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NASA has confirmed for the first time that liquid water, flowing on the surface of Mars, is not just thing of the past, it’s also present on the planet’s surface today.

“This is tremendously exciting,” James L. Green, Director, NASA’s planetary science division

“We haven’t been able to answer the question, ‘Does life exist beyond Earth?’ But following the water is a critical element of that. We now have, I think, great opportunities in the right locations on Mars to thoroughly investigate that.” – James L. Green

NASA is also thinking about sending a spacecraft in the 2020 to one of these regions to directly look for life.

The water we are talking about is in form of hydrated salts, but as per Alferd S. McEwen,  a professor of planetary geology at the University of Arizona “There pretty much has to have been liquid water recently present to produce the hydrated salt.”

By “recently,” Dr. McEwen said he meant “days, something of that order.”

We knew that the large amounts of water is present in form of frozen solid in the polar ice caps. Also there have been hints of liquid water, but none have proved convincing.

In 2011, the photographs from the orbiter  shows dark streaks descending along slopes of mountains. The streaks lengthened during summer, faded in winters, then reappeared the next year.

Scientists suspected that water played a critical role in this behaviour,  similar to the way concrete darkens when wet and returns to its original color when dry. But that was just a guess.

But now, the signs of the salt disappeared when the streaks faded is very definitive that there is some sort of liquid water.

So how does the water remains liquid on Mars?

The salts lower the freezing temperature, and the water remains liquid. The average temperature of Mars is about -70 degrees Fahrenheit, but in summers the temperature at Equator can reach an almost 70 degrees.

The scientists are still not sure about where the liquid water might be coming from on Mars. The current readings of the planet’s atmosphere point to very low humidity near the surface, but there’s also a chance that it might be coming from underground aquifers on the planet, which seep out when things warm up.

What about presence of Life?

Christopher P. McKay, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., does not think the recurring slope lineae are a promising place to look. For the water to be liquid, it must be so salty that nothing could live there, he said. “The short answer for habitability is it means nothing,” he said.

He pointed to Don Juan Pond in Antarctica, which remains liquid year round in subzero temperatures because of high concentrations of calcium chloride salt. “You fly over it, and it looks like a beautiful swimming pool,” Dr. McKay said. “But the water has got nothing.”

We’ve known for a while now that Mars currently holds large reserves of frozen water at its poles, and that it had large oceans billions of years ago. But this discovery will have a huge impact on Martian missions in near future.

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phonesat

NASA has managed to create a fully functional super cheap tiny satellite made out of off-the-shelf Android hardware. NASA has named it “PhoneSat”. It has managed to dial home from orbit, meaning all systems are working.

IT COST THE SPACE AGENCY JUST $7,500

PhoneSat 2.4, a cube approximately four inches square, weighs only about 2.2 pounds, and was developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. PhoneSat uses a Nexus S smartphone made by Samsung Electronics running Google’s Android operating system. Using two-way S-band radio, it enables engineers to command it remotely. It’s part of NASA’s effort to explore cheaper satellite technology.

“The smartphone provides many of the functions the satellite needs to operate, such as computation, memory, ready-made interfaces for communications, navigation and power, all assembled in a rugged package before launch,” says NASA.

The tiny satellite PhoneSat 2.4 was launched two weeks ago. It will test a system for changing the satellite’s orientation in space as well as measure how well off-the-shelf components perform over the course of a year.

It is part of NASA’s next Small Spacecraft Technology mission, the Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN). This mission is composed of eight identical PhoneSats that will be deployed during a launch from Kauai, Hawaii in 2014.

“This mission will demonstrate the concept of using many small spacecraft in a coordinated cluster to study the space environment and space-to-space communications techniques. During EDSN, each cubesat will make science measurements and transmit the data to the others while any one of them can then transmit all of the collected data to a ground station. This versatility in command and control could make possible large swarms of satellites to affordably monitor Earth’s climate, space weather and other global-scale phenomena.” – NASA

The first batch of PhoneSats launched in April and the next version is scheduled for February.

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urthecast

Recently a couple of high-definition cameras have been delivered to the International Space Station thanks to Urthecast.  So ISS will soon start broadcasting near-live images of Earth for free. According to Urthecast, the magnification will be so high that you will be able to see vehicles and crowds.

Urthecast is a Canadian company that plans to start its free broadcast in early 2014. The cameras can see everything from 51 degrees north to 51 degrees south. It means Alaska, Scandinavia, and most of the UK won’t be featured. Everyone else will be able to see their neighborhood at surprisingly high resolution. The ISS orbits the Earth 19 times a day that’s why the feed is described as “near live” on the website with a delay of around 45 minutes to two hours before the images show up on your screen.

Virtually travel to your favorite places, plan events around an ISS pass-over, or watch how places change over time.

The still camera can see up to a resolution of five meters per pixel. At such resolution the cameras will be able to generate images that are 40 km wide. The video camera can see much more clearly at an ultra-crisp 4K resolution. At such insane resolution Urthecast expects to download 200GB of pictures and videos from the ISS every day.

The feed is free on Urthecast’s website. You just need to request for an invite. A separate premium service is also available for businesses intelligence, monitoring assets and real time monitoring of strategic locations.

