Past and Present signs of possible habitability on Mars

The Mars Curiosity rover of NASA is slowly moving up of a steep mountain made up of sedimentary rock which is positioned at the center of the Gale Crater landing site. Surprisingly the rover has found shreds of evidence of habitability on the Red Planet’s past and maybe even in the present, as per the statements of the scientists.

As per the reports revealed, the Curiosity rover has identified different forms of organic compounds which are very much essential for supporting life on earth, within the three billion old rocks at the beneath of the Gale Crater. It is to be kept in mind that the rover previously detected organics. But this time the samples collected are far more authentic and further strengthen the belief of possible habitat on Mars in the past. According to Jen Eigenbrode who is a research scientist and also an astrobiologist at NASA, said that they had found organic molecules in rocks which are a proof that there might have been life on Mars in the past.

In another surprising finding, it was detected that there had been seasonal variations in the level of methane in the Martian atmosphere. Background levels are seen to climb by a factor of three from winter to summer which is an indication of the repeated release of gas. In fact, Chris Webster who is a senior researcher at the Jet propulsion Laboratory has officially announced that they have found seasonal, repeatable and very much identifiable pattern in the methane measurement. Chris feels that this finding of fluctuations in the methane level amidst the Martian atmosphere has unlocked a large number of queries surrounding the habitation on the Red Planet and now they will be able to test their models to perfection. 

Chris further added such seasonal changes in the methane level are very confident in the sense that 95 percent of methane that is present on Earth is due to biology. Moreover, it should be remembered that methane lasts for only a couple of centuries before they are broken down. So its presence currently within the Martian atmosphere proves that something exciting is taking place within the Red Planet.

Previously methane was discovered in the Martian atmosphere but in patches, unlike the recent discovery where repeatable patterns have been identified. When Mars is warmer particularly during the summer season, the level tends to rise further showing signs of on-going biology or may be the result of pure geological processes.

No Tourists around the Moon this year–SpaceX

As per media reports, SpaceX would not be launching the two tourists on a mission to the moon in 2018. 

Elon Musk, CEO, and founder of SpaceX announced on February 2018, that his company is aiming to send two customers who wish to pay for a weeklong trip to the moon around the end of this year, with the aid of its all-powerful Falcon Heavy rocket and the Dragon capsule. As per SpaceX representatives, the two of these customers have not been publicly announced, but have submitted the deposit for their mission. 

On June 3rd,  The Wall Street Journal mentioned reporting that, though SpaceX has not yet announced the new rescheduled date of the mission, it is expected to be by the mid of 2019 or maybe even later, and it also does not mean that the landmark mission is called off. James Gleeson, SpaceX’s spokesperson, mentioned in his e-mail to the Journal, that SpaceX’s plans to fly individuals around the moon is still on and there has been the great response of the interest on the trip from customers.  

SpaceX has a multibillion-dollar contract with NASA that using its Falcon 9 and the Dragon; it will transpire astronauts from and to the orbiting lab. Robotic cargo missions from and to the International Space Station is already carried on using Dragon, launched atop the companies powerful Falcon 9 rocket. 

Initially, NASA presumed to start this astronaut taxi module, along with another one from Boeing, that’s still in the developing stage, and also is linked with a commercial-crew agreement with it. It was also expected to be ready by 2017, but the progress has been much slower than what was initially planned. As of the present scenario, SpaceX, and Boing, both have officially announced their target of completion by the last quarter of 2018, for their first test crew flights, but there are possibilities that the completion dates might push further in 2019. 

It was when Elon Musk, announced the space mission around the moon, Falcon Heavy – the reusable spaceship was being developed, but as of present situations, it has its wings ready. The rocket was debuted in February, spectacularly, launching first the Tesla Roadster that carried ‘Starman’ – a mannequin into space, along with the two of its three, Falcon 9’s initial stages, which constitutes the most massive first stage and aces its landing back to Earth. 

