Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mars update for MAVEN's arrival

I led Space news from the University of Colorado with a preview of MAVEN's arrival at Mars.  I'll write about that even later.  Until then, I'm marking the occasion with the the Mars news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Blair Mountain and Labor Day), which makes this the first update about the Red Planet since Curiosity and other Mars news from the past two weeks more than a month ago.

Red Orbit: Signs of Life: How NASA JPL Uses Big Data to Explore Mars

In 60 minutes, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory accelerates discovery by 840% and explores Mars more quickly

High-performance computing in the cloud has enhanced the close collaboration between mission control and IT. As expert users of infrastructure-rather than simply infrastructure experts-IT has become tightly integrated into the mission teams. 

Research at the speed of light with big data cloud computing

The vast red plains and pink sky of Mars hint that volcanoes, meteors, and flash floods once shaped the landscape. Today, a number of robots, sent by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explore the atmosphere and surface of Mars. These rovers are on a quest to find out whether the red planet is, or ever was, an environment able to support life.

However, giving instructions to a Mars rover is more difficult than most people realize. Unfortunately, there's no joystick controller a scientist can use to move the rover around. In fact, there's no real-time communication at all. Scientists are only able to communicate with the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover during short windows that occur once or twice a day. And transmissions that travel at the speed of light still take between 7 and 20 minutes to reach the rover itself.
Yes, this is an ad, which is why I have the corporate PR label. It's still good space news.

Follow over the jump from more from Red Orbit and Florida State University.

Red Orbit: Memory Reformat Planned For Opportunity Mars Rover
Guy Webster, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
An increasing frequency of computer resets on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has prompted the rover team to make plans to reformat the rover’s flash memory.

The resets, including a dozen this month, interfere with the rover’s planned science activities, even though recovery from each incident is completed within a day or two.

Flash memory retains data even when power is off. It is the type used for storing photos and songs on smart phones or digital cameras, among many other uses. Individual cells within a flash memory sector can wear out from repeated use. Reformatting clears the memory while identifying bad cells and flagging them to be avoided.
Florida State University: Scientist uncovers Red Planet's climate history in unique meteroite
Kathleen Laufenberg
08/27/2014 12:03 pm
Was Mars — now a cold, dry place — once a warm, wet planet that sustained life? And if so, how long has it been cold and dry?

Research underway at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory may one day answer those questions — and perhaps even help pave the way for future colonization of the Red Planet. By analyzing the chemical clues locked inside an ancient Martian meteorite known as Black Beauty, Florida State University Professor Munir Humayun and an international research team are revealing the story of Mars’ ancient, and sometimes startling, climate history.

The team’s most recent finding of a dramatic climate change appeared in Nature Geoscience, in the paper “Record of the ancient Martian hydrosphere and atmosphere preserved in zircon from a Martian meteorite.”
Stay tuned for more on MAVEN, plus other space news.

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