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  • richardmitnick 12:17 pm on May 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Mars Exploration, ,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “NASA, ULA Launch Mission to Study How Mars Was Made” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    May 5, 2018

    D.C. Agle / Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-5011
    agle@jpl.nasa.gov / andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    Dwayne Brown /
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1726 /
    dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov /

    JoAnna Wendel
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1003
    joanna.r.wendel@nasa.gov

    1

    The NASA InSight spacecraft launches onboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas-V rocket, Saturday, May 5, 2018, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander designed to study the “inner space” of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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    This image shows the trail of NASA’s Mars InSight lander over the Los Angeles area after launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California on May 5, 2018. This is a stack of exposures taken from Mt. Wilson. Credit: D. Ellison

    NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is on a 300-million-mile (483-million-kilometer) trip to Mars to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet. InSight launched at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT) Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

    NASA Mars Insight Lander

    “The United States continues to lead the way to Mars with this next exciting mission to study the Red Planet’s core and geological processes,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I want to congratulate all the teams from NASA and our international partners who made this accomplishment possible. As we continue to gain momentum in our work to send astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars, missions like InSight are going to prove invaluable.”

    First reports indicate the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that carried InSight into space was seen as far south as Carlsbad, California, and as far east as Oracle, Arizona. One person recorded video of the launch from a private aircraft flying along the California coast.

    Riding the Centaur second stage of the rocket, the spacecraft reached orbit 13 minutes and 16 seconds after launch. Sixty-one minutes later, the Centaur ignited a second time, sending InSight on a trajectory toward the Red Planet. InSight separated from the Centaur about 9 minutes later — 93 minutes after launch — and contacted the spacecraft via NASA’s Deep Space Network at 5:41 a.m. PDT (8:41 a.m. EDT).

    “The Kennedy Space Center and ULA teams gave us a great ride today and started InSight on our six-and-a-half-month journey to Mars,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We’ve received positive indication the InSight spacecraft is in good health and we are all excited to be going to Mars once again to do groundbreaking science.”

    With its successful launch, NASA’s InSight team now is focusing on the six-month voyage. During the cruise phase of the mission, engineers will check out the spacecraft’s subsystems and science instruments, making sure its solar arrays and antenna are oriented properly, tracking its trajectory and performing maneuvers to keep it on course.

    InSight is scheduled to land on the Red Planet around 3 p.m. EST (noon PST) Nov. 26, where it will conduct science operations until Nov. 24, 2020, which equates to one year and 40 days on Mars, or nearly two Earth years.

    “Scientists have been dreaming about doing seismology on Mars for years. In my case, I had that dream 40 years ago as a graduate student, and now that shared dream has been lofted through the clouds and into reality,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at JPL.

    The InSight lander will probe and collect data on marsquakes, heat flow from the planet’s interior and the way the planet wobbles, to help scientists understand what makes Mars tick and the processes that shaped the four rocky planets of our inner solar system.

    “InSight will not only teach us about Mars, it will enhance our understanding of formation of other rocky worlds like Earth and the Moon, and thousands of planets around other stars,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “InSight connects science and technology with a diverse team of JPL-led international and commercial partners.”

    Previous missions to Mars investigated the surface history of the Red Planet by examining features like canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil, but no one has attempted to investigate the planet’s earliest evolution, which can only be found by looking far below the surface.

    “InSight will help us unlock the mysteries of Mars in a new way, by not just studying the surface of the planet, but by looking deep inside to help us learn about the earliest building blocks of the planet,” said JPL Director Michael Watkins.

    JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The InSight spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for launch service acquisition, integration, analysis, and launch management. United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, is NASA’s launch service provider.

    A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, with significant contributions from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen, Germany. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument.

    For more information about InSight, and to follow along on its flight to Mars, visit:

    https://www.nasa.gov/insight

    See the full article here .

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 7:10 am on April 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Mars Exploration, Mars Express v2.0   

    From ESA: “Mars Express v2.0” 

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    European Space Agency

    11 April 2018

    Every so often, your smartphone or tablet receives new software to improve its functionality and extend its life. Now, ESA’s Mars Express is getting a fresh install, delivered across over 150 million km of space.

    With nearly 15 years in orbit, Mars Express – one of the most successful interplanetary missions ever – is on track to keep gathering critical science data for many more years thanks to a fresh software installation developed by the mission teams at ESA.

    The new software is designed to fix a problem that anyone still using a five-year-old laptop knows well: after years of intense usage, some components simply start to wear out.

    The spacecraft arrived at Mars in December 2003, on what was planned to be a two-year mission. It has gone on to spend more than 14 years gathering a wealth of data from the Red Planet, taking high-resolution images of much of the surface, detecting minerals on the surface that form only in the presence of water, detecting hints of methane in the atmosphere and conducting close flybys of the enigmatic moon, Phobos.

    Today, Mars Express is in good shape, with only some minor degradation in performance, but its gyroscopes are close to failing.

    Gyros Gone Bad

    These six gyros measure how much Mars Express rotates about any of its three axes. Together with the spacecraft’s two startrackers, they determine its orientation in space.

