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Saturday, January 19, 2002


Mars Odyssey Going Smoothly

Mars Odyssey.
Mars Odyssey.
Credit: NASA
(CNN) - Mars Odyssey has finished the aerobraking stage of the mission. "Arriving in October after a seven-month trip, the craft used atmospheric drag to slow itself down and change course, a risky procedure that nonetheless saved a considerable amount of precious rocket fuel," said CNN's Richard Stenger. Odyessy should begin it's mission in Febuary, mapping surface composition, looking for water and measuring radiation levels. "Everything went as planned, and the spacecraft is in the place we expect it to be," said Mary Hardin, spokeswoman for JPL. Odyssey is the first probe to Mars since NASA lost 2 others in 1999.

(More info: CNN.com)


- posted by Jim @ 13:52 EST

(permanent link)


Mars-Like Microbes

Mars-like microbes.
Mars-like microbes.
Credit: Jim Brown/No State
(CNN) - Scientists plumbing the bubbling, black depths of a geothermal hot spring in Idaho have discovered a unique community of microbes that thrive without sunlight or oxygen. The organisms are similar to life as it might exist on Mars and other planets, the researchers suggested. The one-celled organisms, known as Archaea, grow by consuming hydrogen that is produced by hot water reacting with bedrock 600 feet (180 meters) below the Beaverhead Mountains. They produce tiny amounts of methane as a byproduct of their weird metabolism. Although types of Archaea have been found before, this community is unlike anything else on Earth. Details of the discovery appear in Thursday's issue of the Nature. Most life on Earth flourishes not only in the presence of water, but also relies on oxygen, sunlight and organic carbon. But conditions on the rest of the planets -- and perhaps beyond the solar system -- are far more hostile. Astrobiologists said these real-life microbes closely resemble what they imagine might be lurking beneath the dry, barren surface of Mars or the thick glaciers of Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.

(More info: CNN.com)


- posted by Alex @ 22:53 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, January 22, 2002


New Mars Rover

New Mars Rover.
New Mars Rover.
Credit: NASA/JPL
(CNN) - One of the biggest obsticales facing a rover designer today is rugged terrain. New rovers being designed at JPL will be able to handle cliffs up to 50 degrees. A "cliff"-bot currently being designed is really three bots in one, two "anchor" bots and the main rover. This design will be able to handle cliffs up to 75 degrees. These rovers can also rearrange their parts to make them more balanced on rough terrain.

(More info: CNN.com)


- posted by Jim @ 16:55 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, January 24, 2002


Planet Findings

(MSNBC) Using huge telescopes like the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, along with new techniques, researchers are examining disks of material around very young stars, hunting for infant planets that would prove other solar systems like ours are possible -- other places that could harbor life when they mature. "We’re just now really starting to be able to trace the birth of planets, and to do it in detail," says Ray Jayawardhana of the University of California at Berkeley. While dust thwarts optical astronomy, it can be revealing when studied in infrared and radio wavelengths. Jayawardhana and other scientists are racing each other to exploit this fact. The prize: claim to the first picture of a planet around another star. It could come within two years, Jayawardhana says. Other dust-fed findings should soon reveal secrets of solar system formation, likely demonstrating a range of ways and ends that will render our nine-planet system common.

(More info: MSNBC.com)


- posted by Alex @ 17:56 EST

(permanent link)


Mars Rocks

Mars rock.
Mars rock.
Credit: Bruno Feotay & Carine Bidaut
(CNN) - Exploring the coldest and hottest places on Earth, space rock hunters have found five new meteorites from Mars, bringing the number of known stones from the red planet to 24. Planet scientists express keen interest in rare martian meteorites, some of which have offered tantalizing clues about whether the planet once possessed oceans or life. The recent cache actually includes six specimens, but two are presumed to be chunks from the same meteorite. One of the pair weighs in at 30 pounds (13.7 kg), the second-largest Mars meteorite fragment ever recovered, NASA scientists said this week. Separate expeditions discovered the rocks in Antarctica and the deserts of Oman and the Sahara, mostly between 2000 and 2001. With little or no dirt, grass or tree cover, deserts and the Antarctic are preferred hunting grounds for space rock collectors.

(More info: CNN.com)


- posted by Alex @ 20:57 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, January 28, 2002


NASA Survey

(MSNBC) - The SSE Survey, as it is called, will give NASA a roadmap for spending on everything from Mercury to Pluto -- and all the planets and rocks between and beyond -- through 2013. It will be the most comprehensive set of recommendations governing solar system exploration ever provided to NASA by an outside agency, experts say. The final report will include data and opinions provided by individuals and various groups of scientists, each with their own objectives and desires. One tiny piece of the final report is a survey of public opinion. For that, the National Research Council turned to the nonprofit Planetary Society, which last Thursday launched an online campaign to solicit views from the man and woman on the street. The online survey asks participants to rate the importance, on a scale of 1-10, of eight objectives, including:

Looking for life on other planets. Determining the suitability of other planets for human colonization. Searching for any potential danger to Earth from space.

Another question asks which of 15 destinations, from planets to asteroids and comets, is the most important to pursue.

(More info: MSNBC.com)


- posted by Alex @ 19:59 EST

(permanent link)

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