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NASA Just Announced More Strange Results From Its Ambitious ‘Twin Study’

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Long-duration spaceflight does weird things to the human body, even at the molecular level, but so far there’s no reason to think humans couldn’t survive a two-and-a-half-year round-trip journey to Mars.


That was the bottom-line message Friday from a NASA official and two scientists as they revealed more results from the agency’s “Twins Study,” which examined physiological changes in astronaut Scott Kelly during his nearly year-long sojourn in space while his twin brother, Mark Kelly, stayed on Earth.

The full report has not yet been published, but reporters got a summary at a news conference at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Washington.

Among the highlights: Scott Kelly’s bloodwork showed that his immune system quickly ramped up when he went into space, as if, at the cellular level, his body felt under attack.

“It’s almost as if the body’s on high alert,” said Christopher Mason, associate professor of computational genomics at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Some of the physiological effects of microgravity have long been known, such as impaired vision, bone loss, muscle loss and disruption to the wake-sleep cycle. The new research shows changes at the cellular level, including changes in gene expression.

“It’s mostly really good news,” Mason said. “The body has extraordinary plasticity and adaptation to being in zero gravity, at least for a year.”


That was echoed by Craig Kundrot, director of NASA’s space life and physical sciences division. He said so far the NASA research has found nothing that would make a Mars mission impossible. The biggest concern is radiation: Such a mission would expose astronauts to levels of radiation greater than permitted under current guidelines. That wouldn’t necessarily prevent a mission, but it remains a concern.

He cautioned that the twins study has a very small study sample: two people.

“We don’t regard any of this as conclusive, but on the whole it’s encouraging,” he said. “There are no new major warning signs.”

NASA under President Trump has renewed its vow to put human beings on the moon again, and on Thursday produced a provisional plan that envisioned astronauts on the lunar surface in 2028 as part of an international effort that would include commercial partners.

The agency says that, unlike the Apollo program, the new moon program would be sustained and not merely a “flags and footprints” mission.

Any human mission beyond low Earth orbit presents a suite of health risks for astronauts because of the radiation in deep space. The technological challenges associated with a human mission to Mars are obvious, but the physiological challenges are potentially just as significant.


Kundrot said Friday that NASA envisions a Mars mission that would require a six-month flight each way plus 18 months on the Martian surface.

Such a mission might involve four to six astronauts, likely an international team. The psychological stresses of such a mission would be considerable.

“It’s the ICE conditions — isolated, confined, extreme,” said Steve Kozlowski, a professor of organizational psychology at Michigan State University who will make a presentation at the AAAS convention on Sunday. Kozlowski has been researching technologies that could help astronauts monitor the quality of team dynamics.

“You’re going to be in a little tiny space, you’re not going to have virtually any privacy,” he said. The time delay in communication across millions of miles of space will make conversations with people back home essentially impossible, he said.

“Your social world is going to be you and this small group of people for a really, really long time.”

2019 © The Washington Post

This article was originally published by The Washington Post.


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We Just Got Evidence That Mars Could Have Volcanic Activity

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A new study shows that Mars may very well be volcanically active. Nobody’s seen direct evidence of volcanism; no eruptions or magma or anything like that. Rather, the proof is in the water.


In the past, Mars was a much warmer and wetter place. Now, Mars is still home to lots of water, mostly as vapor and ice. But in August 2018, a study published in Science showed a 20-km-wide (12-mile-wide) lake of liquid water underneath solid ice at the Martian South Pole.

The authors of that study suggested that the water was probably kept in liquid state by the pressure from above, and by dissolved salt content.

But this new research shows that pressure and salt couldn’t have prevented that water from freezing. Only volcanic activity could have kept it warm enough.

Specifically, a magma chamber formed in the last few hundred years is the only way that that water could’ve been prevented from freezing.

The 2018 study focused on an area at Mars’ south pole called the Planum Australe, or Southern Polar Plain. Radar data from the ESA’s Mars Express orbiter. It showed a 20 km wide lake of liquid water at what they call the south pole layered deposits (SPLDs).

But that study just presented the sub-surface radar data showing the liquid water and suggested that pressure and salt kept the lake from freezing. The authors didn’t quantify the conditions required to sustain that liquid water.


The new study, published in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters, pours water on the salt and pressure idea. The authors go further, and state that without a magma chamber under the south pole, there is likely no water there at all.

“Different people may go different ways with this, and we’re really interested to see how the community reacts to it,” said Michael Sori, an associate staff scientist in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona and a co-lead author of the new paper.