    This is critical for pointing its large parabolic radio antenna towards Earth and to aim its instruments – like the high-resolution stereo camera – at Mars.

    Startrackers are simple, point-and-shoot cameras that capture images of the background star field and, with some clever processing, are used to determine the craft’s orientation in space every few seconds.

    The rotation information from the gyros fills in the information between these snapshots and also when the trackers lose track of the stars – which can last for minutes or even hours.


    This movie, based on images taken by ESA’s Mars Express, highlights Mawrth Vallis, a 600 km-long, 2 km-deep outflow channel at the boundary of the southern highlands and the northern lowlands of Mars.
    The movie begins at the mouth of the channel in Chryse Planitia, and heads towards the apparent source region in the Arabia Terra highlands.
    The 4 billion year-old plateau is characterised by many impact craters, indicative of its great age.
    Zooming in, patches of light and dark deposits are revealed. The light-toned layered sediments are among the largest outcrops of clay minerals – phyllosilicates – on Mars. Their presence indicates the presence of liquid water in the past.
    The variety of water-bearing minerals and the possibility that they might contain a record of an ancient, habitable environment on Mars led scientists to propose Mawrth Vallis as a candidate landing site for the ExoMars 2020 mission.
    The animation is based on a colour mosaic and digital terrain model derived from data collected by the high-resolution stereo camera on Mars Express and released earlier this year.

    “After looking at variations in the intensity of the gyros’ internal lasers, we realised last year that, with our current usage, four of the six gyros were trending towards failure,” says spacecraft operations manager James Godfrey.

    “Mars Express was never designed to fly without its gyros continuously available, so we could foresee a certain end to the mission sometime between January and June 2019.”
    The background is based on an actual image of Mars taken by the spacecraft’s high resolution stereo camera.

    Engineers knew, however, from long experience with similar gyros on previous missions, including Rosetta and ERS-2, that it might be possible to fly the mission primarily using its startrackers, with the gyros only being switched on occasionally, to extend their lives.
    “Flying on startrackers with the gyros mostly switched off meant that a significant portion of the 15 year-old software on Mars Express would have to be rewritten, and this would be a major challenge,” says operations engineer Simon Wood.

    While the spacecraft’s builder provided great assistance, it was mostly up to the teams at ESA to open the code, rewrite the software, test it and prepare it for upload as soon as possible.

    “We were also helped by being able to take code flown on Rosetta and transplant it into the Mars Express guidance software,” adds Simon.

    A massive, multi-month effort followed, involving teams from across the Agency working to develop the new software that would enable Mars Express to keep flying. This also meant significant changes in instrument science planning.

    “We didn’t know if such a massive revision was possible – it hadn’t been done before, especially as we would be in a race against time to complete it. But faced with the almost-certain end of mission, what began as wild speculation during a tea break one afternoon last summer has led to the full rewrite now being ready to send up.”

    The new software was finalised earlier this year, and has undergone meticulous testing to ensure it will work as intended.

    Go/No-Go

    The effort came to fruition yesterday, when the mission team met for a critical go/no-go meeting with the ESA managers to get final approval to activate the new software.

    The new code was actually uploaded to an area of spare memory on Sunday, but just like when your phone or tablet gets a software upgrade, mission controllers will have to shut Mars Express down and trigger a reboot to start running the new code, a critical step set for 16 April.

    If all goes as expected, the mission teams will then spend about two weeks testing and reconfiguring the spacecraft to ensure everything is working as it should before resuming normal science operations.

    “Similar, but much smaller fixes, have been developed in the past for other missions with old gyros, such as Rosetta, but this is certainly the most complex and extensive software rewrite we’ve done in recent memory,” says mission manager Patrick Martin.

    “Thanks to the skill of ESA’s teams, Mars Express will fly well into the 2020s, depending on fuel supply, and continue delivering excellent science for many years yet.

    “I look forward to seeing continued joint science campaigns between Mars Express and other Mars missions like ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter and incoming rover missions.”

    See the full article here .

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 3:34 pm on March 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Mars Exploration, ,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “360 Video: Tour a Mars Robot Test Lab” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    March 8, 2018
    Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-2433
    andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    Engineers use a replica of NASA’s InSight lander, which will launch to Mars later this year, at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    NASA’s InSight lander looks a bit like an oversized crane game: when it lands on Mars this November, its robotic arm will be used to grasp and move objects on another planet for the first time.

    NASA Mars Insight Lander

    And like any crane game, practice makes it easier to capture the prize.

    Engineers and scientists have a replica of InSight at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. They use this testbed to simulate all the functions of the spacecraft, preparing for any scenario it might meet once it touches down on the Red Planet.

    InSight is unique in that it’s a lander rather than a rover; once it touches down, it can’t reposition itself. Its job is to stay very still and collect high-precision data. JPL’s testbed for the lander sits on piles of crushed garnet in a facility called the In-Situ Instrument Lab. This garnet simulates a mix of sand and gravel found on the Martian surface but has the benefit of being dust-free. The testbed’s legs are raised or lowered to test operations in an uneven landing area with up to 15 degrees of tilt.

