Since budget cuts and the inability to overcome problems like boredom and high radiation doses have ruled out any manned mission to Mars in the foreseeable future, NASA has shifted gears back towards a program of robotic exploration. To that end, NASA now wants a rocket-powered UAV to fly around the Red Planet, photographing the surface.
Citizen scientists and bored netizens can now help NASA map out the Martian surface for future astronaut explorers. Even kids can enjoy the thrills of Mars cartography -- namely counting craters and aligning higher-resolution images on top of a low-res map.
The U.S. space agency teamed up with Microsoft to create the online games at a newly launched website. Players can rack up reputation points for a robotic animal avatar by placing three images at a time on a Martian map, starting with the Valles Marineris canyon.
Water bears, the tiny creatures that have already been proven to survive direct exposure to the vacuum of space, were slated for launch to a Martian moon this month. But Russian officials chose to delay their first interplanetary mission in more than a decade due to safety and technical issues, until the next launch window opens in 2011.
NASA's Phoenix probe is in for a wild ride before it settles down on the Red Planet
By Gregory MonePosted 05.14.2008 at 11:29 am 0 Comments
Just because NASA has two robots on the surface right now doesn't mean the landing of the Phoenix probe is a sure thing. At a news conference yesterday, NASA officials stressed that landing a spacecraft on Mars isn't easy: 55 percent of all attempts to do so have failed. Not to mention that the technique Phoenix will use to do so hasn't been employed in a while.
Radar technology aboard ESA's Mars Express could be used to explore other planets and moons in the solar system
By Gregory MonePosted 04.18.2008 at 12:42 pm 0 Comments
A radar device aboard ESA's Mars Express orbiter has allowed scientists to peek beneath the surface from afar, and the success with this research is now prompting them to think up other spots in the solar system that would be ideal for this sort of examination.
Zoning in on the right landing site is key to a safe touchdown for the space agency's latest Red Planet explorer
By Gregory MonePosted 04.15.2008 at 8:18 am 2 Comments
Setting a spacecraft down on Mars isn't exactly easy—just ask Beagle 2. NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, en route and due for a May 25 rendezvous with the surface, recently received a course adjustment from mission planners as they try to ensure that the craft doesn't drop down in a danger zone.
Engineers are testing the parachutes that will slow down the Mars Science Lab as it approaches the surface of the Red Planet
By Gregory MonePosted 04.08.2008 at 9:45 am 0 Comments
The Mars Science Lab, the pricey, SUV-sized next-generation rover, will rush through the Red Planet's atmosphere at twice the speed of sound when it approaches in 2010, and engineers are now hard at work testing the parachute that will slow it down.
Such tests might not sound all that exciting, given that this rover is going to be loaded with high-tech gear, including the equipment necessary to identify, gather and then analyze interesting materials on-board. But they're absolutely critical, since the billion-dollar rover needs a soft landing, and won't have a chance to use any of those cool tools if it doesn't touch down properly.
After surviving tough conditions on the Red Planet, the twin rovers nearly get shut down by a shortage of cash
By Gregory MonePosted 03.26.2008 at 10:01 am 3 Comments
It would have been pretty heartbreaking for space fans if Spirit and Opportunity, the twin Martian rovers, had survived on the Red Planet all these years, only to be shut down and lost for good due to budget cuts.
Apparently NASA sent a letter last week to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the lab that runs the rovers' program, specifying a $4 million cut. Scientists said this move would have forced them to put one rover into hibernation mode, and limit the duties of the other.
By Rina BanderPosted 05.25.2005 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the largest and most powerful spacecraft ever built, is bound for the Red Planet this August. Watch an animation of the craft as it speeds into martian orbit at 25,000 mph, uses atmospheric friction to slow itself down to 300 mph, and settles into its final orbit less than 200 miles from the planet's surface.