The debate around water on Mars has been ongoing for a long time. We’ve confirmed the presence of water, but now the debate is around how much, where, and in what form. And it’s not all about whether or not we could somehow use the water on missions to Mars.

It’s more about understanding how planets form and evolve. It’s also about how life might survive on other worlds.

“We think that if there is any life, it likely has to be protected in the subsurface from the radiation,” said Ali Bramson, a postdoctoral research associate at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona and a co-lead author of the new paper.


“If there are still magmatic processes active today, maybe they were more common in the recent past, and could supply more widespread basal melting. This could provide a more favorable environment for liquid water and thus, perhaps, life.”

Mars and Earth both have giant polar ice sheets. On Earth, it’s common for liquid water to persist under ice sheets. Earth is volcanically active, and that heat prevents the sub-surface water from freezing.

The 2018 paper drew a parallel between Terrestrial ice sheets and Martian ice sheets, and the liquid water under them, but didn’t answer the question of how the water got there.

“We thought there was a lot of room to figure out if [the liquid water] is real, what sort of environment would you need to melt the ice in the first place, what sort of temperatures would you need, what sort of geological process would you need? Because under normal conditions, it should be too cold,” Sori said.

To begin with, Bramson, Sori, and the other authors of the new study assumed that the detection of liquid water under the south pole was correct. Then they figured out what parameters would be necessary to create that water.


They modelled the necessary salt content and the necessary heat flow from the planet to create all that water. They found that salt alone wouldn’t be sufficient.

They proposed that additional heat would have to be coming from the planet’s interior, and the only obvious source of heat would be a magma chamber. (Incidentally, the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe on the InSight lander should help answer this question.)

Mars was clearly volcanic in the past. Olympus Mons, a shield volcano on Mars, is the largest volcano in the Solar System, dwarfing anything on Earth. In fact, Mars is home to many volcanoes.

There’s also Tharsis Montes, a group of three other shield volcanoes near Olympus Mons.

In the paper, the authors argue that about 300,000 years ago, magma from Mars’ interior rose to the surface. Rather than break through surface, forming another volcano, it was trapped in a magma chamber under the south pole.

The magma chamber would’ve cooled, releasing enough heat to melt the underside of the polar ice sheet. It would still be there today, slowly releasing heat and preventing the sub-surface lake from freezing.

300,000 years ago isn’t that long in geological terms. The authors say that if there was volcanic activity as recently as 300,000 years ago, it could still be happening today.

“This would imply that there is still active magma chamber formation going on in the interior of Mars today and it is not just a cold, sort of dead place, internally,” Bramson said.

This new paper definitely places some constraints on the findings in the 2018 paper. The authors don’t take a position on whether or not the findings in the 2018 paper are true or not.

They just looked at what physical parameters would be required for the water to be there, under the polar ice sheet. In doing so, it adds to the debate, and will likely lead to further study.

Hopefully, the InSight lander’s heat probe will help us understand the whole issue more clearly.

“I think it was a great idea to do this type of modeling and analysis because you have to explain the water, if it’s there, and so it’s really a critical piece of the puzzle,” said Jack Holt, a professor at the at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, who was not involved in the new research.

“The original paper just left it hanging. There could be water there, but you have to explain it, and these guys did a really nice job of saying what is required and that salt is not sufficient.”

This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.


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NASA Finally Lets Go of Its Opportunity Rover After 15 Years on Mars

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Rolling up to the crater’s edge, the Opportunity rover took in a landscape unlike anything any Earthling had ever seen. A vast, meteorite-blasted expanse of volcanic rock and iron oxide extended for 15 miles, ringed by rugged mountains under a dusky orange sky.


In months to come, the enterprising robot would uncover signs that warm, liquid water had altered these ancient rocks — evidence that the conditions for life once existed on Mars.

“That view was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen,” recalled Ashley Stroupe, the engineer who was driving the spacecraft the day it arrived at Endeavour Crater on Mars in August 2011.

And although she was sitting a hundred million miles away, in Mission Control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in that moment Stroupe felt like the astronaut she’d grown up always wanting to be.

Opportunity had allowed her, and her fellow scientists, and her fellow humans, to experience another world.

Opportunity’s historic mission, which uncovered signs of Mars’s watery past and transformed our understanding of the Red Planet, has finally come to an end after 15 years, NASA declared Wednesday.

The cause was system failure precipitated by power loss during a catastrophic, planetwide dust storm that engulfed the Mars rover last summer.

