NASA plans to fix Mars Rover Opportunity’s Amnesia via Hacking


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NASA’s Opportunity (Click Image to download)

It’s been more than 10 years since NASA’s rover Opportunity landed on the red planet. The rover has been exploring Mars ever since and has provided a lot of information for the understanding of the red planet. NASA has also stated that the rover Opportunity has lasted on Mars more than they ever anticipated it to. But the recent memory problems suggest that the rover may be coming to an end of its life. But still NASA plans to sort out the issue through hacking into the software of the rover.

NASA has explained that the rover like a typical computer has two memory parts, one volatile like the RAM of our computer which totally gets wiped out when we shutdown or reboot our computer, and the other non-volatile which acts like the secondary storage such as the hard disk on our computer. The non-volatile memory preserves data even after rebooting or shutting down.

The rover Opportunity has a problem in its volatile memory which may be related to the ageing hardware on the rover.

The data cannot be saved by the rover in its volatile memory because an error occurs so the rover then has to save the data in its non-volatile memory.

The problem then arises as the non-volatile memory even though large but still has a finite limit to it, meaning the rover can’t operate for long in this condition.

Even though the rover can operate normally at present, but NASA plans to fix the issue by hacking into the software of the rover and disregard the bad patch of the volatile memory that causes this issue.

NASA does understand that there’s a chance that the process may cause permanent damage to the rover but since it has outperformed its anticipated life, NASA plans to move ahead with the solution nonetheless.

Source : full-timewhistle.com

Ancient Mars May Have Been More Habitable Than We Thought


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An artist’s impression of what ancient Mars may have looked like, based on geological data (Click Image to Download)

Data collected by the Curiosity Rover suggests Mars once featured a moderate climate capable of fostering lakes of liquid water and even a vast sea, and that this climate could have extended to many parts of the Red Planet.

NASA’s Curiosity Rover is currently investigating the lowest sedimentary layers of Mount Sharp, a section of rock 500 feet (150 meters) high known as the Murray formation. Observations taken by the robotic probe suggests the mountain was produced by sediments deposited in a large lake bed over tens of millions of years. The observation strongly suggests that ancient Mars maintained a long-lasting water-friendly climate.

According to NASA scientists, it’s an hypothesis that’s challenging the notion that warm and wet conditions were transient, local, or only underground. It now appears that Mars’ ancient, thicker atmosphere raised temperatures above freezing globally, but NASA scientists aren’t entirely sure how the atmosphere produced the required effects.

A Mountain in a Crater

Scientists have struggled to explain why the mountain sits inside a crater. Last year, a study suggested that the 3.5-mile-tall Mount Sharp formed as strong winds carried dust and sand into the crater in which it rests. It was actually bad news at the time because it suggested that the Gale Crater probably never contained a lake, which was one of the primary reasons why NASA sent Curiosity there in the first place.

But this new analysis has revived an older theory which suggests that Mount Sharp is the eroded remnant of sedimentary layers that once filled the crater — layers of silt that were originally deposited on a massive lakebed.

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Cross-bedding seen in the layers of this Martian rock is evidence of movement of water recorded by waves or ripples of loose sediment the water passed over. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Thanks to on-the-ground observations made by Curiosity, NASA scientists have now caught a glimpse of Mount Sharp’s lower flanks, which feature hundreds of rock layers. These layers, which alternate between lake, river, and wind deposits, bear witness to the repeated filling and evaporation of a Martian lake. Rivers carried sand and silt to the lake, depositing the sediments at the mouth of the river to form deltas. It was a cycle that repeated over and over again.

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Cross-bedding seen in the layers of this Martian rock is evidence of movement of water recorded by waves or ripples of loose sediment the water passed over. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

“The great thing about a lake that occurs repeatedly, over and over, is that each time it comes back it is another experiment to tell you how the environment works,” noted Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger in a NASA report. “As Curiosity climbs higher on Mount Sharp, we will have a series of experiments to show patterns in how the atmosphere and the water and the sediments interact. We may see how the chemistry changed in the lakes over time. This is a hypothesis supported by what we have observed so far, providing a framework for testing in the coming year.”fcc2setcjpg8el3rhq77

After the sediments hardened to rock, the resulting layers of sediment were sculpted over time into a mountainous shape by wind erosion that carved away the material between the crater perimeter and what’s now the edge of the mountain.

Greater Potential for Life?

The new discovery has major implications for our understanding of the Red Planet. It suggests Mars was far warmer and wetter in its first two billion years than previous assumed. It also suggests that Mars experienced a vigorous and dynamic global hydrological cycle that involved rains or snows to maintain such moderate conditions.

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A pic depicting a lake of water partially filling Mars’ Gale Crater, receiving runoff from snow melting on the crater’s northern rim. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Source : io9.com

Did NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Find Fish Fossil On Mars ?


