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Dust-covered ice glaciers found on Mars

Fla: Mars has thousands of glaciers buried beneath its dusty surface, enough frozen water to blanket the planet with a 3.6-foot(1.1- metre) thick layer of ice, scientists said on Wednesday.

The glaciers are found in two bands in the mid-southern and mid-northern latitudes. Radar data, collected by Mars-orbiting satellites, combined with computer models of ice flows show the planet has about 5.3 trillion cubic feet (150 billion cubic metres) of water locked in the ice, according to a study published in this week’s issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letter.

"The ice at the mid-latitudes is therefore an important part of Mars` water reservoir," Nanna Bjornholt Karlsson, a researcher at the University of Copenhagen’s Neils Bohr Institute, said in a statement.

Scientists have been trying to figure out how Mars transformed from a warm, wet and presumably Earth-like planet early in its history into the cold, dry desert that exists today.

Billions of years ago, Mars, which lacks a protective, global magnetic field, lost much of its atmosphere. Several initiatives are under way to determine how much of the planet’s water was stripped away and how much remains locked in ice in underground reservoirs.

"The atmospheric pressure on Mars is so low that water ice simply evaporates and becomes water vapour,” the institute said in a news release.

Scientists suspect that the glaciers remained intact because they are protected under a thick layer of dust.

In addition to evidence of river beds, streams and hydrated minerals, scientists studying telltale molecules in the Martian atmosphere last month concluded that the planet probably had an ocean more than a mile deep covering almost half of its northern hemisphere. Mars has lost about 87 percent of that water, scientists said.

Currently, the planet’s largest known water reservoir is in the polar caps.
  • Published in World

NASA spacecraft creates history, enters dwarf planet's orbit

WASHINGTON: NASA's Dawn spacecraft has become the first mission to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet called Ceres.

The spacecraft was approximately 61,000 km from Ceres when it was captured by the dwarf planet's gravity on March 6.

"Since its discovery in 1801, Ceres was known as a planet, then an asteroid and later a dwarf planet, Now, after a journey of 4.9 billion kms and 7.5 years, Dawn calls Ceres, home," said Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission director at at the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Mission controllers at NASA's JPL received a signal from the spacecraft that Dawn was healthy and thrusting with its ion engine, the indicator Dawn had entered orbit as planned.

"We feel exhilarated. We have much to do over the next year and a half, but we are now on station with ample reserves, and a robust plan to obtain our science objectives," added Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

In addition to being the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet, Dawn also has the distinction of being the first mission to orbit two extraterrestrial targets.

From 2011 to 2012, the spacecraft explored the giant asteroid Vesta, delivering new insights and thousands of images from that distant world.

Ceres and Vesta are the two most massive residents of our solar system's main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The most recent images received from the spacecraft show Ceres as a crescent, mostly in shadow because the spacecraft's trajectory put it on a side of Ceres that faces away from the sun until mid-April.

When Dawn emerges from Ceres' dark side, it will deliver ever-sharper images as it spirals to lower orbits around the planet.
  • Published in World

NASA's Dawn spacecraft clicks closest ever picture of dwarf planet

New Delhi: NASA's Dawn spacecraft has captured the best-ever view of Ceres at a resolution of 14 kms per pixel.

The latest photos taken from 90,000 miles away are the best close-ups astronomers have ever captued of the dwarf planet.

After the spacecraft arrives and enters into orbit around the dwarf planet, it will study the intriguing world in great detail.

Ceres, with a diameter of 950 kms, is the largest object in the main asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter.

Dawn's mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Programme, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Dawn has now completed five years of accumulated thrust time, far more than any other spacecraft.

Dawn is scheduled to enter Ceres orbit in March 2015.
  • Published in Technology

City boy’s space idea takes him to NASA

A 20-year-old Bengaluru boy is on his way to Texas to present a paper at the prestigious National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Sanjay Lakshminarayana, a mechanical engineering student, has been selected to present his ideas and attend conventions. These will study important observations made by recent planetary missions and emerging nuclear technologies for space exploration and travel.

The youngster, who has been interested in space since childhood, will present a set of plans to explore the outer solar system and beyond. The ideas will have a significant focus on nuclear systems as enabling technologies.

Sanjay said he would use this opportunity to discuss the knowledge gaps in exploration of extra-terrestrial environments and the most recent discoveries in this area.