    Engineers also pile garnet at different tilts in the testbed’s “workspace” — the area in front of the lander where it practices setting down three science tools: an ultra-sensitive seismometer; a shield that isolates the seismometer from wind and temperature swings; and a heat-flow probe. These three objects are formally called the Science Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS); the Wind and Thermal Shield (WTS); and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3).

    2
    Insight’s tools

    All this practice ensures InSight can set these objects down safely no matter what surprises its landing site has in store.

    One challenge lies in the tethers that supply power to each science instrument, said Marleen Sundgaard of JPL, InSight’s testbed lead. Each tether unspools as the arm lifts an instrument off the lander.

    “We have multiple places where we could put each instrument down,” Sundgaard said. “There are scenarios where the tethers would cross each other, so we need to make sure they don’t snag.”

    Besides robotic operations, the testbed has to recreate Martian light. Special lights are also used to calibrate InSight’s cameras to the brightness and color of Martian sunlight.

    All this practice should pay off with some incredible new science. InSight will be the first mission dedicated to exploring the deep interior of Mars, including its core and mantle. The data it collects could help scientists understand how all rocky planets — including Mars and Earth — first formed.

    InSight will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California. The launch window opens on May 5.

    For more information about InSight, go to:

    https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/

    See the full article here .

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 7:22 pm on February 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Mars Exploration, ,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “Seven Ways Mars InSight is Different” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    February 22, 2018
    Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-2433
    andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    An artist’s rendition of the InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    NASA’s Mars InSight lander team is preparing to ship the spacecraft from Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, where it was built and tested, to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where it will become the first interplanetary mission to launch from the West Coast. The project is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.


    We know what “The Red Planet” looks like from the outside — but what’s going on under the surface of Mars? Find out more in the 60-second video from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

    NASA has a long and successful track record at Mars. Since 1965, it has flown by, orbited, landed and roved across the surface of the Red Planet. What can InSight — planned for launch in May — do that hasn’t been done before?

    InSight is the first mission to study the deep interior of Mars.

    A dictionary definition of “insight” is to see the inner nature of something. InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) will do just that. InSight will take the “vital signs” of Mars: its pulse (seismology), temperature (heat flow), and its reflexes (radio science). It will be the first thorough check-up since the planet formed 4.5 billion years ago.

    InSight will teach us about planets like our own.

    InSight’s team hopes that by studying the deep interior of Mars, we can learn how other rocky planets form. Earth and Mars were molded from the same primordial stuff more than 4 billion years ago, but then became quite different. Why didn’t they share the same fate?

    When it comes to rocky planets, we’ve only studied one in great detail: Earth. By comparing Earth’s interior to that of Mars, InSight’s team hopes to better understand our solar system. What they learn might even aid the search for Earth-like exoplanets, narrowing down which ones might be able to support life. So while InSight is a Mars mission, it’s also more than a Mars mission.

    InSight will try to detect marsquakes for the first time.

    One key way InSight will peer into the Martian interior is by studying motion underground — what we know as marsquakes. NASA has not attempted to do this kind of science since the Viking mission. Both Viking landers had their seismometers on top of the spacecraft, where they produced noisy data. InSight’s seismometer will be placed directly on the Martian surface, which will provide much cleaner data.

    Scientists have seen a lot of evidence suggesting Mars has quakes. But unlike quakes on Earth, which are mostly caused by tectonic plates moving around, marsquakes would be caused by other types of tectonic activity, such as volcanism and cracks forming in the planet’s crust. In addition, meteor impacts can create seismic waves, which InSight will try to detect.

    Each marsquake would be like a flashbulb that illuminates the structure of the planet’s interior. By studying how seismic waves pass through the different layers of the planet (the crust, mantle and core), scientists can deduce the depths of these layers and what they’re made of. In this way, seismology is like taking an X-ray of the interior of Mars.

    Scientists think it’s likely they’ll see between a dozen and a hundred marsquakes over the course of two Earth years. The quakes are likely to be no bigger than a 6.0 on the Richter scale, which would be plenty of energy for revealing secrets about the planet’s interior.

    First interplanetary launch from the West Coast

    All of NASA’s interplanetary launches to date have been from Florida, in part because the physics of launching off the East Coast are better for journeys to other planets. But InSight will break the mold by launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It will be the first launch to another planet from the West Coast.

    InSight will ride on top of a powerful Atlas V 401 rocket, which allows for a planetary trajectory to Mars from either coast. Vandenberg was ultimately chosen because it had more availability during InSight’s launch period.

    A whole new region will get to see an interplanetary launch when InSight rockets into the sky. In a clear, pre-dawn sky, the launch may be visible in California from Santa Maria to San Diego.

    First interplanetary CubeSat

    The rocket that will loft InSight beyond Earth will also launch a separate NASA technology experiment: two mini-spacecraft called Mars Cube One, or MarCO. These briefcase-sized CubeSats will fly on their own path to Mars behind InSight.

    Their objective is to relay back InSight data as it enters the Martian atmosphere and lands. It will be a first test of miniaturized CubeSat technology at another planet, which researchers hope can offer new capabilities to future missions.

    If successful, the MarCOs could represent a new kind of data relay to Earth. InSight’s success is independent of its CubeSat tag-alongs.

    InSight could teach us how Martian volcanoes were formed.

