coondoggie writes "Private Mars mission planners said today that Lockheed Martin is on board to build the spacecraft that would land a technology demonstration robot on the Red Planet by 2018. The Mars One group ultimately wants to establish a human outpost on Mars. The lander robot would use technology Lockheed previously built for NASA's Phoenix lander, which touched down on Mars in 2008. The Mars One lander will evaluate the use of the Phoenix design for the Mars One mission and identify any modifications that are necessary to meet future requirements. In addition, the mission would go a long way toward determining the cost and schedule of future missions."
astroengine writes "The site where NASA's Mars rover Curiosity landed last year contains at least one lake that would have been perfectly suited for colonies of simple, rock-eating microbes found in caves and hydrothermal vents on Earth. Analysis of mudstones in an area known as Yellowknife Bay, located inside the rover's Gale Crater landing site, show that fresh water pooled on the surface for tens of thousands — or even hundreds of thousands — of years. 'The results show that the lake was definitely a habitable environment,' Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology, told Discovery News. The finding was announced at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco."
New submitter palemantle writes with this excerpt from The Hindu, updating our earlier mention of the successful launch of India's Mars-bound probe: "In a remarkably successful execution of a complex manoeuvre, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) fired the propulsion system on board the spacecraft for a prolonged duration of 23 minutes from 0049 hours on Sunday. In space parlance, the manoeuvre is called Trans-Mars Injection (TMI). ISRO called it 'the mother of all slingshots.' Celebrations broke out at the control centre of the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Bangalore from where the spacecraft specialists gave commands for the orbiter's 440 Newton engine to begin firing. The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also known as Mangalyaan, is designed to demonstrate the technological capability to reach Mars orbit. But the $72m (£45m) probe will also carry out experiments, including a search for methane gas in the planet's atmosphere."
Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC reports on a finding, reported in Nature, (abstract), that the so-called 'Black Beauty' rock, discovered in the Sahara, is over twice as old as previously thought. The meteorite is now thought to be 4.4 billion years old, dating from a time in a nascent Mars' history that scientists are eager to know more about."
An anonymous reader writes "Mars seems to have gone from being a warm, wet planet with a liquid core (with magnetic fields strong enough to maintain an atmosphere) to a cooled frozen desert-like surface. By gathering information about the Mars upper atmosphere and its magnetic field scientists hope MAVEN can help explain what happened and where the water went."
SonicSpike writes "The founder of Bigelow Aerospace, Robert Bigelow, made a fortune in the hotel and real estate businesses, and he's pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into an enterprise that will create inflatable habitats designed for life beyond Earth. He entered into an agreement with NASA to provide a report on how ventures like his could help NASA get back to the moon, and even Mars, faster and cheaper. Bigelow is applying to the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation to amend a 1967 international agreement on the moon so that a system of private property rights can be established there. 'When there isn't law and order,' he said, 'there's chaos.' Bigelow said he believes the right to own what one discovers on the moon is the incentive needed for private enterprise to commit massive amounts of capital and risk lives. 'It provides a foundational security to investors,' he said. Bigelow does not feel that any one nation should own the moon. 'No one anything should own the moon,' he said. 'But, yes, multiple entities, groups, individuals, yes, they should have the opportunity to own the moon.'"
New submitter rahultyagi writes "After running into some problems in its fourth orbit-raising maneuver two days ago, Mangalyaan (India's Mars Orbiter Mission) seems to be back on track now. A supplementary burn lasting ~304 seconds was completed today, raising the apogee of MOM to 118,642 km — the intended apogee after the original maneuver. After the glitch two days ago, ISRO again seems to be on track to become the first entity to have a successful Mars mission on its first attempt. Though, of course, there are quite a few things that might still go wrong before this can be called a successful mission. Let's all hope that a year from now, we are all celebrating the entry of another nation into the small club capable of successful interplanetary missions."
Nerval's Lobster writes "NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has sent 200 terabits of scientific data all the way back to Earth over the past seven years. That data largely comes from six instruments aboard the craft, and doesn't include the information used to manage the equipment's health. That 200-terabit milestone also surpasses the ten years' worth of data returned via NASA's Deep Space Network from all other missions managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. 'The sheer volume is impressive, but of course what's most important is what we are learning about our neighboring planet,' JPL's Rich Zurek, the project scientist for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, wrote in a statement. It takes roughly two hours for the craft to orbit Mars, recording voluminous amounts of data on everything from the atmosphere to the subsurface. Thanks to its instruments, we know that Mars is a dynamic environment, once home to water. 'Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has shown that Mars is still an active planet, with changes such as new craters, avalanches and dust storms,' Zurek added. 'Mars is a partially frozen world, but not frozen in time.' While the Orbiter's two-year 'primary science phase' ended in 2008, NASA has granted the hardware three additional extensions, each of which has resulted in additional insight into the Red Planet's secrets."
Zothecula writes "We tend to think of livestock farmers as 'one man and his dog,' but if AgResearch of New Zealand has anything to say, that pair may have to move over to include a robot. A team led by Dr. Andrew Manderson is developing AgriRover, an agricultural robot inspired by NASA's Mars rovers. It's a proof-of-concept prototype designed to show how robots can make life easier and more productive for livestock farmers."
neo12 writes "India has successfully launched a spacecraft to the Red Planet — with the aim of becoming the fourth space agency to reach Mars." As our previous mention of the launch notes, getting to Mars by rocket is a long haul: if all goes well, it will be about 10 months until Mangalyaan reaches orbit.
sfcrazy writes "On Tuesday (Mangalwaar) the Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO) will launch the Mars orbiter Mangalyaan from Satish Dhawan Space Centre. The spaceship will take over 10 months to reach Mars and, if everything goes well, it would make India the first country to send a payload to Mars in its first attempt, and would beat close rival China whose recent mission failed."