The youngster, who also has an interest in car designing, told BM that his background in mechanical engineering provided a base for his interest in space exploration and his consistent research in the area.

Unexpected invite

The meetings on Sanjay's agenda have been sponsored by NASA and the American Nuclear Society. Speaking on the unexpected invite, Sanjay said, "It was at a meeting in Russia, that a professor from NASA noticed my interest and sent me an invite for this year".

Commenting on what this opportunity meant for him, he said, "I want to learn a lot about the latest developments and share my ideas with scientists from across the world. I am looking to gain immense knowledge, a sense of direction and meet people who will be able to help me in my research. "

The meetings are scheduled between February 3 and March 16. These will be held at various locations including the Lunar Planetary Institute in Houston. Sanjay has also been invited to present his paper titled "The Magneto-Confined Fusion Ion Thruster" at the 2015 Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space (NETS-2015) conference to be held in Albuquerque.

Sanjay's schedule

1. 2015 Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space (NETS-2015) conference, March 23rd-26th, Albuquerque

2.Workshop on Early Solar System Impact Bombardment III, February 4th-6th, Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.
  • Published in Karnataka

India's MOM team wins National Space Society's Space Pioneer Award

Chennai: India's Mars Orbiter programme team has been honoured with the 2015 Space Pioneer Award in the science and engineering category by US based National Space Society (NSS).

The NSS in Washington, issued a statement Monday which said that the 2015 Space Pioneer Award in the science and engineering category has been won by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Mars Orbiter Programme team.

The prize consists of a silvery pewter Moon globe cast by the Baker Art Foundry in Placerville, California, from a sculpture originally created by Don Davis, the well-known space and astronomical artist. The globe, which represents multiple space mission destinations and goals, sits freely on a brass support with a wooden base and brass plaque, which are created by Michael Hall’s Studio Foundry of Driftwood, TX.

The NSS is an independent non-profit educational membership organisation dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization.

The award will be presented to an ISRO representative during the National Space Society's 2015 International Space Development Conference, the 34th ISDC, to be held in Toronto, Canada.

The conference will take place between May 20-24.

India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or lovingly called 'Mangalyaan' was launched on Nov 5, 2013 and went into Mars orbit Sep 24, 2014.

According to the NSS, the India's Mars mission achieved two significant mission firsts- (1). An Indian spacecraft that has gone into orbit around Mars on the very first try and that no other country has ever done this.

(2). The spacecraft is in an elliptical orbit with a high apoapsis, and has a high resolution camera which is taking full-disk colour imagery of Mars.

Very few full disk images have ever been taken in the past, mostly on approach to the planet, as most imaging is done looking straight down in mapping mode.

These images will aid planetary scientists.

The Mars Orbiter programme team located in Bangalore is headed by Mylswamy Annadurai, the statement said.

With this achievement, ISRO becomes the fourth space agency to reach Mars after Roscosmos, NASA and ESA.
  • Published in Technology

Unmanned private cargo rocket explodes after launch: NASA

Washington: n unmanned private rocket contracted by NASA to carry cargo into the space has exploded seconds after its launch along the eastern Virginia coast of the US. "There was failure on launch. There was no indicated loss of life," NASA spokesman Jay Bolden said after the Orbital Sciences Corporation's Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft blew up yesterday evening soon after its launch at 6:22 pm (local time) from the Wallops Flight Facility along the Atlantic Ocean.

 "There was significant property and vehicle damage. Mission control is trying to assess what went wrong," Bolden said.It was set to carry some 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments to the International Space Station, the space agency said adding that failure occurred six seconds after launch.

 The US President Barack Obama was immediately briefed by his officials, the White House said."This evening the President was briefed on the launch failure of the Antares rocket in Wallops, Virginia. The President was briefed by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Anita Decker Breckenridge and will continue to get updates as more information becomes available," the White House Principle Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said.

 According to NASA's emergency operations officials, there were no casualties and property damage was limited to the south end of Wallops Island. Orbital has formed an anomaly investigation board, which will work in close coordination with all appropriate government agencies, to determine the cause of yesterday's mishap.

 According to the space agency's statement, the launch of Antares rocket was initially scheduled for Monday but the attempt was scrubbed because a boat was inside the range safety zone southwest of the launch pad. Orbital Sciences Corporation said the Antares rocket launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility was catastrophic failure."It is far too early to know the details of what happened," said Orbital's Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Advanced Programs Group Frank Culbertson.

  • Published in World
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