The latest pictures from NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto reveal for the first time that the backlit dwarf planet is surrounded by a beautiful blue glow – and also pinpoint the location of water ice deposits exposed on the surface.
Thursday’s images were released after a hubbub that suggested an “amazing” discovery would be revealed this week. Although the hype got a bit out of control, the revelations really do raise intriguing questions about Pluto’s weather and geology.
The science team behind the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, captured a series of images that correspond to scenes in the movie in response to requests from Andy Weir, who wrote the book on which “The Martian” is based.
The blueprint released Tuesday is based on a “Humans Orbiting Mars” workshopthat was conducted in April – and it’s probably already out of date, due to last month’s announcement that NASA’s first crewed flight of the Orion deep-space capsule is likely to be put off until 2023. Nevertheless, the Planetary Society’s Casey Dreier says the full study can serve as a realistic yardstick for NASA’s Mars exploration timetable.
Former NASA official Lori Garver’s resume is filled with highlights from politics and government service – going back to John Glenn’s presidential campaign – but when it comes to America’s space program, her heart’s with commercial ventures.
“The opportunities in commercial space are endless,” she told GeekWire. “Government opportunities are not endless.”
Garver, who helped draw up the Obama administration’s space policy and served as NASA’s deputy administrator from 2009 to 2013, will lay out the opportunities for commercial space ventures – and the limitations of government space efforts – at the GeekWire Summit on Thursday.
For years, scientists have puzzled over dark streaks that appear and disappear on the surface of Mars – and now they’re confident enough to assert that the streaks are caused by trickles of salty water.
Their findings, published Monday in Nature Geoscience, serve as the best evidence yet that liquid water still occasionally flows on the Red Planet. The research is likely to spark a new wave of speculation about life on Mars – but it’s not likely to justify the breathless reports that circulated in advance of the study’s release.
John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for space science, said the results make it “even more imperative that we send astrobiologists and planetary scientists to Mars, to explore the question, ‘Is there current life on Mars?’” NASA’s long-range plan calls for astronauts to start visiting Mars and its moons in the 2030s.
“The Martian” isn’t due to hit theaters until Oct. 2, but the highly anticipated man-vs.-Mars movie is already sparking some scientific nitpicking. So here’s some advice from NASA astronaut Michael Barratt: Don’t get hung up on what the filmmakers got wrong.
“I would just ask everybody to get past that, because there are so many things they got right,” Barratt, a flight surgeon and two-time spaceflier who has been compared to Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy, said during a panel at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.
Taking a ride on a flying air taxi could become as cheap as taking an Uber ride, and get you where you’re going in as little as a third of the time, according to a NASA concept study.
In fact, if you’re looking for your flying car, today’s Uber ride-on-demand arrangement just might provide the best model for finding it, said Mark Moore, chief technologist for on-demand mobility at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.
“Uber could provide a true door-to-door system,” Moore observed during a presentation at this week’s SAE AeroTech Congress and Exhibition in Seattle. “It’s hard to beat that economic model.”
NASA and the science team behind the New Horizons mission to Pluto and beyond have settled on the popular choice for the spacecraft’s next flyby: It’s 2014 MU69, an icy object a billion miles beyond Pluto that’s thought to be less than 30 miles (45 kilometers) wide.
The Dawn mission’s principal investigator says those shiny sides may be connected to Ceres’ other big mystery: the bright spots that shine out from the mini-world’s dark surface.
“The bright material on the mountain and in the bright spots are probably the same material,” UCLA’s Christopher Russell told GeekWire in an email. “How the material got on the sides of the mountain and also in the bottom of the craters is unknown.”