show, Musk revealed that there are two ways to prepare Mars – “a fixer upper of a planet,” according to Musk – for human colonisation, the “slow way” and the “fast way”. The “fast way”, it seems, involves launching a thermonuclear attack on the Red Planet.

“The fast way is to drop thermonuclear weapons over the poles,” Musk said.

“You’re a supervillain!” Colbert retorted. “Superman doesn’t say, ‘let’s drop nuclear bombs.’ That’s Lex Luthor, man.”

Musk also spoke about the SpaceX Falcon rocket’s poor landing record, saying, “If we could reduce the landing velocity, we could get it to land, and stay upright, and not explode.” He even joked about the Tesla charging snake, quipping, “For the prototype at least, we recommend not dropping anything nearby when it’s in operation.”

Colbert, who considers Musk “an old friend” described his guest as “the real Tony Stark”, and closed the interview with, “Elon Musk is bringing you the future, right now.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vjt29f_6mk

Image courtesy of TopHD Gallery.

NASA Patches Curiosity Rover’s Chem Cam from 235 Million Miles Away

As if the people at NASA haven’t been doing enough awesome stuff lately they just did one insanely long distance software upgrade. The Curiosity rover just got the auto-focus of its “Chem Cam” improved with an update while it is wandering around Mars.

In case you forgot Mars is currently 2.53au (astronomical units) away, which translates into 235.1 million miles away. The scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory previously took nine pictures of each sample at a different focus in attempt to get one usable photo. All of those nine pictures of the soil and rocks would be transmitted back to NASA. Now after the update the rover actually still takes the same amount of photos, but now it will self-analyze those nine photos for the one with the best focus. This update that brings about a very useful new feature, as it only comes in at 40 kilobytes. Engadget points out that that is lighter than the last Android Gmail update.

It is great to see NASA continuing to amaze us with the Curiosity rover’s journey across the surface of Mars. The mission to find out if Mars can support life has been very interesting to watch, but they still have so much more work to do.

Thank you Engadget.com for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Planet Earth Could Get its Own Flag

A design project, in partnership with NASA, may have birthed a new flag to represent the planet Earth, one that pioneers may plant into the surface of Mars on a planned mission for mid-2030. The Earth flag was conceived by graphic designer Oskar Pernefeldt from Beckmans College of Design in Sweden, as part of his graduation project, called ‘The International Flag of Earth’. But this isn’t just any graduation project, as Pernefeldt had help from major companies such as LG and BSmart, while NASA were also involved.

Pernefeldt explained his design in an interview with Wired:

“Centred in the flag, seven rings form a flower – a symbol of the life on Earth. The rings are linked to each other, which represents how everything on our planet, directly or indirectly, [is] linked.

The blue field represents water which is essential for life – also as the oceans cover most of our planet’s surface. The flower’s outer rings form a circle which could be seen as a symbol of Earth as a planet and the blue surface could represent the Universe.”

It’s a sleek design, certainly, but it’s hardly this:


Image courtesy of DeviantArt.

Maybe we’ll have to wait until the United Federation of Planets is formed first.

Thank you Science Alert for providing us with this information.

Curiosity Rover Finds Nitrogen, Vital for Life, on Mars

Analysis of samples from the SAM instrument suite on NASA’s Curiosity rover – the vehicle currently trundling its way across the surface of Mars – has found nitrogen within Martian sediments. The nitrogen was found in the form of nitrous oxide and may have been released through heat-induced nitrate breakdown.

Nitrogen is key to all known forms of biological life since it is a major component of DNA and RNA, the genetic base code of life, and proteins, which regulate chemical reactions and cell growth.

Dr. Jennifer Stern, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, said, “Finding a biochemically accessible form of nitrogen is more support for the ancient Martian environment at Gale Crater being habitable.”

The samples analysed came from three different sites on the surface of Mars, meaning that nitrogen deposits were not confined to certain area. The sites were a deviation from the primary mission to explore a 3-mile mound named Mt. Sharp, and the detour was considered a risk, though one that has paid off.

“The rock samples were cooked in SAM’s oven and the resulting gases were analyzed. The researchers found a significant amount of nitric oxide, a compound that, before it was cooked, probably came from nitrates,” according to the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The nitrate levels found on Mars by the Curiosity rover’s SAM instruments were comparable to arid areas on Earth, such as the Atacama Desert in South America.

Source: Thenomad

Mars One Colonising Mission Down to its Final 100 Candidates

The candidates for the four seats on board the non-profit Mars colony mission, Mars One, are down to the final 100. The latest round of cuts on Tuesday reduced the pool from 660 candidates, a process which began with 200,000 applicants three years ago.

