When NASA's new Mars rover lands on the Red Planet this summer, it's safe to assume it'll be some time in the morning or early afternoon at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, home of the rover science and engineering teams. So that means it'll be mid-afternoon on the East Coast, evening in Europe, and so on —- pretty easy to figure out the time zones. But what time will it be on Mars? What time zone will Curiosity live in -- and how can you even tell?
Timekeeping on Mars is a bit like telling time on Earth, because the planets are similar in lots of ways. But there are just enough differences to drive a person slightly crazy.
Pictured: a Martian dust devil twisting across the Martian Amazonis Planitia region. The 100-foot-wide column of swirling air was captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter last month as it passed over the northern hemisphere of Mars.
NASA's new budget is slated to land on Capitol Hill today, and it's not quite what the space agency was hoping for. President Obama is asking Congress for $17.7 billion for NASA in 2013, funding it at its lowest level in four years and a full billion dollars less than the President mapped out for the agency in the five-year budget he sent Congress last year. Perhaps hardest hit: future Mars missions.
Meteorite chunks that fell in Morocco last summer came from Mars, yielding an unexpected 15-pound sample of the Red Planet, scientists confirmed Tuesday. It’s the first time in 50 years — and only the fifth time ever — that scientists have chemically confirmed that pieces of rock came from Mars.
The rocks were found in December and analyzed by a committee of meteorite experts. The biggest one weighs a little more than 2 pounds.
By Andrew RosenblumPosted 12.16.2011 at 3:30 pm 24 Comments
The prospect of great wealth will be one of the main draws of space exploration in the coming decades. A 650-foot-diameter asteroid (about average) can contain $1 billion or more worth of platinum-group metals and untold amounts of ice or water—which are perhaps even more valuable in space because they can be converted to fuel in situ. But extracting those resources will present some unique challenges. For example, the combination of asteroids' near-zero gravity (because of their small mass) and quick spin (up to one rotation every couple of minutes) means that asteroid-nauts must attach everything, including themselves, to the rock, or risk floating off into space.
Finally, Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft has called home. The European Space Agency has confirmed that Roscosmos' marooned spacecraft--stuck in Earth orbit after a failed booster firing failed to set it on a course for Mars earlier this month--made contact with an ESA tracking station in Perth, Australia, yesterday.
A day after the successful launch of the Phobos-Grunt probe from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Russian mission handlers are already scrambling to save their spacecraft from the fate that has befallen so many Russian Mars missions. Phobos-Grunt found orbit yesterday but then failed to fire the engines that would put it on a path for the Martian moon Phobos.
At 3:16 pm EST today, Russia will launch the Phobos-Grunt mission from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The unmanned probe is traveling to the Martian moon Phobos, in an attempt to bring back the first soil sample ("grunt" is Russian for "soil") from the smaller of the planet's moons. The irregularly shaped Phobos is the closest moon to its planet in the solar system, orbiting the red planet at just under 10,000 kilometers.The mission is a chance to study how planets and moons form.
Today, the six crew members of the Mars 500 mission have "returned." The six, comprised of three Russians (a surgeon, engineer, and physiologist), an Italian Colombian engineer, a Chinese astronaut instructor, and a French engineer, have lived in a sealed chamber in a Moscow parking lot. Over the course of the 520 day "mission," the crew simulated a trip to Mars, even conducting a mock landing on a artificial Mars landscape, and researchers were able to study the effects of isolation on the human body and mind (the crew broke the record for longest isolation on day 438 in August, besting Mir's Valeri Polyakov).