“It’s going to be very sad to say goodbye,” said John Callas, the mission’s project manager. “But at the same time, we’ve got to remember this has been 15 years of incredible adventure.”


Opportunity’s mission was planned to last just 90 days, but it worked for 5,000 Martian “sols” (which are about 39 minutes longer than an Earth day) and traversed more than 28 treacherous miles — two records for NASA.

“It will be a very long time,” Callas predicted, “before any other mission exceeds that duration or distance on the surface of another world.”

‘It’s a miracle they got to the launchpad’

Before 2000, when NASA announced its ambitious plan for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission, just three spacecraft had ever successfully operated on the Red Planet.

Of these, only one — the tiny Sojourner rover that accompanied the 1997 Pathfinder mission — moved around on the surface. It never traveled more than 100 meters and lasted less than thee months.

The images these travelers sent back were alien and bleak. Though scientists had speculated about the possibility of finding life on the Red Planet, initial investigations revealed a world with no liquid water, hardly any atmosphere and a lethal daily dose of radiation.

At that point, roughly two-thirds of all missions destined for Mars had failed, often in expensive and embarrassing ways. In 1999 alone, a unit conversion mix-up and a missing line of computer code doomed an orbiter and two landers, costing NASA a combined $200 million.


The agency’s chief scientist, Ed Weiler, called the failures “a wake-up call.” For years, NASA had pursued a “better, faster, cheaper” exploration strategy, attempting to use a shrinking budget to send several small missions into space.

But now critics began to question the merits of the Mars program altogether. What could this desolate planet possibly teach us that would be worth the expense?


NASA would take an $800 million risk to find out.

Shortly after the crashes, Cornell University planetary scientist Steve Squyres got an unexpected phone call. He’d been trying to persuade NASA to send a sophisticated robotic geologist to Mars for more than a decade.

Now the agency wanted to know — could he have his idea ready to launch by 2003?

“We only had 34 months between when NASA said, ‘Okay. Ready, set, go!’ and when we had to be on top of the rockets in Florida,” Squyres said.

“People say to me, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s a miracle the rover lasted so long on Mars,’ and I want to go, ‘It’s a miracle they got to the launchpad.'”

The new plan was to place a package of scientific instruments developed by Squyres and his colleagues atop two rovers called Spirit and Opportunity. The task of building these mobile robotic geologists turned out to be herculean.

Dimensions changed, parachute tests failed, launches were delayed by bad weather and battery glitches.

Squyres recalled a sticky summer evening in 2003, after the scrubbing of yet another launch, when he took a walk on the beach near Cape Canaveral to clear his head.

To the East, he watched Mars — just a little red dot — rise over the glittering black Atlantic. It was hard to imagine how the rovers would ever get there, Squyres said. Mars seemed so forbidding, so alien, so impossibly far away.


‘We’re on Mars, everybody!’

Opportunity launched into space aboard a Delta II rocket on July 7, 2003, three weeks after its sibling, Spirit, took off. The cruise was uneventful, and seven months later, on Jan. 25, 2004, Opportunity prepared to touch down in Mars’s Meridiani Planum, a low-lying cratered expanse in Mars’s southern hemisphere.

“I was in the control room” at JPL, Squyres recalled. He laughed, “Which, interestingly, is a place where we have no control whatsoever.”

Because it took about 11 minutes for light signals to travel the roughly 100 million miles from Mars to Earth, a spacecraft’s “EDL” (entry, descent and landing) is over before scientists learn of it.

The logistics of the MER rover landings were formidable, bordering on absurd. Within six minutes of entering Mars’s thin carbon dioxide atmosphere, the spacecraft had to slow from 12,000 mph to just about 0.

Right before impact, a cocoon of air bags inflated around the spacecraft, allowing it to bounce safely onto the surface of the Red Planet.

For a moment, the spacecraft’s radio link was lost as it shuddered to a standstill. And then a signal appeared on the computer screen in front of EDL manager Rob Manning. He flung out his arm and leaned back in his chair.

“We’re on Mars, everybody!”

Planetary scientist Abigail Fraeman, then 16, had been invited out to JPL as part of a Planetary Society program for high school students. She can still summon every detail of that night.

The tones that rang out as each system was found healthy. The images that Opportunity sent down from its landing site of a smooth dark plain so vivid and sharp she almost felt she could reach out and touch it.

The surge of elation that swept through the science team as researchers realized what they’d landed on: layers of exposed bedrock that would reveal clues about Mars’s geologic history stretching back billions of years.