    Mars is home to some impressive volcanic features. That includes Tharsis — a plateau with some of the biggest volcanoes in the solar system. Heat escaping from deep within the planet drives the formation of these types of features, as well as many others on rocky planets. InSight includes a self-hammering heat probe that will burrow down to 16 feet (5 meters) into the Martian soil to measure the heat flow from the planet’s interior for the first time. Combining the rate of heat flow with other InSight data will reveal how energy within the planet drives changes on the surface.

    Mars is a time machine

    Studying Mars lets us travel to the ancient past. While Earth and Venus have tectonic systems that have destroyed most of the evidence of their early history, much of the Red Planet has remained static for more than 3 billion years. Because Mars is just one-third the size of Earth and Venus, it contains less energy to power the processes that change a planet’s structure. That makes it a fossil planet in many ways, with the secrets of our solar system’s early history locked deep inside.

    See the full article here .

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 11:23 am on January 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Mars Exploration, Scientist's Work May Provide Answer to Martian Mountain Mystery, , ,   

    From U Texas Dallas: “Scientist’s Work May Provide Answer to Martian Mountain Mystery” 

    U Texas Dallas

    Jan. 8, 2018
    Stephen Fontenot, UT Dallas
    (972) 883-4405
    stephen.fontenot@utdallas.edu

    By seeing which way the wind blows, a University of Texas at Dallas fluid dynamics expert has helped propose a solution to a Martian mountain mystery.

    4
    Dr. William Anderson

    Dr. William Anderson, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, co-authored a paper published in the journal Physical Review E that explains the common Martian phenomenon of a mountain positioned downwind from the center of an ancient meteorite impact zone.

    Anderson’s co-author, Dr. Mackenzie Day, worked on the project as part of her doctoral research at The University of Texas at Austin, where she earned her PhD in geology in May 2017. Day is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Washington in Seattle.

    Gale Crater was formed by meteorite impact early in the history of Mars, and it was subsequently filled with sediments transported by flowing water. This filling preceded massive climate change on the planet, which introduced the arid, dusty conditions that have been prevalent for the past 3.5 billion years. This chronology indicates wind must have played a role in sculpting the mountain.

    “On Mars, wind has been the only driver of landscape change for over 3 billion years,” Anderson said. “This makes Mars an ideal planetary laboratory for aeolian morphodynamics — wind-driven movement of sediment and dust. We’re studying how Mars’ swirling atmosphere sculpted its surface.”

    Wind vortices blowing across the crater slowly formed a radial moat in the sediment, eventually leaving only the off-center Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high peak similar in height to the rim of the crater. The mountain was skewed to one side of the crater because the wind excavated one side faster than the other, the research suggests.

    Day and Anderson first advanced the concept in an initial publication on the topic in Geophysical Research Letters. Now, they have shown via computer simulation that, given more than a billion years, Martian winds were capable of digging up tens of thousands of cubic kilometers of sediment from the crater — largely thanks to turbulence, the swirling motion within the wind stream.

    2
    A digital elevation model of Gale Crater shows the pattern of mid-latitude Martian craters with interior sedimentary mounds.

    “The role of turbulence cannot be overstated,” Anderson said. “Since sediment movement increases non-linearly with drag imposed by the aloft winds, turbulent gusts literally amplify sediment erosion and transport.”

    The location — and mid-latitude Martian craters in general — became of interest as NASA’s Curiosity rover landed in Gale Crater in 2012, where it has gathered data since then.

    “The rover is digging and cataloging data housed within Mount Sharp,” Anderson said. “The basic science question of what causes these mounds has long existed, and the mechanism we simulated has been hypothesized. It was through high-fidelity simulations and careful assessment of the swirling eddies that we could demonstrate efficacy of this model.”

    The theory Anderson and Day tested via computer simulations involves counter-rotating vortices — picture in your mind horizontal dust devils — spiraling around the crater to dig up sediment that had filled the crater in a warmer era, when water flowed on Mars.

    “These helical spirals are driven by winds in the crater, and, we think, were foremost in churning away at the dry Martian landscape and gradually scooping sediment from within the craters, leaving behind these off-center mounds,” Anderson said.

    That simulations have demonstrated that wind erosion could explain these geographical features offers insight into Mars’ distant past, as well as context for the samples collected by Curiosity.

    “It’s further indication that turbulent winds in the atmosphere could have excavated sediment from the craters,” Anderson said. “The results also provide guidance on how long different surface samples have been exposed to Mars’ thin, dry atmosphere.”

    This understanding of the long-term power of wind can be applied to Earth as well, although there are more variables on our home planet than Mars, Anderson said.

    “Swirling, gusty winds in Earth’s atmosphere affect problems at the nexus of landscape degradation, food security and epidemiological factors affecting human health,” Anderson said. “On Earth, however, landscape changes are also driven by water and plate tectonics, which are now absent on Mars. These drivers of landscape change generally dwarf the influence of air on Earth.”

    Computational resources for the study were provided by the Texas Advanced Computing Center at UT Austin.

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    Day’s role in the research was supported by a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation.

    See the full article here .

