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Nothing. Turbo, the high speed snail CGA character in the recent Dreamworks release now gracing America's theater's would probably be faster than Curiosity even if the little mollusk wasn't supercharged. The Curiosity Rover carrying the Mars Science Laboratory to the prominence, Mount Sharp, in the center of Gale Crater, must travel about five miles to get to the location where, according to NASA, concentrated scientific investigation is expected to explore "how the ancient Martian environment changed and evolved". To place the new journey into perspective, between Bradbury Landing where the mission touched down, and Glenelg, where all of the science conducted so far has taken place, the distance is only about 500 yards.

The time allotted for the mission's science objectives is already 1/2 gone. Yet, the main science objective for the mission has already been achieved at Glenelg, less than 500 meters from touchdown. There, findings from the MSL have conclusively confirmed the sustained existence on ancient Mars of flowing streams and pools, with all of the conditions and ingredients to support the development and evolution of lifeforms. What we are talking about is conditions like those existing on Earth 4 billion years ago when life appeared on our planet.

When you think about those discoveries, don't visualize streams and pools in some kind of junglely Jurassic Park. By the time of the dinosaurs, Earth had an oxygen atmosphere and billions of years of experience living with an ever changing variety of microbes, plants, animals, etc. But when life first arose on Earth, and perhaps Mars as well, there was virtually no atmospheric oxygen. All life here was very tiny for billions of  years. It wasn't until plants evolved on Earth after aeons passed, and began to excrete oxygen as part of photosynthesis metabolism, that atmospheric oxygen became available on our planet.

If Martian lifeforms evolved billions of years ago, under conditions like those on Earth when life emerged from this planet's primordial, molecular stew, the organisms may, at least, have left chemical and radiological and other evidence behind of their existence. Whether or not that is so, the rocks themselves will contain evidence of the evolution of conditions in Gale Crater as the atmosphere and surface climate evolved from the wetter warmer past to the arid deep freeze that is Mars today.

With the main scientific objective accomplished, the journey to Mount Sharp and the ensuing investigation promise much excitement and many more discoveries. Stay tuned.

For the On Mar Series and all things Mars on Daily Kos, go to Kossacks on Mars.


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Wed Jun 26, 2013 at 06:24 PM PDT

On Mars: Mount Sharp or Bust

by LeftOfYou

After the Curiosity Rover alighted at Bradbury Landing last year, carrying the Mars Science Laboratory, all of its operations have taken place less than one kilometer from the landing site. Already, the mission has delivered electrifying science, discovering an ancient Mars with running streams and still ponds, with all of the conditions and ingredients needed for microbial life. But that is only the beginning.

NASA reports:

Curiosity is finishing investigations in an area smaller than a football field where it has been working for six months, and it will soon shift to a distance-driving mode headed for an area about 5 miles (8 kilometers) away, at the base of Mount Sharp.
What lies ahead for the Curiosity mission is not a destination, but a journey of exploration. Jim Erickson, the Project Manager, explained:
"We don't know when we'll get to Mount Sharp," Erickson said. "This truly is a mission of exploration, so just because our end goal is Mount Sharp doesn't mean we're not going to investigate interesting features along the way."

Images of Mount Sharp taken from orbit and images Curiosity has taken from a distance reveal many layers where scientists anticipate finding evidence about how the ancient Martian environment changed and evolved.

We know a lot about Mars' thin atmosphere and cold, arid surface today. We're learning more and more about Mars' warmer, wetter denser atmosphere in the past. The trip to Mount Sharp may yield a lot of information about how warm, wet ancient Mars became the Mars of today.

Inasmuch as humanity has proven capable of changing climate on a global scale, it seems to me more urgent than ever to learn as much as possible about processes affecting planetary evolution. All hail Jim Erickson and his team of hero scientists and engineers at JPL.

For all of my Mars diaries and all things Mars on Daily Kos, go to Kossacks on Mars.


Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 06:33 PM PDT

On Mars: Smile, You're On . . . Mars

by LeftOfYou

Alan Funt's Candid Camera was an early and very successful reality TV format watched by generations of Americans. Long before the NSA started watching our every move, Alan Funt was watching, and getting ready to spring from hiding to shout, "Smile, you're on Candid Camera!" For some reason, that is what I thought of when NASA released its latest Curiosity Rover Report.  

As always, for everything Mars on Daily Kos, check out Kossacks on Mars.

There is a transcript of the video out in the tall grass for the bandwidth limited among us.

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Sometimes scientific measurements provide inconvenient results. Newly reported measurements from the Curiosity Rover mission will force NASA to design better radiation shielding for manned Mars missions and demand the invention of improved propulsion for manned missions to Mars to reduce the time spent in transit. Habitat on the Martian surface will require more robust shielding, too. NASA is spinning the new data as just another bit of information it needs to design systems to protect human explorers from radiation exposure on deep-space expeditions in the future. It is really a much bigger deal than that.  

Come out into the tall grass with me to see some of what NASA and some commentators have said, along with a few thoughts for discussion of important issues of government science and space policy.  

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Wed May 15, 2013 at 05:59 PM PDT

On Mars: Spring Break is Over

by LeftOfYou

There is a reason that Mars Curiosity news has been scarce lately, a reason that Newton and Copernicus and Galileo would appreciate. This spring, Mars and Earth have been in Solar Conjunction, that is, on opposite sides of the Sun. Even without the current unusually big Solar storms, this celestial arrangement pretty much halts effective communication between the two planets for a significant period.  The latest video update from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains it all and teases us a bit about the science coming up now that the conjunction is ending. For my bandwidth challenged friends, I have planted a full transcript out in the tall grass, for which I alone deserve the criticism for any errors or omissions.  

