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NASA News Conference To Preview August Mars Rover Landing


NASA will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. EDT Monday, July 16, to discuss the upcoming August landing of the most advanced robot ever sent to another world. A new public-engagement collaboration based on the mission also will be debuted.

The event for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft will be held in the James E. Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. SW, Washington. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency’s website.

Full Story And Links: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jul/HQ_M12-128_Curiosity_Prelanding.html

MSL’s RAD Measures Radiation from Solar Storm

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

The largest solar particle event since 2005 hit the Earth, Mars and the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft travelling in-between, allowing the onboard Radiation Assessment Detector to measure the radiation a human astronaut could be exposed to en route to the Red Planet.

On Sunday, a huge coronal mass ejection erupted from the surface of the sun, spewing a cloud of charged particles in our direction, causing a strong “S3” solar storm. A NASA Goddard Space Weather Lab animation of the CME illustrates how the disturbance impacts Earth, Mars and several spacecraft. Solar storms can affect the Earth’s aurorae, satellites, air travel and GPS systems; no harmful effects to the Mars Science Laboratory have been detected from this solar event.

 

Full Story: http://www.swri.org/9what/releases/2012/rad-solarstorm.htm

NASA Mars-Bound Rover Begins Research in Space

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA’s car-sized Curiosity rover has begun monitoring space radiation during its 8-month trip from Earth to Mars. The research will aid in planning for future human missions to the Red Planet.

Curiosity launched on Nov. 26 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). The rover carries an instrument called the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) that monitors high-energy atomic and subatomic particles from the sun, distant supernovas and other sources.

These particles constitute radiation that could be harmful to any microbes or astronauts in space or on Mars. The rover also will monitor radiation on the surface of Mars after its August 2012 landing.

“RAD is serving as a proxy for an astronaut inside a spacecraft on the way to Mars,” said Don Hassler, RAD’s principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.”The instrument is deep inside the spacecraft, the way an astronaut would be. Understanding the effects of the spacecraft on the radiation field will be valuable in designing craft for astronauts to travel to Mars.”

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/dec/HQ_11-414_Mars_Research.html

Mars Mission Hoping to Satisfy Curiosity

December 1, 2011 Leave a comment

The University of Leicester is to play a key role in NASA’s $2.5 billion mission to Mars.

Dr John Bridges of the University’s Space Research Centre, leads a team from the University of Leicester, the Open University and CNES France which have been accepted as participating scientists on the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, which lands in August 2012.

John Bridges will be among the first people to study images returned after landing, to determine the conditions associated with the presence of water. The Leicester-led team will focus on determining the conditions associated with the presence of water in past epochs at the landing site.

Launched on 26th November, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is a NASA mission with the aim to land and operate a rover named Curiosity on the surface of Mars.

Full Story: http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/press-releases/2011/december/mars-mission-hoping-to-satisfy-curiousity

Instrument to Shine Light on Mars Habitability

November 28, 2011 Leave a comment

New Mexico, November 28, 2011—With the successful launch of the Mars Science Laboratory on Saturday, Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers and scientists from the French space institute IRAP are poised to begin focusing the energy of a million light bulbs on the surface of the Red Planet to help determine whether Mars was or is habitable.

The international team of space explorers that launched the Mars Science Laboratory last week is relying in part on an instrument originally developed at Los Alamos called ChemCam, which will use blasts of laser energy to remotely probe Mars’s surface. The robust ChemCam system is one of 10 instruments mounted on the mission’s rover vehicle, named Curiosity.

Full Story: http://www.lanl.gov/news/releases/los_alamos_instrument_to_shine_light_on_mars_habitability.html

NASA Launches Most Capable and Robust Rover to Mars

November 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

NASA began a historic voyage to Mars with the Nov. 26 launch of the Mars Science Laboratory, which carries a car-sized rover named Curiosity. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas V rocket occurred at 10:02 a.m. EST (7:02 a.m. PST).

“We are very excited about sending the world’s most advanced scientific laboratory to Mars,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “MSL will tell us critical things we need to know about Mars, and while it advances science, we’ll be working on the capabilities for a human mission to the Red Planet and to other destinations where we’ve never been.”