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    The University of Texas at Dallas is a Carnegie R1 classification (Doctoral Universities – Highest research activity) institution, located in a suburban setting 20 miles north of downtown Dallas. The University enrolls more than 27,600 students — 18,380 undergraduate and 9,250 graduate —and offers a broad array of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs.

    Established by Eugene McDermott, J. Erik Jonsson and Cecil Green, the founders of Texas Instruments, UT Dallas is a young institution driven by the entrepreneurial spirit of its founders and their commitment to academic excellence. In 1969, the public research institution joined The University of Texas System and became The University of Texas at Dallas.

    A high-energy, nimble, innovative institution, UT Dallas offers top-ranked science, engineering and business programs and has gained prominence for a breadth of educational paths from audiology to arts and technology. UT Dallas’ faculty includes a Nobel laureate, six members of the National Academies and more than 560 tenured and tenure-track professors.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:10 am on December 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Mars Exploration, , , Where Did All That Mars Water Go? Scientists Have a New Idea   

    From U Oxford via Science Alert: “Where Did All That Mars Water Go? Scientists Have a New Idea” 

    U Oxford bloc

    Oxford University

    Science Alert

    21 DEC 2017
    DAVID NIELD

    1
    (Earth Observatory of Singapore/James Moore/Jon Wade)

    It’s still there… kind of.

    Billions of years ago, scientists think Mars was much warmer and wetter than it is now, so where did all that water go? New research published in Nature suggests much of it is actually locked inside the Martian rocks, which have soaked up the liquid water like a giant sponge.

    That teases an interesting addition to the commonly held hypothesis that the planet dried out as its atmosphere was stripped away by solar winds.

    Using computer modelling techniques and data we’ve collected on rocks here on Earth, the international team of scientists reckon that basalt rocks on Mars can hold up to 25 percent more water than the equivalent rocks on our own planet, and that could help explain where all the water disappeared to.

    “People have thought about this question for a long time, but never tested the theory of the water being absorbed as a result of simple rock reactions,” says lead researcher Jon Wade from the University of Oxford in the UK.

    Thanks to differences in temperature, pressure, and the chemical make-up of the rocks themselves, water on Mars could’ve been sucked up by the rocky surface while Earth kept its lakes and oceans, the researchers say.

    Martian rocks can also hold water down to a greater depth than the rocks on Earth can, according to the simulations.

    “The Earth’s current system of plate tectonics prevents drastic changes in surface water levels, with wet rocks efficiently dehydrating before they enter the Earth’s relatively dry mantle,” explains Wade.

    In the early days of the Earth and Mars, however, this wouldn’t have been the case, the researchers suggest. Volcanic lava layers would have changed the make-up of the rocks at the surface and could have made them more absorbent.

    “On Mars, water reacting with the freshly erupted lavas that form its basaltic crust, resulted in a sponge-like effect,” says Wade. “The planet’s water then reacted with the rocks to form a variety of water-bearing minerals.

    “This water-rock reaction changed the rock mineralogy and caused the planetary surface to dry and become inhospitable to life.”

    Even small differences in the iron content of the rocks on Earth and Mars, for example, can add up to significant changes in the way water gets sucked up, the research says. Plus, Mars is a much smaller planet, which would also have been a factor.

    The team agrees that solar winds are likely to have stripped away some of the water on Mars, but argues that much more of it could be locked away inside the Red Planet than previously thought – very handy once we get to set up base there.

    Experts also think Mars is hiding big reserves of water in the form of underground ice. But until we can take more readings and samples from the surface, it’s all just educated guesswork for the time being.

    Now the researchers want to use the same principles to study the possibility of finding water locked away in other planets, based on the composition of their rocks and tectonic activity – and where there’s water, there might be life.

    “When looking for life on other planets it is not just about having the right bulk chemistry, but also very subtle things like the way the planet is put together, which may have big effects on whether water stays on the surface,” says Wade.

    “These effects and their implications for other planets have not really been explored.”

    See the full article here.

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    U Oxford campus

    Oxford is a collegiate university, consisting of the central University and colleges. The central University is composed of academic departments and research centres, administrative departments, libraries and museums. The 38 colleges are self-governing and financially independent institutions, which are related to the central University in a federal system. There are also six permanent private halls, which were founded by different Christian denominations and which still retain their Christian character.

    The different roles of the colleges and the University have evolved over time.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:03 pm on October 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Deposits in the Eridania basin of southern Mars as resulting from seafloor hydrothermal activity more than 3 billion years ago, Mars Exploration, Mars Study Yields Clues to Possible Cradle of Life, , The Eridania basin of southern Mars   

    From JPL-Caltech: “Mars Study Yields Clues to Possible Cradle of Life” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    October 6, 2017
    Guy Webster
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-6278
    guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

    Jenny Knotts
    Johnson Space Center, Houston
    281-483-5111
    Norma.j.knotts@nasa.gov

    Laurie Cantillo
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1077 / 202-358-1726
    laura.l.cantillo@nasa.gov

    Dwayne Brown
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1726
    dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

    1
    This view of a portion of the Eridania region of Mars shows blocks of deep-basin deposits that have been surrounded and partially buried by younger volcanic deposits. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

    2
    The Eridania basin of southern Mars is believed to have held a sea about 3.7 billion years ago, with seafloor deposits likely resulting from underwater hydrothermal activity. Image credit: NASA

    3
    This diagram illustrates an interpretation for the origin of some deposits in the Eridania basin of southern Mars as resulting from seafloor hydrothermal activity more than 3 billion years ago. Image credit: NASA

    ________________________________________________________

    Fast Facts:

    › A long-gone sea on southern Mars once held nearly 10 times as much water as all of North America’s Great Lakes combined, a recent report estimates.

