Latest Martian soil Stories
According to Murphy's Law, whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, and presumably this applies on Mars as well as Earth. So if things go wrong on Mars, are we ready for them? What do we need to know about Mars before we send people there? That question is what NASA's Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG for short) addressed recently.
Have you ever walked across a wool carpet in leather-soled shoes on a dry winter day, and then reached out toward a doorknob? ZAP! A stinging spark leaps between your fingers and the metal knob. Static discharge is merely annoying to anyone on Earth living where winters have exceptionally low humidity. But to astronauts on the Moon or on Mars, static discharge could be real trouble.
Some hardy Earth microbes could survive long enough on Mars to complicate the search for alien life, according to a new study co-authored by University of Florida researchers.
Take the cold tolerance of bacteria that thrive in arctic ice, add the ultraviolet resistance of tomato plants growing high in the Andes mountains, and combine with an ordinary plant. What do you get? A tough plant "pioneer" that can grow in Martian soil.
During the next couple of weeks, if all goes as planned, the martial arts champion of radar antennas will kickbox its way into space. Weighing in at a mere 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) and packing a pyrotechnic punch, the MARSIS antenna will spring into operation in May.
Russell Kerschmann is a pathologist at the NASA Ames Research Center studying the effects of mineral dust on human health. NASA is now planning to send people back to the Moon and on to Mars. Both are dusty worlds, extremely dusty. Inhaling that dust, says Kerschmann, could be bad for astronauts.
NASA has a new Vision for Space Exploration: in the decades ahead, humans will land on Mars and explore the red planet. Brief visits will lead to longer stays and, maybe one day, to colonies. First, though, we're returning to the Moon. Why the Moon before Mars? NASA scientists give their reasons.
The National Research Council was tasked with evaluating the risks of landing humans safely to work on Mars. What challenges might arise beyond the logistics of getting to Mars? Weather and biology might face astronauts working within an extended stay mission.
Meteorites and comets should have delivered vast amounts of organic chemicals to Mars, yet the Viking mission found no organics in the red soil. A new hypothesis by Sushil Atreya suggests how dust storms may zap away any chances for life on the martian surface.
Driving, digging, mining: these are things astronauts will be doing one day in the sands of Mars. It's not as simple as it sounds. Understanding granular physics is essential for designing industrial machinery to handle vast quantities of small solids -- like fine Martian sand.