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Sunday, May 7, 2006


Spirit Ready for Winter and Some Real Science

Three types of rocks scientist's hope to analyse during the Martian winter.
Three types of rocks scientist's hope to analyse during the Martian winter.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell
Since landing on January 3, 2004, Spirit has not had a chance to do something geologists have hoped: do an in-depth study of a single site on Mars. As the Martian winter is approaching, the sturdy little rover will be confined to a small area on the planet, where the team hopes that it will use the RAT and its digger to do an in-depth study of the area, Low Haven Ridge. The rover has had its batteries charge (by sitting on a slope maximizing its intake of sunlight) and should be ready to go through the winter.

Thanks to Shaun for submitting this.

(More info New Scientist)


- posted by Jim @ 10:58 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, May 9, 2006


Prototype Mars Space Suit Being Tested

Graduate student Fabio Sau tests out a experimental planetary space suit in the North Dakota Badlands.
Graduate student Fabio Sau tests out a experimental planetary space suit in the North Dakota Badlands.
Credit: CNN
Using a $100,000 NASA-sponsored "North Dakota Space Grant Consortium" budget, students at the University of North Dakota, North Dakota State, Dickinson State, the state College of Science, and Turtle Mountain Community College have designed a prototype suit to be used on Mars. Among the properties of the design are:
  • Low price compared to the $22 million space shuttle suit.
  • Transparent helmet, rigid upper body section, back pack with communications gear.
  • Wearer can traverse up a 45 degree slope with modified cold-weather hunting boots.
  • Gloves withstand cold and low pressure of Mars, yet have dexterity enough for tying a shoe.
  • 47 pound suit weighs only 16 pounds on Mars.
  • Inner pressure suit covered with a blue coverall instead of white, to stand out against red terrain and red dust.

Thanks to Tim for submitting this news.

(More info: CNN)


- posted by Jim @ 8:54 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Holes in rocks similar on Mars and Earth

A microscopic view into a thin slice of the Martian meteor Nakhla.
A microscopic view into a thin slice of the Martian meteor Nakhla.
Credit: Oregon State University
"Virtually all of the tunnel marks on Earth rocks that we have examined were the result of bacterial invasion," Martin Fisk, a professor of marine geology in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, said. "In every instance, we've been able to extract DNA from these Earth rocks, but we have not yet been able to do that with the Martian samples. "There are two possible explanations," he added. "One is that there is an abiotic way to create those tunnels in rock on Earth, and we just haven't found it yet. The second possibility is that the tunnels on Martian rocks are indeed biological in nature, but the conditions are such on Mars that the DNA was not preserved...It is commonly believed that water is a necessary ingredient for life, so if bacteria laid down the tunnels in the rock when the rock was wet, they may have died 600 million years ago. That may explain why we can't find DNA it is an organic compound that can break down."

The team has been studying the tunnels bacteria build for 15 years. Thay have found bacteria, and their tunnles, everywhere from regular rocks, to the ocean floor, to 4000 feet below Hawaii. This study was done on Nakhla, a metiorite of Martian origin which fell in Egypt in 1911.

(More info: Oregon State University)


- posted by Jim @ 11:56 EST

(permanent link)

Friday, May 26, 2006


Trashbag = Space ship cover?

Trash Bag
Trash Bag
Credit: Unknown
A new material, similar to trash bags, could help to protect astronauts on a mission to Mars. More effective at radiation shielding, less secondary radiation, and lighter than aluminum the material, dubbed RXF1 can be draped over the shell of the ship to protect it from radiation, and meteors. "Since it is a ballistic shield, it also deflects micrometeorites," says Raj Kaul, who had previously worked with similar materials in developing helicopter armor. "Since it's a fabric, it can be draped around molds and shaped into specific spacecraft components." As wonderful this material is, further research must be done to improve its melting point and flammability. Also, until we can have a reasonable model of how cosmic radiation causes cancer, we have no way of knowing if RXF1 is the right material for the job, but it is an encouraging start.

(More info: Science@NASA)


- posted by Jim @ 9:59 EST

(permanent link)

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