NASA 2016 Mars Mission to Investigate Planet Core [Video]


NASA 2016 Mars Mission to Investigate Planet Core [Video]

by James Fenner

 

NASA plan to look at Mars planet core

Astronomers have pondered over why Earth and Mars are so different, from an evolutionary perspective, for quite some time. However, NASA have designs to fill in these gaps in our planetary knowledge by launching a cost-effective mission to Mars, by 2016, to investigate the planet’s core.

Mars vs. Earth

InSight mars mission Logo

The new mission is called InSight (Interior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), and will attempt to identify the nature of the Red Planet’s core. Specifically, is the core in liquid form or is it solid? Furthermore, the research efforts will attempt to establish why there is such a huge difference between the crust of Earth and Mars. Our planet is home to a series of tectonic plates, whilst Mars is an endless, barren wasteland of deserts, valleys and polar ice caps, interspersed with impact craters.

Researchers believe that the key to understanding these mysteries might lie at the heart of the Red Planet, and could eventually lead scientists to pinpoint the means by which other rocky planets come to fruition.

The mission’s budget is planned to be a little over $400 million, with Bruce Banerdt taking the helm, who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in California.

Launching in March 2016, and with a lander arriving on the planet half a year later, the Mars mission is due to last two years. The lander will consist of a number of instruments to measure seismic activity and heat fluctuations within the planet’s interior, whilst taking measurements of the rotation of the Red Planet upon its axis. The robotic lander will also feature a set of cameras and a pair of arms to aid its research.

The Financial Factor

The InSight Mars mission was given the go ahead after competing against two other proposed missions, TiME and Comet Hopper, as it was an evolution of a previous NASA project InSight Spacecraft Design

(the Phoenix Mars Mission) and provided a highly cost-effective prospect. The Phoenix lander was a highly successful mission, which was utilized to explore ground ice around the Martian north pole; it’s thought that exploiting the same technology for the new InSight mission could help to cut costs.

This was confirmed by John Grunsfeld, the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate who suggested that TiME’s proposed mission to Titan (Saturn’s enormous moon), represented a financial gamble, citing scheduling problems as another adverse factor.

Landing Site Selection

According to NBC News, NASA is currently investigating plausible landing sites for InSight’s 2016 Mars Mission. Thus far, four suitable sites have been selected, where investigation of the planet’s core may commence. Matt Golombek, also working from NASA’s JPL, highlights that landing suitability is principally based around the area that is deemed safest:

“They have mostly smooth terrain, few rocks and very little slope.”

These landing sites have all been selected within the Elysium Planitia zone of Mars. This region is thought to provide sufficient solar power, all year round, as well as a descent atmosphere (due to low elevations), with which the spacecraft can make its landing.

Map of Mars InSight landing zones

NASA had also previously considered other landing zones as viable targets, including areas of the Valles Marineris, the Isidis Planitia and the famous “Grand Canyons” of Mars. However, these regions had a number of issues preventing the go-ahead, including uneven terrain and high wind velocities.

Studying Mars as a Living Entity

NASA describe this new space adventure as a search for “fingerprints,” of the mechanisms by which terrestrial planets develop, and almost seems to compare Mars to that of a human being. The seismological activity represents the planet’s “pulse”, whereas its heat flow and tracking represent “temperature” and “reflexes.”

As there is no tectonic activity, and the planet is less geologically dynamic than Earth, Mars is thought to retain most of its history within its crust, mantle and core. Consequently, the team consider that thorough investigation of the size, density and overall thickness of the various layers of the planet could provide a more concrete understanding of how Mars has changed with time.

The birth of a planet begins when a rocky body evolves. Evolution follows the formation of the rocky body by a process called accretion. The body increases in size, its inner material heats up and melts, and it then recrystallizes during a period of cooling. The end result is a terrestrial planet, encompassing the crust, mantle and core.

It’s the subsequent steps that scientists are confused by, however. A planet’s evolution is based upon differentiation, which astronomers know little about. This is, hopefully, where InSight is likely to plug in the gaps in our knowledge.

To round off the mission, NASA plans to conduct an investigation into the impact of meteorites on the Red Planet’s surface. NASA’s 2016 Mars mission, and their plans to study the planet’s core features, represents an exciting new step for the space agency, who have been under much criticism for not pursuing further endeavors on the Red Planet. Hopefully, this will help silence some of their critics.

By James Fenner

NASA’s InSight Website

NBC News Link

Science.com Link

SCIENCE NEWS


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More Mars Rover News | Curiosity Finds Simple Organics, But Big Questions


Curiosity Finds Simple Organics, But Big Questions

“The Curiosity rover has detected organic compounds on Mars, NASA scientists announced at a press conference today. But the source of these carbon-containing molecules, which are essential to sustaining life, is still up in the air. Using Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments, researchers found traces of water, sulfur, and small amounts of organics in the form chlorine-containing compounds, though the researchers were quick to point out that they’re still trying to determine the source of the organics—they could very well could be from residual earth contaminants, the scientists warned. “[SAM] has made this detection of simple, organic compounds; we just don’t know if they’re indigenous to Mars or not,” said project scientist John Grotzinger.”

