Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dusty Spirit Rover Seeks Shelter

The below picture shows the Mars Rover Spirit in a self portrait taken on Sol 568. In the picture, the rover is clean and in top condition.

However, dust storms hit the rover in the month of June and Spirit will now seek shelter for the winter. Below is a self-portrait of the rover on Sol 1,358.

The rover will now find shelter for the new winter and hope that it can continue exploring until the proposed end of the mission in 2009. More pictures of the rovers can be found at the following link:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Phoenix Lander Team Practicing in Antarctica

Members of the team set to guide the Phoenix Polar lander around Mars are headed to Antarctica this week to practice controlling the robot remotely in preparation for the upcoming mission. A total of six scientists will be going and they also plan to do work surveying the elevated landscapes to get a sense of what the Martian pole will look like. The article can be found here.

The shuttle...(replace "u" with "i")

... and that's pretty much what you get when you talk about the consistancy of the shuttle's use. After having the latest launch of the Atlantis shuttle pushed back to sunday from thursday of last week after sensors were giving "false" readings. Then the same problem occured on the pushed back launch yesterday.

Atlantis will be grounded until at least the 2nd of January, and with the shuttles being phased out in there very near future this means that it might be one of its last few flights. This just emphasizes the fact that we need to move on from this failed attempt at space travel and go back to something that works more consistantly.

I personally am very excited for the new constellation program. It looks like NASA might be getting their butts back in gear. Which is good.

Full article at: Space Shuttle Grounded Till Next Year

HiRISE Pictures

NASA's Mar's Reconaisance Orbiter has sent back some more pictures of of the Martian surface. As we keep getting more images of the surface we'll soon be able to find the places that we want to explore when we finally make the jump off the little bit of dust that we've been on... since... well... we began.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Martian Clouds Have Less Water Than Previously Thought

Scientists have determined that while the Martian clouds do contain water, they are forming at temperatures so low that the amount of water previously estimated must be too high. The difficulties in forming clouds with such a high supersaturation have to do with the fact that they require larger cloud droplets, which fall out of the atmosphere faster, resulting in less cloud. The whole articles can be found here.

Dark Matter

The concept of dark matter was first introduced in the 1930s to explain why spinning gallaxies dont just spin apart. The study sumarized in this page was conducted along a concept of "gravitational lensing". Gravitational lensing is a phenomena which occurs when light from distant galaxies is bent around space as it travels toward us. Using this concept the scientists conducted a study using data from the Hubble Space Telescope's Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS) which grouped the observations into 3 shells in order of distance from earth. Using "redshift" measurements the scientist were able to construct a map of the dark matter which distorted the light. "Massey likens this indirect technique, called "gravitational lensing," to peering at a page of text with a magnifying glass."The first thing you notice is that the text is bigger, but also, if you look around the edges of the magnifying glass, the text is slightly distorted," he said. "You can investigate the properties of the magnifying glass by observing these distortions and actually find out what shape the glass lens is." Essentially this is what the scientists did; they were able to construct a model of the dark matter which was distorting the light. Very Excellent.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Spirit Unstuck

The Mars Rover Spirit got unstuck and continued traveling to its wintering spot after nearly two weeks of being unable to move due to loose soil. The rover was freed by essentially switchbacking its course up the steep plateau. However, there still remains very tricky terrain before the rover will be safe for the winter on the Northern side of the so-called "home plate".