The Mars One mission aims to be the first manned mission to the Red Planet, sending four settlers hurtling through space on a one-way journey. The expedition aims to launch by 2025.

Once the first four colonists are established on Mars – living in hermetically sealed habitat pods, with greenhouses and rovers at their disposal – Mars One plans further missions, adding to the colonists’ numbers every few years.

The 100 finalists have been picked from all over the globe, with 39 from the American continents, 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, 7 from Africa, and 7 from Oceania. The selection was narrowed following interviews with Mars One’s Chief Medical Officer Norbert Craft, who assessed candidates for team spirit, motivation, and risk management.

Mars One founder Bas Lansdorp says that he wants to pick the final four through a televised reality competition, with advertising generated from the show going towards the cost of the mission.

Source: Mashable

Lost UK Beagle 2 Probe Found on Mars

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found the lost Beagle 2 probe – developed in the UK and launched on 2nd June 2003 – intact on the surface of Mars.

Beagle 2 was set to make a soft touchdown on Mars on Christmas Day 2003, by a combination of parachutes and airbags, but no radio contact was ever made with the probe. It was believed destroyed in a high-velocity impact.

High-resolution images from the NASA’s Orbiter show that not to be the case. From the pictures, it seems as though Beagle 2’s solar panel ‘petals’ failed to deploy, leaving the lander without enough power to transmit back to the European Space Agency.

Prof Mark Sims, Beagle’s mission manager from Leicester University, explained, “Without full deployment, there is no way we could have communicated with it as the radio frequency antenna was under the solar panels.”

He continued, “The failure cause is pure speculation, but it could have been, and probably was, down to sheer bad luck – a heavy bounce perhaps distorting the structure as clearances on solar panel deployment weren’t big; or a punctured and slowly leaking airbag not separating sufficiently from the lander, causing a hang-up in deployment.”

Sadly, Colin Pillinger, the principal investigator of the Beagle 2 project, died last year, before he could discover that his probe survived.

Source: BBC

Elon Musk Is Hiring a Farmer

Elon Musk’s space project – SpaceX, is after a farmer. The announcement came via a job posting this week.

Now hold your horses, just like many of us, you may well have become intrigued by the possibility that Musk and Co. were investigating the possibility of farming on Mars. It turns out that this is probably not the case.

The posting itself is quite earth-related –

  • Perform practical farm activities, e.g. driving tractors, operating machinery, spraying fields, etc.

  • Procure equipment and supplies, e.g. tractors, implements, fertilizer and seed

  • Perform or arrange for the maintenance and repair of machinery and equipment

  • Maintain, monitor, and perform actions as necessary to increase the quality of crop yield

Agriculture.com (via The Verge) says that the posting is probably to do with SpaceX’s finances rather than Martian exploration. They suggest that it’s all down to the tax exemptions that can be brought by declaring land as farm land, as well as the purchase of farming equipment.

Anyway, if you are a farmer in McGregor, Texas and you’re interested in space, this job could be a nice fit.

Source: The Verge

NASA Building Largest Rocket of All Time, Will Launch in 2018

NASA are cooking up something big, very big! The simple-named Space Launch System, a 384 feet tall rocket, the biggest ever created. To put this into perspective the Saturn V was just 363 feet and that one took us to the moon. The new rocket will also offer up 20% more thrust using liquid hydrogen and oxygen as fuel.

SLS development is progressing nicely and NASA announced last week that the rocket would make an unmanned test launch in 2018, with a future target of taking humans into orbit around an asteroid, then to mars by the 2030’s, beyond that NASA have aims for Saturn and Jupiter.

Since the retirement of the shuttles NASA has been reliant on booking flights with other nations, should they be able to get this rocket complete on time it will mark a massive milestone for NASA, making them industry leaders for the next generation of space exploration. Now all I need to do is see if I can book a spectator seat for the day the light the engines on this beast!

[youtube width=”800″ height=”450″]http://youtu.be/tqt4hmsi4b0[/youtube]

Thank you TheVerge for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of TheVerge.

NASA’s Mars Rover to Be Reset and Wiped

NASA is preparing to reset and wipe the flash memory in their Mars rover Opportunity. Opportunity is the older of the two rovers cruising around on Mars’ surface and has done so since 2004. With it’s general age and the harsh environment it operates in, but also the older technology in use, it is starting to show more and more problems. NASA’s engineers had to reset the rover with increasing frequency and during August they had to do it over a dozen of times alone.