“I realized I wanted to be one of those people who could jump up and down,” Fraeman said. “I wanted to be someone who could understand the significance of what those images were telling us.”

Fraeman wound up going to college for physics and geology, then earning her PhD in planetary geoscience. Since 2016, she has served as the deputy project scientist for the Opportunity mission.


15 years of exploration

Opportunity’s first great achievement came within two months of its arrival on the Red Planet. The layered outcrop on which the rover had landed — the one that made the scientists surrounding Fraeman jump for joy — contained evidence that water once flowed through the rocks: crystals, sulfur compounds, little spherical objects that scientists likened to blueberries, and rock patterns that looked like sediments laid down by a flowing current.

This evidence constituted a “giant leap” toward determining whether Mars ever hosted life, Weiler told The Post.

That discovery was bolstered by scores more like it. Opportunity went on to find hematite, an iron mineral usually associated with water, and a vein of gypsum, which probably formed from mineral-rich water moving through rock.

“It really changed the way scientists perceive Mars,” said Squyres, who has been principal investigator for the instruments aboard Spirit and Opportunity since the beginning of their mission.

“It is a cold and desolate world today, but in the distant past, in the time that the rocks explored by Spirit and Opportunity were formed, it was a very different world. It was a world that was more Earthlike, a time when life was emerging on Earth.”

“So it makes you seriously consider,” he continued, “if it happened on Earth, which it did, could it have happened under the warmer, wetter conditions that once existed on Mars?”

Opportunity, he said, “couldn’t answer that question. But we helped frame it.”

Those discoveries helped build the case for subsequent missions to Mars, including the Curiosity rover, which landed in 2012 and is still exploring the Red Planet, and a 2020 mission that will collect rock samples for eventual return to Earth.

Opportunity’s scientific accomplishments were only possible because it had been such an engineering success, said NASA’s acting director of planetary science Lori Glaze. The rover was adaptable, tenacious and diligent, and its drivers never failed to get it to its targets.

“Being able to really roll right up to an outcrop and examine it, to look up close with your hand lens, do the chemistry measurements … it allows you to really feel like you’re there,” she said.

“That absolutely changed the way we go about doing planetary exploration.”

The MER mission’s cultural legacy is just as wide-reaching. The intrepid rovers, with their humanlike proportions and endearing, Wall-E-esque antics, proved phenomenal ambassadors for the Mars program.

Middle school science classes tracked the rovers’ progress across the Martian landscape. A Twitter account shared selfies and snarky comments in the spacecraft’s voice.

When Opportunity went silent last summer, more than 10,000 fans sent the spacecraft digital “postcards” wishing it well.

“Wake up little buddy!” one read. “We miss you!”

Even the scientists who operated the spacecraft couldn’t help but anthropomorphize them. Stroupe, the JPL engineer, jokes that Spirit and Opportunity had “the dynamic of being rival siblings.”

Spirit, which landed on Mars first, faced much tougher terrain and suffered several breakdowns, culminating in the rover’s eventual loss of contact in 2010.

As the “younger child,” Stroupe said, “everything kind of came easy to Oppy.” The engineer laughed. “I mean, she found signs of water before we even drove off the lander!”

The charmed rover barely escaped becoming trapped in a sand dune in 2005, survived a global dust storm in 2007, and undertook the longest-ever traverse performed by a rover — the three-year journey from its landing site at Victoria Crater to Endeavour Crater, 13 miles away.

“It’s been a privilege,” Stroupe said, “to see Mars through Opportunity’s eyes.”

She calls Spirit and Opportunity “the first Martians” — the first things to live and work longer on another planet than they ever did on Earth.

And as a systems and operations engineer for NASA’s Mars missions, responsible for driving robots across unforgiving alien terrain, “I do feel a bit like I have naturalized dual citizenship,” Stroupe added.

A sticker in her office declares, “My other vehicle is on Mars.” She uses an app on her phone to track the 24-hour, 39-minute Martian day. When she closes her eyes to sleep, rusty landscapes and dust-filled skies are the background to her dreams.


Learning to let go

In May 2018, scientists at JPL received a worrying weather report from NASA’s Martian satellites: A large dust storm was brewing just a few hundred miles away from Opportunity, blocking out the solar-powered rover’s view of the sun.

The spacecraft had survived such storms before. But at more than 14 years old, it was no longer as hardy as it had once been. A fault in one of Opportunity’s memory banks resulted in loss of all long-term memory.