Is Black Hole a result of Neutron-Star collision?

In the year of August 2017, scientists identified gravitational waves for the first time which took place due to the merger of two super-dense stellar corpses which are known as neutron stars. This benchmark discovery was a massive step in the process of better understanding of cosmos as revealed by the scientists.

When this invention was made, scientists termed it GW170817 and thought that such dramatic event might have caused a black hole. In a brand new experiment, researchers have analyzed data which had been accumulated by Chandra X-ray Observatory of NASA, after the gravitational waves which were first identified by Albert Einstein hundred years ago, were detected by Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project.  

This LIGO data has furnished the fact that the object which is created by the neutron-star merger is almost 2.7 times the mass of the Sun. Based on this fact; the researchers have concluded that either it is lowest-mass black hole ever identified or the enormous neutron star ever witnessed. The research team is still putting its bet on black-hole interpretation. According to them if the matter is such that two neutron stars have merged to form a single one, then it is very likely that the object so formed will emit bright X-ray lights and will also have a strong magnetic field. However, the Chandra observations identified low X-ray levels.

According to Pawan Kumar who is the study co-author of the University of Texas has viewed that they might have just given a fabulous answer regarding the composition of this object. He further stated that astronomers have for long waited to find out that whether neutron stars merge to form a black hole but there was no concrete proof for that statement until now. The scientists now think if this theory proves to be correct then it would open many avenues for further study in respect of the black holes, which are one of the darkest objects within the Universe. 

Scientists have further said that it is not that all black holes have formed due to the process mentioned above. But this particular low mass black hole might have formed due to the collision of two neutron stars that are close to each other as far as their orbital path is concerned. The gravitational wave radiation might also have been a reason for such collision which is indeed a strange as well as a complicated journey, the researchers feel.

Juno Space Craft Mission extended three years more by NASA

There is good news for space fans. Recently NASA has provided funds and now its time for Juno spacecraft to accomplish its missions. In the year 2011, the probe left our planet, and in 2016, it reached to Jupiter. This should complete the things this year, February. It is the time, now NASA has accepted to give fund to the project and extend the project until 2022, which is 41 months from now. This clearly stated that Juno would be orbiting the Jupiter or giant gas until July 2021 and spend some months until it analyses the data.

If you see Juno has a short lifespan, this is why it orbits around Jupiter in every 14days. However, something went wrong with the valves in the fuel process, so it got stuck suddenly after 53 days orbit instead of 14-day orbit. More extended orbits means, it requires more time to collect data, which NASA wanted to gain from it. However, the extension gives the opportunity to learn everything on the planet in solar system.

According to Thomas Zurbuchen, who is the associate director of NASA science mission directorate, Washington said “the funds would not only give a long-term extension to accomplish the mission by Juno but also discover new dimension important scientific puzzles as well. Both scientists and citizens will unveil the discoveries of science.”

From past two years, Juno is orbiting Jupiter and giving information about the planet. The poles are packed with storms, which are the size of the earth; also, we see the depth nature of Jupiter in the images. The spacecraft captured most exquisite images of the planets which is included in the snapshots of the great red spot. This shows the more delicate details of the storm.

NASA has approved its proposal of extending the Juno mission, which is fantastic news for space lovers and scientist. This way scientist gets extra time and funds to do the research, and the Juno as well gets ample of time to orbit the planet in the solar system. This current news from NASA will give influence to the great mission to be accomplished. The fund for the purpose will be expected by July 2021 and the data analysis by Juno will be continuing until 2022. Great news for planetary exploration and this news unveil the newest ways to discover the solar system. This will give way to explore more in Jupiter, and Juno gets time to keep continuing its orbit around the planet.

NASA Has Made Some Interesting Mars Discoveries; They Will Tell Us More On June 7

NASA has more information from Mars, and they are holding a press conference to make the announcements. You can stream the announcement on Thursday, June 7 at 2 pm EDT. NASA is not revealing any information before the conference. 