An anonymous reader writes "In a talk at Y Combinator's startup school event, Stanford lecturer Balaji Srinivasan explained his vision for governing systems of the future. The idea is to find space to set up a new 'opt-in' society outside existing governments, and design it to take full advantage of technology to keep people in control of their own lives. That means embracing tech that subverts existing industries and rejecting regulation on new ways of doing things. '[N]ew industries are simultaneously disrupting existing ones while also exiting the system entirely, he says. With 3D printing, regulation is being turned into DRM. With quantified self, medicine is going mobile. With Bitcoin, capital control becomes packet filtering. All of these examples, Srinivasan says, are ways in which technology is allowing people to exit current systems like physical product production and distribution; personal health; and finance in favor of spaces of their own creation.' Srinivasan's ideas are a natural extension of a few proposals already in the works — Peter Thiel has been trying to build a small tech incubator city that floats in international waters, outside of government control. Elon Musk wants to have a Mars colony, and Larry Page has wished for a tech-centric Burning man that's free from government regulation. 'The best part is this,' Srinivasan said. 'The people who think this is weird, the people who sneer at the frontier, who hate technology, won't follow you there.'"
littlesparkvt writes "Earth's most eminent emissary to Mars has just proven that those rare Martian visitors that sometimes drop in on Earth — a.k.a. Martian meteorites — really are from the Red Planet. A key new measurement of Mars' atmosphere by NASA's Curiosity rover provides the most definitive evidence yet of the origins of Mars meteorites while at the same time providing a way to rule out Martian origins of other meteorites."
Zothecula writes "On October 8, three teams in various parts of the world participated in an unprecedented simultaneous test of three experimental spacesuits. Coordinated from a mission control center in Innsbruck, Austria run by the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF), World Space Walk 2013 aims at setting standards for developing suits for the future exploration of the planet Mars."
Zothecula writes "The Atacama desert in Chile is so dry that parts of it are utterly devoid of life down to bacteria. That and its sandy, rock-strewn terrain makes it so similar to Mars that it's a perfect spot for ESA to trial its Sample Acquisition Field Experiment with a Rover (SAFER), which this week is carrying out tests related to navigation, remote control and the use of scientific instruments. The agency's goal is the latest in a series of tests to develop technologies and gain practical experience in anticipation of ESA's launch of the ExoMars rover to the Red Planet in 2018."
necro81 writes "Due to the ongoing shutdown of the U.S. Government, NASA is largely grounded. This is bad for all kinds of reasons, but one particularly bad outcome would have been missing the launch window for the MAVEN spacecraft, due to launch 18 November. The next launch window would not have been until 2016. MAVEN, thankfully, has been given the go-ahead, in large part because this orbiter will serve as a vital communications link for the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers currently on the surface. Currently, these rovers are served by two aging orbiters: Mars Odyssey (launched 2001) and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (launched 2005). Maintaining communications with the rovers is considered essential, hence the preparations and launch will proceed. (NASA's official mission website is currently offline.)"
astroengine writes "Scientists managing the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have released their first observations of the incoming Comet ISON. The MRO was commanded to turn away its perpetual Mars-ward gaze and point into deep space to capture its own snapshot of the famous comet. ISON is currently making its closest approach to the red planet, passing just 7 million miles from its surface. The first raw images were snapped on Sept. 29 when the object was 8 million miles from the planet and more images (taken on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2) are currently being processed."
ananyo writes "A series of Martian craters assumed to have been formed by meteorites may actually be extinct volcanoes so massive that, when they were active billions of years ago, they could have buried Mars in ash. The craters pepper the surface of Arabia Terra, a geologically ancient region of northern Mars. They appear as several huge circular pits that resemble Earth's calderas, in which magma beneath a volcano drains after a volcanic eruption, causing the ground above the magma chamber to collapse. Using data from several satellites orbiting Mars, researchers mapped Eden patera in detail. In a report in Nature today (abstract), they describe three separate calderas within the depression, along with possible signs of a lake of solidified lava and a volcanic vent where lava could have oozed out."
astroengine writes "By now, we probably all know that there was once significant quantities of water on the Martian surface and, although the red planet is bone dry by terrestrial standards, water persists as ice just below the surface to this day. Now, according to a series of new papers published in the journal Science, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity has found that the Mars topsoil is laced with surprisingly high quantities of the wet stuff. And this could be good news for future Mars colonists. 'If you take a cubic foot of that soil you can basically get two pints of water out it — a couple of water bottles like you'd take to the gym, worth of water,' Curiosity scientist Laurie Leshin, of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, N.Y., told Discovery News."
The Washington Post is one of many sources to report the possibly disappointing news that NASA's Curiosity rover has failed to find any methane on Mars. "[NASA planetary scientist Michael] Mumma had high hopes for a positive result because he and his colleagues believe they have detected methane on Mars remotely, from telescopes on Earth that can discern the chemical nature of Mars’s atmosphere. A European orbiter around Mars also spotted methane. But the methane has proved ephemeral — now you see it, now you don’t. Mumma said he and his colleagues are reviewing their work to see if there is some error in the mix. Perhaps the methane simply disappears quickly on Mars, through some unknown chemical process. 'It’s possible that we don’t understand something that’s going on in the Martian atmosphere,' said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.'"