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NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover, Latest Robotic Mission to Explore Ancient Life on Red Planet

When it is launched in July 2020, the spacecraft will carry the latest scientific and engineering tools

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NASA's 2020 Mars rover to have 23 'eyes'. Pixabay

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, its latest robotic mission to the Red Planet, will include technology to explore ancient life on Mars, according to the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The goal of the Mars 2020 rover is to look for signs of ancient life.

It will be the first spacecraft to collect samples of the Martian surface, caching them in tubes that could be returned to Earth on a future mission, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday. The atmosphere on Mars is mostly carbon dioxide and extremely thin, about 100 times less dense than the Earth’s, with no breathable oxygen.

There’s no water on the surface and the landscape is freezing, with no protection from the Sun’s radiation or from passing dust storms. The key to survival will be technology, research and testing, said JPL, adding Mars 2020 will help on all those fronts.

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The next Mars close approach will be on October 6, 2020. Pixabay

When it is launched in July 2020, the spacecraft will carry the latest scientific and engineering tools. Before touchdown on Mars, sensors in the spacecraft’s aeroshell, the capsule that encloses the rover, will study how it heats up and performs during atmospheric entry. The rover has a guidance system that will take a step toward safer landings.

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Called Terrain Relative Navigation, this new system figures out where the spacecraft is headed by taking camera images during descent and matching landmarks in them to a pre-loaded map.If the spacecraft drifts toward dangerous terrain, it will divert to a safer landing target. Living on Mars will require a steady supply of oxygen.

A cube-shaped device, called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, is exploring a space-saving alternative that converts carbon dioxide into oxygen. Mars 2020 will carry a ground-penetrating radar to Mars, which will be the first operated at the Martian surface. Scientists will use its high-resolution images to look at buried geology, like ancient lake beds. The rover will also collect science that may help engineers design better shelters for future astronauts, said JPL.  (IANS)

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Research Reveals, Red Planet’s Rivers Were Wider Than Those On Earth Today

If the dates for these massive rivers are correct, the findings could suggest that Mars' late-stage atmosphere disappeared faster than previously calculated, or that there were other drivers of precipitation under low-atmosphere conditions, the researchers noted.

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In the river basins, for which there is most data, Mars' rivers were about two times wider than those on Earth. Pixabay

Mars’ rivers flowed intensely and may have persisted as recently as one billion years ago, reveals a survey that found that the red planet’s rivers were wider than those on Earth today.

The study by scientists at the University of Chicago catalogued these rivers and found that significant river runoff persisted on Mars later into its history than previously thought.

According to the study, published in the Science Advances journal, the runoff was intense and occurred at hundreds of locations on the red planet.

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The survey used image data of well-preserved paleo-river channels. Pixabay

These findings suggest that climate-driven precipitation may have taken place on Mars even during the time that researchers think the planet was losing its atmosphere and was drying out.

This complicates the picture for scientists trying to model the ancient Martian climate, said lead author Edwin Kite, Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago.

“It’s already hard to explain rivers or lakes based on the information we have. This makes a difficult problem even more difficult,” he said.

But, Kite said, the constraints could be useful in winnowing the many theories that researchers have proposed to explain the climate.

The survey used image data of well-preserved paleo-river channels, alluvial fans and deltas across Mars, and calculated the intensity of river runoff using multiple methods, including an analysis of the size of the river channels.

Atmosphere
These findings suggest that climate-driven precipitation may have taken place on Mars even during the time that researchers think the planet was losing its atmosphere and was drying out. VOA

In the river basins, for which there is most data, Mars’ rivers were about two times wider than those on Earth.

Between 1 and 3.6 billion years ago, and likely after 1 billion years ago, there was intense runoff in these channels, amounting to 3 to 20 kg per square metre each day.

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The runoff appeared to have been distributed globally, and was not a short-lived or localised phenomenon, the researchers said.

If the dates for these massive rivers are correct, the findings could suggest that Mars’ late-stage atmosphere disappeared faster than previously calculated, or that there were other drivers of precipitation under low-atmosphere conditions, the researchers noted. (IANS)