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

    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.

    TACC Maverick HP NVIDIA supercomputer

    TACC Lonestar Cray XC40 supercomputer

    Dell Poweredge U Texas Austin Stampede Supercomputer. Texas Advanced Computer Center 9.6 PF

    TACC HPE Apollo 8000 Hikari supercomputer

    TACC Maverick HP NVIDIA supercomputer

    TACC DELL EMC Stampede2 supercomputer


    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.

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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 .

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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.

    Caltech Logo

    NASA image

     
  • richardmitnick 12:19 pm on June 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Hot rocks not warm atmosphere led to relatively recent water-carved valleys on Mars, Lyot impact crater, Mars Exploration   

    From Brown: “Hot rocks, not warm atmosphere, led to relatively recent water-carved valleys on Mars” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    June 13, 2017
    Kevin Stacey
    kevin_stacey@brown.edu
    401-863-3766

    1
    Valley Networks.Lyot Crater, rendered here with elevations exaggerated, is home to relatively recent water-carved valleys (white streaks). New research suggests the water came from melting snow and ice present at the time of the crater-forming impact.
    David Weiss/NASA/Brown University

    New research shows that water from melted snow and ice likely carved valley networks around Lyot crater on Mars.

    Present-day Mars is a frozen desert, colder and more arid than Antarctica, and scientists are fairly sure it’s been that way for at least the last 3 billion years. That makes a vast network of water-carved valleys on the flanks of an impact crater called Lyot — which formed somewhere between 1.5 billion and 3 billion years ago — something of a Martian mystery. It’s not clear where the water came from.

    Now, a team of researchers from Brown University has offered what they see as the most plausible explanation for how the Lyot valley networks formed. They conclude that at the time of the Lyot impact, the region was likely covered by a thick layer of ice. The giant impact that formed the 225-kilometer crater blasted tons of blazing hot rock onto that ice layer, melting enough of it to carve the shallow valleys.

    “Based on the likely location of ice deposits during this period of Mars’ history, and the amount of meltwater that could have been produced by Lyot ejecta landing on an ice sheet, we think this is the most plausible scenario for the formation of these valleys” said David Weiss, a recent Ph.D. graduate from Brown and the study’s lead author.

    Weiss co-authored the study, which is published in Geophysical Research Letters, with advisor and Brown planetary science professor Jim Head, along with fellow graduate students Ashley Palumbo and James Cassanelli.

    There’s plenty of evidence that water once flowed on the Martian surface. Water-carved valley networks similar to those at Lyot have been found in several locations. There’s also evidence for ancient lake systems, like those at Gale Crater where NASA’s Curiosity rover is currently exploring and at Jezero Crater where the next rover may land.

    Most of these water-related surface features, however, date back to very early in Mars’ history — the epochs known as the Noachian and the Hesperian, which ended about 4 billion and 3 billion years ago respectively. From about 3 billion years ago to the present, Mars has been in a bone-dry period called the Amazonian.

    The valley networks at Lyot therefore are a rare example of more recent surface water activity. Scientists have dated the crater itself to the Amazonian, and the valley networks appear to have been formed around the same time or shortly after the impact. So the question is: Where did all that water come from during the arid Amazonian?

    Scientists have posited a number of potential explanations, and the Brown researchers set out to investigate several of the major ones.

    One of those potential explanations, for example, is that there might have been a vast reservoir of groundwater when the Lyot impact occurred. That water, liberated by impact, could have flowed onto the surface along the periphery of the crater and carved the valleys. But based on geological evidence, the researchers say, that scenario is unlikely

    “If these were formed by deep groundwater discharge, that water would have also flowed into the crater itself,” Weiss said. “We don’t see any evidence that there was water present inside the crater.”

    The researchers also looked at the possibility of transient atmospheric effects following the Lyot impact. A collision of this size would have vaporized tons of rock, sending a plume of vapor into the air. As that hot plume interacted with the cold atmosphere, it could have produced rainfall that some scientists think might have carved the valleys.

    But that, too, appears unlikely, the researchers concluded. Any rain related to the plume would have fallen after the rocky impact ejecta had been deposited outside the crater. So if rainwater carved the valleys, one would expect to see valleys cutting through the ejecta layer. But there are almost no valleys directly on the Lyot ejecta. Rather, Palumbo said, “The vast majority of the valleys seem to emerge from beneath the ejecta on its outer periphery, which casts serious doubt on the rainwater scenario.”

    That left the researchers with the idea that meltwater, produced when hot ejecta interacted with an icy surface, carved the Lyot valleys.

    According to models of Mars’ climate history, ice now trapped mainly at the planet’s poles often migrated into the mid-latitude regions where Lyot is located. And there’s evidence to suggest that an ice sheet was indeed present in the region at the time of the impact.

    Some of that evidence comes from the scarcity of secondary craters at Lyot. Secondary craters form when big chunks of rock blasted into the air during a large impact fall back to the surface, leaving a smattering of small craters surrounding the main crater. At Lyot, there far fewer secondary craters than one would expect, the researchers say. The reason for that, they suggest, is that instead of landing directly on the surface, ejecta from Lyot landed on a thick layer of ice, which prevented it from gouging the surface beneath the ice. Based on the terrain on the northern side of Lyot, the team estimates that the ice layer could have been anywhere from 20 to 300 meters thick.

    The Lyot impact would have spat tons of rock onto that ice layer, some of which would have been heated to 250 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Using a thermal model of that process, the researchers estimate that the interaction between those hot rocks and a surface ice sheet would have produced thousands of cubic kilometers of meltwater — easily enough to carve the valley seen at Lyot.

