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Scientists claim to have discovered something “earthshaking” on Mars

The Mars Science Laboratory team has hinted that they might have some big news to share soon. But like good scientists, they are waiting until they verify their results before saying anything definitive. In an interview on NPR today, MSL Principal Investigator John Grotzinger said a recent soil sample test in the SAM instrument (Sample Analysis at Mars) shows something “earthshaking.”

“This data is gonna be one for the history books,” he said. “It’s looking really good.” What could it be?

SAM is designed to investigate the chemical and isotopic composition of the Martian atmosphere and soil. In particular, SAM is looking for organic molecules, which is important in the search for life on Mars. Life as we know it cannot exist without organic molecules; however they can exist without life. SAM will be able to detect lower concentrations of a wider variety of organic molecules than any other instrument yet sent to Mars.

As many scientists have said, both the presence and the absence of organic molecules would be important science results, as both would provide important information about the environmental conditions of Gale Crater on Mars.

But something ‘Earthshaking’ or “really good” probably wouldn’t be a nil result.

Scientists claim to have discovered something "earthshaking" on Mars

Already, the team has found evidence for huge amounts of flowing water in Gale Crater.

If SAM does find organic material, the next step would be to determine the origin and the nature of preservation of the molecules. But the team is going to wait until they verify whatever it is they found.

As NPR’s Joe Palca says in his report, “They have some exciting new results from one of the rover’s instruments. On the one hand, they’d like to tell everybody what they found, but on the other, they have to wait because they want to make sure their results are not just some fluke or error in their instrument.”

The team is being cautious because of their experience with looking for methane in the Martian air. When one of the SAM instruments analyzed an air sample, they got a reading of methane. But, it turned out, they were likely measuring some of the air that was brought along from Florida, as air leaked into the Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS) while the spacecraft was awaiting launch. The initial readings from the TLS, full of methane, were very exciting to the Curiosity scientists until they realized it was from Earth.

But NPR reports that Grotzinger says it will take several weeks before he and his team are ready to talk about their latest finding.

In the meantime there will likely be much speculation as everyone is excited about the prospects of life – past or present – on Mars. Either would have astounding implications.

Space

Elon Musk: ‘I will take a million people to Mars by 2050’

Elon musk, the tycoon and businessman, has surprised once again by tweeting that he will take a million people to Mars by 2050.

In several tweets released on Thursday night, the CEO of Spacex, the company that develops cutting-edge rockets, disclosed more details of its plan to colonize Mars.

As previously indicated, Musk said that in theory, 1,000 spaceships could possibly carry 100,000 people in each orbital synchronization of Earth with Mars.

Elon Musk: «I will take a million people to Mars by 2050»
Artistic representation of a city on Mars. Credit: Max Horbatiuk / artstation.com

According to Musk, the ships would depart from Earth following an orbit in a period of 30 days, taking advantage of the moment when the Earth and Mars are better aligned to make the trip, that is every 26 months.

Musk imagines that these ships will depart from Earth’s orbit for a period of 30 days, the time window when Earth and Mars are better aligned to make the trip, every 26 months.

One million people to Mars

One of the users of Twitter asked Musk, if he thinks he could take a million people to Mars, taking into account the equivalence of years and possible trips; Musk simply answered with a “yes”.

Musk said he will need his rockets to have a large load capacity to meet the goal of building a colony on Mars or on another planet.

Calculations indicate that each ship could support more than 100 tons per flight, resulting in the need that each ship might need one megaton per year in orbit, Musk indicated.

But overcoming the difficult and long journey, and once humans reach the red planet, Musk says that the work will begin.

Musk tweeted:

There will be many jobs to do. ”

Although for now, everything is based on theories and calculations, the engineers of Spacex They must work hard in these missing decades to achieve Elon Musk’s dream goal: colonize Mars.

Source: cnet


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Space

‘A world with two stars’: a teenager discovers an unusual planet while doing internships at NASA

A 17-year-old teenager from New York (USA) discovered a planet while searching for stars as an intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the space agency reported this week.

Wolf Cukier, a junior in high school, had received the task of examining variations in the brightness of the stars captured by the Traffic Exoplanet Inspection Satellite (TESS). While exploring a star system located 1,300 light years from Earth, he observed what appeared to be a slight spot on one of the suns of the system called TOI 1338.

“At first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet, ”said Cukier.

“The planet blocked the light of those two stars, which caused a small decrease in the amount of light that reached the telescope. That was what I noticed at the beginning, ”he explained later to CBS.

Difficult to detect

Once he communicated the discovery to his mentors, they spent several weeks verifying his observation. They finally concluded that what he had discovered was a planet 6.9 times larger than ours that orbits around two stars, in what is known as a circumbinary planet.

Because these binary stars orbit each other every 15 days, it was not an easy task to distinguish the transit events from the only known planet in such a system, dubbed TOI 1338-b. Planets that orbit two stars are harder to detect than those that orbit only one.

In this case, the largest star is approximately 10% larger than our Sun, while the smallest, approximately one third of that mass, is colder and dimmer.

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Mars is losing its water much faster than previously thought

It turns out that Mars is losing its water much faster than previously thought. It is not clear if there will be any water left when the eventual human colonization of the Red Planet is undertaken.

On January 13, 2020, NASA proudly announced that it had finally selected 13 men and women, some of whom would fly to the moon and / or Mars, as part of the Artemis Program in the 2030s.

Meanwhile, an article has been published in the Science journal that the Martian colonists will have serious problems, combined with deadly space radiation and unresolved difficulties in maintaining the life of the station.

The survival ob the Red Planet is also related to water. In most cases, Mars water is in the form of ice and is not deep below the surface, but is mostly preserved in the form of ice caps at the poles. However, even there, it constantly evaporates and goes into space.

Scientists have known about this evaporation before, but it has recently turned out to be much faster than expected.

Martian Polar Cap

According to most projects, Martian colonists have to extract water from these ice caps, but when it comes time for them to be on Mars, there may no longer be any water on the planet. What will happen to the colonists? They will not be able to live long without water even if they process their urine.

Researchers led by Frank Montmesin, a scientist at the French University of Paris-Sackle, understand this threat by examining data from the Martian atmosphere over the past two years. This data is obtained from the Trace Gas Orbiter apparatus flying in orbit on the Red Planet.

It turns out that the upper atmosphere of Mars contains much more water vapor than the planet’s surface, about 10-100 times more than expected. The difference in values ​​depends on the position of the planet. Particularly rapid evaporation occurs during the Martian perihelion, when the planet is closest to the Sun.

Mars has low gravity, so it is not surprising that residual water quickly evaporates from its surface. At the same time, when getting into the upper atmosphere, under the influence of solar ultraviolet radiation, water vapor decomposes into oxygen and hydrogen atoms, which allows it to leave the Martian atmosphere even faster.

For how long Mars will have water under these conditions is still unknown. Now, however, future colonists will have to consider this Martian anomaly as well.

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