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seaorbiter

Image Credit : seaorbiter

The ocean is still a vastly unexplored world that is full of mysteries, and with the growing technology, we frequently discover more oddities and fascinating creatures from its depths. Such research attempts are soon going to have a massive boon in the form of an ocean-based research laboratory called the SeaOrbiter. The station will have laboratories, workshops, living quarters and a pressurized deck to support divers and submarines.

“SeaOrbiter is the only vessel in the world allowing a 24/7 exploration on long-term missions of the open sea and the abyss.”

The SeaOrbiter, which seems to be an amazing spaceship like structure, is the work of Jacques Rougerie, a sea architect, and various experts, among them being the former NASA head Daniel Goldin.  The cost is expected to be around $52.7 million. On completion the project will result in a vessel that is basically the ISS of the ocean, able to hold up to 22 researchers and crew members initially.

The laboratory is semi-submersible vessel and weighs 1000 tons. It has a total height of 51 meters with 31 meters below sea level., and will harvest renewable energy from wind, sun, and waves. It is designed to float vertically and drift with the ocean currents but has two small propellers allowing it to modify its trajectory and maneuver in confined waters. Underwater robots can be sent from the laboratory to explore the seabed. The hull is made of an alloy comprising aluminum and magnesium is five times thicker than that of a conventional vessel.

Its vertical alignment in the sea will leave a small part visible above the surface with much larger accommodation and laboratories below the sea’s surface. Some levels will have a cabin pressure equal to the external water pressure allowing divers to live for extended periods at depth and make frequent excursions.

Rougerie said in a message to the folks at Fast Company: “The SeaOrbiter is the synthesis of everything that we have been able to do at sea: it is at the same time a moving habitat and a dynamic launching point for submarine research and exploration. It will not replace oceanographic boats or exploratory submarines. Instead, it’s another way to explore and better comprehend the underwater universe and bring human life at sea to another level on a 24/7 basis and over long periods.”

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mars

“India’s mission to Mars has overcome a technical problem and appears to be back on track”, India’s space research agency ISRO says.

The problem occurred on Monday when a planned engine burn failed to raise the spacecraft’s orbit around Earth  from 71,623km to 100,000km. A problem with the thruster caused the Mars Craft to fall short of the mark. As a solution, the Mars-craft used an additional thruster firing to make up for the shortfall early on Tuesday.

The Indian Space Research Organisation – ISRO has now pushed the spacecraft to a higher velocity as planned.

“The final orbit will be known in a few hours”

Speaking to Indian news channel NDTV, ISRO’s chairman K Radhakrishnan said: “All is well and operations completed as planned. The final orbit of the spacecraft will be known in a few hours.”

Mr Bagla told BBC News that the “spacecraft has been put on required velocity and seems to be on track”.

Instead of flying directly to Mars, the Mars Craft is scheduled to orbit Earth for nearly a month, building up the speed to “slingshot” its way out of the earth’s gravitational pull to reach its destination – The Red Planet.

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mars

If all goes according to plan, India will soon join an elite handful of countries that have successfully sent a spacecraft to the red planet.

 Today India will launch the unmanned Mars Orbiter Mangalyaan (Mars Craft). It will be launched from SHAR (Satish Dhawan Space Centre) with the help of PSLV. It is expected to take 10 Months for the orbiter to reach its destination – The Red Planet. If this $73 million mission goes well, India would also become the only country to have succeeded in its first try at sending a spacecraft to Mars as two third missions to send space crafts to Mars have been failed.

“We have a lot to understand about the universe, the solar system where we live in, and it has been humankind’s quest from the beginning,” said K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the ISRO (Indian Space and Research Organization). “We want to use the first opportunity to put a spacecraft and orbit it around Mars and, once it is there safely, then conduct a few meaningful experiments and energize the scientific community.”

Using solar power instruments, this orbiter will map the planet’s surface. It will collect data about weather and look for the presence of Methane to find out if the Red Planet can sustain life. The research is expected to collaborate with NASA’s Maven probe, which will launch later this month.

If, because of any reason, ISRO will not be able to launch this by November 19th, this project will be delayed by almost 5 years due to Earth’s rotation & Mars’ position in our Galaxy.

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US-SPACE-NASA-MARS ATMOSPHERE

NASA is all set for its next mission to explore Mars named MAVEN – Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution. The spacecraft has arrived at the Kennedy Space Center and the  preparations are almost complete. The solar panels have been attached to the spacecraft. After a few final tests, NASA will be ready for the launch of its next mission to the MARS on Nov 18.

Instead of landing on the surface, this spacecraft will orbit the Red Planet to analyze its atmosphere. This will help NASA scientists to analyze how the planet’s atmosphere changed over time. MAVEN is scheduled to reach Mars in Sep 2014.

“The MAVEN mission is a significant step toward unraveling the planetary puzzle about Mars’ past and present environments,” NASA’s John Grunsfeld said in a written statement.

India has also scheduled its own Mars Orbiter mission for Nov 2013. These missions will help scientists to understand why Mars lost its atmosphere? A recent study  indicated that most of Mars’ carbon dioxide-based atmosphere may have escaped billions of years ago. If everything goes according to the plan India’s Space Research Organisation will join hands with NASA to explore Red Planet’s Atmosphere.

 

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