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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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SpaceX Plans To Send NASA Astronauts To Space in Q2 This Year

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff

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NASA
It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point. Pixabay

After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year.

This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme, the US space agency said in a statement on Sunday.

With this test now complete, the next big flight of the Crew Dragon will have people on board: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“We’re highly confident that the hardware will be ready in Q1, most likely at the end of February but no later than March. And we think it appears probable that the first crewed launch would occur in the second quarter,” said Musk after the successful uncrewed test of its Crew Dragon capsule’s in-flight launch escape capabilities.

Musk said that if all goes well, the first crewed flight on the Crew Dragon could take place in the second quarter of this year.

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 am just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” said Musk. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

NASA
After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year. Wikimedia Commons

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. “The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley.

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“Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon,” he said in the NASA statement. (IANS)