Now they’ve had enough, and the flash has to be wiped. The rover uses the same type of flash as we do here on earth. But 10 years ago the automatic garbage collection functions, like TRIM, weren’t well developed yet and a lot of the flash has burned out. NASA’s engineers expect this to be the root of the trouble they’re having.

NASA will make a backup of everything stored on the flash, remotely to earth, and then wipe it clean. Then all the worn out cells in the flash memory will be marked as defective so they don’t get used any more. When that is done, all the data back will be flashed back to the rover before it gets another reset and reboot. While this sounds like a pretty serious memory surgery to some, all the rovers critical software is stored outside of the flash and won’t be affected. And looking at the technical point of it, a pretty ordinary task.

Still, I can’t help to think of the increased pulse and heart rate I get every time I have to re-flash an expensive piece of hardware, so I can only imagine that some of the NASA engineers are exited and nervous about the impending wipe. It’s still a pretty normal task for system admins, if you take away the part where they are located about 125 million miles away from the rover.

Opportunity has already set the record for most distance driven off-earth, and it looks like NASA hasn’t given up on it yet. There is still a lot of clay and shadows to be discovered on Mars.

Thank you cnet for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of cnet.

NASA to Test Making Oxygen on Mars

NASA plans to make oxygen when they send a $1.9 billion rover to mars in 2020.

Space agency officials unveiled several instruments that they plan on sending to mars on Curiosity v2.0, the new mars rover. One of these instruments, called “Moxie” will be used to convert the Red Planet’s carbon dioxide atmosphere into oxygen. This can then be used by astronauts to breath and just as importantly make fuel for the return flight to Earth. Taking pre-made fuel to Mars would be too heavy and expensive so an alternative needs to be found, this is a big step towards this.

A scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is running the project has said that the device will make three-quarters of an ounce of oxygen an hour and will work like an engine but in reverse. If this device works, then a larger device 100 times bigger than Moxie will be launched two years before astronauts are expected to land on Mars, currently scheduled for 2030. The bigger device would be able to make enough oxygen for the return flight before they even left planet earth.

Curiosity v2.0 will be equipped with many other devices too, such as MASTCAM-Z, an upgraded version of the twin cameras that we have today. The improved versions will be able to zoom in on features enabling the rover to navigate easier and also take far better pictures.A separate camera dubbed “SuperCam” will be able to take close up images of rocks and also scan for any former life on the Red planet. We should see more updates from NASA soon with more detailed information on what the new rover will be able to do.

Thanks to NY Times for supplying us with this information.

Image courtesy of Haughton-Mars Project.

 

Longest off-Earth Driving Record Broken by NASA Opportunity Rover

NASA’s Opportunity has been on the surface of the Red Planet for a decade and has driven 25 miles. The previous record for the most miles driven off-Earth was held by the Soviet Union Lunokhod 2. The record was given to Opportunity on July 27 as it drove 157 feet to reach 25.01 miles on the odometer. Now for those who want to know the figures of speed and all that stuff, I’ve done it for you.

There are 365 days in a year, 365 x 10 is 3650.

There are 8765.81 hours in a year. 8761.81 x 10 is 87658.1

The rover has been on mars for a decade (roughly) and traveled 25 miles in this time.

The average speed in MPH is roughly, 0.0000000000000001mph. Pretty fast right!

If the rover continues of it’s current course it will reach a site scientists call marathon valley, this is a very important place as it’s where clay is believed to be exposed on the surface or the red planet.

Thanks to Tweaktown for supplying us with this information,

Image courtesy of Tweaktown.

Opportunity Sets New Record for Longest Distance Driven off-Earth

Opportunity first touched down on the red planet back in 2004, at which point its original mission plan only required it to drive for 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) within its first 90 days on Mars. Of course it’s not uncommon for many space missions to out last their original mission, and with plenty of juice in the batteries the Mars rover has been going strong for ten years now.

Opportunity recently clocked up 25.01 miles of driving on the Martian landscape, putting it firmly ahead of the previous record holder, the Soviet Lunokhod 2 rover which had covered 24.2 miles in its life time after landing on the moon in 1973. This is a huge achievement for a piece of hardware that was only intended to run a 90 day mission, it wasn’t even supposed to last more than one year!

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Manager John Callas said it is “not how many miles the rover has racked up, but how much exploration and discovery we have accomplished over that distance.”