Problems with the rover’s wheels and robotic arm looked like spacecraft arthritis. If Opportunity experienced another prolonged power loss, it might not recover so easily.

By June, the dust storm had grown into a planet-encircling event, one of the most ferocious NASA had ever seen. It looked likely that Opportunity would experience a low-power fault, putting itself to sleep until the skies cleared. Efforts to make contact with the spacecraft went unanswered.

When the storm finally began to subside, in September, NASA adopted a “sweep and beep” strategy for waking the rover, sending commands multiple times per day.

Except for a few false alarms from other spacecraft — NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter transmits on a similar frequency — scientists heard nothing back.

Still, the team held out hope. If the storm had deposited dust on Opportunity’s solar panels, the coming windy season — which runs from November to January — might help sweep them clean.

“The hardest part was the not knowing,” Stroupe said. “It takes a real toll.”

The robot’s 15th birthday, on Jan. 24, passed without so much as a ping from the Red Planet.

After sending more than 835 recovery commands to the spacecraft, including a last-ditch program that would completely reboot Opportunity’s clock, hope began to dwindle. Every day that passed, Callas said, it became less likely that NASA would ever get a response to its frantic calls.

The very last signal was sent from JPL on Tuesday night. It was met with only silence.

“We’ve reached the end of the road,” said NASA’s associate administrator for science, Thomas Zurbuchen.

“We’ve exhausted all the good ideas [for waking the rover] … and now we declare the mission as being complete.”

A meeting with the mission’s scientists and engineers this week felt almost like a funeral, Zurbuchen said. Researchers cried not just for the death of their rover, but for the disintegration of a 15-year-old team.

Still, Squyres was resolute as the mission drew to a close.

“I always knew it was going to end,” he said. “And boy, if this is the end … getting killed by one of the most ferocious storms we have ever seen. Well, you can walk away from that with your head held high.”

The rover is survived at Mars by Curiosity, the InSight lander and six orbiting spacecraft. NASA’s next rover mission, which will seek out signs of ancient life, will launch in 2020.

As for Opportunity, its metal shell will remain in the spot where it sent its last message, on the rim of Endeavour Crater. “It’s always going to be there,” Zurbuchen said, “like a monument, or a shipwreck.”

It is a marker of where humanity has been. And a beacon for whatever comes next.

2019 © The Washington Post

This article was originally published by The Washington Post.


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Remember Mars One? Yeah, So, It’s Gone Bankrupt

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Remember Mars One, the startup that said it was going to fund a crewed mission to Mars by turning the journey into a reality television spectacle? Now the company is bankrupt, according to financial documents published online.


Engadget confirmed the bankruptcy with Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp, who told the publication that he was working “to find a solution” to the company’s financial woes – but things don’t sound hopeful for the would-be Mars colonist startup.

The news was first unveiled on Reddit, where a user posted a link to Swiss financial documents suggesting that the company was set to be liquidated.

To be technical, Mars One comprised two arms – the for-profit Mars One Ventures and the non-profit Mars One Foundation – and it’s the for-profit part that’s out of cash, according to the documents.

But Lansdorp told Engadget that the non-profit portion of the project wasn’t able to act without further funding.

Back in 2012, Lansdorp and his associates announced a ludicrously ambitious plan to send colonists to the Red Planet – and to fund the project with a reality TV show about the selection process and on-Earth test colony, with the help of Big Brother producer Paul Römer.

Though the dream might be dead, it lives on at press time in the form of optimistic copy on the project’s website.

“Mars One aims to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars,” it reads.

“Several unmanned missions will be completed, establishing a habitable settlement before carefully selected and trained crews will depart to Mars.

“Funding and implementing this plan will not be easy, it will be hard.”

This article was originally published by Futurism. Read the original article.


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Here’s How Extreme Cold Can Create Freaky Thundersnow And ‘Smoking’ Oceans

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Excessive chilly climate can produce uncommon phenomena, from so-called sea smoke to slushy ocean waves. As atmospheric scientist Scott Denning explains, these hanging occasions are brought on primarily by the conduct of water at very chilly temperatures.


Why do lake and ocean waters seem to steam throughout chilly snaps?

There are three phases, or states, of water: stable ice, liquid water and gaseous water vapor. Even in extraordinarily chilly climate, liquid water cannot be colder than the freezing level – about 32 levels Fahrenheit (zero levels Celsius) – so the floor of the ocean is far hotter than the air above it.

