Wind is one of the most active forces shaping Mars’…

Wind is one of the most active forces shaping Mars’ surface in today’s climate. The wind has carved the features we call “yardangs,” one of many in this scene, and deposited sand on the floor of shallow channels between them. On the sand, the wind forms ripples and small dunes. In Mars’ thin atmosphere, light is not scattered much, so theandnbsp;shadows cast by the yardangs are sharp and dark.

This image was acquired by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Dec. 15, 2015, at 3:05 p.m. local Mars time.

The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace andamp; Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Object Names: Yardangs on Mars

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/ Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Caption: Candy Hansen

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Wandering through this stunning field of view, Mars really is in…

Wandering through this stunning field of view, Mars really is in front of these colorful cosmic clouds. The mosaic contructed from telescopic images is about 5 degrees (10 full moons) across. It captures the planet’s position on August 26, over 7 light-minutes from Earth and very near the line-of-sight to bright star Antaresand the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex. In the exposure yellow-hued Mars, above and left, is almost matched by Antares, also known as Alpha Scorpii, below center. Globular star cluster M4 shines just right of Antares, but M4 lies some 7,000 light-years away compared to Antares’ 500 light-year distance. Slightly closer than Antares, Rho Ophiuchi’s bluish starlight is reflected by the dusty molecular clouds near the top of the frame.

Object Names: Mars, Rho Ophiuchi

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit & Copyright: Sebastian Voltmer

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Beautiful new images of Mars from The Mars Curiosity Rover;…

Beautiful new images of Mars from The Mars Curiosity Rover; September 9th, 2016.

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Running across the image center is one the largest canyons in…

Running across the image center is one the largest canyons in the Solar System. Named Valles Marineris, the grand valley extends over 3,000 kilometers long, spans as much as 600 kilometers across, and delves as much as 8 kilometers deep. By comparison, the Earth’s Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA is 800 kilometers long, 30 kilometers across, and 1.8 kilometers deep. The origin of the Valles Marineris remains unknown, although a leading hypothesis holds that it started as a crack billions of years ago as the planet cooled. Several geologic processes have been identified in the canyon. The featured mosaic was created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s.

Object Names: Valles Marineris in Mars

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Viking Proyect, USGS, NASA

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Nat Geo’s ‘Mars’ Series Takes Viewers on Journey to Red Planet (video trailer at link)

Nat Geo’s ‘Mars’ Series Takes Viewers on Journey to Red Planet (video trailer at link):

Humans have long been fascinated with Mars, and a new TV special on the National Geographic Channel will combine real-world stories with a scripted narrative to take viewers on a journey to the Red Planet.

Called “Mars,” the six-part series will tell the story of a fictional astronaut crew on the very first human Mars mission in 2033. In the TV special, the crew of the Daedalus, led by American Mission Commander Ben Sawyer (played by Ben Cotton) lands on Mars and sets up a preliminary base.

In addition to this fictional story, the series weaves in interviews with a number of real-world space experts. (The full list is at the bottom of this story.)

“Mars,” which will debut in November 2016 (a specific date has not been set), is backed by some serious Hollywood cred as well — Academy Award-winning filmmakers Ron Howard and Brain Grazer were producers on the new series.

“Brian [Grazer] and I, along with our friends at Radical [RadicalMedia, the production company], had this ambitious idea, which was to create a documentary about the quest to go to Mars but also bring it to life in a really dramatic and cinematic way,” Howard, executive producer of the series, said in a statement from National Geographic Channel. (This is not Howard’s first space-themed production; he directed the 1995 docudrama “Apollo 13,” which tells the story of NASA’s third human mission to the moon that nearly ended in disaster.)

“The offer to the audience will be information meets vivid and experiential filmmaking,” Howard continued. “Nat Geo’s ambition was high, and we are really honored and thrilled to try and meet that challenge.”

To make the production as realistic as possible, the team consulted a number of space experts, including Robert Braun (an aerospace engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology) and Mae Jemison (a former NASA astronaut who was the first black woman in space. Jemison “acted as a space adviser on the series, working closely with the cast to help them hone their portrayals,” according to the statement.

National Geographic said it “received exclusive access” to billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder and CEO of the spaceflight company SpaceX, when the company made its first-ever landing of a Falcon 9 reusable rocket on a drone ship last April. Musk is well known for harboring ambitions to send humans to Mars one day.

“The future of humanity is fundamentally going to bifurcate along one of two directions: Either we’re going to become a multiplanet species and a spacefaring civilization, or we’re going to be stuck on one planet until some eventual extinction event,” Musk said in the series, according to the statement. “In order for me to be excited and inspired about the future, it’s got to be the first option.”

To complement the series, National Geographic’s November issue will have a cover story on Mars. Additionally, the company will produce a book for adults called “Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet,” on sale beginning Oct. 25. (Disclosure: The book was written by contributor Leonard David.) National Geographic will also release a second book for children called “Mars: The Red Planet” (on sale beginning Sept. 27).

The series will air in 171 countries. It is produced by Imagine Entertainment and RadicalMedia for National Geographic Channel. Ongoing coverage of the series will be available at and

Here is the full list of people who are interviewed in the series:

  • Charles Bolden, NASA administrator; former NASA astronaut
  • Peter Diamandis, founder and executive chairman of X Prize; co-founder and co-chairman, Planetary Resources
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at The Rose Center for Earth and Space
  • David Dinges, professor in the department of psychiatry atthe University of Pennsylvania
  • Casey Dreier, director of space policy at The Planetary Society
  • Ann Druyan, executive producer and writer, “Cosmos”
  • Charles Elachi, retired director, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laborary (JPL); professor emeritus at Caltech
  • Jim Green, NASA Planetary Science Division director
  • John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate; former NASA astronaut
  • Jennifer Heldmann, NASA planetary scientist
  • Jedidah Isler, award-winning astrophysicist; emerging Explorer, National Geographic
  • Thomas Kalil, deputy director of policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; senior adviser, science, technology and innovation, National Economic Council
  • Roger Launius, associate director of collections and curatorial affairs at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum
  • John Logsdon, professor emeritus, political science and international affairs, George Washington University
  • James Lovell, former NASA astronaut; commander, Apollo 13 mission
  • Elon Musk, CEO and chief technology officer of SpaceX; CEO of Tesla Motors; chairman of SolarCity
  • Stephen Petranek, author of “How We’ll Live on Mars” (Simon & Schuster, 2015)
  • Mary Roach, author of “Packing for Mars” (W. W. Norton & Co., 2010)
  • Jennifer Trosper, Mars 2020 mission manager, JPL
  • Andy Weir, author of “The Martian” (Crown, 2014)
  • Robert Zubrin, president of The Mars Society; president of Pioneer Astronautics

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NASA Establishes Institute to Explore New Ways to Protect Astronauts

NASA Establishes Institute to Explore New Ways to Protect Astronauts:

NASA is joining with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to operate a new institute charged with researching and developing innovative approaches to reduce risks to humans on long-duration exploration missions, including NASA’s Journey to Mars.  

Work under the Translational Research Institute Cooperative Agreement, overseen by NASA’s Human Research Program, begins Oct. 1.

Translational research is an interdisciplinary model of research that focuses on translating fundamental research concepts into practice, with appreciable health outcomes. The NASA Translational Research Institute (NTRI) will implement a “bench-to-spaceflight” model, moving results or methods from laboratory experiments or clinical trials to point-of-care astronaut health and performance applications. The goal of the research is to produce promising new approaches, treatments, countermeasures or technologies that have practical application to spaceflight.

“It’s fitting on the 47th anniversary of humanity’s first moon landing that we’re announcing a new human spaceflight research institute that will help reduce risks for our astronauts on the next giant leap – our Journey to Mars,” said Marshall Porterfield, NASA’s director of Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications.

Translational research has the potential to move solutions into practical application much faster than traditional research approaches. To that end, the NTRI will maintain research leadership in translational human performance, biomedical, environmental, and cognitive and behavioral science, and foster greater involvement of the science community in accomplishing the agency’s human exploration goals.

The institute also will provide opportunities for scientists to gain experience in research laboratories, within and external to NASA, and apply their knowledge and expertise to reducing human exploration health and performance risks.

Major subcontractors are the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Services will be performed at the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute in Houston. The agreement has a maximum potential value of $246 million for a six-year performance period with one additional six-year period that could extend work to September 2028.

For more information on NASA’s Human Research Program, go to:

For more information about NASA’s Journey to Mars, visit:

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NASA’s next Mars rover progresses toward 2020 launch

NASA’s next Mars rover progresses toward 2020 launch:

After an extensive review process and passing a major development milestone, NASA is ready to proceed with final design and construction of its next Mars rover, currently targeted to launch in summer of 2020 and arrive on the Red Planet in February 2021.

The Mars 2020 rover will investigate a region of Mars where the ancient environment may have been favorable for microbial life, probing the Martian rocks for evidence of past life. Throughout its investigation, it will collect samples of soil and rock, and cache them on the surface for potential return to Earth by a future mission.

“The Mars 2020 rover is the first step in a potential multi-mission campaign to return carefully selected and sealed samples of Martian rocks and soil to Earth,” said Geoffrey Yoder, acting associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This mission marks a significant milestone in NASA’s Journey to Mars—to determine whether life has ever existed on Mars, and to advance our goal of sending humans to the Red Planet.”

To reduce risk and provide cost savings, the 2020 rover will look much like its six-wheeled, one-ton predecessor, Curiosity, but with an array of new science instruments and enhancements to explore Mars as never before. For example, the rover will conduct the first investigation into the usability and availability of Martian resources, including oxygen, in preparation for human missions.

Mars 2020 will carry an entirely new subsystem to collect and prepare Martian rocks and soil samples that includes a coring drill on its arm and a rack of sample tubes. About 30 of these sample tubes will be deposited at select locations for return on a potential future sample-retrieval mission. In laboratories on Earth, specimens from Mars could be analyzed for evidence of past life on Mars and possible health hazards for future human missions.

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NASA’s Curiosity rover has resumed full operations after software scare

NASA’s Curiosity rover has resumed full operations after software scare:

NASA’s Curiosity rover has resumed full operations, the space agency confirmed today, after the plucky Mars resident was forced into a standby mode earlier this month. NASA put the rover into safe mode as a precaution after detecting an error in its systems on July 2nd, but brought it out of temporary hibernation a week later, on July 9th. The decision marked the fourth time Curiosity has been put in safe mode, with all previous scares taking place in 2013.

The agency has determined that the most likely cause of that error was a software mismatch in Curiosity’s image transfer systems, a glitch that could have caused problems when the rover wrote files from its cameras to its main computer. Luckily, the system is non-essential — NASA says alternate methods are available to move the files — allowing Curiosity to continue its lonely journey across the surface of the Red Planet.

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