An Astronaut Might Need Kidney Dialysis on the Way Home from Mars

Long term space exploration comes with many challenges. Not least is how much toilet paper to take but more worryingly is the impact on human physiology. We have not evolved in a weightless environment, we are not used to floating around for months on end nor are we able to cope with increased levels of radiation. It is likely that organs like the kidneys will become damaged but it make take time for signs to appear. Researchers are developing ways to detect organ issues in the early stages and develop ways to protect them during long duration flights. 

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The Ingenuity Team Downloads the Final Data from the Mars Helicopter. The Mission is Over

Ingenuity Site

I really can’t believe that the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars took its maiden voyage in April 2021. On the 16th April 2024, engineers at NASA have received the final batch of data from the craft which marks the final task of the team. Ingenuity’s work is not over though as it will remain on the surface collecting data. For the engineers at NASA, they have their sights set on Dragonfly, a new helicopter destined for Titan.

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The Current Mars Sample Return Mission isn’t Going to Work. NASA is Going Back to the Drawing Board

Artist's impression of the NASA-ESA Mars Sample Return mission. Credit: NASA

Human spaceflight is not the easiest of enterprises. NASA have let us know that their plans for the Mars Sample Return Mission have changed. The original plan was to work with ESA to collect samples from Perseverance and return them to Earth by 2031. Alas like many things, costs were increasing and timescales were slipping and with the budget challenges, NASA has had to rework their plan. Administrator Bill Nelson has now shared a simpler, less expensive and less risk alternative.

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Search for Life on Mars Could Level-Up with MARSE Mission Concept

A breakdown of the Mars Astrobiology, Resource, and Science Explorers (MARSE) mission profile and its Simplified High Impact Energy Landing Device (SHIELD) system, which could revolutionize how we search for life on Mars by using four rovers at four different landing sites. (Credit: Longo (2024))

A recent study presented at the 55th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) discusses the Mars Astrobiology, Resource, and Science Explorers (MARSE) mission concept and its Simplified High Impact Energy Landing Device (SHIELD), which offers a broader and cheaper method regarding the search for—past or present—life on the Red Planet, specifically by using four rovers at four different landing sites across Mars’ surface instead of just one-for-one. This concept comes as NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers continue to tirelessly explore the surface of Mars at Gale Crater and Jezero Crater, respectively.

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Should We Send Humans to Mars?

Featured Image: True-color image of the Red Planet taken on October 10, 2014, by India’s Mars Orbiter mission from 76,000 kilometers (47,224 miles) away. (Credit: ISRO/ISSDC/Justin Cowart) (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

Universe Today has explored the potential for sending humans to Europa, Venus, Titan, and Pluto, all of which possess environmental conditions that are far too harsh for humans to survive. The insight gained from planetary scientists resulted in some informative discussions, and traveling to some of these far-off worlds might be possible, someday. In the final installment of this series, we will explore the potential for sending humans to a destination that has been the focus of scientific exploration and science folklore for more than 100 years: Mars aka the Red Planet.

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Ingenuity Suffers Rotor Damage, Ending the Mission

Ingenuity stood on the surface fo Mars
Ingenuity helicopter

There have been numerous robotic space missions reach the end of their operating life over the years and for a multitude of reasons. Be they catastrophic failure or a scheduled end but I must say one that has recently made me a little sad is the demise of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars. It sustained damage after its recent flight and can now no longer fly. In a mission that was supposed to complete five flights in 30 days, the plucky little helicopter completed 72 flights over three years! 

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Helicopters Could Map the Magnetic Fields on Mars

Artist illustration of how a magnetic field could have looked on ancient Mars. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A recent study published in The Planetary Science Journal examines how helicopters equipped with a magnetometer could be used to conduct magnetic field investigations within the crust of Mars, providing important insights into the present characteristics and early evolution of the Red Planet. This study comes as NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter continues breaking records and making history as the first powered aerial explorer on another planet, along with the recently expired NASA InSight lander using its own magnetometer to measure the crustal magnetic field.

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Melting Water in Mars’ Past Could Have Created Martian Gullies

Image of gullies in Terra Sirenum on Mars taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

A recent study published in Science examines how thin channels inside impact craters on Mars could have formed from Martian gullies, which share similar characteristics with gullies on Earth and are typically formed from cascading meltwater, despite the Martian atmosphere being incapable of supporting liquid water on its surface. However, the researchers hypothesize these gullies could have formed during periods of high obliquity, also known as axial tilt, on Mars, which could have resulted in a brief rise in surface temperatures that could have melted some surface and subsurface ice, leading to meltwater cascading down the sides of impact craters across the planet.

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Mars Has a Thick Crust. Its Internal Heat Mainly Comes from Radioactivity

Elevation data of Mars featuring the lower elevations of the northern lowlands primarily in blue and the much higher elevations of the southern highlands primarily in orange and red. (Credit: MOLA Science Team)

How thick is the crust of Mars? This question is what a recent study published in Geophysical Research Letters attempted to answer as it reported on data from a magnitude 4.7 marsquake recorded in May 2022 by NASA’s InSight lander, which remains the largest quake ever recorded on another planetary body. As it turns out, this data helped provide estimates of Mars’ global crustal thickness, along with a unique discovery regarding the crust in the northern and southern hemispheres, and how the interior of Mars produces its heat.

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Would Mark Watney Have Survived in Real Life, and What This Can Teach Us About Sending Humans to Mars

NASA astronaut, Dr. Mark Watney played by Matt Damon, as he’s stranded on the Red Planet in ‘The Martian’. (Credit: 20th Century Fox)

We want to send humans to Mars eventually, and while this will be both a historic and exciting journey, it could also be tragic and terrible, and we must also address the potential pitfalls and risks of such an adventure. The intent behind this is to allow fans of space exploration to consider the full picture of such an endeavor. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

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