Even though they have not given details about the press conference, they announced that it would feature discoveries by the Curiosity rover. The agency will stream the announcement via their website and some social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Upstream, Periscope, Twitch, and YouTube.

NASA launched the Curiosity rover to Mars in August 2012. The focus of this rover is to study Mars and check whether the planet can support life. Since the rover has been drilling the Martian surface for some time now, it is possible that the announcement is related to something unearthed on the Martian surface. 

In 2016, NASA almost gave up on drilling the surface when the rover developed a hitch that prevented it from digging. However, the agency developed a new strategy to allow the rover to drill into the planet’s surface again. 

The media and the general public can send in their questions during the live streaming session using the #askNASA hash tag. 

So far, the mission has answered some fundamental questions. Scientists are now confident that Mars can support life since it can support a habitable environment. 

NASA is exploring Mars in another mission with the InSight Mars lander. The InSight Mars lander launched on May 5, 2018, aboard an Atlas V-401 launch vehicle. The vehicle lifted off from the Vandenberg Air Force base in California. The lander will land on Mars on November 26, 2018. 

This lander is the first probe that will investigate the interior of the Martian inner space. Scientists believe that a thorough investigation of the Martian internal space will give some clues about the formative years of other planets especially Earth, Mercury, and Venus. 

The lander is not traveling alone; there are the MarCo CubeSats and the orbiter. The orbiter is the primary communication instrument for the InSight lander. The MarCo CubeSats, on the other hand, are the first CubeSats to travel into deep space. 

NASA sent the MarCo deep space communication satellites for testing purposes. They want to know if they can use CubeSats to relay information from deep space. Everything is proceeding well as planned. However, NASA cannot declare the test victorious just yet. They would have to wait till MarCo-A and MarCo-B touch on the Mars surface. 

Microbes in space

A recent report by Professor Rakesh Mogul in association with Gregory A. Barding, Jr., and 22 other co-authors (university students) revealed that in the clean chambers of spacecraft, specific microbes found a way to survive even in harsh climates like the zero-gravity space. 

It was not understood then what the reasons were for such a scenario. Proper hygiene needs to be maintained by the scientists to ensure no fake signs of life remain on the spacecraft, as this can create unnecessary confusion and waste a lot of precious time of our researchers who take so much pain to find out if there is life anywhere else.

The study has revealed that the bacteria found on the spacecraft was eating the chemicals applied to kill it. The survival mechanism of these microorganisms is spellbounding, the chemical considered to be poisonous for them was accepted as food and a source of nutrition. It looks like there is no possible way to keep the bacteria away from any place that is accessible to the human race. When a space vehicle could not counter its invasion what should we expect in the hospitals, our homes or other such places?

In the mail sent to NTS, NASA made it very clear that the organization did not wish to contaminate the environment of Mars by Earthly bacteria, but it looks like the clean rooms or the clean room suits cannot restrain the multiplying capability of bacteria and its survival skills. 

Any expedition to harness the life on a foreign plant would fail if we were carrying our signs of life along. Though the air is filtered, the equipment is regularly sprayed with a special disinfectant. Still, bacteria could sneak in the spacecraft. As per a study, this is not enough to eliminate bacteria from space shuttles, certain types of bacteria can feed on these chemicals.

California State Polytechnic University published a report in the journal Astrobiology stating that Acinetobacter – a species of bacteria often found in sterilized areas like clean rooms and hospitals can make the spacecraft its home. The bacteria has been seen on multiple spacecraft including the ISS. Acinetobacter is ranked as the world’s deadliest bacteria by WHO.

The bacteria samples collected from NASA’s spacecraft was collected and starved for ordinary nutrients but given pure ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, and Kleeno30 – chemicals usually used in floor cleaners. The bacteria easily survived in all the mixtures it was exposed to. The research, however, has no solution to solve the problem but identifying the problem in the first place itself is the first step to a solution. 