The mission will pioneer precision landing technology and a sky-crane touchdown to place Curiosity near the foot of a mountain inside Gale Crater on Aug. 6, 2012. During a nearly two-year prime mission after landing, the rover will investigate whether the region has ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-362

Mars Science Laboratory Launch Milestones

November 25, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory is tucked inside its Atlas V rocket, ready for launch on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Nov. 26 launch window extends from 7:02 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. PST (10:02 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. EST). The launch period for the mission extends through Dec. 18.

The spacecraft, which will arrive at Mars in August 2012, is equipped with the most advanced rover ever to land on another planet. Named Curiosity, the rover will investigate whether the landing region has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life, and favorable for preserving clues about whether life existed.

On Nov. 26, NASA Television coverage of the launch will begin at 4:30 a.m. PST (7:30 a.m. EST). Live launch coverage will be carried on all NASA Television channels. For NASA Television downlink information, schedule information and streaming video, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv . The launch coverage will also be streamed live on Ustream at http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl .

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-361

NASA Ames Features Live Broadcast of Mars Launch

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

News media are invited to observe a live televised broadcast of the launch of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft with the Curiosity rover on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, in the Exploration Center at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

The spacecraft is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window opens at 7:02 a.m. PST, and the Exploration Center at Ames will open at 6:30 a.m. PST. The launch will be preceded with brief comments from NASA scientist Tori Hoehler, who will share information about the upcoming mission. The spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at Mars in August 2012.

Curiosity has 10 science instruments to search for evidence about whether Mars has had environments favorable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life. Ames scientist David Blake is the principal investigator for CheMin, an X-ray diffraction and fluorescence instrument designed to identify and quantify the minerals in rocks and soils, and to measure bulk composition. CheMin data will be useful in the search for potential mineral biosignatures, energy sources for life or indicators of past habitable environments.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/news/releases/2011/11-96AR.html

Measuring the Radiation Environment on Mars

November 22, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA will launch the Mars Science Laboratory on Nov. 26, 2011, to assess the past and present habitability of the Red Planet’s surface. The mission will land Curiosity, a rover equipped with 10 instruments designed to search for evidence of elements needed to support life – namely, water and carbon-based materials – and to characterize life-limiting factors, such as the planet’s radiation environment.

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) led the development of the Radiation Assessment Detector, which will measure, for the first time, the radiation environment on the surface of Mars, measuring all the relevant energetic particle species originating from galactic cosmic rays, the Sun and other sources. Positioned in the left front corner of the rover, RAD is about the size of a coffee can and weighs about three pounds, but has capabilities of an Earth-bound instrument nearly 10 times its size. Its wide-angle telescope detects charged particles arriving from space, and the instrument also measures neutrons and gamma rays coming from Mars’ atmosphere above, or the surface material below, the rover.

Full Story: http://swri.org/9what/releases/2011/rad.htm

New NASA Missions to Investigate How Mars Turned Hostile

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Maybe because it appears as a speck of blood in the sky, the planet Mars was named after the Roman god of war. From the point of view of life as we know it, that’s appropriate. The Martian surface is incredibly hostile for life. The Red Planet’s thin atmosphere does little to shield the ground against radiation from the Sun and space. Harsh chemicals, like hydrogen peroxide, permeate the soil. Liquid water, a necessity for life, can’t exist for very long here—any that does not quickly evaporate in the diffuse air will soon freeze out in subzero temperatures common over much of the planet.

It wasn’t always this way. There are signs that in the distant past, billions of years ago, Mars was a much more inviting place. Martian terrain is carved with channels that resemble dry riverbeds. Spacecraft sent to orbit Mars have identified patches of minerals that form only in the presence of liquid water. It appears that in its youth, Mars was a place that could have harbored life, with a thicker atmosphere warm enough for rain that formed lakes or even seas.

Two new NASA missions, one that will roam the surface and another that will orbit the planet and dip briefly into its upper atmosphere, will try to discover what transformed Mars. “The ultimate driver for these missions is the question, did Mars ever have life?” says Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Did microbial life ever originate on Mars, and what happened to it as the planet changed? Did it just go extinct, or did it go underground, where it would be protected from space radiation and temperatures might be warm enough for liquid water?”

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/hostile_mars.html