    › The report interprets data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as evidence that hot springs pumped mineral-laden water directly into this ancient Martian sea.

    › Undersea hydrothermal conditions on Mars may have existed about 3.7 billion years ago; undersea hydrothermal conditions on Earth at about that same time are a strong candidate for where and when life on Earth began.

    › The report adds an important type of wet ancient Martian environment to the diversity indicated by previous findings of evidence for rivers, lakes, deltas, seas, groundwater and hot springs.
    ________________________________________________________

    The discovery of evidence for ancient sea-floor hydrothermal deposits on Mars identifies an area on the planet that may offer clues about the origin of life on Earth.

    A recent international report examines observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) of massive deposits in a basin on southern Mars. The authors interpret the data as evidence that these deposits were formed by heated water from a volcanically active part of the planet’s crust entering the bottom of a large sea long ago.

    “Even if we never find evidence that there’s been life on Mars, this site can tell us about the type of environment where life may have begun on Earth,” said Paul Niles of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston. “Volcanic activity combined with standing water provided conditions that were likely similar to conditions that existed on Earth at about the same time — when early life was evolving here.”

    Mars today has neither standing water nor volcanic activity. Researchers estimate an age of about 3.7 billion years for the Martian deposits attributed to seafloor hydrothermal activity. Undersea hydrothermal conditions on Earth at about that same time are a strong candidate for where and when life on Earth began. Earth still has such conditions, where many forms of life thrive on chemical energy extracted from rocks, without sunlight. But due to Earth’s active crust, our planet holds little direct geological evidence preserved from the time when life began. The possibility of undersea hydrothermal activity inside icy moons such as Europa at Jupiter and Enceladus at Saturn feeds interest in them as destinations in the quest to find extraterrestrial life.

    Observations by MRO’s Compact Reconnaissance Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) provided the data for identifying minerals in massive deposits within Mars’ Eridania basin, which lies in a region with some of the Red Planet’s most ancient exposed crust.

    “This site gives us a compelling story for a deep, long-lived sea and a deep-sea hydrothermal environment,” Niles said. “It is evocative of the deep-sea hydrothermal environments on Earth, similar to environments where life might be found on other worlds — life that doesn’t need a nice atmosphere or temperate surface, but just rocks, heat and water.”

    Niles co-authored the recent report in the journal Nature Communications with lead author Joseph Michalski, who began the analysis while at the Natural History Museum, London, andco-authors at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, and the Natural History Museum.

    The researchers estimate the ancient Eridania sea held about 50,000 cubic miles (210,000 cubic kilometers) of water. That is as much as all other lakes and seas on ancient Mars combined and about nine times more than the combined volume of all of North America’s Great Lakes. The mix of minerals identified from the spectrometer data, including serpentine, talc and carbonate, and the shape and texture of the thick bedrock layers, led to identifying possible seafloor hydrothermal deposits. The area has lava flows that post-date the disappearance of the sea. The researchers cite these as evidence that this is an area of Mars’ crust with a volcanic susceptibility that also could have produced effects earlier, when the sea was present.

    The new work adds to the diversity of types of wet environments for which evidence exists on Mars, including rivers, lakes, deltas, seas, hot springs, groundwater, and volcanic eruptions beneath ice.

    “Ancient, deep-water hydrothermal deposits in Eridania basin represent a new category of astrobiological target on Mars,” the report states. It also says, “Eridania seafloor deposits are not only of interest for Mars exploration, they represent a window into early Earth.” That is because the earliest evidence of life on Earth comes from seafloor deposits of similar origin and age, but the geological record of those early-Earth environments is poorly preserved.

    The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, built and operates CRISM, one of six instruments with which MRO has been examining Mars since 2006. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver built the orbiter and supports its operations. For more about MRO, visit:

    https://mars.nasa.gov/mro

    See the full article here .

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 12:37 pm on October 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Magma plumes on Mars, Mars Exploration, Mars has the largest and oldest volcanoes known in the solar system, Nakhilite meteorite, , Plumes of molten rock - Hawaii, Without plate tectonics Martian volcanoes grew huge   

    From COSMOS: “Meteorite clues to giant volcanoes on Mars” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS Magazine

    05 October 2017
    Andrew Masterson

    Without plate tectonics, Martian volcanoes grew huge. New research explains why.

    1
    An image of a piece of nakhilite meteorite about 1 mm across, taken in cross-polarised light. Different colours represent different volcanic minerals. Benjamin Cohen.

    Mars endured a much more volcanically active past than previously thought, but its volcanoes grew at a rate 1000 times slower than those on Earth, new research shows.

