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4 April 2011

The Science of Red Mars

Have you read the book Red Mars yet? If not, you can download a pdf of it here. It’s a classic hard sci-fi epic about the colonization of Mars, and for my latest post over at Science in my Fiction, I took a look at how the highly accurate depiction of Mars in the book has held up with all the new discoveries in the last 20 years. Head on over and check it out!


11 September 2010

Jaded by Mars Organics

So, you may have heard the news making the rounds last week that a new analysis of the Viking data suggests there may actually be organics and (dare I even say it?) life on mars! Yawn. Consider me underwhelmed. The gist of the story is this: A long-standing mystery in Mars science has been why the Viking instruments were unable to detect any organic molecules on Mars, not even at …


29 October 2009

New Photos of Stuff on Other Worlds

I always make the mistake when on vacation of taking too many pictures of scenery and not enough pictures of people. Years down the road, the most interesting photos are not landscapes, but the ones that we can look at and say “I remember when we did that!”. And that’s why I think it’s great that we now have cameras around the Moon and Mars that can do the same. …


24 March 2009

LPSC 2009: Day 1

Unfortunately I missed the earliest sessions today because I had to drive down to Johnson Space Center to get a badge. I am going to be working there for four weeks after LPSC and another five weeks later in the summer, characterizing rock samples and shooting them with a laser, so I needed a badge to be able to do that work. I got back to the conference just in …


2 February 2009

New Google Mars

Google Earth’s latest edition was just released and guess what? It has a Mars setting! There was a way to overlay Mars data on the Earth globe in previous versions, but now that’s no longer necessary: just click a button and you’re on Mars. You can choose from a variety of global maps including topography, Viking images, Day and nighttime infrared, and visible color. It also has footprints for high …


16 December 2008

AGU Day 1: Phoenix

This AGU is the first major meeting since Phoenix died last month, and so everyone has been eagerly looking forward to hearing about the results now that the team can focus on science instead of operations. Emily has posted a niceĀ  summary of her notes from the Phoenix sessions, so go take a look and then come back here for what I thought were the highlights. The results presented today …


10 November 2008

Phoenix Mission Over

Well, it’s official. Phoenix is dead. JPL sent out a press release today announcing that after more than five months, they stopped hearing from the lander on Nov 2 and have been unable to re-establish contact. Although the mission is over, I’m sure that science results will continue to be announced as the team finally has time to sit down and really analyze the data. Here’s a quick summary from …


6 November 2008

Phoenix Blogs!

Now that the mission is winding down, the Phoenix lander had broken out of the confines of twittering and is writing a few longer blog entries over at Gizmodo! Also, over at Wired, they have announced the winners of the Phoenix epitaph contest. The #1 choice was: Veni, Vidi, Fodi (I came, I saw, I dug)


31 October 2008

Phoenix Epitaph Contest

Sad that Phoenix is on its way out? Want some cool NASA swag? Then head on over to Wired and submit an epitaph for Phoenix! If you win, you get official mission gear. Many of the sumbissions are great. I like: ” Will I Dream ? “ because I’m a sucker for sci-fi references (2001: A Space Odyssey), and: Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water because of …


Phoenix hanging in there

Yesterday, Phoenix went into safe mode, where the spacecraft shuts off all but the most vital systems due to some sort of fault. In this case it related to shutting off the heater for the arm and was totally expected. But when controllers here on Earth tried to communicate, they got no response. Is phoenix dead? Not yet. The twitter feed reports that phoenix is still alive, but will be …


29 October 2008

It's Getting Dark…

Phoenix is losing power by the day as it gets darker near the Martian north pole. This press release discusses how NASA engineers are trying to keep Phoenix alive for as long as possible. Most notably, they are turning off the heater for the robotic arm, meaning it will probably be unable to move very soon. For more information, check these posts at the Planetary Society blog and Cumbrian Sky. …


28 October 2008

Mars Art: Linear Dunes near the North Pole

I am starting a new thing. Every week, I will browse through data from current and past Mars missions and find an “artistic” image to post here. I’ll talk briefly about what the image says scientifically, but mostly this is about eye-candy and the crossover between science and art, which I have talked about before. Without further ado, here’s your first piece of “Mars Art”: This image is a HiRISE …


29 September 2008

Phoenix Sees Snow and Carbonates on Mars!

Big news from the Phoenix lander! A new JPL press release just came out, announcing the detection of snow and carbonates on Mars! From the press release: A laser instrument designed to gather knowledge of how the atmosphere and surface interact on Mars has detected snow from clouds about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) above the spacecraft’s landing site. Data show the snow vaporizing before reaching the ground. “Nothing like this …


24 September 2008

Phoenix Self-Portrait

Check it out! Phoenix recently used its arm camera to take a photo of its mast cameras, just like a tourist taking a self-portrait with their digital camera held at arm’s length.


19 September 2008

Dancing Dust!

Stuart Atkinson has a cool animation of dust grains moving around in Phoenix’s optical microscope. Unexpected, but way cool! Check it out!


2 September 2008

How to Defrost Phoenix

Bad Astronomy brought this amusing Foxtrot comic to my attention (click for the whole thing). Now, to get to work on a proposal to use this to extend the Phoenix mission lifetime by periodically baking off any accumulated CO2 ice…


31 August 2008

Mars Rovers Twitter!

Following the lead of their younger, hipper cousin Phoenix, the Rovers now have their own Twitter page. Check it often to get the latest rover news!


22 August 2008

Carnival of Space #68 and First Frost for Phoenix!

This week’s Carnival of Space is up over at Crowlspace! Be sure to check out this fantastic picture of the first image of water frost on the martian surface from Phoenix over at The Meridiani Journal. Eventually, Phoenix will be covered with about 3 feet of frost and ice. So, while this is a very cool thing to see, some might find the first signs of frost a little depressing.


7 August 2008

Phoenix Update: Pondering Perchlorates

Since we last checked in on Phoenix, the team has had made remarkable progress in investigating the lander’s local environment. The team has: – Finished the mission-success panorama – Officially detected water ice in TEGA – Investigated the bizzarely clumpy and sticky nature of the landing site’s soil – Observed changes in the ice deposits under the lander – Continued to monitor the summer polar weather – Received a mission …


26 July 2008

Pretty Phoenix Pictures

Stuart Atkinson from Cumbrian Sky has just created a second blog to serve as a gallery of cool images from Phoenix that he has put together. Go check it out, he has some really great pictures!