Scientists just discovered snow on Mars

August 25, 2017 by  
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Forget everything you think you know about Mars. In a study published in Nature Geoscience , scientists confirm that there is snow on the Red Planet. It’s not what you might think, however. Mars experiences explosions of snow known as “ice microbursts” that only occur in the shadows and are very unlike snowfall on Earth. This finding is challenging previous notions about the planet’s history and the likelihood of future generations colonizing it. On Mars, the clouds have to be very low to the surface (about 1 to 2 kilometers, or 0.61 to 1.24 miles), or else the snow will be annihilated before it even reaches the rusty soil. This is because the air pressure increases rapidly as it descends downwards. In turn, the local temperature is increased and snow reaches evaporation-ready temperatures. As IFLScience reports, scientists previously believed snow precipitation occurred only by “the slow sedimentation of individual particles.” The authors now know this isn’t the case. Their research shows that the sudden snow explosion mechanisms must have affected “Mars’ water cycle, past and present.” Related: NASA unveils plan to make oxygen on Mars Because the red planet’s atmosphere is incredibly thin, its thermal insulation is pretty low. At night, the mercury can drop as low as -73°C (-100°F) on the equator surface, and -125°C (-195°F) at the poles. When sunlight glances Mars, water at the equator is given just enough energy to evaporate. This results in the formation of low-pressure clouds — a phenomenon NASA is already tracking. Because the temperature of the Red Planet drops considerably at night, the rapid and localized redistribution of heat results in air currents becoming unstable. Water ice crystals then fall out in rapid succession. Some crystals may reach the surface, but others sublimate into a gas . The streaks of snowfall that fail to reach the surface are known as “virgas.” For now, only robots are able to experience Mars’ unique snowfall. But if humans ever do colonize Mars — a feat Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking are ambitious to see accomplished in their lifetimes , maybe we’ll get to experience the planet’s unique weather patterns firsthand. + Nature Geoscience Via IFLScience  Images via Pixabay , NASA/JPL

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Scientists just discovered snow on Mars

Elon Musk reveals his big plan for colonizing Mars

September 27, 2016 by  
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SpaceX founder, lead designer, and chief executive  Elon Musk has talked a lot about Mars over the past few years, and today marks a culmination of everything he’s hinted at so far. This afternoon, the man behind wild ideas like the Hyperloop and solar roofs made an epic (and long-awaited ) announcement  revealing more details about his ambitious plans for colonizing the Red Planet . Musk warned months in advance that his plan would be “mind-blowing,” and he lived up to that promise today. Nearly 100,000 viewers around the world tuned in to the live stream of the event, for a never-before-seen look at simulations based on actual CAD designs for a Mars spaceship. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1YxNYiyALg Musk made his announcement today at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico as promised. The announcement was broadcast simultaneously on SpaceX’s Facebook page and YouTube channel . His lecture, “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species,” focused on “making Mars seem possible” by with the establishment of a “self-sustaining city” on Mars. Despite its inhospitable environment, Musk insists Mars is the best candidate for supporting life, as opposed to Venus’ high-pressure atmosphere and Mercury’s close proximity to the sun. He further suggests Mars is the place to be, because a day on Mars is very similar to one on Earth, stretching 24.5 hours. Its atmosphere, he believes, would support plant life (not unlike we saw Matt Damon grow in “The Martian” ) which makes human civilization seem just a little more possible. Related: SpaceX retro travel posters make Mars look like the ultimate vacation destination As has been the case since the earliest murmurings of a SpaceX “city” on Mars , Musk says the effort will require intense participation (and a whole lot of funding) from industry, government and the scientific community here on Earth. So, how much will it cost future humans to move to Mars? Musk illustrated the estimated cost of a trip to Mars by revisiting the first Moon landing in present-day dollars, which breaks down to around $10 billion per person. He suggests targeting a “ticket to Mars” price around $200,000 per person, an affordable price point he says will be a “bit tricky” to reach, given the need to reduce the cost of interplanetary human travel by 50,000 times. Even so, he says he expects the ticket price to eventually drop below $100,000 after an initial base is setup and spacecraft reusability further brings down the cost of transportation. Musk’s big plan for establishing a human presence on the Red Planet without spending all the money in the world hinges on the development of a ginormous reusable rocket and a huge spaceship capable of carrying human passengers and all the necessary cargo for starting life on a new planet. Given the mixed results of SpaceX’s innovative  Falcon 9 rocket booster  so far in its short tenure, many are skeptical about the idea of ramping up rocket technology fast enough to meet Musk’s timeline. During his announcement today, Musk reiterated the importance of “full reusability” when it comes to colonizing Mars, in addition to refilling in orbit, generating fuel on Mars to use for rocket propellant, and ensuring that the right propellant is used considering all factors involved. Musk tweeted  yesterday (September 26), “SpaceX propulsion just achieved first firing of the Raptor interplanetary transport engine,” with two fiery photos attached as evidence. SpaceX also uploaded a video of the test to its YouTube channel. The company says this is the first stage of technology capable of launching a trip to Mars, with cargo and people in tow. Today, Musk said the design for the Mars spaceship calls for 42 Raptor engines, which provides the immense power necessary for the trip, as well as some redundancy in the event that an engine or two happens to fail. The biggest question, still pressing in just about everyone’s mind, actually has less to do with how humans will reach Mars and more to do with when . SpaceX announced plans earlier this year to send an unmanned vessel dubbed Red Dragon to Mars as early as 2018, and Musk has previously said he thought it would be possible to land on Mars by 2025. When it came time to discuss the timeline for a SpaceX trip to Mars during today’s announcement, Musk waxed poetic over the 14-year history of the company, which he founded, before finally saying that he plans for SpaceX to make its first true grab at the Red Planet as early as 2023. Via Phys.org Images via SpaceX

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Did Curiosity detect methane on Mars, or just its own exhaust?

May 29, 2015 by  
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There is a methane situation on Mars. Maybe. NASA’s Curiosity rover has detected methane on the planet, which excites researchers to no end, but some believe that the methane samples the rover is picking up are actually coming from the rover itself. The question of methane on Mars has been a mystery for decades, and it seems researchers may not really be any closer to solving it. Read the rest of Did Curiosity detect methane on Mars, or just its own exhaust? Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: life on mars , mars curiosity rover , mars methane , Mars research , mars rover , methane evidence of life , methane on mars , methane proof of life , nasa , red planet

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Did Curiosity detect methane on Mars, or just its own exhaust?

House Budget for NASA Calls for Half-Trillion Dollar Mars Colony, Cuts Renewable Energy Research

July 8, 2013 by  
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Interplanetary exploration is certainly a noble endeavor, but when it comes to caring for a planet, politicians should begin by rooting for the home team. A recently introduced bill in the House of Representatives suggests a NASA budget that includes a multi-billion dollar space base on Mars , but cripples funding for renewable energy , and hands over cash to nuclear and fossil fuel special interests. Even more puzzling, the bill also slashes backing for climate change research. Read the rest of House Budget for NASA Calls for Half-Trillion Dollar Mars Colony, Cuts Renewable Energy Research Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: base , bill , budget , Climate Change , colony , federal production tax credit , House of Representatives , legislation , mars , nasa , red planet , renewable energy        

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House Budget for NASA Calls for Half-Trillion Dollar Mars Colony, Cuts Renewable Energy Research

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