    The fresh estimate for volcanic activity, published in the journal Nature Communications, is derived from an analysis of the composition of a group of meteorites known as the nakhilites, which are all thought to be the products of a single, long-lived Martian volcano.

    Most volcanoes on Earth arise because of the pressures exerted by tectonics, with hotspots arising where the plates comprising the planet’s crust either collide or diverge.

    A few, however, are caused by a different process, wherein a magma “plume” is pushed directly up from deep in the Earth’s mantle. This is especially the case with the Hawaiian island chain, which were (and are still being) created by a plume of molten rock.

    The Hawaiian chain, however, is also influenced by plate tectonics. Research shows that as a volcano forms, the Pacific plate moves it inexorably away from the plume that is pushing it from below. Volcanoes in the Hawaiian chain grow older as they move away from the source plume.

    In geologic time, too, the entire Hawaiian chain is remarkably young. A study published last year estimated the initial plate movement that uncovered the plume occurred only around three million years ago.

    Mars, in stark contrast, does not have plate tectonic movements that influence the landscape. Instead the planet has a “stagnant lid”, an outer crust that never changes position.

    It does, however, have magma plumes. This means that when such a plume ruptures the crust and erupts, depositing lava and other ejecta and thus catalysing the creation of a volcanic mountain, the rupture and the above-ground result will always stay in the same relationship to each other – for billions of years.

    As a result, Mars has the largest and oldest volcanoes known in the solar system. Just how old and just how fast these grew has until now remained poorly understood.

    To try to shed light on the matter, a team led by Benjamin Cohen of the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre in the UK, turned to meteorites.

    The nakhilites are a group of 18 meteorites that over a period of time landed on Earth after a single large object slammed into a Martian volcano about 10.7 million years ago.

    The meteorites comprise mostly basalt, interlaced with other minerals including clinopyroxene, olivine, feldspar and volcanic glass. They are all similar to each other but, crucially, not identical.

    These small differences allowed Cohen and his colleagues to estimate when each was created, using a combination of laser step-heating and argon-based dating.

    “The data show that the nakhilites were not all formed during a single cooling event, but instead reveal a protracted volcanic eruption history on Mars,” the scientists report.

    Using the results, the team found that the volcano was the result of four discrete eruptions over a period of 93 million years. The volcano itself, they calculated, grew at a rate of only 400 to 700 millimetres every million years – orders of magnitude slower than plume-driven volcano growth on Earth.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 6:19 am on September 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Mars Exploration, Meteorite tells us that Mars had a dense atmosphere 4 billion years ago,   

    From Tokyo Tech: “Meteorite tells us that Mars had a dense atmosphere 4 billion years ago” 

    tokyo-tech-bloc

    Tokyo Institute of Technology

    September 29, 2017
    Further Information

    Hiroyuki Kurokawa
    Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI),
    Tokyo Institute of Technology
    hiro.kurokawa@elsi.jp
    Tel +81-3-5734-2854

    Contact
    PR Office
    Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI),
    Tokyo Institute of Technology
    pr@elsi.jp
    Tel +81-3-5734-3163

    Researchers have performed numerical simulations and compared the results to the composition of the ancient Martian atmosphere trapped in an old meteorite. The researchers have concluded that, 4 billion years ago, Mars had a dense atmosphere whose surface pressure was higher than 0.5 bar (50000 Pa). This suggests that the processes to remove the Martian atmosphere, for example stripping by the solar wind, are responsible for transforming Mars into the cold desert world it is today.

    1
    Figure 1. The figure shows how surface air pressure changed throughout Martian history. A bar at 4 billion years ago denotes a lower limit shown by this study. Constraints suggested by other studies are also shown by arrows.

    Background

    Exploration missions have suggested that Mars once had a warm climate, which sustained oceans on its surface. To keep Mars warm requires a dense atmosphere with a sufficient greenhouse effect, while the present-day Mars has a thin atmosphere whose surface pressure is only 0.006 bar, resulting in the cold climate it has today. It has been a big mystery as to when and how Mars lost its dense atmosphere.

    Methodology

    An old meteorite has been known to contain the ancient Martian atmosphere. The researchers simulated how the composition of the Martian atmosphere changed throughout history under various conditions. By comparing the results to the isotopic composition of the trapped gas, the researchers revealed how dense the Martian atmosphere was at the time when the gas became trapped in the meteorite.

    Overview of Research Achievement

    The research team concluded that Mars had a dense atmosphere 4 billion years ago. The surface air pressure at the time was at least 0.5 bar and could have been much higher. Because Mars had its magnetic field about 4 billion years ago and lost it, the result suggests that stripping by the solar wind is responsible for transforming Mars from a warm wet world into a cold desert world.

    Future Development

    NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft is orbiting Mars to explore the processes that removed the Martian atmosphere.

    NASA/Mars MAVEN

    The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is planning to further observe the removal processes by the Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) spacecraft.
    These missions will reveal how the dense atmosphere on ancient Mars predicted in this study was removed over time.

    Reference
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0019103516303062?via%3Dihub
    Authors :
    Hiroyuki Kurokawa1, Kosuke Kurosawa2, Tomohiro Usui1, 3
    Title :
    A lower limit of atmospheric pressure on early Mars inferred from nitrogen and argon isotopic compositions
    Journal :
    Icarus
    DOI : 10.1016/j.icarus.2017.08.020
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0019103516303062?via%3Dihub

    See the full article here .

