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Mars is getting a new robotic meteorologist

Mars is getting a new robotic meteorologist
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has two wind sensors just below its mast, or “head.” They’re part of MEDA, a weather science package that will provide vital data on the Martian surface, especially dust in the atmosphere. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars is about to get a new stream of weather reports, once NASA’s Perseverance rover touches down on Feb. 18, 2021. As it scours Jezero Crater for signs of ancient microbial life, Perseverance will collect the first planetary samples for return to Earth by a future mission. But the rover will also provide key atmospheric data that will help enable future astronauts to the Red Planet to survive in a world with no breathable oxygen, freezing temperatures, planet wide dust storms, and intense radiation from the sun.


The instrument behind the weather data is called MEDA—short for the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer. Part of its goal is to gather the basics: temperature,

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Preparing for a human mission to Mars

Preparing for a human mission to Mars
Credit: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Publishers

Future human missions to Mars depend on field research in an environment similar to that of Mars. It will enable the evaluation of operational concepts and optimization of strategies. The goals and results of the AMADEE-18 Mars analog mission are detailed in a special collection of articles in the peer-reviewed journal Astrobiology.


The AMADEE-18 expedition was designed in preparation for future human missions to the Mars surface. The mission took place in the Dhofar Desert in the Sultanate of Oman and was directed by a Mission Support Center in Austria. Brief descriptions of some of the papers in the collection follow.

A comprehensive overview of the mission, describing its technical and organizational infrastructure, is provided by Gernot Groemer, Austrian Space Forum, and coauthors. They describe the proposed workflow for coordinating the timing and location of the instruments and experiments. “In validation of this

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Scientists Reveal How Mars Lost All Its Water, Became Dry And Dusty

KEY POINTS

  • Regional and global dust storms and seasons on Mars all played a role in its loss of water, researchers say
  • They suggested that a global ocean about 17 inches deep has been lost over the last billion years due to these
  • The researchers analyzed new data from NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter

Water has been found in Mars’ upper atmosphere, where it is rapidly destroyed, according to researchers who analyzed data collected by NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft.

Scientists have long believed that liquid water once flowed on Mars due to the presence of fossilized rivers and deltas across its surface. Some believe that the red planet’s water could have escaped to space, while others said the water vapor would have condensed into snow and fallen back to Mars’ surface once it reached the red planet’s frigid atmosphere.

In a new paper published in the journal Science,

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Takes New ‘Selfie’ At ‘Mary Anning’ Site

KEY POINTS

  • The “selfie” by Curiosity was taken last October
  • Curiosity has been at the site since July
  • The Perseverance rover is on its way to join Curiosity in exploring Mars

NASA’s Curiosity has a new selfie, and this time it was taken at a site called “Mary Anning,” named after a valued scientist. Soon, Curiosity won’t be the only one exploring the Red Planet. 

According to a NASA news release related to the new image, the location where the selfie was taken is named after the 19th Century paleontologist who is described as “the greatest fossilist the world ever knew” according to Cambridge University Press, but whose findings of marine-reptile fossils remained largely unknown simply “because of her gender and class.”

The site was named after her because of its potential to reveal new details about the planet’s ancient environment, NASA explained, perhaps much like how Anning made

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NASA’s MAVEN Spacecraft Tracks Massive Water Loss From Ancient Mars

Dust storms triggered the loss of massive amounts of water from high in Mars’ atmosphere, according to new analysis of data collected by NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft. For the first time, water has been tracked all the way into Mars’ upper atmosphere, say the authors of a new paper appearing in the journal Science

Data from the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission show that the water abundance at these altitudes goes up dramatically when there’s a dust storm – the dust allows the water to be carried to higher altitudes, Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN’S Principal Investigator and a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder, told me.

The greater water

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How, When And Where You Can See Mars, Jupiter, Saturn And A Crescent Moon With Your Naked Eyes

There are few more exquisite sights in all of nature than a slim crescent Moon glistening in twilight. 

Watching our barely-there natural satellite in space sink towards the horizon is a monthly highlight that happens next week, but this time it’s going to be something special. 

MORE FROM FORBESWhat Are Those Three Bright ‘Stars’ Visible At Dusk Each Night? This Is What You’re Seeing

That’s because in the southwestern sky just after sunset, Jupiter and Saturn will also be coming out to play. While you’re delighting at that triumvirate, look southeast and you’ll find Mars. 

Don’t take these planets for granted for soon enough they’ll all be gone from the night sky for many, many months. 

Here’s exactly when and where

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Chemical reactions high in Mars’ atmosphere rip apart water molecules

Mars’ water is being skimmed off the top. NASA’S MAVEN spacecraft found water lofted into Mars’ upper atmosphere, where its hydrogen and oxygen atoms are ripped apart, scientists report in the Nov. 13 Science.

“This completely changes how we thought hydrogen, in particular, was being lost to space,” says planetary chemist Shane Stone of the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Mars’ surface was shaped by flowing water, but today the planet is an arid desert (SN: 12/8/14). Previously, scientists thought that Mars’ water was lost in a “slow and steady trickle,” as sunlight split water in the lower atmosphere and hydrogen gradually diffused upward, Stone says.

But MAVEN, which has been orbiting Mars since 2014, scooped up water molecules in Mars’ ionosphere, at altitudes of about 150 kilometers. That was surprising — previously the highest water had been seen was about 80 kilometers (SN: 1/22/18).

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Independent panel recommends delaying Mars Sample Return missions

WASHINGTON — An independent review panel created by NASA to examine its plans to return samples from Mars endorsed the overall campaign, but recommended that the agency delay two upcoming missions to provide a more realistic development schedule.

NASA established the Independent Review Board (IRB) in August to provide an outside assessment of its overall Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign, which started with the launch of the Mars 2020 mission in July. That mission’s Perseverance rover will cache samples of Martian rock and soil that will be returned to Earth no earlier than 2031 by two subsequent missions that NASA is planning in cooperation with the European Space Agency.

The board, in a report released Nov. 10, supported the overall effort. “We unanimously believe that the Mars Sample Return program should proceed,” David Thompson, former chief executive of Orbital ATK and chair of the board, said in a call with

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NASA gets go-ahead to bring Mars rocks back to Earth

This illustration shows a NASA Mars Ascent Vehicle concept carrying samples into Mars orbit.


NASA/JPL-Caltech

It’s one thing to send a spacecraft to Mars. It’s another to land on the surface, pick up some pieces of the planet and then bring them all the way back to Earth. But NASA is going to try to do just that.

On Tuesday, NASA announced the results of an Independent Review Board (IRB) evaluation of its planned Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission that would at long last bring a bit of the red planet back for our scientists to study.

“Following an examination of the agency’s ambitious Mars Sample Return plan, the board’s report concludes that NASA is prepared for the campaign, building on decades of scientific advancements and technical progress in Mars exploration,” NASA said in a

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Mars Will Receive a New Visitor in 100 Days’ Time

In just 100 days from now, NASA’s Perseverance rover is set to land on Mars.

According to the latest information from the space agency, the touchdown will take place at 12:43 p.m. PT (3:43 p.m. ET) on February 18, 2021. For any folks who’ve puzzled over why their public transit services can’t ever seem to run on time, that’s going to sound like a remarkably specific forecast. But it’s merely a reflection of the incredible work and planning that’s gone into NASA’s groundbreaking mission.

Perseverance launched atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida in July 2020. As of November 10, 166 million miles (268 million km) separate the rover and the red planet’s Jezero Crater — the landing site for Perseverance and the place where it will begin its highly anticipated search for signs of ancient life.

“While we call the six-and-a-half-month trip from Earth to Mars

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