For all things Mars on Daily Kos, visit Kossacks on Mars.  

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Reposted from atana by LeftOfYou

Underneath the oxidized red skin of Martian rocks, there is a grey Mars made of a mix of oxidized and reduced chemicals that could once have driven prokaryotic metabolisms.

The chemical analysis of rock powder from Curiosity's first drilling was released today at NASA JPL. Elements found in the material include oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur.

Carbon was found both as carbon dioxide and as chlorinated methane compounds.

More below the fold.

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Those aren't my words. They are from NASA Scientist Hero Team member Joel
Hurowitz. What are we talking about? It's a BFD. Curiosity has proven the sustained existence, on ancient Mars, of fresh, liquid watery habitat in a large area of Gale Crater, that once had all the conditions and chemical ingredients to sustain life as we know it. Dr. Hurowitz explains in this NASA video.

I've placed an unwarrantied, as is, hand made transcript of Dr. Hurowitz's remarks out in the tall grass.

Here are some of the money quotes:  

"What the Curiosity team has found is incredibly exciting."

"data set that tells us that Gale Crater and perhaps all of Mars contained habitable environments"

"an incredible success for the Curiosity mission to Gale"

That is very bold talk from a scientist, but the evidence certainly seems very compelling. This is brand new, and very intriguing information about Mars.

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Reposted from Toking Points Memo by LeftOfYou


PASADENA, Calif. -- An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA's Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes.

Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon -- some of the key chemical ingredients for life -- in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month.

"A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."

Curiosity has been at something of a standstill for a couple weeks now, following an issue with it's flash memory in 'Computer A': NASA builds things like MSL with redundant computers and has simply flipped A to B and it has finally provided analysis of the rock drilling it did a couple weeks ago
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Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 05:15 PM PDT

So, This is Mars. (Updated)

by Troubadour

Reposted from Troubadour by LeftOfYou

The components used to assemble the following Curiosity images of Mt. Sharp on Mars were from last year, but the results of the new processing are stunning.

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Reposted from Toking Points Memo by xxdr zombiexx

NASA Helps See Buried Mars Flood Channels in 3-D

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has provided images allowing scientists for the first time to create a 3-D reconstruction of ancient water channels below the Martian surface.
The spacecraft took numerous images during the past few years that showed channels attributed to catastrophic flooding in the last 500 million years. During this period, Mars had been otherwise considered cold and dry. These channels are essential to understanding the extent to which recent hydrologic activity prevailed during such arid conditions. They also help scientists determine whether the floods could have induced episodes of climate change.

The estimated size of the flooding appears to be comparable to the ancient mega-flood that created the Channeled Scablands in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, in eastern Washington.

Google Image Search: Channeled Scalands, which has nice pix of this geological feature. I provided the links to prevent this from being photo-heavy....and to evade the effort to make it photo-heavy. Please go see them.

Link to large pic of RADAR imaging

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Sat Feb 16, 2013 at 01:12 PM PST

On Mars: A Milestone in Science

by LeftOfYou

Reposted from Astro Kos by LeftOfYou

There is a reason that rock hounds carry those little hammers. They really like cracking open rocks to see what is inside. It can tell them a lot about where the rock came from and what has been going on around it since its creation. Now, for the first time, human science and engineering has successfully done this robotically on Mars. As the engineer narrating this video update from NASA says, this is a "big event" (transcript is out in the tall grass).

The engineers and scientists at JPL have now fully tested every capability that the Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity Rover possess. The plucky robot has passed every test with flying colors and has, incidentally to all the tests, already gathered a great deal of groundbreaking scientific information.

Now, however, the fully focused, opportunistic scientific investigation of Gale Crater and Mount Sharp, apparently an ancient seascape, can begin. Exciting times in planetary science are upon us.

For all of my Mars diaries and all things Mars on Daily Kos go to Kossacks on Mars.

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There's a full transcript of this video report out in the tall grass.

This report is already more than a week old, so it seems like news about the 1st drill test should break any day now.

Here is a brief recap of the mission so far. After a circus act arrival at Bradbury Landing in August, NASA's plucky Mars rover has gradually traversed thousands of meters of rugged terrain while moving toward the most interesting local geologic feature nearby, as seen from our orbiting observatory. Along the way the team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have unlimbered, cleaned and tested the remarkable array of optical, analytical, mechanical and other robotic features on NASA's car sized, largest ever Martian Rover. After fortuitously landing on and discovering an ancient riverbed, the first ever discovered on another planet, the Mars Science Laboratory has fully observed and measured the appearance, chemistry and mineralogy, radiology, weather and virtually every other imaginable measurable feature of the rover's surroundings every step along the way.

At the intersecting of different geological features originally called Glenelg by NASA, the rover has descended into an area provocatively named Yellowknife Bay, possibly part of the shore of some ancient Martian lake or sea. A large veined rock is the target of the drill which can examine deep into the rock's interior.

We are about to learn a lot more about what was happening on Mars when her surface bore liquid water.

For all of my Mars diaries and all things Mars on Daily Kos go to Kossacks on Mars.

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