Growing plants on Mars?


This video from Leiden University in the Netherlands says about itself:

A Garden on Mars

22 August 2016

We are the Leiden iGEM 2016 team. In context of the iGEM competition, we are raising money through crowdfunding to support our research! You can support us by donation via the website, or you can support us by sharing this video and spreading the word.

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

‘A garden on Mars‘ crowdfunding campaign starts today

22 August 2016

Today, 13 students at Leiden University have started a crowdfunding campaign to collect money for research into the possibilities of growing crops on Mars. Their research will contribute to the knowledge of our galaxy. The project is in the context of the iGEM competition.

Food for Martians

Martian soil contains a toxin known as perchlorate, which causes all crops grown to be toxic to humans. If we manage to land men on Mars in the near future, this is a problem that will have to be resolved. It is not possible to take adequate supplies of food, and crops therefore have to be grown as a sustainable source of nutrition. The students are developing a bacterial system that will break down perchlorate and at the same time release much-needed oxygen in the process: a win-win situation for future Martian explorers. The bacteria will do their work in the enclosed environment of a bioreactor with Martian soil.

Students and the public work together to enable research

The project is completely student led and student run. This includes financing their own materials, including perchlorate, simulated Martian soil and laboratory disposables. State-of-the-art techniques are used, including Martian gravity simulation. The students hope to finance a part of the costly project through crowdfunding. Communication is a key aspect of the project and the students are presenting their project at events, including the Night of Art and Knowledge on September 17.

International science competition

The students’ research is part of the world’s biggest competition in synthetic biology: the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, organised by the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In total, over 300 teams are participating in the competition, using synthetic biology to solve a problem of their own choosing. The results will be announced at the end of October 2016 at the Giant Jamboree in Boston.

Crowdfunding campaign

The crowdfunding starts on 22 August 2016 and will continue until the students travel to Boston on 27 October. Their target is €8,600, the amount they need to complete their research.

Mars spacecraft narrowly avoids exploding booster


This video says about itself:

Replay of the ExoMars 2016 liftoff on a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan at 09:31 GMT on 14 March 2016.

Credit: ESA/Euronews

From Universe Today:

ExoMars Mission Narrowly Avoids Exploding Booster

24 March 2016 by Bob King

On March 14, the ExoMars mission successfully lifted off on a 7-month journey to the planet Mars but not without a little surprise. The Breeze-M upper booster stage, designed to give the craft its final kick toward Mars, exploded shortly after parting from the probe. Thankfully, it wasn’t close enough to damage the spacecraft.

Michel Denis, ExoMars flight director at the European Space Operations, Center in Darmstadt, Germany, said that the two craft were many kilometers apart at the time of the breakup, so the explosion wouldn’t have posed a risk. Still, the mission team won’t be 100% certain until all the science instruments are completely checked over in the coming weeks.

Spaceship ExoMars 2016 to Mars today


This video says about itself:

ExoMars 2016: launch to Mars

17 February 2016

Animation visualising milestones during the launch of the ExoMars 2016 mission and its cruise to Mars. The mission comprises the Trace Gas Orbiter and an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, which are scheduled to be launched on a four-stage Proton-M/Breeze-M rocket from Baikonur during the 14–25 March 2016 window.

About ten-and-a-half hours after launch, the spacecraft will separate from the rocket and deploy its solar wings. Two weeks later, its high-gain antenna will be deployed. After a seven-month cruise to Mars, Schiaparelli will separate from TGO on 16 October. Three days later it will enter the martian atmosphere, while TGO begins its entry into Mars orbit.

From Universe Today:

Countdown Begins for Blastoff of ExoMars 2016 Spacecraft on March 14 – Watch Live

The countdown has begun for blastoff of the ambitious European/Russian ExoMars 2016 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14. Its goal is to search for minute signatures of methane gas that could possibly be an indication of life or of nonbiologic geologic processes ongoing today.

Final launch preparations are now in progress. Liftoff of the powerful Russian Proton booster from Baikonur carrying the ExoMars spacecraft is slated for 5:31:42 a.m. EDT (0931:42 GMT), Monday morning, March 14.

