Chances are that you’ve seen images of Earth from space, thanks to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), who regularly share stunning photos of our planet. These images provide us regularly with breathtaking views of cities, oceans, storms, eruptions, clouds, the curvature of the planet, and the way the atmosphere glows against the horizon. Thanks to NASA’s Mars Odyssey Orbiter, which has been in orbit for over 22 years, we now have an equally breathtaking view of Mars from orbit that captured what its curvature and atmosphere look like from space.Continue reading “Odyssey Gives Us a Cool New View of Mars”
China’s Zhurong rover was equipped with a ground-penetrating radar system, allowing it to peer beneath Mars’s surface. Researchers have announced new results from the scans of Zhurong’s landing site in Utopia Planitia, saying they identified irregular polygonal wedges located at a depth of about 35 meters all along the robot’s journey. The objects measure from centimeters to tens of meters across. The scientists believe the buried polygons resulted from freeze-thaw cycles on Mars billions of years ago, but they could also be volcanic, from cooling lava flows.Continue reading “There are Mysterious Polygons Beneath the Surface of Mars”
Space exploration is always changing. Before February 2021 there had never been a human made craft flying around in the atmosphere of another world (other than rocket propelled landers arriving or departing). The Mars Perseverance rover changed that, carrying with it what can only be described as a drone named Ingenuity. It revolutionised planetary exploration and now, China are getting in on the act with a proposed quadcopter for a Mars sample return mission.Continue reading “A Tiny Quadcopter Could Gather Rocks for China’s Sample Return Mission”
This article was updated on 11/28/23
When spacecraft return to Earth, they don’t need to shed all their velocity by firing retro-rockets. Instead, they use the atmosphere as a brake to slow down for a soft landing. Every planet in the Solar System except Mercury has enough of an atmosphere to allow aerocapture maneuvers, and could allow high-speed exploration missions. A new paper looks at the different worlds and how a spacecraft must fly to take advantage of this “free lunch” to slow down at the destination.Continue reading “Aerocapture is a Free Lunch in Space Exploration”
While NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter continues to break records for both airspeed and altitude while it explores Jezero Crater on the Red Planet, NASA engineers back on Earth are hard at work testing carbon fiber blades for next-generation Mars helicopters that could exceed the performance of Ingenuity on future missions to Mars, specifically with the planned Mars Sample Return mission that NASA hopes to accomplish sometime in the 2030s.Continue reading “NASA Tests its Next-Generation Mars Helicopter Blades”
Anybody with a modicum of intellectual curiosity is looking forward to the NASA/ESA Mars Sample Return Mission. NASA’s Perseverance rover is busily collecting and caching samples for eventual return to Earth. While the technical and engineering challenges in getting those samples into scientists’ hands here on Earth are formidable, budgeting and funding might be the mission’s biggest headaches.Continue reading “What’s Going on With the Mars Sample Return Mission?”
If you’ve noticed a slowdown in Mars news lately, it’s because of the Sun. Or, rather, it’s because the Sun is temporarily blocking our “view” of the Red Planet, which is on the other side of the Sun from Earth, in what’s called “Mars Solar Conjunction.”Continue reading “It’s Time for the Mars Rovers to Hunker Down and Wait for the Earth to Return”
Humans on Mars will need oxygen, and Mars’ atmosphere is pretty anemic when it comes to the life-sustaining element. NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully extracted oxygen from CO2 in Mars’ atmosphere, but there are other ways to acquire it. There seem to be vast amounts of water buried under the Martian surface, and oxygen in the water is just waiting to be set free from its bonds with hydrogen.
On Earth, that’s no problem. Just run an electrical current through water, and you get oxygen. But Mars won’t give up its oxygen so easily.Continue reading “A Robotic Chemist Could Whip up the Perfect Batch of Oxygen on Mars”
On Earth, there is a phenomenon known as nightglow, where the atmosphere experiences faint light emissions that prevent the night sky from becoming completely dark. This is caused by various processes in the upper atmosphere, like the recombination of atoms, cosmic rays striking the atmosphere, or oxygen and nitrogen interacting with hydroxyl a few hundred kilometers from the surface. Thanks to data obtained by the ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), the same phenomenon has been observed in the Martian atmosphere for the first time.
While scientists have long suspected that Mars also experiences this atmospheric phenomenon, this is the first time that effectively proves it. The revelation was made by an international team of scientists based on their analysis of data from the TGO’s Nadir and Occultation for MArs Discovery (NOMAD) spectrometer. When astronauts and rovers explore Mars’ polar regions in the near future, they will see a green glow whenever they look up at the sky and could even use the glow to navigate and find their way in the dark of night.Continue reading “Martian Green Nightglow Seen for the First Time”
China continues to take great strides as part of its goal to become a superpower in space and a direct competitor with NASA. In addition to its proposed expansion of the Tiangong space station and the creation of the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), China is also planning on sending crewed missions to Mars in the coming decade. In preparation for the arrival of taikonauts on the Red Planet, China is gearing up to return samples of Martian soil and rock to Earth roughly two years ahead of the proposed NASA-ESA Mars Sample Return (MSR).
This mission will be the third in the China National Space Administration’s (CNSA) Tianwen program (Tianwen-3) and will consist of a pair of launches in 2028 that will return samples to Earth in July 2031. According to a new study recently published in the journal Chinese Science Bulletin, Chinese scientists announced that they have developed a new numerical model to simulate the atmospheric environment of Mars. Known as the Global Open Planetary atmospheric model for Mars (aka. GoPlanet-Mars, or GoMars), this model offers research support in preparation for the Tianwen-3 mission.Continue reading “China Wants to Retrieve a Sample of Mars by 2028”