A NASA robotic rover is nearing completion ahead of a journey next year to search for evidence of past life on Mars and lay the groundwork for the space agency’s mission to send humans into deep space.
The US space agency on Friday showed off its Mars 2020 rover, whose official name will be chosen early next year. NASA will in February ship the rover to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center where its three sections will be fully assembled. A July launch will send the rover to a dry lake bed on Mars that is bigger than the island of Manhattan.
The four-wheeled, car-sized rover will scour the base of Mars’ Jezero Crater, an 820-foot-deep (250-meter-deep) crater thought to have been a lake the size of Lake Tahoe, once the craft lands in February 2021. The crater is believed to have an abundance of pristine sediments some 3.5 billion years old that scientists hope will hold fossils of Martian life.
“The trick, though, is that we’re looking for trace levels of chemicals from billions of years ago on Mars,” Mars 2020 deputy project manager Matt Wallace told Reuters. The rover will collect up to 30 soil samples to be picked up and returned to Earth by a future spacecraft planned by NASA.
“Once we have a sufficient set, we’ll put them down on the ground, and another mission, which we hope to launch in 2026, will come, land on the surface, collect those samples and put them into a rocket, basically,” Wallace said. Humans have never before returned sediment samples from Mars.
The findings of the Mars 2020 research will be crucial to future human missions to the red planet, including the ability to make oxygen on the surface of Mars, Wallace said. The Mars 2020 Rover is carrying equipment that can turn carbon dioxide, which is pervasive on Mars, into oxygen for breathing and as a propellant.
Lessons from curiousity
If successful, Mars 2020 will mark NASA’s fifth Martian rover to carry out a soft landing, having learned crucial lessons from the most recent Curiosity rover that landed on the planet’s surface in 2012 and continues to traverse a Martian plain southeast of the Jezero Crater.
The Soviet Union is the only other country to successfully land a rover on Mars. China and Japan have attempted unsuccessfully to send orbiters around Mars, while India and Europe’s space agency have successfully lofted an orbiter to the planet.
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House introduces NASA authorization bill that emphasizes Mars over moon – Knnit
WASHINGTON The leadership of the House Science Committee introduced a NASA authorization bill Jan. 24 that seeks to significantly alter NASAs current plans to return humans to the moon and make them part of an effort to send humans to Mars.
The bill, designa…
Mysterious particles spewing from Antarctica defy physics – Space.com
Our best model of particle physics is bursting at the seams as it struggles to contain all the weirdness in the universe. Now, it seems more likely than ever that it might pop, thanks to a series of strange events in Antarctica. .
The death of this reigning physics paradigm, the Standard Model, has been predicted for decades. There are hints of its problems in the physics we already have. Strange results from laboratory experiments suggest flickers of ghostly new species of neutrinos beyond the three described in the Standard Model. And the universe seems full of dark matter that no particle in the Standard Model can explain.
But recent tantalizing evidence might one day tie those vague strands of data together: Three times since 2016, ultra-high-energy particles have blasted up through the ice of Antarctica, setting off detectors in the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) experiment, a machine dangling from a NASA balloon far above the frozen surface.
As Live Science reported in 2018, those events — along with several additional particles detected later at the buried Antarctic neutrino observatory IceCube — don’t match the expected behavior of any Standard Model particles. The particles look like ultra high-energy neutrinos. But ultra high-energy neutrinos shouldn’t be able to pass through the Earth. That suggests that some other kind of particle — one that’s never been seen before — is flinging itself into the cold southern sky.
Now, in a new paper, a team of physicists working on IceCube have cast heavy doubt on one of the last remaining Standard Model explanations for these particles: cosmic accelerators, giant neutrino guns hiding in space that would periodically fire intense neutrino bullets at Earth. A collection of hyperactive neutrino guns somewhere in our northern sky could have blasted enough neutrinos into Earth that we’d detect particles shooting out of the southern tip of our planet. But the IceCube researchers didn’t find any evidence of that collection out there, which suggests new physics must be needed to explain the mysterious particles.
To understand why, it’s important to know why these mystery particles are so unsettling for the Standard Model.
Neutrinos are the faintest particles we know about; they’re difficult to detect and nearly massless. They pass through our planet all the time — mostly coming from the sun and rarely, if ever, colliding with the protons, neutrons and electrons that make up our bodies and the dirt beneath our feet.
But ultra-high-energy neutrinos from deep space are different from their low-energy cousins. Much rarer than low-energy neutrinos, they have wider “cross sections,” meaning they’re more likely to collide with other particles as they pass through them. The odds of an ultra-high-energy neutrino making it all the way through Earth intact are so low that you’d never expect to detect it happening. That’s why the ANITA detections were so surprising: It was as if the instrument had won the lottery twice, and then IceCube had won it a couple more times as soon as it started buying tickets.
And physicists know how many lottery tickets they had to work with. Many ultra-high-energy cosmic neutrinos come from the interactions of cosmic rays with the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the faint afterglow of the Big Bang. Every once in a while, those cosmic rays interact with the CMB in just the right way to fire high-energy particles at Earth. This is called the “flux,” and it’s the same all over the sky. Both ANITA and IceCube have already measured what the cosmic neutrino flux looks like to each of their sensors, and it just doesn’t produce enough high-energy neutrinos that you’d expect to detect a neutrino flying out of Earth at either detector even once.