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    tokyo-tech-campus

    Tokyo Tech is the top national university for science and technology in Japan with a history spanning more than 130 years. Of the approximately 10,000 students at the Ookayama, Suzukakedai, and Tamachi Campuses, half are in their bachelor’s degree program while the other half are in master’s and doctoral degree programs. International students number 1,200. There are 1,200 faculty and 600 administrative and technical staff members.

    In the 21st century, the role of science and technology universities has become increasingly important. Tokyo Tech continues to develop global leaders in the fields of science and technology, and contributes to the betterment of society through its research, focusing on solutions to global issues. The Institute’s long-term goal is to become the world’s leading science and technology university.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:37 am on August 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Mars Exploration, ,   

    From JPL: “NASA’s Next Mars Mission to Investigate Interior of Red Planet” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    August 28, 2017

    Guy Webster
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-6278
    guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

    Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-2433
    andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    Danielle Hauf
    Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Denver
    303-932-4360
    danielle.m.hauf@lmco.com

    Shannon Ridinger
    Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
    256-544-3774
    shannon.j.ridinger@nasa.gov

    Dwayne Brown
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1726
    dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

    Laurie Cantillo
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1077
    laura.l.cantillo@nasa.gov

    1
    NASA has set a new launch opportunity, beginning May 5, 2018, for the InSight mission to Mars. InSight is the first mission dedicated to investigating the deep interior of Mars. The findings will advance understanding of how all rocky planets, including Earth, formed and evolved. This artist’s concept depicts the InSight lander on Mars after the lander’s robotic arm has deployed a seismometer and a heat probe directly onto the ground.

    2
    This view looks upward toward the InSight Mars lander suspended upside down. It shows the top of the lander’s science deck with the mission’s two main science instruments — the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3) — plus the robotic arm and other subsystems installed. The photo was taken Aug. 9, 2017, in a Lockheed Martin clean room facility in Littleton, Colorado.

    Preparation of NASA’s next spacecraft to Mars, InSight, has ramped up this summer, on course for launch next May from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California — the first interplanetary launch in history from America’s West Coast.

    Lockheed Martin Space Systems is assembling and testing the InSight spacecraft in a clean room facility near Denver. “Our team resumed system-level integration and test activities last month,” said Stu Spath, spacecraft program manager at Lockheed Martin. “The lander is completed and instruments have been integrated onto it so that we can complete the final spacecraft testing including acoustics, instrument deployments and thermal balance tests.”

    InSight is the first mission to focus on examining the deep interior of Mars. Information gathered will boost understanding of how all rocky planets formed, including Earth.

    “Because the interior of Mars has churned much less than Earth’s in the past three billion years, Mars likely preserves evidence about rocky planets’ infancy better than our home planet does,” said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. He leads the international team that proposed the mission and won NASA selection in a competition with 27 other proposals for missions throughout the solar system. The long form of InSight’s name is Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

    Whichever day the mission launches during a five-week period beginning May 5, 2018, navigators have charted the flight to reach Mars the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2018.

    The mission will place a stationary lander near Mars’ equator. With two solar panels that unfold like paper fans, the lander spans about 20 feet (6 meters). Within weeks after the landing — always a dramatic challenge on Mars — InSight will use a robotic arm to place its two main instruments directly and permanently onto the Martian ground, an unprecedented set of activities on Mars. These two instruments are:

    — A seismometer, supplied by France’s space agency, CNES, with collaboration from the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany. Shielded from wind and with sensitivity fine enough to detect ground movements half the diameter of a hydrogen atom, it will record seismic waves from “marsquakes” or meteor impacts that reveal information about the planet’s interior layers.

    — A heat probe, designed to hammer itself to a depth of 10 feet (3 meters) or more and measure the amount of energy coming from the planet’s deep interior. The heat probe is supplied by the German Aerospace Center, DLR, with the self-hammering mechanism from Poland.

    A third experiment will use radio transmissions between Mars and Earth to assess perturbations in how Mars rotates on its axis, which are clues about the size of the planet’s core.

    The spacecraft’s science payload also is on track for next year’s launch. The mission’s launch was originally planned for March 2016, but was called off due to a leak into a metal container designed to maintain near-vacuum conditions around the seismometer’s main sensors. A redesigned vacuum vessel for the instrument has been built and tested, then combined with the instrument’s other components and tested again. The full seismometer instrument was delivered to the Lockheed Martin spacecraft assembly facility in Colorado in July and has been installed on the lander.

    “We have fixed the problem we had two years ago, and we are eagerly preparing for launch,” said InSight Project Manager Tom Hoffman, of JPL.

    The best planetary geometry for launches to Mars occurs during opportunities about 26 months apart and lasting only a few weeks.

    Together with two active NASA Mars rovers, three NASA Mars orbiters and a Mars rover being built for launch in 2020, InSight is part of a legacy of robotic exploration that is helping to lay the groundwork for sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.

    More information about InSight is online at:

    https://www.nasa.gov/insight

    https://insight.jpl.nasa.gov/

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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