You can watch the launch live courtesy of a European Space Agency (ESA) webcast:

http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/ExoMars/Watch_ExoMars_launch

The prelaunch play by play begins with live streaming at 4:30 a.m. EDT (08:30 GMT).

The first acquisition of signal from the spacecrft is expected at 21:29 GMT.

Liquid water discovery on planet Mars?


This video says about itself:

28 September 2015

This animation simulates a fly-around look at one of the places on Mars where dark streaks advance down slopes during warm seasons, possibly involving liquid water. This site is within Hale Crater. The streaks are roughly the length of a football field.

From NASA in the USA:

Sept. 28, 2015

NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars

New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

These downhill flows, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), often have been described as possibly related to liquid water. The new findings of hydrated salts on the slopes point to what that relationship may be to these dark features. The hydrated salts would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly. Scientists say it’s likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening.

“We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration. In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks,” said Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, lead author of a report on these findings published Sept. 28 by Nature Geoscience.

Ojha first noticed these puzzling features as a University of Arizona undergraduate student in 2010, using images from the MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). HiRISE observations now have documented RSL at dozens of sites on Mars. The new study pairs HiRISE observations with mineral mapping by MRO’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

The spectrometer observations show signatures of hydrated salts at multiple RSL locations, but only when the dark features were relatively wide. When the researchers looked at the same locations and RSL weren’t as extensive, they detected no hydrated salt.

Ojha and his co-authors interpret the spectral signatures as caused by hydrated minerals called perchlorates. The hydrated salts most consistent with the chemical signatures are likely a mixture of magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate. Some perchlorates have been shown to keep liquids from freezing even when conditions are as cold as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 Celsius). On Earth, naturally produced perchlorates are concentrated in deserts, and some types of perchlorates can be used as rocket propellant.

Perchlorates have previously been seen on Mars. NASA’s Phoenix lander and Curiosity rover both found them in the planet’s soil, and some scientists believe that the Viking missions in the 1970s measured signatures of these salts. However, this study of RSL detected perchlorates, now in hydrated form, in different areas than those explored by the landers. This also is the first time perchlorates have been identified from orbit.

MRO has been examining Mars since 2006 with its six science instruments.

“The ability of MRO to observe for multiple Mars years with a payload able to see the fine detail of these features has enabled findings such as these: first identifying the puzzling seasonal streaks and now making a big step towards explaining what they are,” said Rich Zurek, MRO project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

For Ojha, the new findings are more proof that the mysterious lines he first saw darkening Martian slopes five years ago are, indeed, present-day water.

“When most people talk about water on Mars, they’re usually talking about ancient water or frozen water,” he said. “Now we know there’s more to the story. This is the first spectral detection that unambiguously supports our liquid water-formation hypotheses for RSL.”

The discovery is the latest of many breakthroughs by NASA’s Mars missions.

“It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future.”

Water on Mars: What Does It Really Mean? Here.

MARS ONCE HAD EARTH-LIKE CONDITIONS “An Earth-like atmosphere on Mars was once violently stripped away by solar wind, according to new findings from NASA’s ongoing exploration of the red planet. In a press conference on Thursday, the space agency confirmed that solar wind played a major role in the disappearance of the red planet’s atmosphere and water.” Is anyone else now terrified of solar winds? [Jacqueline Howard, HuffPost]

Mars rover launched


Planet Mars

On 26 November 2011, in the United States, the Mars Rover Curiosity has been launched, to investigate the red planet: here.

Glaciers on Mars, covered by dust, discovered


This 7 April 2015 video is called Glacial Belts of Water Ice Found On Mars.

From Astronomy Now:

Mars has belts of glaciers composed of water ice

8 April 2015

Mars has distinct polar ice caps, but Mars also has belts of glaciers at its central latitudes in both the southern and northern hemispheres. A thick layer of dust covers the glaciers, so they appear as surface of the ground, but radar measurements show that underneath the dust there are glaciers composed of frozen water. New studies have now calculated the size of the glaciers and thus the amount of water in the glaciers. It is the equivalent of all of Mars being covered by more than one metre of ice. The results are published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Several satellites orbit Mars and on satellite images, researchers have been able to observe the shape of glaciers just below the surface. For a long time scientists did not know if the ice was made of frozen water (H2O) or of carbon dioxide (CO2) or whether it was mud. Using radar measurements from the NASA satellite, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, researchers have been able to determine that it is water ice. But how thick is the ice and do the glaciers resemble glaciers on Earth? A group of researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute have now calculated this using radar observations combined with ice flow modelling.