How long the rover will continue its extended mission is unknown, but NASA are hoping it has what it takes to make it at least one more mile to a new investigation site, and we wish it the best of luck on its journey.

Thank you NASA for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of NASA.

Geologists Say that Earth-like Soils on Mars Could Lead to Microbial Life Discovery

Some geologists have analysed a few sample images captured by the ‘Curiosity’ rover from Mars and tell that there might be Earth-like soils on the red planet. The images show that there might be some ancient fossilized soils deep within an impact crater, which could eventually lead to the discovery of microbial life.

While Mars is filled with landscapes resembling catastrophic floods and rocks from impact craters, there might be signs of smooth soils and soften terrain, much like we have on Earth. Gregory Retallack from the University of Oregon has apparently analysed the mineral and chemical data from Curiosity, leading to the discovery of such soils we are used to stepping on for thousands of years.

The professors states that soils from Gale Crater, dating back to 3.7 billion years ago, appear to have cracked surfaces lined with sulfate and vesicular hollows, both features of soils found on desert terrains on Earth. In addition, the sulphate concentration are said to be comparable with Antarctic Dry Valleys and Chile’s Atacama Desert.

“The pictures were the first clue, but then all the data really nailed it,” Retallack says in a news release. “The new data show clear chemical weathering trends, and clay accumulation at the expense of the mineral olivine, as expected in soils on Earth […] Phosphorus depletion within the profiles is especially tantalizing, because it attributed to microbial activity on Earth.”

Th new soils discovered are said to offer more insight on habitable conditions previously found on Mars. Also, having them date back 3.7 billion years ago tends to put Mars’ water cycle at around the same time as the Earth started diversifying. Further studies are said to take place on geologically younger layers within craters in order to learn the planet’s life story.

Thank you IFLScience for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of IFLScience

UAE Wants The Arab Name Traveling to Mars in 2021

Space, so vast, so beautiful and so mysterious. It seems that everyone want’s to go to Mars at the moment and now the UAE (United Arab Emirates) wants to join in on that adventure too. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, I can’t say it either, is the UAE vice president and ruler of Dubai. He said in a statement that the space agency would be organizing the mission, developing the UAE’s aerospace sector, and “maximizing the contribution of space industries to the national economy.”

Maktoum also says that the UAE has already invested 20 billion dirham ($5.4 billion) in space technologies, most of this is in satellites though.

“The new probe to Mars represents our Arab and Muslim world entering to the era of space exploration,” says Al Maktoum; the UAE has called for a pan-Arab space agency since 2008. The UAE are hoping that they’ll be able to send their very first unmanned spaceship to Mars by 2021 if things go smoothly.

Check out this video below for a visual representation of how the UAE want’s their mission to happen.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bI8rsM6Qvpo[/youtube]

Thanks to The Verge for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of NPR.

Quadcopter Style Drone May Offer Better Safe Landings for Mars Rovers

Quadcopters and drones are proving to be one of the most popular bits of technology of the last decade, and a team at the ESA are discovering that they’re not only great fun here on Earth, but could also provide us with benefits on Mars. The ESA recently tested a new Mars quadcopter style dropship. The fully automated concept known as Skycrane was created in just eight months under the ESA StarTiger program.

The Skycrane hardware development was mostly derived from commercially available quad-copter components, something that will no doubt have sped up its development whilst keeping costs lower than building propitiatory hardware. The automated nature means that the “dropter” could detect and navigate hazardous terrain, search for a safe and flat landing zone and deploy its payload safely. This is achieved by using a range of vision based navigation systems via on board cameras and software, laser ranging equipment and barometers.

The prototype was tested at Airbus’s Trauen site in Germany where it successfully navigated the mock Martian Surface and deployed its dummy rover to the chosen target zone using its bridle.

Thank you Gizmag for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Gizmag.

Boeing Start Work on 200-foot NASA SLS Rocket

Moving further out in to space is still one of NASAs main goals, but to do so would require new and more up to date rocket technology. Fortunately, Boeing have just been given the green-light and a wad of cash to be begin work on the new Space Launch System (SLS). The new rocket has been designed for missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

The deal means that Boeing now have $2.8 billion to start building the core stage of the rocket and its avionics systems. The core stage is the largest part of the rocket, it will measure around 200ft tall and play house to huge cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel tanks for the engines.

NASA plan to set aside around $6.8 billion of its funds from fiscal years 2014 through to 2018 for this project, and it’s hoping the SLS will be ready for unmanned missions by 2017. The aim is that the new rocket will be able to carry human cargo to asteroids or Mars by 2021.

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Engadget.