Category Archives: Space
Star Trek fans take note: Have a seat before you read the next sentence or prepare to swoon.
Liquid Saltwater is Likely Present on Mars, New Analysis Shows
Salty, liquid water has been detected on a leg of the Mars Phoenix Lander and therefore could be present at other locations on the planet, according to analysis by a group of mission scientists led by a University of Michigan professor. This is the first time liquid water has been detected and photographed outside the Earth.
“A large number of independent physical and thermodynamical evidence shows that saline water may actually be common on Mars,” said Nilton Renno, a professor in the U-M Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences and a co-investigator on the Phoenix mission. “Liquid water is an essential ingredient for life. This discovery has important implications to many areas of planetary exploration, including the habitability of Mars.”
Renno will present these findings on March 23, 2009 at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston.
Droplets on a leg of the Mars Phoenix lander are seen to darken and coalesce. Nilton Renno, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences says this is evidence that they are made of liquid water. Previously, scientists believed that water existed on Mars only as ice or water vapor because of the planet’s low temperature and atmospheric pressure. They thought that ice in the Red Planet’s current climate could sublimate, or vaporize, but they didn’t think it could melt. This analysis shows how that assumption may be incorrect. Temperature fluctuation in the arctic region of Mars where Phoenix landed and salts in the soil could create pockets of water too salty to freeze in the climate of the landing site, Renno says.
Photos of one of the lander’s legs show droplets that grew during the polar summer. Based on the temperature of the leg and the presence of large amounts of “perchlorate” salts detected in the soil, scientists believe the droplets were most likely salty liquid water and mud that splashed on the spacecraft when it touched down. The lander was guided down by rockets whose exhaust melted the top layer of ice below a thin sheet of soil.
These images were acquired by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander’s Surface Stereo Imager on the 21st and 25th days of the mission, or Sols 20 and 24 (June 15 and 18, 2008). These images show sublimation of ice in the trench informally called “Dodo-Goldilocks” over the course of four days. In the lower left corner, lumps disappear, similar to the process of evaporation. Some of the mud droplets that splashed on the lander’s leg appear to have grown by absorbing water from the atmosphere, Renno says. Images suggest that some of the droplets darkened, then moved and merged — physical evidence that they were liquid.
The wet chemistry lab on Phoenix found evidence of perchlorate salts, which likely include magnesium and calcium perchlorate hydrates. These compounds have freezing temperatures of about -90 and -105 Fahrenheit respectively. The temperature at the landing site ranged from approximately -5 to -140 Fahrenheit, with a median temperature around -75 Fahrenheit. Temperatures at the landing site were mostly warmer than this during the first months of the mission.
Thermodynamic calculations offer additional evidence that salty liquid water can exist where Phoenix landed and elsewhere on Mars. The calculations also predicts a droplet growth rate that is consistent with what was observed. And they show that it is impossible for ice to sublimate from the cold ground just under the strut of the lander’s leg and be deposited on a warmer strut, a hypothesis that has been suggested. Certain bacteria on Earth can exist in extremely salty and cold conditions.
“This discovery is the result of the talent and dedication of the entire Phoenix team and NASA, whose strategy for Mars exploration and the Phoenix mission is ‘follow the water,’” Renno said.
Phoenix landed on Mars on May 25, 2008, and transmitted data back to Earth until Nov. 10. Scientists are still analyzing the information Phoenix gathered. The mission was led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Arizona. Among its preliminary findings, Phoenix verified that water ice exists in the just beneath the surface of Mars. It sent back more than 25,000 photos and deployed the first atomic force microscope ever used outside Earth. The lander was the first Martian spacecraft to document a mildly alkaline soil and perchlorate salts. It also observed snow falling from clouds on the Red Planet.
A paper on this research, written by Renno and dozens of his colleagues on the Phoenix mission, including principal investigator Peter Smith, is under review at the Journal of Geophysical Research.
LOS ANGELES, March 11 /PRNewswire/ — The new trailer for J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” had more than 1.8 million downloads during its first 24 hours on Apple.com and has gone on to become the most popular HD download ever on the site with more than five million downloads in its first five days. The trailer made its exclusive debut on Apple.com/trailers on March 6th giving fans a sneak peak of this summer’s highly anticipated “Star Trek” for viewing on their Mac or PC, iPhone or iPod with video.
From J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible III,” “Fringe,” “Lost” and “Alias”), producer Damon Lindelof and executive producers Bryan Burk and Jeffrey Chernov and screenwriters and executive producers Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (“TRANSFORMERS,” “MI: III”) comes a new vision of the greatest adventure of all time, “Star Trek,” featuring a young, new crew venturing boldly where no one has gone before. “Star Trek” opens nationally on May 8, 2009.
Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment Present a Bad Robot Production “Star Trek” starring John Cho, Ben Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Winona Ryder, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Eric Bana and Leonard Nimoy. The film is directed by J.J. Abrams (“Mission Impossible III,” “Lost,” “Alias”), written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (“MI: III,” “Transformers”).
Based upon “Star Trek” Created by Gene Roddenberry. The film is produced by J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof. The executive producers are Bryan Burk, Jeffrey Chernov, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. The director of photography is Dan Mindel, ASC. The production designer is Scott Chambliss. The film is edited by Maryann Brandon, A.C.E. and Mary Jo Markey, A.C.E. The costume designer is Michael Kaplan. The visual effects & animation are by Industrial Light and Magic. The music is by Michael Giacchino. This film has not yet been rated.
A NASA spacecraft has sent pictures showing itself in good condition after making the first successful landing in a polar region of Mars.
The spacecraft Phoenix landed in the northern polar region today to begin three months of examining a site chosen for its likelihood of having frozen water within reach of the lander’s robotic arm. Radio signals received at 6:53:44 p.m. (Texas/ Central Standard Time) confirmed the Phoenix Mars Lander had survived its difficult final descent and touchdown 15 minutes earlier.
The signals took that long to travel from Mars to Earth at the speed of light. Mission team members at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver; and the University of Arizona, Tucson, cheered confirmation of the landing and eagerly awaited further information from Phoenix later tonight. From the initial information sent from Phoenix, the site appears to be what exactly what they thought. Now, it’s time to go find the ice.
“We see the lack of rocks that we expected, we see the polygons that we saw from space, we don’t see ice on the surface, but we think we will see it beneath the surface. It looks great to me,” said Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson, principal investigator for the Phoenix mission.
“Phoenix is an amazing machine, and it was built and flown by an amazing team. Through the entire entry, descent and landing phase, it performed flawlessly,” said Ed Sedivy, Phoenix program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. “The spacecraft stayed in contact with Earth during that critical period, and we received a lot of data about its health and performance. I’m happy to report it’s in great shape.”
Phoenix uses hardware from a spacecraft built for a 2001 launch that was canceled in response to the loss of a similar Mars spacecraft during a 1999 landing attempt. Researchers who proposed the Phoenix mission in 2002 saw the unused spacecraft as a resource for pursuing a new science opportunity. A few months earlier, NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter discovered that plentiful water ice lies just beneath the surface throughout much of high-latitude Mars. NASA chose the Phoenix proposal over 24 other proposals to become the first endeavor in the Mars Scout program of competitively selected missions.
First Photo – Phoenix opens her eyes!
For more about Phoenix, visit http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix .