NASA’s Mars science rover Curiosity performed a daredevil descent through pink Martian skies late on Sunday to clinch an historic landing inside an ancient crater, ready to search for signs the Red Planet may once have harbored key ingredients for life.
Mission controllers burst into applause and cheers as they received signals confirming that the car-sized rover had survived a perilous seven-minute descent NASA called the most elaborate and difficult feat in the annals of robotic spaceflight.
Engineers said the tricky landing sequence, combining a giant parachute with a rocket-pack that lowered the rover to the Martian surface on a tether, allowed for zero margin for error.
“I can’t believe this. This is unbelievable,” enthused Allen Chen, the deputy head of the rover’s descent and landing team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – NASA scientists have discovered new evidence that briny water flows on Mars during its warmest months, raising chances that life could exist on the Red Planet, the space agency said on Thursday.
NASA first found signs of water on Mars more than a decade ago, but earlier indications were that any existing water would be frozen and concentrated at the poles.
Recently analyzed images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite show dark, finger-like features that extend down some slopes and crater walls on the planet during its late spring through summer, fading in the Martian winter.
“This is the best evidence we have to date of a liquid water occurring today on Mars,” said Philip Christensen, a geophysicist at Arizona State University, Tempe, in a NASA panel announcing the findings in Washington.
For nearly 30 years Mars has been diligently pursuing a cocoa sustainability strategy. The company’s goal is to secure responsible cocoa production and the future supply of the crop. Our aim is for cocoa to thrive in harmony with the environment and to the benefit of the communities involved throughout the cocoa supply chain.
Scientists working to create genetically modified chocolate – to make you healthy
FORGET penicillin, space travel and the silicon chip. Science is on the verge of its greatest discovery – chocolate that’s good for you.
DNA experts are working with sweet giants Mars to create genetically modified chocolate that fights heart disease and diabetes and won’t make you fat.
They’ve already been at it for two years. And they claim that in another five, they could unlock the secret of how to make chocolate healthy.
Cocoa Consuming Countries
Source: UNCTAD based on the data from International Cocoa Organization, quaterly bulletin of cocoa statistics
With the intention of flooding 70% of the global cocoa supply with genetically modified (GMO) cocoa tree hybrids, a collaboration involving Mars, USDA and IBM is accelerating this process.
With primary funding from US chocolate producer Mars, the partnership includes scientists based at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the US Department of Agriculture and Science as well as researchers working at IBM’s Thomas J Watson Research Center.
The scientists are determined to finalize gene sequencing of the cocoa genome which they say will “benefit” the chocolate industry and cocoa growers in West Africa where 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced, and in other tropical zones.
According to the global head of plant science and research at the confectionery firm, Howard-Yana Shapiro, the sequence is of great importance.
“As plant breeders, we’re always looking after the golden traits: pest and disease resistant, drought tolerance, the ability to adapt to climate change, tree architecture, yield quality, etc,” said Dr Shapiro.
The researchers including ARS based molecular biologist David Kuhn and geneticist Raymond Schnell said that they released the findings of sequencing into the public domain in order to assist scientists to begin applying the findings immediately.
A member of the research team in one of the modules where the experiment will take place Photograph: Pavel Zelensky/AFP/Getty Images
In a car park not so far away … It is a big brother experiment like no other, an experiment which will boldly go where few have gone – or probably wanted to go – before.
Six apparently fearless volunteers are to take part in a unique test by being locked up in what amounts to a series of small steel tins off a parking lot in Moscow for 105 days as scientists simulate a space rocket ride to Mars.
On Tuesday the team will step into a chain of cramped metal capsules, connected by cables and corrugated metal pipes, in a hangar at the back of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems (IMBP) in the Russian capital, swing close the hatch and “blast off”.
The idea is for the 550 cubic-metre “ground exploration complex” (GEC) to recreate as closely as possible the atmosphere of a spacecraft racing through the solar system, bombarded by cosmic radiation. Any return flight to Mars – at least 34 million miles from our planet – would take between 18 months and three years, including landing and exploration.
The volunteers – four Russians, a French airline pilot and a German army engineer – will be kept under constant camera surveillance to record the physical and psychological impact of their time in the isolation chamber.
Professor Nilton Renno, of the University of Michigan, is convinced the photographs show water droplets forming. It had previously been thought that Mars was so cold and the atmospheric pressure so low that water would exist only as ice or vapour.
Professor Renno led analysis that suggested the water droplets may have been prevented from freezing because they had absorbed salty chemicals which act as anti-freeze.
Tests carried out by the Mars Phoenix Lander uncovered the presence of perchlorate salts, probably including magnesium and calcium perchlorate hydrates, which freeze at minus 68C and minus 77C.
Huge plumes of water vapour and ice particles are bursting out from Saturn’s moon Enceladus at supersonic speeds in a way that strongly suggests they come from liquid water down below the icy surface, scientists have said.
Artist’s impression of the Cassini spacecraft passing through plumes from geysers that erupt from giant fissures in the moon’s southern polar region Photo: REUTERS
The research, published in the journal Nature, offers new evidence that the moon may harbor an underground ocean of water, meaning conditions might exist that could support life, even if only microbial organisms.
‘We think liquid water is necessary for life and there is more evidence that there is liquid water there,’ said lead researcher Candice Hansen of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
‘You also need energy, you need nutrients, you need organics. It looks like the pieces are there. Whether or not there’s actually life, of course, we can’t say.’
Scientists are aware of only three places where liquid water exists near the surface of a planet or other body – Earth, Jupiter’s moon Europa and now Enceladus.
In July Nasa’s Phoenix Mars Lander confirmed the presence of ice on Mars.