Scientists have made a surprising discovery about Mars by playing with muck in the laboratory.
An international team of researchers wondered how volcanoes that spew mud instead of molten rock might look on the Red Planet compared with their counterparts here on Earth.
In chamber experiments, simulated Martian mud flows were seen to behave a bit like boiling toothpaste.
Under certain conditions, the fluid even began to bounce.
The mucky gunge resembled a certain type of lava referred to as “pahoehoe”, which is observed at Hawaii’s famous Kīlauea volcano.
The research results could now complicate some investigations at the Red Planet, believes study lead Dr Petr Brož from the Czech Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geophysics.
“You’ll look at some features [from space] and you won’t know for sure whether they are the result of lava flows or mud flows.
“Without a geologist on the ground to hit them with a hammer, it will be hard to tell,” he told BBC News.
For a long time, Dr Brož had a sceptical view about mud volcanoes on Mars.
The phenomena are well known here on Earth, but he’d actually spent several years trying to disprove an interpretation that large numbers of conical forms on the Red Planet might also be the same thing.
Eventually, he came around to the idea, and that led him to wonder how mud – if it really does spew from the ground on Mars – would behave in the extreme cold and low-pressure conditions that persist there.
This took him to Dr Manish Patel and his team at the UK’s Open University. They have a special chamber that can recreate the Martian environment.
It’s the kind of set-up in which equipment destined to go on a space agency rover would be tested.
And although ordinarily every effort would be made to keep the chamber spotlessly clean, the researchers soon found themselves tipping experimental muddy fluids down a sandy slope.
Under “Earth conditions”, these muddy mixes behave as you would expect: they’re smooth, like gravy poured on to a dinner plate. But under “Martian conditions”, the mud progresses via a series of ropy and jagged lobes.
It all comes down to how the low pressure – 150 times less than the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere – makes water rapidly evaporate, boil and ultimately freeze.
“The skin on the fluid freezes, but this flow is thick enough that the inside remains fluid,” explained Dr Patel. “So the skin will stop the flow for a bit, but then the momentum from the fluid inside breaks through at weak points in the skin, and the flow propagates forward. It’s just like pahoehoe, except that’s molten rock. But again, it’s a cooling skin that forms before hot material bursts through.”
The team reports its initial experiments in a paper in the journal Nature Geoscience. Not captured in this publication are subsequent experiments in which the flows were repeated for a “hot day” on Mars. There are places where it can get as high as 20C for short periods.
In this scenario, the mud boiled vigorously in the low pressure; “it was jumping over the surface as if levitating,” said Dr Brož.
The team’s work should be a reminder to scientists that when they look at planetary bodies, physical processes can sometimes produce unexpected outcomes, he added.
and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos
With SpaceX's first astronaut launch, a new era of human spaceflight has dawned – Space.com
We’ve gotten our hopes up before.
The success of NASA’s Apollo moon missions half a century ago, for example, made Mars seem very much within reach for human explorers. Indeed, the space agency drew up plans to put boots on the Red Planet by the early 1980s, but shifting political and societal winds killed that idea in the cradle.
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush announced the Space Exploration Initiative, which aimed to send astronauts back to the moon by the end of the 1990s and get people to Mars in the 2010s. His son, President George W. Bush, also aimed for a crewed lunar return, with a program called Constellation, whose contours were outlined in 2004. Each program was soon axed by the next administration to come into power.
Full coverage: SpaceX’s historic Demo-2 astronaut launch explained
So it’s natural for space fans to greet the grand pronouncements occasioned by SpaceX’s first crewed launch on Saturday (May 30) with a bit of skepticism. Yes, the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the first orbital human spaceflight to depart from American soil since NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011, is a big deal. But does it really show that “the commercial space industry is the future,” as President Donald Trump said shortly after liftoff?
Actually, it very well might.
Demo-2 is far from a one-off, after all. It’s a test flight designed to fully validate SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket for crewed missions to the ISS. The company holds a $2.6 billion NASA contract to conduct six such operational flights, the first of which is targeted for late August, provided Demo-2 goes well.
