NAI

  1. Rover Science Team Eyes Sleepy Hollow


    As they waited for the sun to rise over Gusev Crater on the third sol, or Martian day, of Spirit’s mission, NASA engineers back on Earth reported that the rover was continuing to perform well.

    The Spirit engineering team has established successful communication using all of Spirit’s various communication links. Most of the rover’s scientific instruments – the microscopic imager, the Mössbauer spectrometer and the Alpha Proton X-ray Spectrometer [APXS] – have all been checked out and are working properly. Only the Mini-TES remains to be tested; that test will occur during sol 3.

    There was some concern that ...

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  1. Water Signs


    Each Mars Exploration Rover scans the land with a pair of panoramic cameras that detect visible light like human eyes do. But buried at the base of the rover’s mast lies a third eye, blind to light as we know it, but exquisitely sensitive to heat, or thermal-infrared radiation.

    Every Martian rock, radiating heat absorbed from the sun, broadcasts its mineralogical composition. But who’s tuned in? An instrument called the Mini-Thermal Emission Spectrometer, or Mini-TES, can receive those broadcasts, loud and clear.

    Unlike an eye or a camera, the Mini-TES has only a single detector. “It ...

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  1. Spirit Lands on Mars and Sends Postcards


    A traveling robotic geologist from NASA has landed on Mars and returned stunning images of the area around its landing site in Gusev Crater.

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  1. Interview With Matt Golombek


    Now that Spirit has landed safely on Mars, the mission science team has begun to think about where they’d like to send the rover and what scientific experiments they’d like to do. Astrobiology Magazine’s managing editor Henry Bortman caught up with geologist Matt Golombek on the second day of the mission to get his initial impressions of the Spirit landing site and the possibilities for scientific discovery. Golombek was the chief scientist for the Pathfinder mission and is a landing site scientist for the MER missions.

    Astrobiology Magazine (AM): There have been a couple of comments indicating ...

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  1. Postcards From Mars


    Spirit has landed on Mars. After a journey of nearly half a million kilometers (about 300 million miles), NASA’s Spirit rover last night reported back to engineers waiting anxiously back on Earth that it had arrived on the red planet. And then, before going to sleep for the night, it sent home a few picture postcards.

    During what was described as a textbook entry, descent and landing (EDL) sequence, NASA engineers could do nothing but sit back and wait as Spirit, under the control of onboard software, hurtled down through the martian atmosphere.

    Because it takes radio signals about ...

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  1. Carl Woese and New Perspectives on Evolution


    Scientists are proud when they discover a new species or genus of life, but one molecular biologist, Carl Woese, has the unique honor or discovering an entire domain of life, the archaea.

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  1. NASA’s RATs Go Roving on Mars


    Several Athena instruments will measure or photograph the surfaces of Martian rocks to determine different aspects of their compositions. All of these tools closely approach the surface of a rock and measure only the surface; they cannot “see” inside the rock.

    But Martian rocks lie under a blanket of fine dust, and beneath the dust the rocks may include a weathered layer, like the layer of rust on an abandoned car. This weathered surface can differ from the rock underneath just as rust differs from the steel under it.

    To reveal the real Martian rock beneath the dross, the Athena ...

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  1. Opportunities for Collaborative Research in Astrobiology


    The NAI Looks at some exciting science initiatives.

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  1. Delta-Like Fan on Mars Suggests Ancient Rivers Were Persistent


    Newly seen details in a fan-shaped apron of debris on Mars may help settle a decades-long debate about whether the planet had long-lasting rivers instead of just brief, intense floods.

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  1. Spotlight: Missing Link Sought in Planetary Evolution


    Just as anthropologists sought “the missing link” between apes and humans, astronomers are embarking on a quest for a missing link in planetary evolution.

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  1. NASA Scientists to Study Lake’s Primitive Life to Learn About Mars


    Scientists from NASA, the SETI Institute and other institutions will study microscopic life forms in some of the highest lakes on Earth atop a South American volcano to learn what life may have been like on early Mars.

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  1. Martian History: Written in Stone


    On Mars, three instruments will work together to perform remote analysis of the rock and soil that the Mars rovers encounter. The Mössbauer spectrometer specializes in detecting iron compounds. The miniTES reads infrared radiation. And the :Alpha-Particle-X-Ray Spectrometer”:http://athena.cornell.edu/the_mission/ins_apxs.html, or APXS measures a range of chemical elements in a sample.

    “The APXS contains radioactive sources and detectors for the measurement of x-rays and alpha particles emitted by the sample,” says Rudi Rieder, of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Germany and APXS Payload Element Lead.

    “Basically [the three spectrometers] will all support each other ...

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  1. Red River Drills for Mars


    To develop techniques to drill into the surface of Mars to look for signs of life, NASA and Spanish scientists recently began drilling 150 meters (495 feet) into the ground near the source of the waters of the Rio Tinto, a river in southwestern Spain, part of a three-year effort that will include the search for underground life forms.

    During the Mars Analog Research and Technology Experiment (“MARTE”: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/research/factsheets/FAQ_Rio_Tinto.html), scientists and engineers from NASA, U.S. universities and the Spanish Centro De Astrobiologia (Center for Astrobiology) hope to show how robot ...

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  1. Scientists Practice Mars Drilling Near Acidic Spanish River


    To develop techniques to drill into the surface of Mars to look for signs of life, NASA and Spanish scientists recently began drilling 150 meters (495 feet) into the ground near the source of the waters of the Rio Tinto, a river in southwestern Spain, part of a three-year effort that will include the search for underground life forms.

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  1. Surveying the Scene – Martian Style


    Like all good exploration vessels, each of the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, includes a mast. Instead of a crow’s nest and a lookout, however, the rover mast-a little more than a meter tall-is topped by a pair of cameras-collectively called the Pancam (panoramic camera)-that can image the scene around the rover as sharply as a person with 20-20 vision.

    The Pancam’s two lenses aim slightly inward from parallel, allowing twin images to be used as a stereo pair, showing the scene in three dimensions. And the whole camera head can rotate 360 degrees, as well ...

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