Asteroids Surface Mystery Cracked by NEOWISE Spacecraft of NASA

The NEOWISE spacecraft by NASA is specially designed to study the asteroids. It collected data from over 100 such asteroids near to earth. 

Earlier known by the name WISE mission or the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission, the spacecraft was built for infrared imaging of the sky. It was done with the purpose of studying the various heavenly bodies in the sky. Launched in December 2009, the spacecraft completed two years of its mission and went dormant for another two years. In 2013, it was renamed as Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer with a new mission. Now its mission includes identifying and analysing the near earth objects. 

The NEOWISE spacecraft has thermal sensors which help it to make infrared observations. It is currently analysing asteroids in the asteroid belt for their surface characteristics, size, orbit etc. In a recent announcement by NASA, the spacecraft is set to collect data from 100 such asteroids in the asteroid belt. 

The archive of the spacecraft has data which reveals the surface compositions of the main belt asteroids. Using physical modelling of the thermal data received from the spacecraft, the scientists have found out about the surface regolith. It reveals that due to thermal cracking, the fine grains of dust and broken rocks have been deposited on the asteroids’ surface. The physical modelling of the data by the spacecraft has helped to reveal more information and findings than ever possible. This is an important finding as it has concluded the fact that there is very little dust on the surface of the asteroids.

Thermophysical modelling is one such way of analysis which scientists use to analyse the asteroids and their characteristics. The thermal data provided by the spacecraft has been very useful in taking the study one step further. Not only that, the data has helped to fasten the rate of making models for the number of asteroids. 

The scientists also explained the reason behind it. According to them, the asteroids have high rates of rotation and low gravity. It makes it difficult for dust to settle down on the surface. Another reason is that the asteroids do not undergo much thermal cracking thereby the creation of fine grains of regolith. The spacecraft also did a remarkable job in collecting data on the size of the asteroids. The results were rechecked by the scientist team and they found that the results matched.  

NASA Launches First Ever Spacecraft, CubeSats in Mars

NASA launched an independent lander in mars on May 5, 2018. Along with the lander, it also launched two CubeSats which will the first ever spacecraft of its kind to be launched in the space.

Insight lands on the Martian surface on November 26, 2018. If everything goes as planned, the cube one will be transmitting information back to the NASA.

The CubeSats created history by being the first spacecraft to be sent in outer space. The mission itself costs 18.5 million USD. It was tested for communications and it aced all of the tests.

One of the scientists at the NASA also said that one of their goals has been fulfilled as they demonstrated how low-cost technology can be used to send CubeSats in outer space.

The CubeSat has never had to make any trajectory course corrections. So, for travelling to the red planet, several course corrections has t be made for the spacecraft. The CubeSats, also known as MarCO-A and MarCO-B have successfully completed their manoeuvre of trajectory correction. While MarCO-A was able to complete the manoeuvre without any hindrance, MarCO-B faced some problems due to the leakage of the thrusters valves. Though the fault has been monitored by engineers for the past few weeks, the leak can cause changes in the manoeuvre. Although, it is said that it can still perform a manoeuvre.

If everything goes as planned and the CubeSats reach the Mars successfully, it will transmit information back to earth about the landing and descent of insight on the red planet. The CubeSats have small radios with which it can receive only or receive and transmit data. With it, it can relay information back to the earth. The CubeSats making its way to the red planet will itself make a historical moment.

Therefore, if the mission is successful, it will open a new arena for the communication satellites and will benefit future missions to the planet. 

There are also some interesting facts pertaining to the CubeSats. The MarCO-A and MarCO-B have been nicknamed as “Wall-E” and “Eva” after the famous animation movie “Wall-E”.

In the movie, the robot uses a fire extinguisher to fly off to space. The interesting fact is that MarCO also uses some kind of compressed gas to fly into space. The gas is also used in most of the fire extinguishers hence it has been adorably named so.