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Curiosity Mars rover has provided numerous intriguing insights into the mysteries of the Red Planet since it landed on the Martian surface two years ago. It has also supplied armchair astronomers with plenty of fringe theories about the planet that unfortunately seem to catch more attention on the internet than the actual research being done on Mars.

 Last month, amateur observers were quick to conclude photo-error unusualities on images taken by the rover as evidence for alien existence. A report gave details on how “experts” on social media, like YouTuber “Martian Archelogist” [sic], interpreted tricky lighting on rocks as actual elongated skulls left behind by otherworldly civilizations. These and other similar claims have either been disregarded or debunked by real researchers.

A more recent Mars “alien evidence” story has been circulating on social media for the past few days, detailing how Curiosity Mars rover allegedly discovered fish bones on the surface of the planet — particularly near the Windjana drilling target, where the rover has just recently completed drilling a hole. Allegedly dubbed as NASA’s “greatest discovery”, the fossils were reportedly found intact and resembling what humans might identify as the endoskeleton of a fish.

A site called MSNBC.website, which allegedly broke the story online, quoted statements reportedly released by NASA’s chief scientist Dr. Elle Stafon.

“This is extraordinary news for the scientific community. We’ve found minute evidence of prior life before but nothing as concrete as this.”

Although there is an actual Dr. Stafon working at NASA, the statements she allegedly issued regarding the rover fish bone discovery were fabricated. The image of the fossil discovery provided by the article has also been proven to be a doctored version of an actual NASA image of the Windjana area on Mars, the site of the Curiosity rover’s recently concluded drilling activities.

Since arriving on Mars in 2012, the Curiosity rover has actually made real discoveries about our nearest neighbor. Last year, the rover discovered the existence of an ancient, knee-deep streambed which used to flow on the Martian surface for thousands of years at a time. This inspired strong suspicions among scientists of ancient microbial life that may have existed on Mars hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Last June, the Curiosity Mars rover has officially spent a whole Martian year on its mission, having completed 687 Earth days of travel and discovery on the red planet.

Source :inquisitr

China unveils Mars rover after India’s successful Mangalyaan


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Visitors to the 16th China International Industry Fair looks at a prototype of what a Chinese Mars rover would look like in Shanghai. 

Seeking to catch up with India’s Mangalyaan mission, China has unveiled its Mars rover being developed to scurry the Red Planet’s surface for signs of water and life and plans to test it in the rugged terrain of Tibet. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has displayed the machine and the technological hardware set-up at an air show.

Photos of the rover’s prototype, to be displayed at the annual air show at Zhuai being attended by defence attaches of all countries including India, were carried by the state-run Xinhua news agency. The robotic rover was to crawl over the rough Martian terrain with a powerful six-wheel drive.

At a glace it looks similar to Yutu or Jade Rabbit that China has sent to Moon to explore the lunar surface. But the Chinese scientists carried out some significant design changes to deal with different environment on Mars, the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post reported. To beef up communication at longer distance, the rover carries on its back a large dish antenna, which was smaller and mounted at the neck on Yutu.

The wheels were also more solidly constructed than those on Yutu in order to deal with a rockier landscape. The entire Mars exploration system will include an orbiter, lander and the rover, CASC said. Some intriguing issues regarding the rover, such as whether it would carry a nuclear power source and the types of scientific payload on board, have still not been answered, the Post said.

Yutu was crippled soon after landing on the moon, probably due to low temperatures and fine dust. The average temperature on Mars is lower than that of the Moon due to its distance from the sun, and the notorious dust storms would also be imposing enormous challenge to the rover. Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China’s lunar project, told state media earlier this year that China’s second mission to Mars would be launched as early as 2020, and that by 2030 an unmanned spacecraft would return from the planet with samples. While Mangalyaan caught China by surprise, it fascinated them as it was sent with a modest budget of less than $100 million. With successful space missions to Moon as well as efforts to build a space station of its own, China also made a failed bid in 2011 to send its probe to Mars.

The satellite Yinghuo-1 was launched by a Russian rocket but failed to reach the orbit and was declared lost. The scientific community has high hopes from the Mars project as the planet, with its carbon-rich atmosphere and signs of water, was the most feasible one for eventual human settlement besides the Earth, the Post said. It added report that scientists were preparing for the project by looking for somewhat similar terrain on the Tibetan plateau to build a prototype of a Martian base with cutting-edge life-supporting equipment and technology. They also proposed growing worms with rich protein as a source of food supply for the first residents on the planet, the report said. The ambitious project, however, faces various hurdles as the government has not set an official time line due to political and technical concerns. China still lags behind Russia in some critical areas regarding space technology, such as large rockets and deep space communication, the Post report said.

The Mars project, believed to be more costly than China’s lunar missions, would also need to compete for money and sources with other equally ambitious projects being considered by the government. The country is reviewing proposals for landing a human on the moon and sending spacecrafts on three asteroids most likely to hit the earth, all scheduled to start around 2020.

Source : livemint