05 Jun 2012

With all the current buzz related to Space and exploration, none really have definitive plans to set up a colony on Mars.  Enter a new private space venture called Mars One, a company from the Netherlands.  They aim to send four astronauts on a one way trip to Mars in just 11 years.

26 Apr 2012

CREDIT: NASA

There is a BOLD new plan for detecting signs of microbial life on Mars.  The nickname is BOLD, which stands for Biological Oxidant and Life Detection Initiative, would be a follow-up to the 1976 Mars Viking life-detection experiments.  This comes after recent headlines that suggested the possibility, at least mathematically, that the Viking crafts had discovered life contrary to the original conclusion.

The general consensus was that the Viking experiments only discovered geological activity with the samples, rather than biology. 

"We have much better technology that we could use," says BOLD lead scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, with Washington State University.  He elaborates, "Our idea is to make a relatively cheap mission and go more directly to characterize and solve the big question about the soil properties on Mars and life detection."

13 Apr 2012

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Did the NASA HiRISE camera photograph an alien monolith or simply a rock?  (Credit:  NASA/HiRISE)

An interesting object, found by amateurs, has been spotted sticking out of the surface of Mars.  In the image the object appears perfectly rectangular and upright.  It can be found in NASA images of Mars and looks strikingly similar to the monoliths placed by aliens in the classic Stanley Kubrick/Arthur C. Clarke film "2001:  A Space Odyssey."  (Queue the music)

The object was photographed several years ago by the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter but has made for fun commentary on the Internet recently.  

12 Apr 2012

Viking 2 Lander, 1976 showing Utopia Planitia (Credit: NASA)

New analysis of 36 year old data from the Viking robots shows that NASA had found life on Mars in 1976.  This conclusion was published by an international team of mathematicians and scientists this week.

Even more, NASA doesn't need a human expedition to Mars to verify this claim, says neuropharmacologist and biologist Joseph Miller with the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.  "The ultimate proof is to take a video of a Martian bacteria. They should send a microscope -- watch the bacteria move," Miller told Discovery News.  Miller goes on to say that "On the basis of what we've done so far, I'd say I'm 99 percent sure there's life there."

These statements are derived from the new study that has re-analyzed results from a life-detection experiment done by the Viking Mars robots in 1976.  

24 Mar 2012

Amateur astrophotographer Wayne Jaeschke of Pennsylvania captured an image of this 'terminator projection' rising from the edge of the Martian disk at the 1 o'clock position March 22.  For more info see Exosky.net, Jaeschke's website.  South is up, north on the bottom.

Mars has returned to our evening skies as it does every two years.  This time it is getting even more attention and buzz than it normally would. Amateur astronomer Wayne Jaeschke of West Chester Pennsylvania noticed an unusual protrusion in the planet's southern hemisphere, preceding the sunrise terminator.

He first noticed this formation on the evening of March 20th.  Jaeschke alerted the international Mars observing community about the odd "extension" at 190.5° east, 43.7° south, just before the area that rotates into daylight.  The odd feature was visible in all color-filtered exposures from near-infrared to blue light.  Jaeschke produced the animation below.  

22 Nov 2011

The newest and biggest NASA mission to the Red Planet to date is about to take off.  It will be the first one to land under controlled flight.  It is going to use a multistage landing system, lowering the one-ton rover, via a tether.  NASA is hoping to use this mission as a prototype for rover landings on Mars and other locations.  See the video clip below depicting the animation of the rover landing and operation.

NASA has a window of opportunity that began November 18th and lasts three weeks, with the rover arriving at Mars in the August 2012 timeframe.

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