Lots of water evaporates from the hotter ocean into the colder dry air above.

As quickly as this invisible fuel rises even just a bit bit above the comparatively heat water, it hits air that’s a lot colder and may’t maintain a lot vapor, so the vapor condenses into microscopic droplets of liquid water within the air.

Some folks name the wispy clouds brought on by condensation simply above the winter ocean or lakes “sea smoke”.

That is a greater time period than steam. Actual steam may be very scorching water vapor – that’s, water in its fuel section, which is invisible.

Climate watchers appear to get very enthusiastic about thundersnow. What’s it and why is it uncommon?

Thunder is a sonic increase created when a lightning bolt causes the air to broaden quicker than the pace of sound. Lightning is fashioned by sparks of static electrical energy between the clouds and floor.

The friction that kinds this static is normally brought on by quickly rising “thermals” of buoyant air on scorching summer season days, which is why thunderstorms are widespread in summer season.


Air cannot rise from the chilly winter floor as a result of chilly air is dense, so thunder in winter is fairly uncommon.

Thundersnow occurs when actually chilly air blows in from up north. This chilly air is denser than the air on the floor, so it actually falls down, pushing floor air up excessive of it.

This could create precisely the identical sort of static cost as a summer season thunderstorm, and BOOM – thundersnow! This solely occurs with a extremely dramatic change in temperature, such because the method of an Arctic chilly entrance.

How widespread is it for the oceans to freeze outdoors of the polar areas?

Saltwater has a decrease freezing level than recent water, which is why we put salt on our streets and sidewalks to soften ice in winter. Seawater is salty sufficient that it has to get actually chilly to freeze – round 28 F (-2 C).

It is fairly uncommon for seawater to freeze within the continental United States, although it occurs on a regular basis within the Arctic winter.

When seawater freezes, most of its salt is pushed down into the ocean water beneath it. For this reason folks within the Arctic can soften sea ice for consuming water.


As little bits of freshwater ice kind on the ocean’s floor, the remaining water will get saltier and saltier, so it will get more durable and more durable for it to freeze.

However generally when it has been extraordinarily chilly, little ice floes kind on the floor of the ocean. Waves break them up, in order that the floor can turn into like a wavy slurpee.

For anybody prepared to courageous the chilly, it is wild to face by the shore and watch the smoking slushy sea with its slow-motion surf. On the poles, it is so chilly that floating ice crystals ultimately converge and solidify into sea ice.

Scientists have discovered that Mars has snowfalls too. How are they completely different from snow on Earth?

The environment on Mars is almost pure carbon dioxide, which we all know as the principle greenhouse fuel that is driving local weather change right here on Earth. However Mars’ environment is far thinner than ours, so it does not lure a lot warmth.

On a pleasant Martian summer season day, temperatures can attain 70 F (21 C) after which fall to minus 100 F (-73 C) the identical evening.


Winters are even colder there. It will get so chilly in polar winters on Mars that the air itself freezes, making tiny carbon dioxide snowflakes the scale of purple blood cells, which pile deep sufficient to make polar caps of dry ice.

In the course of the lengthy polar evening, round one-third of Mars’ total environment falls as snow. This makes a partial vacuum, sucking the winds from the planet’s summer season hemisphere to its winter hemisphere to make up the distinction.

In spring, these planet-scale winds reverse route because the dry ice turns again to fuel and begins to fall out on the opposite finish of Mars.

Additional out within the photo voltaic system, the “ice giant” planets and lots of of their moons have large quantities of water and carbon dioxide ice – a lot bigger portions than all of our oceans.

However on Earth, dry ice cannot kind above minus 110 F (-78 C). So there’ll by no means be carbon dioxide snow on our planet – simply frozen water in all of its many kinds. The Conversation

A mesa of frozen carbon dioxide at Mars' south pole.  (NASA)A mesa of frozen carbon dioxide at Mars’ south pole. (NASA)

Scott Denning, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University.

This text is republished from The Conversation below a Inventive Commons license. Learn the original article.


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After 6.5 Years on Mars, Scientists Have Discovered a New Way to Use Curiosity

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Curiosity has been puttering away on the market on Mars since August 2012, however she nonetheless has a couple of surprises tucked inside her weathered chassis.

Scientists have simply discovered the right way to use the rover’s devices to measure the gravity of the bottom it has been rolling throughout.


In flip, this has allowed scientists for the primary time to make an correct measurement of the density of the rock beneath Curiosity’s wheels, together with the rock’s weight per cubic metre.

