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Stunning panorama of Mars reveals the final resting place of NASA's Opportunity rover – Daily Mail

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Life on Mars! Stunning panorama of the Red Planet reveals the final resting place of NASA’s Rover Opportunity before it was declared ‘dead’ earlier this year

  • NASA shared a stunning panorama of Mars, which is also the resting place of its Opportunity rover
  • The image combines a series of 354 individual pictures that were snapped over a 29-day period
  • The view is of  the Perseverance Valley, which the rover was set to explore before it was declared dead in Feb.

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A stunning panorama of Mars shows the final resting place of NASA’s Opportunity.

The image is a series of 354 individual pictures snapped by the rover over a 29-day period before it shutdown completely and declared ‘dead’ by the American space agency earlier this year.

The desolate Martian landscape known as Perseverance Valley was the last thing the rover saw and now serves as its graveyard. 

The panorama is composed of 354 individual images provided by the rover’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111.

The panorama combines images from three different Pancam filters, which admit light centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet).

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A stunning panorama of Mars shows the final resting place of NASA ¿s Opportunity. The image is a series of 354 individual pictures snapped by the rover over a 29-day period before it shutdown completely and declared 'dead' by the American space agency earlier this year

A stunning panorama of Mars shows the final resting place of NASA ’s Opportunity. The image is a series of 354 individual pictures snapped by the rover over a 29-day period before it shutdown completely and declared ‘dead’ by the American space agency earlier this year

Opportunity project manager John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said: ‘This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery.’

‘To the right of center you can see the rim of Endeavor Crater rising in the distance.’

‘Just to the left of that, rover tracks begin their descent from over the horizon and weave their way down to geologic features that our scientists wanted to examine up close.’

‘And to the far right and left are the bottom of Perseverance Valley and the floor of Endeavour crater, pristine and unexplored, waiting for visits from future explorers.’

The desolate Martian landscape known as Perseverance Valley was the last thing the rover saw and now serves as its graveyard. The panorama is composed of 354 individual images provided by the rover's Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111

The desolate Martian landscape known as Perseverance Valley was the last thing the rover saw and now serves as its graveyard. The panorama is composed of 354 individual images provided by the rover's Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111

The desolate Martian landscape known as Perseverance Valley was the last thing the rover saw and now serves as its graveyard. The panorama is composed of 354 individual images provided by the rover’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111

NASA explained that Opportunity was not expected to last 15 years, but noted it had contributed greatly to their understanding of the planet¿s geology and environment, ¿laying groundwork for future robotic and human missions on the Red Planet¿, the American space agency said in a statement

NASA explained that Opportunity was not expected to last 15 years, but noted it had contributed greatly to their understanding of the planet¿s geology and environment, ¿laying groundwork for future robotic and human missions on the Red Planet¿, the American space agency said in a statement

NASA explained that Opportunity was not expected to last 15 years, but noted it had contributed greatly to their understanding of the planet’s geology and environment, ‘laying groundwork for future robotic and human missions on the Red Planet’, the American space agency said in a statement

NASA explained that Opportunity was not expected to last 15 years, but noted it had contributed greatly to their understanding of the planet’s geology and environment, ‘laying groundwork for future robotic and human missions on the Red Planet’, the American space agency said in a statement.

After eight months of effort and sending more than a thousand commands in an attempt to restore contact with the rover, NASA declared Opportunity’s mission complete on Feb. 13, 2019.

With the death of the Opportunity rover also comes the end of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers program, which launched from Cape Canaveral in July 2003 with the twin robots, Spirit and Opportunity. 

Spirit met its end back in 2011, a year after getting stuck in the sand and losing contact with Earth.

After eight months of effort and sending more than a thousand commands in an attempt to restore contact with the rover, NASA declared Opportunity's mission complete on Feb. 13, 2019

After eight months of effort and sending more than a thousand commands in an attempt to restore contact with the rover, NASA declared Opportunity's mission complete on Feb. 13, 2019

After eight months of effort and sending more than a thousand commands in an attempt to restore contact with the rover, NASA declared Opportunity’s mission complete on Feb. 13, 2019

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said during the press conference in February: ‘I’m standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude, as I declare the Opportunity mission complete – and with it the Mars exploration mission as compete.’

‘I will never forget the amazing work that happened here, it transformed our understanding of the red planet.’