SpaceX is a highly ambitious company that has already accomplished a great deal in the final frontier; it’s been flying robotic cargo flights to the ISS for NASA since 2012, for example. So, there’s little reason to doubt SpaceX’s ability to fulfill that contract, and to execute a variety of other missions in Earth orbit as well.
Elon Musk’s company has in fact already inked Crew Dragon deals with other customers. For example, Houston-based company Axiom Space, which aims to build a commercial space station in Earth orbit, has booked a Crew Dragon flight to the ISS, with liftoff targeted in late 2021. And the space tourism outfit Space Adventures plans to use the capsule at around the same time, to carry passengers on a mission to high Earth orbit, far above the ISS.
Then there’s Boeing. Like SpaceX, Boeing signed a contract with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to fly six crewed missions to and from the ISS. Boeing will fulfill the deal with a capsule called CST-100 Starliner, which has made one uncrewed trip to orbit to date.
That flight, which launched this past December, didn’t go as planned; Starliner was supposed to meet up with the ISS but suffered a glitch with its onboard timing system and got trapped in the wrong orbit. But Boeing plans to refly the uncrewed ISS mission later this year and put astronauts on Starliner shortly thereafter, provided everything goes well.
Activity is heating up in the suborbital realm as well.
For example, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has already flown two piloted missions to suborbital space with its newest SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity. The company is in the final phases of its test campaign and looks poised to begin carrying space tourists aboard the six-passenger Unity soon.
And Blue Origin, the spaceflight company run by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, has reached space numerous times with its suborbital vehicle, known as New Shepard. Those test flights have been uncrewed to date, but it probably won’t be long before New Shepard begins carrying customers as well.
The names on this list chip away at the skepticism even more. We aren’t talking about cash-strapped startups here; Bezos is the world’s richest man, and Musk and Branson are both billionaires. And Boeing is an aerospace giant with a long history of achievement in the human spaceflight realm. The company is the prime contractor for the ISS, for example, and it built the first stage of NASA’s huge Saturn V rocket, which launched the Apollo moon missions.
So there’s real reason to hope that an exciting new era of human spaceflight has dawned — perhaps one that will even see people riding private spaceships to the moon, Mars and other destinations in deep space.
Musk has long stressed that he founded SpaceX back in 2002 primarily to help humanity colonize the Red Planet, and the company is already building and testing prototypes of Starship, the vehicle designed to make that happen. And Bezos has repeatedly said that his overarching vision for Blue Origin involves helping to get millions of people living and working in space.
This coming private boom isn’t booting NASA off the human-spaceflight block, of course. The space agency has deep space ambitions of its own. Its Artemis program aims to land two astronauts near the moon’s south pole in 2024 and establish a long-term human presence on and around the moon by 2028.
And the moon will be a stepping stone, if all goes according to NASA’s plan, teaching the agency the skills and techniques required to put boots on Mars.
NASA wants to make that giant leap in the 2030s. We’ll see if the political will and the funding hold long enough for the agency to do it.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
How to watch SpaceX’s Crew Dragon dock with the International Space Station live – The Verge
On Saturday afternoon, SpaceX launched its first human crew to space for NASA on the company’s new Crew Dragon spacecraft — but the mission isn’t over yet. After spending nearly a full day in orbit, the two passengers on board SpaceX’s vehicle, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, will attempt to dock with the International Space Station this morning.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon has an automatic docking system, which uses a series of sensors and cameras to help the vehicle approach the ISS and then grab on to an existing docking port. The Crew Dragon successfully tested out this technique last year when SpaceX launched a test version of the vehicle to the ISS without crew on board. But this time, the Crew Dragon will carry very precious cargo.
While the Crew Dragon is capable of getting Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the station on its own, the two astronauts do plan to do some manual flying when they get close to the ISS. Somewhere between 220 and 170 meters out from the station, the crew will practice flying the capsule manually, using the vehicle’s touchscreen interface inside. Once they’re done, the automatic system will take over again, and the Crew Dragon will do the rest of the work to get to the station.
NASA is providing round-the-clock coverage of the Crew Dragon’s mission right now, but things kick off this morning when Behnken and Hurley do a broadcast from inside the Crew Dragon. Docking will come about a few hours later at 10:29AM ET. All of the events will take place live on NASA’s TV stream above.
