China’s Tianwen-1 has Imaged the Entire Surface of Mars, Completing its Primary Mission

After exploring Mars for more than a year, China’s Tianwen-1 space probe has successfully taken images covering the entire Red Planet, China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) announced on June 29. Tianwen-1, which translates to “quest for heavenly truth”, consists of six separate spacecraft: an orbiter, two deployable cameras, lander, remote camera, and Zhurong rover. The images in question were taken by the orbiter while circling Mars 1,344 times, capturing images of the Red Planet from every angle while Zhurong explored the surface. in the statement, CNSA said the probe has now completed all of its tasks, which included taking medium-resolution images covering the entire planet.

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UAE’s Mars Hope Team Publishes ‘Mars Atlas’

Mars
A gibbous Mars. Credit: Mars Hope/NYUAD/Atlas of Mars.

The United Arab Emirates Space Agency releases a unique comprehensive Mars Atlas of the Red Planet.

You have never seen Mars like this. Recently, the New York University of Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) released an 88-page look at Red Planet, dubbed The Atlas of Mars. The Atlas is free online, and uses spectacular imagery taken from the United Arab Emirates Space Agency’s ambitious Mars Hope mission.

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This is the Reactor That Could Make it Possible to Return From Mars

UC chemical engineer Jingjie Wu holds up the reactor where a catalyst converts carbon dioxide into methane. UC's research makes him optimistic that scientists will be able to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand.

Remember when engineers proposed one-way trips to Mars, because round trips are just too expensive to bring people back to Earth again?

Getting people home from Mars can only happen in two ways. One is to lug all the return fuel with you when you launch from Earth, which is prohibitively difficult and expensive. The second way is to make the return fuel in-situ from Martian resources. But how?

A group of researchers from the University of Cincinnati propose using a type of reactor that was used from 2010-2017 aboard the International Space Station, which scrubbed the carbon dioxide from air the astronauts breathe and generated water to drink, with methane as a biproduct. On Mars, this reactor, called a Sabatier reactor, could take carbon dioxide from Mars’ atmosphere and create methane for fuel.

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Swarms of Robots Could Dig Underground Cities on Mars

Underground habitats have recently become a focal point of off-planet colonization efforts.  Protection from micrometeorites, radiation, and other potential hazards makes underground sites desirable compared to surface dwellings. Building such subterranean structures presents a plethora of challenges, not the least of which is how to actually construct them.  A team of researchers at the Delft University of Technology (TUD) is working on a plan to excavate material and then use it to print habitats.  All that would be done with a group of swarming robots.

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Ingenuity Completes a Huge 50-Meter Flight on Mars

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter can be seen hovering during its third flight on April 25, 2021, as seen by the left Navigation Camera aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On Feb. 18th, 2021, the Perseverance rover landed on Mars carrying the most advanced scientific instruments ever sent to another planet. It also carried experiments designed to push the envelope of exploration and help pave the way for crewed missions to Mars. This includes the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, an experimental flight system designed to see if aerial systems can operate in the Martian atmosphere.

After making its inaugural flight on April 19th, Ingenuity has taken to the air twice more and set many records in the process. During its most recent test flight (which took place on the morning of April 25th), the helicopter flew farther and faster than ever before. All told, the helicopter covered a distance of 50 meters (164 feet) in 80 seconds, reaching a top speed of 2 m/s (6.6 feet per second) or 7.2 km/hour (4.5 mph).

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Some Earth Life Could Already Survive on Mars

Mars’ surface is a harsh environment for life.  But life on Earth is notoriously resilient as well.  No one is quite sure yet how microbes from Earth would fare on the Martian surface.  However, the impact of a potential transmigration of microbes to the red planet could be immense.  Not only could it skew any findings of potential real Martian life we might find, it could also completely disrupt any nascent biosphere that Mars might have.  

To understand whether that much disruption is really possible, first we must understand whether any Earthly life can survive on Mars itself.  According to a new study recently published in Frontiers in Microbiology, the answer to that is yes.

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New Drones for Exploring Mars are Getting Tested in Iceland

Created by an eruption five years ago, the Holuhraun lava flow field in Iceland is some of the newest "real estate" in the world where Christopher Hamilton and his team are testing new ways for drones and rovers to work together to explore Mars. Image Credit: Christopher Hamilton, LPL.

It’s looking more and more like the future of space exploration could involve drones in a big way.

We’ve already seen it here on Earth, where all kinds of flying drones are used by all kinds of people for all kinds of things. Drones are particularly useful in resource development, exploration, imaging, and remote sensing.

Could the future see drones flying around in the thin Martian atmosphere?

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Astronauts and explorers on Mars could eat lab-grown steaks

Aleph Farms 3D Rendering of their BioFarm concept. Creidt: Aleph Farms

Growing meat without the need to grow a whole animal has been the dream of agriculturalists and foodies everywhere for decades.  More and more companies are jumping on the bandwagon to try to truly recreate the experience of eating meat without the downsides so often associated with its creation.  One of those companies is Aleph Farms, based in Israel, which just announced their newest program – Aleph Zero, an effort to grow meat in industrial quantities in space.

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This is Where Mars 2020 Rover is Heading. From this Picture, I Think You Can Guess Why

Jezero Crater on Mars is the landing site for NASA's Mars 2020 rover. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Get used to hearing the name “Jezero Crater.” It’s the landing site for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. The 2020 rover is slated to launch in July 2020, and will land at Jezero Crater in February, 2021.

It’s pretty easy to see why NASA chose Jezero Crater for the next rover in their Mars Exploration Program (MEP). MEP is NASA’s long-term plan to explore Mars robotically. It includes rovers like Spirit, Opportunity, and MSL, the InSight Lander, orbiting spacecraft, and soon the 2020 rover.

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Mars Odyssey Reveals Phobos Using THEMIS

Phobos THEMIS
Phobos in three different phases (from left: half, crescent and full) as captured by 2001 Mars Odyssey's THEMIS imager. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/SSI

Welcome to the moons of Mars, as you’ve never seen them.

NASA’s aging 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter recently snapped some unique views of the twin moons Phobos and Deimos, in an effort to better understand their texture and surface composition. The images are courtesy of the spacecraft’s THEMIS (the Thermal Emission Imaging System) heat sensitive instrument, and show the thermal gradient across the surface of the moons in color. Odyssey has been studying the moons of Mars since September 2017. The recent images of Phobos taken on April 24, 2019 are especially intriguing, as they occurred during full illumination phase.

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