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Mars Rover's Major Discovery: 'Great Lake' On Red Planet

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NASA Photo/Curiosity heading towards Mount Sharp

NASA has announced a major discovery by the Curiosity rover; water may have been more plentiful on the planet's surface than previously thought. This could mean that some forms of life existed on Mars millions of years ago.

In a news conference earlier this week, lead scientist John Grotzinger said that observations by the rover on its year-long trek across the Gale Crater indicate that the area was likely dotted with rivers, deltas and even a "great lake" in the distant past. Taking soil samples and detailed photos as it made its way towards Mount Sharp, the rover discovered layered sediments which are a sign that water may have existed on the surface of the dry, dusty red planet many years ago.

“As a science team, Mars is looking very attractive to us as a habitable planet,” Dr. Grotzinger said in an interview. “Not just sections of Gale Crater and not just a handful of locations, but at different times around the globe.”

While scientists continue to evaluate the data coming from the robotic probe, they have also posited that the existence of Mount Sharp, an unusually tall peak on the edge of the Gale Crater, could support their water theory as well. They believe the mountain is the remains of sediments laid down by a series of lakes that filled the deep bowl over millions years. When the water dried up as the planet lost its atmosphere, they believe that winds dug out the crater leaving the massive 3-mile high peak.

"All that driving we did really paid off for science," added Grotzinger, referring to Curiosity's travels. "It didn't just get us to Mount Sharp - it gave us the context to appreciate Mount Sharp." 

Next up on the the rover's agenda; climbing Mount Sharp itself. Curiosity has been on Mars more than 2 years so far and NASA has extended its mission indefinitely.


WATCH: NASA's Orion Test Flight Marks the First Step on the Long Road to Mars

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NASA's Orion spacecraft is set to have its first test flight this morning from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. If the test flight proves successful, the next-gen space capsule is expected to one day carry astronauts to the moon, asteroids, and Mars. 

NBC News reports:

The planned 4.5-hour mission — known as Exploration Flight Test 1, or EFT-1 — isn't carrying people. It's an uncrewed flight, meant to check critical systems that can't be fully tested on Earth, including the craft's heat shield and parachutes.

The data gathered from more than 1,200 sensors will be factored into the construction of more flightworthy Orion spaceships, with the aim of flying astronauts for the first time in 2021. If NASA holds to its schedule, the cone-shaped spacecraft would send crews to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025, and to Mars and its moons starting in the 2030s.

"We're now on the way to Mars, and that's what's most important," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told NBC News in advance of liftoff.

The launch was scheduled a little after 7 am (ET) but has been delayed due to high ground winds.

Watch the launch, AFTER THE JUMP...

UPDATE: NASA has scrubed the launch for today and will try again on Friday morning. More at NPR here

Continue reading "WATCH: NASA's Orion Test Flight Marks the First Step on the Long Road to Mars" »


NASA Throws Cold Water on Photo That Inspired Batty Theory About Underground Martians

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Like the Tusken Raider-shaped rock, the 'alien skull', the 'metallic object', the 'jelly doughnut', the famous 'face', and of course, the martian canals that came before it, a photograph this week which appeared to show a column of light shooting up from the red planet gave hope to conspiracy theorists everywhere that a secret Martian civilization was living just beneath the planet's surface:

Scott C. Waring, who maintains the website UFO Sightings Daily, posted the photo April 6.

Waring noted that the light shines upward, as if from the ground, and is very flat across the bottom.

"This could indicate there there is intelligent life below the ground and uses light as we do," Waring wrote on his website. "This is not a glare from the sun, nor is it an artifact of the photo process."

Alas, the photo shows a very common artifact, NASA says:

The rover took the image just after arriving at a waypoint called "the Kimberley." The bright spot appears on a horizon, in the same west-northwest direction from the rover as the afternoon sun.

"In the thousands of images we've received from Curiosity, we see ones with bright spots nearly every week," said Justin Maki of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., leader of the team that built and operates the Navigation Camera. "These can be caused by cosmic-ray hits or sunlight glinting from rock surfaces, as the most likely explanations."

If the bright spots in the April 2 and April 3 images are from a glinting rock, the directions of the spots from the rover suggest the rock could be on a ridge about 175 yards (160 meters) from the rover's April 3 location.


More Than 78,000 Sign Up for One-Way Trip to Mars: VIDEO

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A Netherlands-based non-profit called Mars One has begun taking applications for pioneering Mars colonists it plans to finance “by staging a global reality-TV event, with cameras documenting all phases of the mission from astronaut selection to the colonists’ first years on the Red Planet.”

Via The Space Reporter: Marsone

So far, plenty of people are interested in this job offer. As of a few days ago, the number was already at 78,000 applicants.

The application period opened on April 22, 2013, and continues until August 31. It’s actually fairly easy to apply: You have to be at least 18 years of age, and you must also submit a one-minute video to Mars One that explains your motivation for becoming a Martian settler. And anybody in the world can apply. Also, you can watch all of the applicants’ videos on Mars Ones’ website.

“With [that many] applications in two weeks, this is turning out to be the most desired job in history,” Mars One CEO and co-founder Bas Lansdorp said in a statement. “These numbers put us right on track for our goal of half a million applicants.”

Watch two introductory videos, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "More Than 78,000 Sign Up for One-Way Trip to Mars: VIDEO" »


Stephen Colbert on NASA's Lewd Conduct on Mars: VIDEO

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Stephen Colbert salutes the Mars rover's recent lewd conduct on the red planet:

"This is one small step for man, one giant doodle of manjunk. This giant graffiti peenie proves our galactic supremacy. America took a pristine planet 140 million miles away and scribbled on it like it was the face of a passed-out fratboy....It officially makes the space between Mars and Uranus our solar system's taint."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Stephen Colbert on NASA's Lewd Conduct on Mars: VIDEO" »


NASA's Mars Rovers Draw Naughty Images on Surface of Planet: PHOTO

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NASA servers went down last night after Reddit users discovered that the Mars Rovers have been drawing naughty images on the surface of the red planet.

It is a genuine image.


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