An earlier post described the European Space Agency’s Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM), which in 2020 will send a probe to the Didymos binary asteroid system. AIM will initially “perform high-resolution visual, thermal and radar mapping of the moon”, i.e. the smaller of the two asteroids, “to build detailed maps of its surface and interior structure”.
Two years later, NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft will reach Didymos and collide into the moon while observed by AIM. The goal is to measure the amount of deflection of the asteroid and record the effects of the collision on the surface structure of the asteroid. This joint mission is called the Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA) study.
They have a number of public involvement initiatives programs underway. This week, for example, they opened the Footsteps on the Moon campaign in which you upload “a photo of your footprints, feet or shoes” that will be sent to the Moon on digital storage.
Astrobotic Technology Inc. and Lunar Missions Ltd, the company behind the global, inclusive, not-for- profit crowd-funded Lunar Mission One, have signed a deal to send the first digital storage payload to the Moon. The payload will support Lunar Mission One’s ‘Footsteps on the Moon’ campaign, launched earlier today, which invites millions of people to include their footsteps – in addition to images, video and music – in a digital archive of human life that will be placed on the moon during Astrobotic’s first lunar mission.
“The partnership with Lunar Mission One is an exciting opportunity for individuals to store memorable information on the surface of the Moon,” says John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic. “This is the first step in creating an archive of human civilization beyond Earth orbit.”
David Iron, CEO of Lunar Missions Ltd and the founder of Lunar Mission One says, “It was an easy choice to partner with Astrobotic, a global leader in commercial lunar capability. This deal allows us to offer an exciting new way to connect our supporters to the Moon during the early phase of Lunar Mission One’s development. We look forward to unveiling those plans very soon.”
Most people watching the Moon landings in 1969 thought they would never make it to the Moon… but it’s time for a re-think. The astronauts left their prints and the rest of us just dreamed, but Lunar Mission One now intends to make it possible with their Footsteps on the Moon project.
We have secured a digital payload on the Astrobotic Moon Lander, slated for a 2017 launch. On it, we want to take a vast collection of pictures of your footsteps, shoes, wheelchair tracks or however you leave your impression on the Earth, and place them on the Moon. And we will do that for nothing in the hopes that we can take images from every single country on Earth.
In digital form, your footsteps will rest on the Moon, like the iconic boot prints left by the first astronauts, almost 50 years ago.
Doug Archer, Planetary Scientist at NASA Johnson Space Center, talks about perchlorate salts, a compound that absorbs water on Mars. Archer addresses how perchlorate can serve as a valuable resource for human exploration missions to Mars in the future.
The NASA briefing today about a “Mars Mystery” will present evidence for seasonal flows of liquid water, heavily salted with perchlorates that raise the boiling temperature, down the slopes of some hills on the Martian surface.
They do not see the water directly but instead see traces of the flows in streaks down the hills. Spectroscopic examination of the streaks finds they contain the perchlorate salts consistent with water flows.
Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.
“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”
These downhill flows, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), often have been described as possibly related to liquid water. The new findings of hydrated salts on the slopes point to what that relationship may be to these dark features. The hydrated salts would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly. Scientists say it’s likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening
“We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration. In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks,” said Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, lead author of a report on these findings published Sept. 28 by Nature Geoscience.
This animation simulates a fly-around look at one of the places on Mars where dark streaks advance down slopes during warm seasons, possibly involving liquid water. This site is within Hale Crater. The streaks are roughly the length of a football field.
Ojha first noticed these puzzling features as a University of Arizona undergraduate student in 2010, using images from the MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). HiRISE observations now have documented RSL at dozens of sites on Mars. The new study pairs HiRISE observations with mineral mapping by MRO’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).
The spectrometer observations show signatures of hydrated salts at multiple RSL locations, but only when the dark features were relatively wide. When the researchers looked at the same locations and RSL weren’t as extensive, they detected no hydrated salt.
Ojha and his co-authors interpret the spectral signatures as caused by hydrated minerals called perchlorates. The hydrated salts most consistent with the chemical signatures are likely a mixture of magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate. Some perchlorates have been shown to keep liquids from freezing even when conditions are as cold as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 Celsius). On Earth, naturally produced perchlorates are concentrated in deserts, and some types of perchlorates can be used as rocket propellant.
Perchlorates have previously been seen on Mars. NASA’s Phoenix lander and Curiosity rover both found them in the planet’s soil, and some scientists believe that the Viking missions in the 1970s measured signatures of these salts. However, this study of RSL detected perchlorates, now in hydrated form, in different areas than those explored by the landers. This also is the first time perchlorates have been identified from orbit.
MRO has been examining Mars since 2006 with its six science instruments.
“The ability of MRO to observe for multiple Mars years with a payload able to see the fine detail of these features has enabled findings such as these: first identifying the puzzling seasonal streaks and now making a big step towards explaining what they are,” said Rich Zurek, MRO project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
For Ojha, the new findings are more proof that the mysterious lines he first saw darkening Martian slopes five years ago are, indeed, present-day water.
“When most people talk about water on Mars, they’re usually talking about ancient water or frozen water,” he said. “Now we know there’s more to the story. This is the first spectral detection that unambiguously supports our liquid water-formation hypotheses for RSL.”
The discovery is the latest of many breakthroughs by NASA’s Mars missions.
“It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future.”
There are eight co-authors of the Nature Geoscience paper, including Mary Beth Wilhelm at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California and Georgia Tech; CRISM Principal Investigator Scott Murchie of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland; and HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona. Others are at Georgia Tech, the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique in Nantes, France.
The agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin built the orbiter and collaborates with JPL to operate it.
For more information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, visit: www.nasa.gov/mro
SPECIAL TIME: 1. Monday, Sept. 28, 2015: 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CDT): This program is a special Open Lines show. I will discuss my upcoming medical leave from the show, the progress we are making with the new website and archives, plus take all your questions and comments on space and STEM matters. Calling the show is much better than sending emails. Calls will receive priority over emails.
2. Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2015:,7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome ALEXANDRA ABRAMS, the new communications officer for the Space Frontier Foundation. Ms. Abrams will be sharing guidelines, tools, and tips for better PR and communication regarding space matters.
3. Friday, Oct. 2, 2015; 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12:30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT): No show as am doing post surgery recovery.
4. Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015: 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): No show as am doing post surgery recovery.