The Mars rover, affectionately known as ‘Oppy,’ far surpassed the expectations of the team that’s operated it for so long.

The panorama shows a detailed view of the Perseverance Valley including the rover's tracks left behind as it traveled through the desolate landscape

The panorama shows a detailed view of the Perseverance Valley including the rover's tracks left behind as it traveled through the desolate landscape

The panorama shows a detailed view of the Perseverance Valley including the rover’s tracks left behind as it traveled through the desolate landscape

It was designed to last just 90 Martian days (90 sols), during which it would travel a total of 1,000 meters (1100 yards).

But somehow, Oppy survived 14-and-a-half years after touching down on the red planet, pushing its limits to travel almost 30 miles to reshape our understanding of Mars.

It withstood years of extreme temperatures and radiation, but finally met its match this past spring, when a planet-wide dust storm encircled Mars and blotted out the sun.

This proved to be a fatal blow for Opportunity, as the rover relies entirely on solar energy to power its instruments.

More than 1,000 recovery commands were sent over the course of eight months in a bid to revive the robotic geologist.

NASA made one final attempt to contact Opportunity Rover (pictured) eight months after the spacecraft last made contact. A giant dust storm blocked sunlight from Mars in 2018, stopping Opportunity's solar-powered batteries from being able to recharge

NASA made one final attempt to contact Opportunity Rover (pictured) eight months after the spacecraft last made contact. A giant dust storm blocked sunlight from Mars in 2018, stopping Opportunity's solar-powered batteries from being able to recharge

NASA made one final attempt to contact Opportunity Rover (pictured) eight months after the spacecraft last made contact. A giant dust storm blocked sunlight from Mars in 2018, stopping Opportunity’s solar-powered batteries from being able to recharge

WHAT DID ‘OPPY’ ACHIEVE ON MARS?

Though Opportunity was intended to last just 90 Martian sols, it survived for a staggering 14-and-a-half years. 

According to NASA, its many successes include:

  • A one-day Mars driving record March 20, 2005, when it traveled 721 feet (220 meters)
  • More than 217,000 images, including 15 360-degree color panoramas
  • Exposed the surfaces of 52 rocks to reveal fresh mineral surfaces, and cleared 72 additional targets with a brush to prepare them for inspection 
  • Found hematite, a mineral that forms in water, at its landing site
  • Discovered strong indications at Endeavor Crater of the action of ancient water similar to drinkable water of a pond or lake on Earth

 

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NASA eyes Oct 31 SpaceX craft liftoff with Japanese astronaut aboard – Japan Today

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Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi and his American peers on Tuesday expressed their readiness and excitement to fly aboard a spacecraft developed by U.S. aerospace manufacturer SpaceX, currently scheduled for liftoff on Oct 31.

“We are ready to fly,” Noguchi told a joint press conference with the crew ahead of what would be the second manned mission for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, while pointing out the diversity of the team members with various experiences and backgrounds as their strength.

The upcoming mission will mark the first in a series of regular, rotational flights to the International Space Station by SpaceX’s new crew transportation system following its certification by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Upon the first launch with astronauts of the Crew Dragon spacecraft in May, SpaceX became the first private company to successfully launch humans into orbit. Two NASA astronauts safely returned in August.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the next Crew-1 mission will be another “critical milestone” in the development of U.S. ability to launch astronauts in American rockets from the country’s soil since the conclusion of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.

He also pointed to the significance of having an international crew, namely Noguchi, joining the mission and the importance of sending more astronauts to the ISS, increasing the capacity for scientific research on the orbiting laboratory.

The Crew-1 mission team is scheduled to launch aboard the Crew Dragon capsule, which they named “Resilience,” on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:40 a.m. on Oct. 31, and will stay on the ISS for approximately six months.

The team members are Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover and two mission specialists, Shannon Walker and Noguchi. Glover, a former military test pilot and a rookie astronaut, will reportedly be the first African American to stay on a long-duration mission to the ISS.

Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is a 55-year-old veteran of two space missions, having been aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2005 and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for a 161-day stay on the ISS between 2009 and 2010.

Noguchi said he and Walker had a “relatively short” time for preparation as they joined the team around February and March, but that the important thing is all of the members “contribute to this wonderful team.”

“This diversity definitely brings the team’s resilience,” he said.

SpaceX, officially known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and founded by Tesla Inc. billionaire Elon Musk, is working with NASA to develop a successor to the Space Shuttle transportation system.