“Curiosity, primarily, has a brand new science instrument six and a half years into its mission,” said geophysicist Kevin Lewis of Johns Hopkins College’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Division.

“This enables us to get new details about the subsurface of Mars in methods the rover was by no means designed to do.”

These are the primary floor gravity measurements on one other planet, however they are not the primary away from Earth. In 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts used an instrument referred to as a gravimeter to take floor gravity measurements on the Moon.

Curiosity wasn’t geared up with a gravimeter; however the rover does have delicate accelerometers as a part of her navigational methods. And, because it seems, gravimeters – which base their measurements on gravitational acceleration – are a sort of accelerometer.

So, because the workforce realised, it was merely a matter of re-purposing these accelerometers to measure gravitational acceleration. Because it turned out, Curiosity had already taken lots of of measurements whereas stationary, from which the workforce might calculate gravitational acceleration might.


Taking measurements from 700 factors alongside the rover’s monitor because it travelled throughout the Gale Crater and up the decrease slopes of Mount Sharp, the workforce extracted the acceleration resulting from planetary rotation, and corrected for elements comparable to tilt, elevation and temperature.

Gravitational acceleration remained, permitting for measurements of floor gravity. In flip, this let the workforce calculate the density of the rock.

“What we had been in a position to do is measure the majority density of the fabric in Gale Crater,” said geologist Travis Gabriel, a graduate pupil in Arizona State College’s College of Earth and Area Exploration. They usually discovered that it was much less dense than anticipated.

“Working from the rocks’ mineral abundances as decided by the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument, we estimated a grain density of two,810 kilograms per cubic metre. Nonetheless, the majority density that got here out of our research is lots much less – 1,680 kilograms per cubic metre.”

This vastly completely different consequence means we is likely to be improper about how Mount Sharp shaped.

Properly, to be frank, we do not actually understand how Mount Sharp shaped. All we’ve are hypotheses. The formation sits in the midst of Gale Crater, round the place the central peak of a complex crater could be discovered. However it’s a lot bigger by space, and taller than anticipated from a central peak.

gale craterGale Crater, with Curiosity’s touchdown web site circled. Mount Sharp is the massive raised space within the center. (Anderson and Bell, 2010)

Planetary scientists learning Mars thought they’d it discovered – that the crater was as soon as stuffed with sediment eroded by climate forces on Mars to carve out the enormous mountain. But when this was the case, then the load of all that sediment would have squashed down the underside layers.

“The decrease ranges of Mount Sharp are surprisingly porous,” Lewis said. “We all know the underside layers of the mountain had been buried over time. That compacts them, making them denser. However this discovering suggests they weren’t buried by as a lot materials as we thought.”


The truth that the underside layers of Mount Sharp are a lot much less dense implies that one thing else was at work – maybe the sediment solely stuffed the crater part-way, and wind deposition constructed the higher layers of the mountain.

“There are nonetheless many questions on how Mount Sharp developed, however this paper provides an necessary piece to the puzzle,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s venture scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“I am thrilled that artistic scientists and engineers are nonetheless discovering progressive methods to make new scientific discoveries with the rover.”

The workforce’s analysis has been printed within the journal Science.


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‘It Is Colder Than Mars’ Right Now, But That’s Not as Big of a Deal as You Think

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File-smashing chilly temperatures have led to a wave of headlines highlighting how components of the US are actually colder than Mars.

In components of media, that is now a near-yearly ritual: The Atlantic had a narrative on it in 2017, and even NASA’s Curiosity Rover tweeted it just a few winters in the past.


However what does “colder than Mars” actually imply? Does it imply your pals within the Midwest – assuming they survive the Polar Vortex – have conquered their first spherical of Martian coaching? Not fairly.

Let’s be blunt:

It may very well be spring in New York Metropolis and be 42 levels Fahrenheit (6 levels Celsius) and we may nonetheless say that it is colder than the Pink Planet.

It may very well be summer season in Miami and 85 F (29 C) and we may nonetheless say it is colder than Mars.

Here is the deal.

Mars has a skinny, CO2-rich environment – about 100 instances thinner than Earth’s. Which means the Pink Planet is not in a position to retain a lot warmth. Which makes it simple to imagine it is fairly rattling chilly on a regular basis. However that is not fairly correct.

In line with The Nationwide Climate Service, cities throughout Minnesota and North Dakota plummeted to -60 degrees F (-51 C) or even colder this week. Colder than Mars? Sure. However not the common Martian day.

