Mars News and Discussions

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After six months on Mars, NASA's tiny copter is still flying high
https://phys.org/news/2021-09-months-ma ... opter.html
by Lucie Aubourg
NASA's Ingenuity helicopter, photographed on the surface of Mars by the Perseverance rover on June 15, 2021.

It was only supposed to fly five times. And yet NASA's helicopter on Mars, Ingenuity, has completed 12 flights and it isn't ready to retire.

Given its stunning and unexpected success, the US space agency has extended Ingenuity's mission indefinitely.

The tiny helicopter has become the regular travel companion of the rover Perseverance, whose core mission is to seek signs of ancient life on Mars.

"Everything is working so well," said Josh Ravich, the head of Ingenuity's mechanical engineering team. "We're doing better on the surface than we had expected."

Hundreds of people contributed to the project, though only about a dozen currently retain day-to-day roles.
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Mars rocks collected by Perseverance boost case for ancient life
A Martian rock dubbed "Rochette" that provided NASA's Perseverance rover its first two samples.

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has now collected two rock samples, with signs that they were in contact with water for a long period of time boosting the case for ancient life on the Red Planet.

"It looks like our first rocks reveal a potentially habitable sustained environment," said Ken Farley, project scientist for the mission, in a statement Friday. "It's a big deal that the water was there for a long time."

The six-wheeled robot collected its first sample, dubbed "Montdenier" on September 6, and its second, "Montagnac" from the same rock on September 8.

Both samples, slightly wider than a pencil in diameter and about six centimeters long, are now stored in sealed tubes in the rover's interior.

A first attempt at collecting a sample in early August failed after the rock proved too crumbly to withstand Perseverance's drill.
https://phys.org/news/2021-09-mars-pers ... cient.html
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Was Mars Ever habitable? Study Sheds Light on the Planet's Past
by Passant Habbie
September 21, 2021

https://www.inverse.com/science/mars-no ... -potassium
(Inverse) THE SEARCH FOR LIFE BEYOND EARTH MAY BE AT STAKE. A new study suggests that Mars may not have been habitable after all.

The reason? Its small size.

Despite previous evidence that the Red Planet once hosted lakes, rivers, and other possible bodies of water, analysis of Martian meteorites shows that Mars may have had a much drier past than scientists believed.

As NASA’s Perseverance rover scours the Martian terrain to look for clues of ancient microbial life, the recent research could mean that the rover’s search will turn up empty and our hunt for life beyond Earth may suffer a major setback.

“Mars is likely ‘drier’ than we previously thought,” Zhen Tian, a Ph.D. candidate at Washington University and author on the paper, tells Inverse.
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NASA's InSight finds three big marsquakes, thanks to solar-panel dusting
https://phys.org/news/2021-09-nasa-insi ... panel.html
by Jet Propulsion Laboratory

On Sept. 18, NASA's InSight lander celebrated its 1,000th Martian day, or sol, by measuring one of the biggest, longest-lasting marsquakes
the mission has ever detected. The temblor is estimated to be about a magnitude 4.2 and shook for nearly an hour-and-a-half.

This is the third major quake InSight has detected in a month: On Aug. 25, the mission's seismometer detected two quakes of magnitudes 4.2 and 4.1. For comparison, a magnitude 4.2 quake has five times the energy of the mission's previous record holder, a magnitude 3.7 quake detected in 2019.

On Sept. 18, NASA's InSight lander celebrated its 1,000th Martian day, or sol, by measuring one of the biggest, longest-lasting marsquakes the mission has ever detected. The temblor is estimated to be about a magnitude 4.2 and shook for nearly an hour-and-a-half.

This is the third major quake InSight has detected in a month: On Aug. 25, the mission's seismometer detected two quakes of magnitudes 4.2 and 4.1. For comparison, a magnitude 4.2 quake has five times the energy of the mission's previous record holder, a magnitude 3.7 quake detected in 2019.

The mission studies seismic waves to learn more about Mars' interior. The waves change as they travel through a planet's crust, mantle, and core, providing scientists a way to peer deep below the surface. What they learn can shed light on how all rocky worlds form, including Earth and its Moon.
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NASA Rover Confirms Gigantic Martian Crater Used To Be a Lake
"Without driving anywhere, the rover was able to solve one of the big unknowns."
Ancient Lakes
New data from NASA’s Perseverance rover confirms that Jezero Crater, the area on Mars that it’s been exploring since it touched down back in February, is indeed the site of a gigantic ancient lake.

The rover found geological structures that researchers from NASA and a long list of American and European universities say could have only been formed by a river flowing into a lake for a long period of time, according to research published in the journal Science on Thursday. Images of a distant structure show distinct layers of sediment that wouldn’t have formed in a dry atmosphere, confirming that Mars used to harbor huge lakes or even oceans geologically similar to Earth’s.
Long-Range Science

Scientists have long suspected that Jezero Crater used to be a lake, but they had never been able to definitively prove it. They also had no way of knowing whether any surface water on Mars persisted for long periods of times or if it was fleeting, either evaporating or draining shortly after it pooled up.
https://futurism.com/the-byte/nasa-rove ... 0TVDZr_VzE
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Rover images confirm Jezero crater is an ancient Martian lake
The first scientific analysis of images taken by NASA's Perseverance rover has now confirmed that Mars' Jezero crater—which today is a dry, wind-eroded depression—was once a quiet lake, fed steadily by a small river some 3.7 billion years ago.

The images also reveal evidence that the crater endured flash floods. This flooding was energetic enough to sweep up large boulders from tens of miles upstream and deposit them into the lakebed, where the massive rocks lie today.

The new analysis, published today in the journal Science, is based on images of the outcropping rocks inside the crater on its western side. Satellites had previously shown that this outcrop, seen from above, resembled river deltas on Earth, where layers of sediment are deposited in the shape of a fan as the river feeds into a lake.

Perseverance's new images, taken from inside the crater, confirm that this outcrop was indeed a river delta. Based on the sedimentary layers in the outcrop, it appears that the river delta fed into a lake that was calm for much of its existence, until a dramatic shift in climate triggered episodic flooding at or toward the end of the lake's history.

"If you look at these images, you're basically staring at this epic desert landscape. It's the most forlorn place you could ever visit," says Benjamin Weiss, professor of planetary sciences in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and a member of the analysis team. "There's not a drop of water anywhere, and yet, here we have evidence of a very different past. Something very profound happened in the planet's history."
https://phys.org/news/2021-10-rover-ima ... cient.html
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With first Martian samples packed, Perseverance initiates remarkable sample return mission
https://phys.org/news/2021-10-martian-s ... ample.html
by Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA, along with the European Space Agency, is developing a campaign to return the Martian samples to Earth.

On Sept. 1, NASA's Perseverance rover unfurled its arm, placed a drill bit at the Martian surface, and drilled about 2 inches, or 6 centimeters, down to extract a rock core. The rover later sealed the rock core in its tube. This historic event marked the first time a spacecraft packed up a rock sample from another planet that could be returned to Earth by future spacecraft.

Mars Sample Return is a multi-mission campaign designed to retrieve the cores Perseverance will collect over the next several years. Currently in the concept design and technology development phase, the campaign is one of the most ambitious endeavors in spaceflight history, involving multiple spacecraft, multiple launches, and dozens of government agencies.

"Returning a sample from Mars has been a priority for the planetary science community since the 1980s, and the potential opportunity to finally realize this goal has unleashed a torrent of creativity," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program based at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
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