We've landed the robots, puttered about on the planet's surface, and, at long last, found the water. Now, NASA is getting back to basics on Mars with a plan to once again search for signs of life on the Red Planet, a focus that's been on the back burner since the 1976 Viking missions. But this time, NASA doesn't want to analyze Mars from Mars. This time the space agency wants to bring samples back home, and has a cleverly orchestrated scheme to do it.
We've been suffering futuristic city withdrawal since returning from the Shanghai World Expo 2010 last week, where we covered many exciting (and, alas, not-so-exciting) examples of progressive urban development.
Naturally, we turned to the archives for our fix of visionary city designs, and as you would expect, they are abundant with beautifully-illustrated imaginings of future metropolises since the 19th century.
James Cameron's love of science and high-tech cameras has previously shone through with his undersea documentaries -- not to mention Titanic or even Avatar. Now the film director is playing "public engagement co-investigator" on NASA's upcoming SUV-sized rover mission, which will carry full-color digital cameras and zoom lenses -- but it's a race to complete the lenses in time for the mission's 2011 launch.
A stuck robotic rover may have overtaken NASA's Viking probe as the longest-surviving mission on Mars -- so long as it's still alive. But its robotic twin Opportunity could also still grab the record next month if the Spirit rover has slipped into its final winter slumber, SPACE.com reports.
NASA's search for extraterrestrial life could result in missions such as a balloon or boat-like capsule on Titan, or even a complex three-part Mars mission to return a Martian sample to Earth. Until then, scientists have focused attention on both Earth and Mars regions which could hold organic materials or microfossils.
Extraterrestrial life hunters gathered this week near Houston at what amounts to a biennial Woodstock for astrobiologists, and a NASA teleconference today gave a glimpse into the proceedings. Some of the best and the brightest shared their latest findings and discussed future missions to search for signs of life on Mars, Europa and other exotic solar system destinations.
Relax, David Bowie: in all likelihood there is life on Mars. Unfortunately for those of us hoping to find organic life forms thriving elsewhere in our solar system, there's a reasonably good chance the microbial life we might someday find on Mars was put there by us.
DNA-testing Martian soil could lead us to life on another planet
By Lana BirbrairPosted 04.19.2010 at 11:08 am 11 Comments
Someday, microfluidics chips like this one might suss out life on Mars. The chip, developed by Gary Ruvkun, a professor of genetics at Harvard University, would ride along on a soil-collecting rover and search for microscopic life within Martian dust.
NASA has released the first crop of pictures chosen by you, the people, of interesting spots on Mars. Taken with the high-resolution camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the pictures show boulder fields, mesas, sand dunes, pockmarked craters and even ice sheets that provide a glimpse of Martian climate changes. Astronomy buffs like James Secosky, a retired teacher in Manchester, N.Y., told NASA where to point and shoot.
Astronauts probably won't use iPhone-controlled Mars rovers if they ever get to the red planet, but perhaps NASA could glean some lessons from the demo here on Earth. Peter Friese and Heiko Behrens used their rover iPhone app to compete with other attendees at EclipseCon 2010 in Santa Clara, California.
NASA's Opportunity Rover, now in its seventh year of roaming the Martian surface, just got a little smarter. Like parents giving their growing child a little more autonomy, engineers updated Opportunity with artificial intelligence software this past winter that allows the rover to make its own decisions about where to stop and which rocks to analyze during its travels. Now the first images of Opportunity picking and choosing where to investigate have been released.