NASA created this handy chart to assist us out.

Screen Shot 2019 01 31 at 10.43.33 AM(NASA)

On an average Mars day, the planet is about -81 levels F (-60 C) – which sure, is way colder than Minnesota proper now. However that is simply a part of the vary of temperatures on the Pink Planet.

Throughout winter, temperatures near the poles can get all the way down to -195 levels F (-125 C).


A summer season day on Mars could rise up to 70 levels F (20 C) close to the equator – with the very best temperature proven by NASA at a balmy 86 levels F (30 C). Which is why we may actually say it is colder than Mars on components of Earth any day of the yr.

Nonetheless, in an interview with The Atlantic, Michael Mischna, a analysis scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, says the comparability is certainly correct – however with one main distinction.

For example it was 50 levels F (10 C) on Earth and 50 levels F (10 C) on the Pink Planet. These two temperatures would not really feel the identical to the human physique, due to Mars’ skinny environment and lack of water vapor.

“If you happen to had been to leap right into a pool that was 70 levels, it will really feel lots colder to your physique than standing in air at 70 levels, and that is as a result of the water is ready to suck the warmth out of your physique,” Mischna stated.

In different phrases, with out as many water molecules to steal your warmth, it would not really feel as chilly. “Minus 100 levels F (-70 C) on Mars would possibly solely really feel like minus 30 F (-34 C),” Mischna stated.


So this is the deal: Like some other planet, Mars sees a variety of temperatures relying on the placement on the planet and the time of yr.

Sure, it has seasons like Earth due to the lean of its axis. So it is simple to say “it is colder than Mars” – and it may very well be true. However the actuality is as nuanced as environmental variations all through the cosmos.

This text was initially printed by Futurism. Learn the original article.


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Report Claims Trump Offered NASA “All The Money” Needed to Land on Mars Quickly

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President Donald Trump as soon as provided NASA “all the cash you can ever want” to land on Mars throughout the first time period of his presidency, in accordance with a New York journal report citing a coming memoir from a former White Home communications official.


In keeping with the journal, in Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House, the previous White Home director of message technique Cliff Sims recalled that instantly earlier than a telephone name with astronauts aboard the Worldwide House Station in April 2017, Trump expressed a deep fascination with sending people to Mars throughout his first time period.

Within the non-public eating room with NASA officers, Trump reportedly queried his viewers on the opportunity of touchdown on Mars. Robert Lightfoot Jr., then the appearing NASA administrator, stated the US was aiming to land a human on Mars by 2030.

“However is there any approach we might do it by the tip of my first time period?” the journal stated Trump requested, citing Sims.

Sims reportedly wrote that he was “getting antsy” within the room due to Trump’s abrupt query shortly earlier than a televised telephone name with the area station.

NASA officers had been believed to have gone to nice lengths to coordinate with the area station, with timing thought of significantly necessary.

“All I might take into consideration was that we needed to be on digicam in three minutes … And but we’re in right here casually chatting about shaving a full decade off NASA’s timetable for sending a manned flight to Mars,” Sims reportedly wrote. “And seemingly out of nowhere.”


Trump then reportedly requested Lightfoot: “However what if I gave you all the cash you can ever have to do it?”

“What if we despatched NASA’s price range by the roof, however centered fully on that as a substitute of no matter else you are doing now. May it work then?” Trump reportedly requested.

Lightfoot reiterated the logistical hurdles to Trump, who seemed to be “visibly disillusioned,” the journal stated, citing Sims.

With seconds to spare, the report stated, Trump went into a toilet to test his look, seemed within the mirror and stated, “House Station, that is your president.”

Trump went on to ask the astronaut Peggy Whitson, who was aboard the Worldwide House Station, about Mars.

“What do you see a timing for really sending people to Mars?” Trump requested Whitson during the call.

After Whitson identified the technological and legislative challenges such an effort would entail, Trump appeared to joke that he wished to finish the area mission “in my first time period, or at worst in my second time period.”

“So I believe we’ll have to hurry that up somewhat bit,” Trump stated.


One month earlier than the telephone name, Trump signed a US$19.5 billion invoice to fund NASA. The authorization invoice required NASA to decide to exploring Mars and was reportedly the primary of its variety in seven years.

Sims, who labored on Trump’s presidential marketing campaign, now leads a boutique consulting agency. Workforce of Vipers was ranked No. 7 on Amazon’s best-seller listing on the time of this writing. It’s scheduled for launch on January 29.

This text was initially revealed by Business Insider.

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