Trump Given False Credit For Bush- And Obama-Era Space Program
Today the Space X Dragon “Endeavor” launched. It was the first time since 2011 that the U.S. had launched humans into space. The Commercial Crew Development Program was started during the George W. Bush administration, and was expanded through the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, approved by Congress and signed by President Obama.
JimBridenstine, the Administrator of NASA, was nominated by President Trump in 2017 and the Senate confirmed him in 2018 with a party-line vote, 50-49. All previous NASA administrators have been scientists or engineers — Bridenstine is neither. He is the first politician to head NASA.
Bridenstine gave a speech after the launch where the focus was put on the accomplishments of Trump, and the previous administrations’ roles in this mission were never mentioned. Bridenstine made a point to mention that there were layoffs at NASA in 2010, a pointed jab at the Obama administration. The reason for the layoffs was that the space shuttle missions were wrapping up. As you read above, the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, signed by President Obama, expanded the crew development program. All contracts for today’s mission, including SpaceX’s, were completed during the Obama administration. Trump and Pence also spoke at the event. Space.com described Trump’s address after the launch as something that “sounded like a campaign speech.”
Later, Bridenstine gave an interview where the questions were focused on Trump. Bridenstine offered, “We now have an administration that is fully supportive of our spaceflight initiatives…but also from a Space Force perspective.” Keep in mind, again, that the crew development program was started during the George W. Bush administration, and expanded during the Obama administration.
The U.S. Air Force already had jurisdiction over space, so the creation of the Space Force was redundant. Astronaut Mark Kelly said of Space Force in a tweet, “This is a dumb idea. The Air Force does this already. That is their job. What’s next? We move submarines to the 7th branch and call it the under-the-sea force?”
Bridenstine added during the interview, “[Trump] also said were going to go to the moon by 2024. That means he’s putting himself at risk to say, ‘look, I’m going to be accountable, potentially, I’m going to be accountable to the initiatives that I put forward,’ and I think that’s, we have not had that kind of leadership for space in a long, long time and I’m so grateful for it.”
A plan to go to the moon, as you can expect, takes years of preparation. Much longer than Trump has been in office. It’s unclear what risk Bridenstine was referring to, as the initiatives for the crew development program were begun during the George W. Bush administration.
This speech and interview were a marked shift from statements Bridenstine made three days prior, a day before the initial planned Dragon launch. On May 27th, an interview with Elon Musk and Bridenstine had comments from Bridenstine that focused on the contributions of NASA and SpaceX to the Dragon mission and didn’t mention Trump at all.
Three days later, what appeared originally to be a NASA administrator that is a little out of his element but just really likes space turned into an administrator that rarely acknowledged the endless amount of manpower put into the crew development program. Bridenstine appeared to go from space enthusiast to Trump campaign manager.
Some space enthusiasts expressed dismay at Bridenstine’s speech and interview, including the constant focus on Trump. Journalist Henry Brean tweeted, “What better moment is there for the NASA administrator to talk about the big risk the president is taking than when two astronauts are riding a rocket into space?”
Edited By Harry Miller
Hall calls pause 'a variable' as possible free agent with Coyotes – NHL.com
Microsoft reportedly turns to A.I. to optimize MSN news, replacing human workers – Digital Trends
Another COVID-19 case reported in northern New Brunswick on Saturday – Deloraine Times
- Science17 hours ago
After weather delay, SpaceX set for second try at first crewed launch Saturday
- Sports10 hours ago
Maple Leafs-Blue Jackets Qualifying Round debated
- Media10 hours ago
China media bristles at U.S. moves on Hong Kong over national security push
- Sports5 hours ago
UFC on ESPN 9 in tweets: Pros react to Gilbert Burns’ domination of ex-champ Tyron Woodley – MMA Fighting
- Health7 hours ago
344 new coronavirus cases, 41 deaths in Ontario as total cases rise to 27210
- Health10 hours ago
COVID-19 outbreak declared at farm in Norfolk County
- Business21 hours ago
‘Final nail in the coffin’ of 2020 cruise ship season in Victoria due to COVID-19 – CHEK
- Science14 hours ago
Trump space speech in Florida likely to test apolitical nature of NASA – Ars Technica