Twenty years ago astronomers discovered the first planet around a sun-like star, 51 Pegasi b. And in the last 20 years, astronomers have discovered thousands of new exotic worlds, begun to characterise atmospheres of faraway planets, and are developing cutting-edge technology to launch us on our search for alien life. Planets with two suns, rogue planets with no star, close cousins to planet Earth. This is the story of the pioneers in planet-hunting and how those who have followed are closer to answering one of humanity’s most ancient questions: Is there life elsewhere in the universe?
NASA has revealed the process that took Mars from a warm and wet environment that might have supported alien life – to the cold and arid planet Mars is today.
Researchers said that the red planets atmosphere was stripped away by solar winds which increased significantly during solar storms.
John Grunsfeld from the NASA Science Mission Directorate in Washington said “Mars appears to have had a thick atmosphere warm enough to support liquid water which is a key ingredient and medium for life as we currently know it”.
Bruce Jakosky of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution at University of Colorado said “Like the theft of a few coins from a cash register every day, the loss becomes significant over time. We’ve seen that the atmospheric erosion increases significantly during solar storms, so we think the loss rate was much higher billions of years ago when the sun was young and more active.”
Learning what can cause changes to a planet’s environment from one that could host microbes at the surface to one that doesn’t is important to know, and is a key question that is being addressed in NASA’s journey to Mars.
Mars is a cold and barren desert today, but scientists think that in the ancient past it was warm and wet. The loss of the early Martian atmosphere may have led to this dramatic change, and one of the prime suspects is the solar wind. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field to deflect the stream of charged particles continuously blowing off the Sun. Instead, the solar wind crashes into the Mars upper atmosphere and can accelerate ions into space. Now, for the first time, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft has observed this process in action – by measuring the speed and direction of ions escaping from Mars. This data visualization compares simulations of the solar wind and Mars atmospheric escape with new measurements taken by MAVEN.
American Space Agency NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has announced they will soon begin recruiting new Astronauts for their anticipated mission to Mars. NASA announced it will begin accepting applications from people in December. With more US human spacecraft in development today than at any other time in history, future astronauts will launch once again from the Space Coast of Florida and carry out deep-space exploration missions that will advance NASA’s ambition to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said “This next group of space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realise the goal of putting boot prints on the Red Planet. Those selected for this service will fly on U.S. made spacecraft from American soil, advance critical science and research aboard the International Space Station, and help push the boundaries of technology in the proving ground of deep space.”
Applications will be accepted from the 14 December 2015 until mid-February 2016 and it is expected announcements of which candidates have been selected will be done in mid-2017. To apply to be part of the NASA Astronaut programme and possibly be the first humans to fly to Mars all you need to do is apply here – and hope to be one of the lucky few new world adventurers to be chosen!
The Apollo Program With limited computer resources onboard Apollo and a lack of available computer memory onboard, a new set of data needed to be entered via the DSKY during each mission phase. The astronauts had with them a set of spiral bound notebooks that held pages and pages of step-by-step procedures for them to follow for each operation. These included pages devoted to each unique set of keystroke entries.