“If the events detected by ANITA belong to this diffuse neutrino component, ANITA should have measured many other events at other elevation angles,” said Anastasia Barbano, a University of Geneva physicist who works on IceCube.
But in theory, there could have been ultra-high-energy neutrino sources beyond the sky-wide flux, Barbano told Live Science: those neutrino guns, or cosmic accelerators.
“If it is not a matter of neutrinos produced by the interaction of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays with the CMB, then the observed events can be either neutrinos produced by individual cosmic accelerators in a given time interval” or some unknown Earthly source, Barbano said.
Blazars, active galactic nuclei, gamma-ray bursts, starburst galaxies, galaxy mergers, and magnetized and fast-spinning neutron stars are all good candidates for those sorts of accelerators, she said. And we know that cosmic neutrino accelerators do exist in space; in 2018, IceCube tracked a high-energy neutrino back to a blazar, an intense jet of particles coming from an active black hole at the center of a distant galaxy.
ANITA picks up only the most extreme high-energy neutrinos, Barbano said, and if the upward-flying particles were cosmic-accelerator-boosted neutrinos from the Standard Model — most likely tau neutrinos — then the beam should have come with a shower of lower-energy particles that would have tripped IceCube’s lower-energy detectors.
“We looked for events in seven years of IceCube data,” Barbano said — events that matched the angle and length of the ANITA detections, which you’d expect to find if there were a significant battery of cosmic neutrino guns out there firing at Earth to produce these up-going particles. But none turned up.
Their results don’t completely eliminate the possibility of an accelerator source out there. But they do “severely constrain” the range of possibilities, eliminating all of the most plausible scenarios involving cosmic accelerators and many less-plausible ones.
“The message we want to convey to the public is that a Standard Model astrophysical explanation does not work no matter how you slice it,” Barbano said.
Researchers don’t know what’s next. Neither ANITA nor IceCube is an ideal detector for the needed follow-up searches, Barbano said, leaving the researchers with very little data on which to base their assumptions about these mysterious particles. It’s a bit like trying to figure out the picture on a giant jigsaw puzzle from just a handful of pieces.
Right now, many possibilities seem to fit the limited data, including a fourth species of “sterile” neutrino outside the Standard Model and a range of theorized types of dark matter. Any of these explanations would be revolutionary.hjh But none is strongly favored yet.
“We have to wait for the next generation of neutrino detectors,” Barbano said.
The paper has not yet been peer reviewed and was published January 8 in the arXiv database.
Originally published on Live Science.
Spacewalking astronauts finish to fixing cosmic ray detector – Invest Records
Spacewalking astronauts labored to entire repairs to a cosmic ray detector outdoors the International Region Space on Saturday and give it unique lifestyles.
It used to be the fourth spacewalk since November for NASA’s Andrew Morgan and Italy’s Luca Parmitano to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. They installed unique coolant pumps final month to revive the instrument’s crippled cooling device and wished to envision for any leaks in the plumbing.
Parmitano lickety-split stumbled on a shrimp leak and tightened the fittings. “Our day merely bought quite extra no longer easy,” Mission Administration noticed.
Equipped every thing goes effectively, the $2 billion spectrometer—launched to the dwelling dwelling in 2011—might perchance well furthermore resume its hunt for elusive antimatter and darkish matter subsequent week, in step with NASA.
NASA has described the spectrometer spacewalks because the most complex since the Hubble Region Telescope restore missions a couple of many years ago. Unlike Hubble, this spectrometer used to be by no manner meant for astronaut dealing with in orbit, and it took NASA years to devise a restore belief.
In spite of their complexity, the predominant three spacewalks went effectively. Morgan and Parmitano had to cut back into stainless metallic pipes to circumvent the spectrometer’s historical, degraded coolant pumps, and then spliced the tubes into the four unique pumps—no easy job when working in elephantine gloves. The device uses carbon dioxide because the coolant.
Besides checking for leaks Saturday, the astronauts had to quilt the spectrometer with thermal insulation.
“Correct ideal fortune in the market, beget a bunch of fun,” astronaut Jessica Meir radioed from interior. “We’re very mad so that you just can be ending off all of the fabulous work that that you just would possibly furthermore beget got already save into this AMS restore, and I judge each person’s mad to the potentialities of what AMS has to supply whenever you guys carry out off the work as of late.”
The gigantic 7 1/2-ton (6,800-kilogram) spectrometer used to be launched to the home dwelling on NASA’s subsequent-to-final shuttle flight. Till it used to be shut down gradual final year for the restore work, it had studied bigger than 148 billion charged cosmic rays. The venture is led by Samuel Ting, a Nobel laureate on the Massachusetts Institute of Skills.
The repairs should mild allow the spectrometer to proceed working for the leisure of the lifetime of the home dwelling, or another 5 to 10 years. It used to be designed to operate for 3 years and so already has surpassed its anticipated lifetime.
Saturday’s spacewalk bought started quite gradual. A strap on a bag by probability bought caught in the seal when one amongst the interior hatches used to be closed and the air lock needed to be reopened and repressurized ahead of the astronauts might perchance well furthermore proceed out.
NASA’s two assorted astronauts on board, Meir and Christina Koch, performed two spacewalks at some level of the last 1 1/2 weeks to make stronger the home dwelling’s solar vitality device.
Altogether, this dwelling crew has gone out on nine spacewalks.
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Spacewalking astronauts finish to fixing cosmic ray detector (2020, January 25)
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