NASA has invested in private companies in hopes of creating a safe, reliable and cost-effective means of transporting humans to the ISS and to foster commercial access to space.

Hopkins said at the press conference that he hopes the upcoming mission will mark the start of “opening up low-Earth orbit to more people — to potentially not just NASA astronauts and JAXA astronauts and cosmonauts, but to civilians that are out there.”

Meanwhile, as the liftoff is scheduled just ahead of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, the American crew members said they are planning to cast their ballots from the ISS.

According to Walker, the astronauts will mark their choices on an electronic PDF file and email it to election officials.

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NASA's new $30M space toilet is smaller, better smelling and more female-friendly – CBC.ca

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Melissa McKinley has spent the last three years helping to build a cutting-edge piece of technology that will make life a lot easier for astronauts on space missions.

NASA’s new $30-million space toilet, the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), will launch to the International Space Station (ISS) this weekend, where astronauts will test how well it works in micro-gravity. 

Designed with astronaut feedback in mind, the new toilet is lighter, smaller, better smelling and more gender-inclusive than the Russian-made toilet currently in use aboard the ISS. 

“It’s a fun project to work on because of the technical challenges, and because of the big impact on the crew. Obviously, going to the bathroom is something that the crew has to deal with multiple times a day,” McKinley, a systems project manager at NASA, told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. 

“We have such a talented and technical team working on this. It has truly been exciting to see the challenges and solutions that this team has come up with.”

How does a space toilet work?

While toilets down here on Earth use water to flush away waste, space toilets use use air flow.

Feces is pulled away from the body and into a cannister for later disposal, while urine is sent to the ship’s recycling system to be converted into drinkable water.

“Obviously, that’s a vital part of the overall systems on board,” McKinley said.

The new toilet improves upon existing technology in a number of ways, and it was designed with the help of astronaut feedback to be more comfortable and easier to use, clean and maintain. 

“The project team is focused on doing the best job technically. And in order to do that, you have to have those frank conversations, and they become very, very commonplace,” McKinley said.

“The goal there for our team is to make it so that the crew can focus on other things they need to do during space travel and make this a more comfortable and convenient way for them to deal with these bodily functions.”

Answering the call of nature in microgravity isn’t easy, but NASA’s hoping to make it a little more pleasant for their ISS crew this week. (NASA)

One big complaint about the previous toilet design is that it “really wasn’t customized for the female experience,” McKinley said. “So this is a chance to customize it more for the female anatomy and more for their use.”

Current design is divided into two parts, with crew using a funnel and hose for peeing, and a seat for bowel movements. The UWMS is designed so that the funnel and seat can be used simultaneously. 

Another major factor is the smell.

Orion capsule engineering lead Jason Hutt, tweeted last month: “If you want to recreate that used spacecraft smell, take a couple dirty diapers, some microwave food wrappers, a used airsickness bag, & a few sweaty towels, put them in an old school metal trash can and let it bake in the summer sun for 10 days. Then open the [lid] & breathe deep.”

That shouldn’t be a problem with the UWMS, McKinley said. The new model comes with an odour bacteria filter. 

“It’s been said that the air coming out of the toilet is some of the nicest smelling air on the spacecraft,” she said.

But, perhaps, the most important upgrade is the reduced mass. 

The UWMS is 65 per cent smaller and 40 per cent lighter than the toilet currently aboard the ISS — which means more room for the astronauts, and a safer launch. 

The toilet was supposed to launch on Tuesday aboard a cargo capsule as part of a routine resupply mission, but was delayed due to weather. NASA now hopes to launch by the weekend. 

If all goes well, NASA also plans to install the toilet on Orion for a flight test that will send astronauts on a 10-day mission beyond the Moon and back.


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Sarah Peterson. 

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“Toxic or Habitable?” –The Hidden Lakes of Ultima Scopuli at Mars South Pole – The Daily Galaxy –Great Discoveries Channel

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"Toxic, or Prime for Life?" --The Buried Lakes of Ultima Scopuli at Mars South Pole

One of the myriad of unsolved mysteries about the Red Planet is why why ancient Mars had liquid water. Early in the planet’s history, Mars only received a third of the sunlight of present-day Earth, which shouldn’t be enough heat to maintain water. But in past, ancient millennia, huge rivers flowed across the planet’s surface, when its atmosphere was thicker and warmer, cutting gullies and channels on the silent, desolate landscape, unchanged for millions of years that are visible today to orbiting spacecraft. Scientists have long known that water was abundant on ancient Mars, but there has been no consensus on whether liquid water was common, or whether it was largely frozen in ice.

