Connect with us

Science

Curiosity investigates how rocks on Mars could preserve signs of life – Digital Trends

Published

 on


A self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover’s location in Gale Crater. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Trying to find evidence of life on Mars isn’t a simple matter. If there ever was life on Mars, it was likely microbial and lived millions of years ago. That means that to find evidence of its existence, rovers like Perseverance and Curiosity have to look for clues hidden in rock samples.

But not all rocks retain indications of life, as certain minerals preserve these clues better than others. Now, a new study using data from the Curiosity rover has shed light on what indicators of life have been preserved or destroyed through the history of Mars.

Curiosity is exploring a dried-up lakebed called the Gale Crater, which has clay layers at the bottom. Clay forms in the presence of water and is excellent at preserving signs of life, so it’s a good place to look. But it turns out that these clay minerals aren’t static over time, as was previously thought.

“We used to think that once these layers of clay minerals formed at the bottom of the lake in Gale Crater, they stayed that way, preserving the moment in time they formed for billions of years,” said Tom Bristow, principal investigator of Curiosity’s CheMin instrument and lead author of the paper. “But later brines broke down these clay minerals in some places — essentially resetting the rock record.”

This process, called diagenesis, erases part of the record of organisms that might once have lived there. However, the good news is that the researchers have a model of how to look for life signs in clays by looking at comparable locations on Earth. There are habitats on our planet known a “deep biospheres” that host thriving colonies of microbes in underground environments.

“These are excellent places to look for evidence of ancient life and gauge habitability,” said John Grotzinger, CheMin co-investigator and co-author at the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, in Pasadena, California. “Even though diagenesis may erase the signs of life in the original lake, it creates the chemical gradients necessary to support subsurface life, so we are really excited to have discovered this.”

All of this means that searching for evidence of life on Mars is even more complicated than we thought — but not impossible.

“We’ve learned something very important: There are some parts of the Martian rock record that aren’t so good at preserving evidence of the planet’s past and possible life,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity project scientist and co-author at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The fortunate thing is we find both close together in Gale Crater and can use mineralogy to tell which is which.”

Editors’ Recommendations




Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

NASA hands SpaceX contract for first mission to Jupiter's moon Europa – Fox Business

Published

 on


NASA’s (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Southern California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)  has awarded SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) with the launch services contract for the Earth’s first mission to conduct detailed investigations of Europa. 

The “Europa Clipper” mission is set for October 2024 and NASA said in a Friday release that the spacecraft will launch on a Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

FAA SAYS JEFF BEZOS NOT AN ASTRONAUT BASED ON NEW CRITERIA

The contract award is approximately $178 million dollars

Scientists at the agency will explore whether Jupiter’s icy moon, which is about 90% the size of Earth’s moon, could host conditions suitable for life. 

The world – discovered first by famed astronomer Galileo Galilei – shows strong evidence for an ocean of salty water beneath the planet’s crust, thought to contain twice as much water as Earth’s oceans combined.

GET FOX BUSINESS ON THE GO BY CLICKING HERE

NASA believes that the moon’s ice shell is around 10 to 15 miles thick and its internal ocean is estimated to be around 40 to 100 miles deep.

The mission will send Europa Clipper to orbit around Jupiter to perform close flybys of Europa on an elliptical path. The orbiter’s suite of science instruments will help to measure the ocean’s depth and salinity and the thickness of its icy shell, map surface geology and composition, search for plumes of water vapor that could be emitted from Europa’s crust and subsurface lakes and produce high-resolution images of its surface.

This color view of Jupiter’s moon Europa was captured by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. Scientists are studying processes that affect the surface as they prepare to explore the icy body. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute)

JPL notes that understanding Europa habitability will help astrobiologists to better understand how life developed on Earth approximately 382 million miles away, in addition to efforts to find life beyond the blue marble.

While JPL leads the development of the Europa Clipper mission in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, NASA’s Kennedy-based Launch Services Program will manage the Europa Clipper launch service. 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ON FOX BUSINESS 

Additionally, the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will orchestrate program management of the Europa Clipper mission.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Buck Moon rises over Oshawa harbour – insauga.com

Published

 on


 

July’s orange- or yellow-tinted full moon – known as a Buck Moon – arrived at 10:36 p.m. Friday night.

It’s called the Buck Moon because the antlers of male deer are in full-growth mode at this time.

Indigenous people of Canada have several other names for the phenomenon, including Berry Moon (Anishinabe), Feather Moulting Moon (Cree), Salmon Moon, (Tlingit) and Raspberry Moon (Algonquin, Ojibwe).

The full moon can be viewed in all its glory until tomorrow night.

Photo: Colin Ryan

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

NASA clears Boeing Starliner for July 30th test flight to ISS – Yahoo Movies Canada

Published

 on


More than 18 months after its failed first attempt to make it to the International Space Station, Boeing’s Starliner is ready for a second shot. Following a flight readiness review, NASA is moving forward with the craft’s upcoming July 30th uncrewed orbital flight test. Unless there’s an unforeseen delay, the capsule will launch from the Space Force’s Cape Canaveral Station mounted on an Atlas V rocket at 2:53PM ET. Should NASA postpone the flight, it will again attempt to carry out the test on August 3rd at the earliest.

The purpose of the flight is for NASA to conduct an end-to-end test of Starliner’s capabilities. It wants to know if the capsule can handle every aspect of a trip to the ISS, including launch, docking as well as atmospheric re-entry. “[Orbital Flight Test-2] will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station,” the agency said.

If the flight is a success, NASA will move forward with a crewed test of the Starliner. Steve Stich, commercial crew program manager at NASA, said that could happen “as soon as later this year.” Both Boeing and NASA have a lot invested in the viability of Starliner. For the aerospace company, its decision not to conduct an end-to-end test of the craft before its failed 2019 flight left the agency “surprised,” leading to questions about the project. Meanwhile, NASA is keen to have two capsules that can ferry its astronauts to the ISS. Right now, it’s limited to just SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. “It’s very important for the commercial crew program to have two space transportation systems,” Stich told reporters.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending