Tag Archives: microbial life

NASA Mars Rover Curiosity Wrapping Up Waypoint Work

Portions of powdered rock collected by drilling into a sandstone target last week have been delivered to laboratory instruments inside NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, and the rover will soon drive on toward its long-term destination on a mountain slope.

Other instruments on the rover have inspected the rock’s interior exposed in the hole and in drill cuttings heaped around the hole. The target rock, “Windjana,” is a sandstone slab within a science waypoint area called “The Kimberley.” (more…)

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Curiosity Resumes Science after Analysis of Voltage Issue

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity resumed full science operations on Saturday, Nov. 23.

Activities over the weekend included use of Curiosity’s robotic arm to deliver portions of powdered rock to a laboratory inside the rover. The powder has been stored in the arm since the rover collected it by drilling into the target rock “Cumberland” six months ago. Several portions of the powder have already been analyzed. The laboratory has flexibility for examining duplicate samples in different ways. (more…)

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Pebbly Rocks Testify to Old Streambed on Mars

PASADENA, Calif. – Detailed analysis and review have borne out researchers’ initial interpretation of pebble-containing slabs that NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity investigated last year: They are part of an ancient streambed.

The rocks are the first ever found on Mars that contain streambed gravels. The sizes and shapes of the gravels embedded in these conglomerate rocks — from the size of sand particles to the size of golf balls — enabled researchers to calculate the depth and speed of the water that once flowed at this location. (more…)

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Panorama from NASA Mars Rover Shows Mount Sharp

PASADENA, Calif. — Rising above the present location of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, higher than any mountain in the 48 contiguous states of the United States, Mount Sharp is featured in new imagery from the rover.

A pair of mosaics assembled from dozens of telephoto images shows Mount Sharp in dramatic detail. The component images were taken by the 100-millimeter-focal-length telephoto lens camera mounted on the right side of Curiosity’s remote sensing mast, during the 45th Martian day of the rover’s mission on Mars (Sept. 20, 2012). (more…)

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What Lies Beneath: NASA Antarctic Sub Goes Subglacial

When researcher Alberto Behar from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., joined an international Antarctic expedition last month on a trek to investigate a subglacial lake, he brought with him a unique instrument designed and funded by NASA to help the researchers study one of the last unexplored aquatic environments on Earth.

Called the Micro-Submersible Lake Exploration Device, the instrument was a small robotic sub about the size and shape of a baseball bat. Designed to expand the range of extreme environments accessible by humans while minimally disturbing the environment, the sub was equipped with hydrological chemical sensors and a high-resolution imaging system. The instruments and cameras characterize the geology, hydrology and chemical characteristics of the sub’s surroundings. Behar supervised a team of students from Arizona State University, Tempe, in designing, developing, testing and operating the first-of-its-kind sub. (more…)

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NASA Mars Rover Preparing to Drill into First Martian Rock

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is driving toward a flat rock with pale veins that may hold clues to a wet history on the Red Planet. If the rock meets rover engineers’ approval when Curiosity rolls up to it in coming days, it will become the first to be drilled for a sample during the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

The size of a car, Curiosity is inside Mars’ Gale Crater investigating whether the planet ever offered an environment favorable for microbial life. Curiosity landed in the crater five months ago to begin its two-year prime mission. (more…)

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Hearty Organisms Discovered in Bitter-Cold Antarctic Brine

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Where there’s water there’s life – even in brine beneath 60 feet of Antarctic ice, in permanent darkness and subzero temperatures.

While Lake Vida, located in the northernmost of the McMurdo Dry Valleys of East Antarctica, will never be a vacation destination, it is home to some newly discovered hearty microbes. In the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Nathaniel Ostrom, Michigan State University zoologist, has co-authored “Microbial Life at -13ºC in the Brine of an Ice-Sealed Antarctic Lake.” (more…)

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Large Bacterial Population Colonized Land 2.75 Billion Years Ago

There is evidence that some microbial life had migrated from the Earth’s oceans to land by 2.75 billion years ago, though many scientists believe such land-based life was limited because the ozone layer that shields against ultraviolet radiation did not form until hundreds of millions years later.

But new research from the University of Washington suggests that early microbes might have been widespread on land, producing oxygen and weathering pyrite, an iron sulfide mineral, which released sulfur and molybdenum into the oceans. (more…)

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