In 2013, planetary scientists at the European Space Agency released 3D images of the striking upper part of the Reull Vallis region of Mars, which reveal a 1500 kilometer long river running from the Promethei Terra Highlands to the vast Hellas basin. The image data from ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft shows that, at some points, the river bed is seven kilometers wide and 300 meters deep. The stereo cameras on board the satellite have also revealed “numerous tributaries” that fed the gigantic river. Today’s low atmospheric pressures on the Red Planet mean that any surface water would boil away. But recent discoveries reveal that water survives not frozen in polar ice caps and in subsurface ice deposits but also in a massive network of ancient buried lakes.

Mars ancient riversMars ancient rivers

Mars at One Billion –“Rainstorms & Huge Flowing Rivers”

In January of 2020, Caltech astronomers probed a mysterious feature at the South Pole of Mars –a massive deposit of CO2 ice and water ice in alternating strata, like the layers of a cake, shown at the top of the page, that extend to a depth of one kilometer, buried under a thin cover of CO2 ice. This strange feature was preceded in 2018 by discovery of evidence suggesting that far beneath the deeply frozen ice cap at Mars’s south pole lies a lake of liquid water—the first found on the Red Planet. Detected from orbit using ice-penetrating radar of Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS), the finding resembles the interconnected bodies of water buried under several kilometers of ice in Greenland and Antarctica, where a network of 400 lakes have been detected.

“The Death of Mars” –Pluto-Size Asteroid Ignited Ancient Climate Change

MARSIS, an instrument on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter, which launched in 2003, beams down pulses of radio waves and listens for reflections. Some of the waves bounce off the surface, but others penetrate up to 3 kilometers and can be reflected by sharp transitions in the buried layers, such as going from ice to rock.

Several years into the mission, MARSIS scientists began to see small, bright echoes under the south polar ice cap—so bright that the reflection could indicate not just rock underlying the ice, but liquid water. The researchers doubted the signal was real, however, because it appeared in some orbital passes but not others.

“Ice Age Mars” –Challenges a Once ‘Warm and Wet’ Red Planet

The spacecraft’s computer was averaging across pixels to reduce the size of large data streams—and in the process, smoothing away the bright anomalies. “We were not seeing the thing that was right under our noses,” says Roberto Orosei, a principal investigator (PI) for MARSIS at the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics in Bologna.

“It’s a very exciting result: the first indication of a briny aquifer on Mars,” said geophysicist David Stillman of Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. The findings, if confirmed, would mark the detection of the largest body of liquid water on Mars reported Marina Koren in The Atlantic..

Huge Lake Detected Under Mars’ South Pole –“We Were Not Seeing the Thing That was Right Under Our Noses”

A lake of liquid water surrounded by smaller ponds may be buried under 1400 meters of ice near the south pole of Mars reports Nature. New measurements offer more evidence of its existence, according to Elena Pettinelli at Roma Tre University in Italy and her colleagues who used the MARSIS radar instrument then applied criteria that were used to search for buried lakes in Greenland, –where New research has increased the number of known lakes lurking beneath the ice sheet from just four to a total of 60–to examine an area called Ultima Scopuli near the Red Planet’s south pole.

The researchers spotted a liquid lake measuring about 20-by-30 kilometers, along with at least three smaller ponds, each a few kilometers across. But the resolution of the radar measurements wasn’t high enough to determine their depth.

“It was probably originally a larger, wet area, and this is the remnant of that in smaller ponds,” says Pettinelli. For the water to remain liquid at the frigid temperatures, her team suggests that it is most likely a salty brine.

“There are bacteria that can live in very awkward situations,” says Pettinelli. “In Antarctica, they found bacteria living happily in the water of the underground lakes and between the crystals of the ice, and Antarctica is our closest analogue to Mars.”

The Daily Galaxy via Science,  Nature, New Scientist, The Atlantic

Image credit top of page: the ice-capped Martian south pole, pictured here by the Mars Express spacecraft that also carries the MARSIS radar instrument. (ESA/DLR/FU Berlin / Bill Dunford)

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