Iceman Mummy Found | Science News


FROZEN FARMER The 5,300-year-old Iceman mummy found in the Alps was part of a wave of immigrants that moved into Europe as agriculture spread from the Middle East, a new genetic analysis finds.          more >>
© South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, EURAC, Samadelli, Staschitz

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Shlockumentary Obama’s America | The Lunatic Ravings of Dinesh D’Souza A Sad, Pathetic Wingnut


D’Souza’s Sad, Pathetic Wingnut Desperation To Tear Down President Obama
By Nicole Belle

On my weekly segment on the Nicole Sandler Show, Nicole jokes that I watch the Sunday shows so her listeners don’t have to. One of our C&L regulars, Mugsy, watches them too and is a very visible presence on Sundays. He also took upon himself the unenviable task to watch wingnut toadie Dinesh D’Souza’s cinematic claptrap “2016” so you don’t have to. Mugsy methodically broke down all the manipulations, gross deceptions, and blatant lies.

And there are so many….

The film starts out with D’Souza talking about himself and how different his life was growing up in his native India yet how differently he views the world today despite that. Then he proceeds to talk for the next 90 minutes about how life in Kenya… a country D’Souza admits Obama never lived in… must have shaped Obama’s attitudes about America. I find myself wondering, how is it that D’Souza can imagine himself to be so radically different despite having been raised in India (a former British colony), but President Obama’s entire world view is the product of a culture in which HE had never lived? Just one of the major inconsistencies in “Obama: 2016″.

Oh you silly liberal with working critical thinking skills…this is clearly not a movie for you.

D’Souza twice claims Obama “wants to turn the Falkland Islands over to Venezuela”, but a Google search turns up nothing other than President Obama choosing to “remain neutral on the subject of Falkland sovereignty, irking Great Britain.” I’m not even sure why this is suddenly an issue. But clearly, it’s just one more sign of President Obama’s deep hatred of anything connected to Great Britain. It’s not like the Falklands were ever involved in a war or anything, right?

For some odd reason, D’Souza suddenly concedes that Obama: “Increased NASA’s budget”, but “lowered their horizons from ‘a return to the moon’ to ‘reconciling with Muslims’.” (huh??? Yeah, read that as many times as you like, I promise it won’t make any more sense.) He returns to this point later towards the end of the film. See below. Here, D’Souza is clearly blaming Obama for the discontinuation of the Shuttle program, which was actually discontinued under the Bush Administration. In fact, the Obama Administration EXTENDED the Shuttle program by two missions

See, I don’t know that any actual facts will penetrate through this level of derangement. Mugsy did an amazing job, including clips from the film.

Go check it out, if for no other reason than to remind yourself that there is no lie too big, no project too stupid, no low too low for conservatives to stoop to smear the African American Democrat in the White House. Then give Mugsy thanks for watching that piece of excrement so you didn’t have to.

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NASA spots hot, Earth-like planet


NASA spots hot, Earth-like planet

Tuesday, 11 January 2011
AFP


Artist concept of exoplanet Kepler 10b.

The discovery is based on more than eight months of data collected by the Kepler spacecraft (Source: NASA)

Hot stuff NASA has spotted a tiny, rocky planet about the size of Earth doing a speedy orbit of a star outside our solar system, the space agency has announced.

The exoplanet, named Kepler-10b, is the smallest-ever planet discovered outside our solar system, but its scorching temperatures are too hot for life.

The planet, which was located by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft findings, is described in a paper to be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

It is about 1.4 times the size of Earth and spins around its star more than once a day, an orbit much too close for life to survive.

“Kepler-10b is definitely NOT in the habitable zone as we define it. The dayside temperature of the planet is expected to be higher than 2500°F (1371°C)”, says NASA expert Natalie Batalha. “That’s hot enough to melt iron.”

“It wouldn’t be a very nice place for organisms like those on Earth to live. Carbon-based chemistry wouldn’t thrive there. Molecules comprising RNA and DNA couldn’t stay intact in such extreme temperatures.”

The planet completes a full orbit once every 0.84 days, and is 23 times closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun.

Finding a ‘significant milesone’

According to Dr Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA, the discovery is promising even though no life could exist there.

“The discovery of Kepler 10-b is a significant milestone in the search for planets similar to our own,” says Hudgins.

“Although this planet is not in the habitable zone, the exciting find showcases the kinds of discoveries made possible by the mission and the promise of many more to come,” he said.

The new planet has a mass 4.6 times that of the Earth, and an average density of 8.8 grams per cubic centimetre, similar to an iron dumbbell, says NASA.

Batalha, a professor at San Jose State University and deputy science team lead for NASA’s Kepler Mission, says there is evidence of another potential planet in the same star system, but little is yet known about it.

“There is actually already a very compelling signature of another potential planet in this system,” says Batalha.

“There is a transit event that recurs once every 45 days and is suggestive of a planet a bit larger than two times the radius of the Earth.”

95-megapixel camera

Kepler is NASA’s first mission in search of Earth-like planets orbiting suns similar to ours.

It launched in 2009, equipped with the largest camera ever sent into space – a 95-megapixel array of charge-coupled devices – and is expected to continue sending information back to Earth until at least November 2012.

The space telescope is searching for planets as small as Earth, including those orbiting stars in a warm, habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface of the planet.

NASA defines the habitable zone, in part, to have a temperature below the boiling point of water and higher than the freezing point.

Kepler is not equipped to detect signs of life, such as the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere, but mainly aims to locate Earth-size planets outside our solar system