Science Fiction, no this is space fiction

Adrift, a book by Rob Boffard has brought the book lovers to the store once again. The plot is set in the outer space, and looks likes a castaway tale. The title is familiar to another novel which has been transformed into a movie too. On June 05, 2018 this book has been inaugurated and sent out to stores. Just as always assumptions were made of what kind of a book it would be. The story is about ‘Red Panda’ a spaceship where most of the action takes place. The story revolved around a group of people who are strangers, and who gets stuck in the space. The escape is what excites the reader. We have seen the somewhat same plot in movies like Final Destination, Alfred Hitchcock, etc. but the treatment to the situation is wholly explored and explained. 

Hannah Elliott performs the starring role of a recent college graduate in History. She gets a job of giving historical tours at a resort in a distant galaxy. She is not much inclined towards her role but has no choice. Her situation is entirely relatable, though a distant galaxy is not. The position is like a typical workplace like we have tourists on earth, she is guiding tourists in space. The first day at work is terrible as she gets late as she forgets her eye-a-lens computer, something everyone in the Adrift wears. In this universe, she finally makes it to Red panda and finds that the tourists are in a bad mood. A war-hardened Russian pilot flies the spacecraft and Hannah guides the passengers. This regular looking tour would have a twist. The wings changed into something they never anticipated. The passengers were of different age groups and got separated from each other. The astonishing part is you cannot understand any character or conclude how they are going to react.

The characters take a turn in playing the protagonist. The beauty of author is in the manner how he allows the reader to change the perspective almost immediately. There is murder and redemption and drama on the ship. There are stretched open wormholes through which people jump, and in between all the fiction, there are elements of the real world too. The difficulties of wearing a spacesuit and that of a spacewalk, everything is justly presented. The possibility of an escape vanishes every time you see some hope. The wait for the last page is just and worthy.

SpaceX touch in New Tesla

Elon Musk announced that the Tesla Roadster going to rock the roads in 2020 would have a special upgrade from SpaceX. Elon Musk is the CEO of Tesla, as well as SpaceX. The former company is excelling in road safety and luxury in automobiles while the later is into Space exploration. 

During the annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday, Elon Musk announced that a new package would be available with the upcoming model of Tesla. However, the package has not been revealed yet, but Musk gave a hint of the upgrade coming in November. This upgrade would allow the vehicle to “fly short hops.” 

Elon wishes to utilize rocket technology for the commercial and corporate purposes. His desire to commercialize the space industry and take the humans to the sky signify that he is working towards a revolution. SpaceX has proved to be revolutionary, and so is Tesla. The customers of the wagon are happy and satisfied. Tesla is a renowned name in the automobile industry, and this upgrade would make it the new favorite of the car lovers who want speed, power, thrill, and control. 

SpaceX has been making and sending rockets, and we anticipate flying cars from an entrepreneur like Elon Musk. Though unlike rockets carrying satellites to space, the car has limitations of its own. But rocket technology-induced into automobile industry would create an echo of an upgrade never thought of. Everybody is waiting to know what exactly Tesla has to offer in this upgrade package. 

Musk has given a hint that Tesla is working to prove that an electric car can outperform gas-powered counterparts.”Gasoline cars still have sort of a halo effect, and I think if we can show an electric car can outperform a gasoline car in every way, then we can get rid of that halo effect,” he said.

Bloomberg in September 2017 announced the collaboration of Tesla and SpaceX employees in identifying the problems in an aluminum auto part. Tesla employees admitted to this fact that SpaceX and Tesla often work together to solve out issues quickly and seamlessly.

Tesla unveiled the car is November 2017. However, this new roadster is supposed to hit the market in 2020. The new Tesla could go from 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds, reaching a top speed of 250 mph, and can drive 620 miles per charge. The price of new Roadster starts at $200,000.