Saturday, March 23, 2013

Conditions right for life on ancient Mars and other Curiosity news

I've been a laggard in posting about one of the most important science stories of last week here at Crazy Eddie's Motie News, although I did make it the lead story of Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Life possible on ancient Mars) over at Daily Kos. Time to catch up with myself.

NASA Televsion also made this their top story in last week's Mars Once Habitable on This Week @NASA.

Analysis of the first ever sample of rock powder collected by the Mars Curiosity rover has proven that the Red Planet location it's exploring once had everything needed to support microbial life including a lakebed filled with not salty or acidic but fresh water. Also, innovative space technology; students help space exploration; women aspiring, inspiring; IceBridge preps; SLS @ TennTech; career day; and more!
That wasn't what I used for the lead at Daily Kos. Instead, Alan Boyle's artile at NBC News got that honor.

Curiosity rover sees life-friendly conditions in ancient Mars rock
Powder drilled out of a rock on Mars contains the best evidence yet that the Red Planet could have supported living microbes billions of years ago, the team behind NASA's Curiosity rover said Tuesday.

"I think this is probably the only definitively habitable environment that we have described and recorded," said David Blake, a scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center who is the principal investigator for Curiosity's CheMin lab.

The findings are in line with what the scientists hoped to find when they sent the 1-ton, six-wheeled laboratory to Mars' Gale Crater. "It wasn't serendipity that got us here. It was the result of planning," Caltech's John Grotzinger, the $2.5 billion mission's project scientist, told reporters at NASA Headquarters in Washington on Tuesday.
Follow over the jump for more from NBC News and Discovery News about this topic.

Discovery News gave their own goofy take on the story in Curiosity Finds Possible Life on Mars.

Could life have existed on Mars even before it flourished on Earth? That's the word from NASA after the rover Curiosity sent back some very intriguing findings. Anthony explains what exactly the rover discovered.
The presenter mentioned what Curiosity would do next. It turns out that I have another article from Alan Boyle of NBC News about just that.NBC News: What's next for Mars Curiosity rover
Even as the scientists behind NASA's Curiosity rover mission announced that they found evidence of life-friendly chemistry inside a Martian rock, the $2.5 billion mission's engineers continued their efforts to get the rover back into full operation after a serious computer glitch.

The rover's scientific work in a spot known as Yellowknife Bay has been put on hold while the mission operations team rebuilds the memory for one of Curiosity's two redundant computers, known as the A-side. The A-side computer experienced a memory failure on Feb. 28, forcing controllers to switch over to the B-side backup brain. Since then, the team has been putting the A-side through a series of tests to make sure it's OK.

"We have been able to store new data in many of the memory locations previously affected and believe more runs will demonstrate more memory is available," Jim Erickson, the mission's deputy project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said Monday in a status report. A couple of software patches are due to be uploaded and tested this week, and then the team will reassess when to resume full mission operations, including the analysis of additional rock samples.
NASA released another item from Mars last week, which Alan Boyle of NBC News reported in How a rover's Martian mountain would look on Earth
If you could pull up a 3-mile-high mountain from Mars and plop it down in California's Mojave Desert, it'd probably look much like this latest color panorama from the Curiosity rover's science team. This little piece from the panorama doesn't do justice to the whole picture: You really should see the whole thing at high resolution to get a sense of just how much Mount Sharp, a.k.a. Aeolis Mons, looms over the scene where NASA's six-wheeled robotic lab has been working.

The most jarring thing about the picture is the blue sky. No, the Martian sky doesn't really look like that. The Red Planet's atmosphere is filled with iron-rich dust that turns everything into shades of butterscotch, burnt orange and brick. To see Mount Sharp as you or your smartphone camera might see it if you were actually there, check out this true-color version of the panorama.
The point of the recolored photo wasn't just to show NASA's capabilities or just because it looked cool, although both are true, but to allow NASA's scientists to better recognize Martian materials. After all, geologists are used to how rocks and minerals look here on Earth under a blue sky, not a Martian pink one.

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