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NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finds Rocks on Mars More Porous Than Expected

Curiosity landed near Mount Sharp in the Gale Crater on Mars in August 2012, and reached the base of the mountain in 2014

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The rover is currently keeping its
The rover is currently keeping its "eyes" on a dust event that had gone global by June 20. Flickr

Researchers have used non-science engineering data from NASA’s Curiosity rover to find Mars rocks less compacted and more porous than expected, according to researchers.

A team of researchers from the Arizona State University (ASU), including a graduate student, measured the density of rock layers in the 154-km-wide Gale Crater on Mars, Xinhua news agency reported.

The discovery gives scientists a novel technique to use in the future as the rover continues its trek across the crater and up Mount Sharp, a 4.8-km-high mountain in its centre, according to the researchers.

“What we were able to do is measure the bulk density of the material in Gale Crater,” said Travis Gabriel, the graduate student at the ASU.

He worked on computing what the grain density should be for the rocks and ancient lake bed sediments the rover has been driving over.

Access Mars
Google collaborated with NASA to produce Access Mars that lets users wander the actual dunes and valleys explored by NASA’s Curiosity rover. Wikimedia Commons

“Working from the rocks’ mineral abundances as determined by the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument, we estimated a grain density of 2,810 kg per cubic metre,” he said.

“However, the bulk density that came out of our study is a lot less, 1,680 kg per cubic metre.”

The much lower figure shows that the rocks have a reduced density most likely resulting from the rocks being more porous, according to the research published in the journal Science.

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Planetary scientists have long debated the origin of Mount Sharp. The new findings suggest Mount Sharp’s lower layers have been compacted by only one to two km of material, much less than if the crater had been completely filled.

Curiosity landed near Mount Sharp in the Gale Crater on Mars in August 2012, and reached the base of the mountain in 2014. (IANS)

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NASA Partnering with 10 Start-ups to Develop New Technologies For Space

"Industry is developing new technologies rapidly, using new tools and methods in software development and other areas,"

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nasa
NASA researchers have created the atmosphere of a super-hot planet outside our solar system, here on Earth. Pixabay

NASA is inviting applications from start-ups to take part in a three-month pilot programme to develop new technologies for space.

Applications will be accepted till April 7 and a total of 10 companies will be selected for the programme, the US space agency said.

The accelerator programme will focus on technologies that can be applied to space — including geospatial analytics, digital design coupled to advanced manufacturing, autonomous systems, applied Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).

NASA
NASA Administrator James Bridenstine delivers remarks as he tours the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. VOA

“We want to assist these companies in developing their own technologies and becoming commercial successes. NASA will also benefit by collaborating with these companies,” said Tom Cwik, Manager of the Space Technology Office at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Based in Los Angeles, the accelerator programme begins on July 15. After developing their concepts and business plans over a three-month period, the teams will then pitch their results to the NASA community, co-sponsors and private investors at a demo day in October, NASA said.

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“Industry is developing new technologies rapidly, using new tools and methods in software development and other areas,” said Cwik.

“It’s incumbent upon us to learn from developments in industry and contribute our vast expertise in technology as we prepare to use them in our future missions,” Cwik added. (IANS)