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NASA may send probe to nearby exoplanet by 2069

Although most of the technology NASA needs for such a mission does not exist yet, it could involve travelling at one-tenth the speed of light.

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Washington, Dec 20: To look for signs of life beyond our solar system, the US space agency could send a spacecraft to the nearby Alpha Centauri system by 2069, according to a mission concept presented by a NASA scientist.

Details of the mission concept were presented by Anthony Freeman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the 2017 American Geophysical Union conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, the New Scientist reported on Tuesday.

Although most of the technology NASA needs for such a mission does not exist yet, it could involve travelling at one-tenth the speed of light.

The impetus came from a 2016 US funding bill telling NASA to study interstellar travel that could reach at least 10 percent of the speed of light by 2069, the report said.

The Alpha Centauri star system, located in the constellation of Centaurus at a distance of 4.3 light-years from Earth, is the closest star system to the Earth. It has three stars — Centauri A, Centauri B, and Proxima Centauri.

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) discovered in 2016 an Earth-sized planet that orbits in the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri.

New research, published in the Astronomical Journal, suggests that there may some small, Earth-like planets around Alpha Centauri A and B as well.

Right now, only one human-made spacecraft has left our solar system?Voyager 1, which launched 40 years ago and is currently traveling at about 38,000 miles per hour, less than one percent of the speed of light, the Newsweek reported. IANS

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Scientists spot massive ice deposits on Mars

Recent observations by MRO's ground-penetrating Shallow Radar instrument revealed a buried ice layer that covers more ground than the state of New Mexico.

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Scientists found layers of ice on the surface of Mars. Wikimedia Commons
  • Recently, scientists have found layers of ice on the Martian land.
  • Scientists think this ice might be a useful source of water for future humans.
  • The researchers had researched 8 locations on the surface of Mars.

Scientists have unearthed thick and massive deposits of ice in some regions on Mars.

The images taken by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) showed the three-dimensional structure of massive ice deposits on Mars.

The ice sheets extend from just below the surface to a depth of 100 meters or more and appear to contain distinct layers.

It extending downward from depths as shallow as 1 to 2 meters below the surface, which could preserve a record of Mars’ past climate, the researchers noted in the journal Science.

This ice which was found can help scientists understand the climate history of Mars. IANS
This ice which was found can help scientists understand the climate history of Mars. IANS

“We expect the vertical structure of Martian ice-rich deposits to preserve a record of ice deposition and past climate,” said Colin M. Dundas, from the US Geological Survey.

“They might even be a useful source of water for future human exploration of the red planet,” Dundas added.

The researchers investigated eight locations on Mars and found thick deposits cover broad regions of the Martian mid-latitudes with a smooth mantle.

However, erosion in these regions creates scarps that expose the internal structure of the mantle.

The scarps are actively retreating because of sublimation of the exposed water ice.

The layers of ice can be used as water source by future humans on Mars, VOA
The layers of ice can be used as water source by future humans on Mars, VOA

The ice deposits likely originated as snowfall during Mars’ high-obliquity periods and have now compacted into massive, fractured, and layered ice.

Previous researchers have revealed that the Red Planet harbours subsurface water ice.

Recent observations by MRO’s ground-penetrating Shallow Radar instrument revealed a buried ice layer that covers more ground than the state of New Mexico.

NASA’s Phoenix lander had also dug up some ice near the Martian north pole in 2008, however, it is not clear if that is part of the big sheet. IANS

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