Data Combined with Modelling

“We have looked at radar measurements spanning ten years back in time to see how thick the ice is and how it behaves. A glacier is after all a big chunk of ice and it flows and gets a form that tells us something about how soft it is. We then compared this with how glaciers on Earth behave and from that we have been able to make models for the ice flow,” explains Nanna Bjørnholt Karlsson, a postdoc at the Center for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

Nanna Bjørnholt Karlsson explains that earlier studies have identified thousands of glacier-like formations on the planet. The glaciers are located in belts around Mars between the latitudes 30° and 50° — equivalent to just south of Denmark’s location on Earth. The glaciers are found on both the northern and southern hemispheres.

From some locations on Mars they have good detailed high-resolution data, while they only have more sparse data from other areas. But by supplementing the sparse data with information about the flow and form of the glaciers from the very well studied areas, they have been able to calculate how thick and voluminous the ice is across the glacier belts.

Could Cover the Entire Planet

“We have calculated that the ice in the glaciers is equivalent to over 150 billion cubic metres of ice — that much ice could cover the entire surface of Mars with 1.1 metres of ice. The ice at the mid-latitudes is therefore an important part of Mars’ water reservoir,” explains Nanna Bjørnholt Karlsson.

That the ice has not evaporated out into space could actually mean that the thick layer of dust is protecting the ice. The atmospheric pressure on Mars is so low that water ice simply evaporates and becomes water vapour. But the glaciers are well protected under the thick layer of dust.

Nasa’s Curiosity rover finds water below surface of Mars. New measurements from the Gale crater contradict theories that the planet is too cold for liquid water to exist, but Mars still considered hostile to life: here.

Will extra-terrestrial life be discovered soon?


This video is from the film War Of The Worlds (2005)– The First Tripod.

The film is about an invasion of the USA by dangerous Martians. In the original book by H.G. Wells, the dangerous Martians invaded England.

Very probably, extra-terrestrial life, if any will be discovered soon, will be very unlike that.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

We will have definitive evidence of alien life in 20 years, Nasa chief scientist believes

Strong indications of life beyond Earth could be found within a decade

Christopher Hooton

Wednesday 08 April 2015

The discovery of extra-terrestrial life, probably the most exciting event in human history, may well take place within most of our lifetimes, a high-ranking Nasa scientist has predicted.

“I think we’re going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we’re going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years,” Nasa chief scientist Ellen Stofan said on Tuesday, during a panel discussion focusing on the space agency’s search for habitable environments outside of Earth.

“We know where to look. We know how to look,” Stofan added, “In most cases we have the technology, and we’re on a path to implementing it. And so I think we’re definitely on the road.”

Nasa believes such discoveries could happen so soon as they will not take place in deep space but in our own solar system and others in the Milky Way.

Sharing Stofan’s optimism, associate administrator for Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate John Grunsfeld said: “I think we’re one generation away in our solar system, whether it’s on an icy moon or on Mars, and one generation [away] on a planet around a nearby star.”

If life, in whatever form it takes, is found in orbit of the Sun, it could well be on Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede or Saturn‘s satellite Enceladus, which hold seas beneath their icy surfaces.

The Milky Way is “a soggy place,” Paul Hertz, director of Nasa’s Astrophysics Division, explained.

“We can see water in the interstellar clouds from which planetary systems and stellar systems form.

“We can see water in the disks of debris that are going to become planetary systems around other stars, and we can even see comets being dissipated in other solar systems as [their] star evaporates them.”

These estimates don’t even take into account the fact that alien life may be able to prosper in conditions different to those required by humans, e.g without need for water.

NASA SUPER-TEAM TO LOOK FOR HABITABLE PLANETS, EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE The news comes a week after NASA’s chief said we’d have strong evidence of extraterrestrial life in a decade. [Ed Mazza, HuffPost]