    “What this shows is a way to get large amounts of liquid water on Mars without the need for a warming of the atmosphere and any liquid groundwater,” Cassanelli said. “So we think this is a good explanation for how you get these channels forming in the Amazonian.”

    And it’s possible, Head says, that this same mechanism could have been important before the Amazonian. Some scientists think that even in the early Noachian and Hesperian epochs, Mars was still quite cold and icy. If that was the case, then this meltwater mechanism might have also been responsible for at least some of the more ancient valley networks on Mars.

    “It’s certainly a possibility worth investigating,” Head said.

    See the full article here .

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    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:43 am on June 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Mars Exploration, Mars Rover Concept Vehicle (MRCV),   

    From Universe Today: “We’d Like One of These For Here on Earth. NASA’s New Mobile Mars Laboratory Concept Rover” 

    universe-today

    Universe Today

    13 June , 2017
    Matt Williams

    1
    The Mars Rover Concept Vehicle, unveiled on June 5th to kick off NASA’s Summer of Mars. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

    When it comes time to explore Mars with crewed missions, a number of challenges will present themselves. Aside from the dangers that come with long-duration missions to distant bodies, there’s also the issue of the hazards presented by the Martian landscape. It’s desiccated ans cold, it gets exposed to a lot of radiation, and its pretty rugged to boot! So astronauts will need a way to get around and conduct research in comfort and safety.

    To meet this challenge, NASA created a vehicle that looks like it could give the Batmobile a run for its money! It’s known as the Mars Rover Concept Vehicle (MRCV) a working vehicle/mobile laboratory that was unveiled last week (June 5th, 2017) to kick off NASA’s Summer of Mars. Those who attended the event at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex were fortunate to be the first to see the new Mars explorer vehicle up close.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:46 pm on June 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars), , Janice Bishop, Janice Bishop Explores Mawrth Vallis and Salt Ponds in Australia, Mars Exploration, Mawrth Vallis, ,   

    From SETI Institute: “Janice Bishop Explores Mawrth Vallis and Salt Ponds in Australia” 

    SETI Logo new
    SETI Institute

    June 06, 2017
    Janice Bishop

    Mawrth Vallis (Mawrth means Mars in Welsh) is a valley on the planet Mars, with a deep channel formed by water in Mars’ ancient past. In 2016, SETI Institute chemist and planetary scientist Janice Bishop made an interesting discovery about the composition of rock layers that form the valley using data collected by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

    CRISM is an instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) which was launched in 2005 and remains in orbit around Mars searching for evidence of past water.

    1
    CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars) searches for the residue of minerals that form in the presence of water, perhaps in association with ancient hot springs, thermal vents, lakes, or ponds that may have existed on the surface of Mars.

    Even though some landforms provide evidence that liquid water may have flowed on the surface of Mars long ago, evidence of mineral deposits created by long-term interaction between water and rock has been limited.

    CRISM’s visible and infrared spectrometers track regions on the dusty martian surface and map them at scales as small as 18 meters (60 feet) across, from an altitude of 300 kilometers (186 miles). CRISM reads the hundreds of “colors” in reflected sunlight to detect patterns that indicate certain minerals on the surface, including signature traces of past water.
    The principal investigator (lead scientist) for CRISM is Scott Murchie from the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins University.

    From an altitude of 186 miles above the surface of Mars, CRISM collects visible and infrared signatures of certain minerals, including those that hold traces of past water. Using this orbital spectral data from CRISM, Janice identified a unique material sandwiched between two clay-bearing strata. This new phase appears to be mixtures of sulfates and acid-altered clays. One of the puzzling parts of this investigation is that two kinds of sulfates have been identified here: an acidic Fe-sulfate called jarosite and a neutral Ca-sulfate called gypsum. These two sulfates are not normally found together because of their different pH requirements.

    CRISM is an instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) which was launched in 2005 and remains in orbit around Mars searching for evidence of past water. From an altitude of 186 miles above the surface of Mars, CRISM collects visible and infrared signatures of certain minerals, including those that hold traces of past water. Using this orbital spectral data from CRISM, Janice identified a unique material sandwiched between two clay-bearing strata. This new phase appears to be mixtures of sulfates and acid-altered clays. One of the puzzling parts of this investigation is that two kinds of sulfates have been identified here: an acidic Fe-sulfate called jarosite and a neutral Ca-sulfate called gypsum. These two sulfates are not normally found together because of their different pH requirements.

    2
    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter credit: NASA

    Here on Earth, other scientists have found combinations of jarosite, gypsum, as well as halite and clays in the highly saline ponds found in the desert of Western Australia. Apparently, the high salt (S, Cl) level enables formation of these sulfates in this kind of environment. Janice and SETI Institute colleague Lukas Gruendler recently visited these salt ponds in the Archean Yilgarn Craton region of Western Australia looking for mixtures of clays and sulfates similar to those Janice discovered in some of the clay-rich regions of Mars.

    3
    Janice and Lukas hold up the expedition flag.

    Janice and Lukas decided to study samples from three of these sites in order to characterize the mineralogy of the surface crust and the material down a few centimeters in the hopes of learning about environments that could help us understand this puzzling salty outcrop on Mars.

    Sample analysis will continue in Janice’s mineral lab here at the SETI Institute and will help learn more about both Earth and Mars.

    3
    Janice collecting samples at a salt pond
    4

    See the full article here .

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    Mountain View, CA 94043
    Phone 650.961.6633 – Fax 650-961-7099
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