If you’ve ever pretended to be on the Red Planet, you’re not alone. This is Crew 138 of the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), a team of scientists who are researching what it would be like to live on Mars by pretending. From Wikipedia:
The crews usually consist of a mix of astronomers, physicists, biologists, geologists, engineers and the occasional journalist. Each crew member is usually assigned a role: Commander, Executive Officer (ExO), Health and Safety Officer (HSO), Crew Biologist, Crew Geologist or Chief Engineer.
In addition to cooking, cleaning, exercise, HAB maintenance, GreenHab gardening, etc, the crew has mission objectives to complete. A final mission report is written from their notes, analysis, and experiences so that future Mars astronauts and explorers can be well prepared. From National Geographic:
On the mission, the international team is working on in-the-field mapping, collecting and analyzing rock samples, measuring the payoff from exercise, and taking blood samples to monitor crew health. The team is working in mock space suits and testing work protocols indoors and outside.
The first days were largely spent learning to live and work in the Habitat, which is a round two-story structure that measures about 25 feet across.
After the crew enters full simulation, the Habitat contains all the food and water we need, as well as work and sleep quarters.
This team was based in the Utah desert, but there have been other “extraterrestrial” sites: Haughton Crater on Devon Island, and next to the Krafla Rift Volcano in Iceland. There’s also one in the works 324 miles (521 km) north of Adelaide, South Australia. For more information about the project, including volunteer requirements, check out desert.marssociety.org, and read more at National Geographic.
Watch more Mars videos, including a topographically accurate landscapes of Mars and everything Mars Curiosity.
What did Mars look like 4 billion years ago? The team at NASA’s Conceptual Image Lab have an idea based on the existing evidence:
Billions of years ago when the Red Planet was young, it appears to have had a thick atmosphere that was warm enough to support oceans of liquid water - a critical ingredient for life. The animation shows how the surface of Mars might have appeared during this ancient clement period, beginning with a flyover of a Martian lake. The artist’s concept is based on evidence that Mars was once very different. Rapidly moving clouds suggest the passage of time, and the shift from a warm and wet to a cold and dry climate is shown as the animation progresses. The lakes dry up, while the atmosphere gradually transitions from Earthlike blue skies to the dusty pink and tan hues seen on Mars today.
The animation was released in anticipation of November 18th’s Cape Canaveral launch of MAVEN, Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission. MAVEN will explore the planet’s lost atmosphere.
Previously: flying over a topographically accurate landscapes of Mars, and more NASA.
We can now “fly over” topographically accurate landscapes of Mars thanks to Mars Express, the European Space Agency (ESA) mission to explore the red planet. Launched in June 2003 and arriving six-and-a-half months later, the Mars Express spacecraft has orbited the planet almost 12,500 times, better revealing Mars’ turbulent climatic history. It’s expected to continue orbiting and gathering data until the end of 2014.
From Slate’s Phil Plait:
I saw quite a few landmarks in there, including Olympus Mons, the tallest volcano in the solar system; Valles Marineris, the longest rift valley in the solar system (it’s wider than the Grand Canyon is long!); an elongated crater I’ve written about before (at the 2:20 mark, and shown at the top of this article); and the ridiculously gorgeous and very weird swirls in the terrain at the Martian north pole (though the south pole of the planet is even more jaw-droppingly beautiful).
I was also intrigued by a crater shown at the 1:50 mark, which looks like it got filled by a landslide off a nearby hill. Mars isn’t what you might call geologically active, but it does commonly suffer landslides and avalanches when the frozen carbon dioxide ice under the surface sublimates (turns directly from a solid into a gas), which can dislodge material. If that happens at the top of a hill or cliff, material can cascade down dramatically. I strongly suspect that’s what we’re seeing in this video.
Taken with the satellite’s High Resolution Stereo Camera, the video was released by the DLR German Aerospace Center.
In the archives: more satellites, more maps, and more Mars.
One of the great innovations of the twentieth century is likely not well-known, but this video from the Ri Channel is looking to change that:
This is X-ray crystallography.
Discovered in 1913 by William and Lawrence Bragg, x-ray crystallography is a technique that reveals the atomic and molecular structure of a crystal. When a narrow beam of x-rays is shown through the crystal, it diffracts into a pattern of rays through the other side.
"To date 28 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to projects related to the field" and 100 years after its discovery, the Curiosity Rover is using x-ray crystallography to analyze soil on Mars.
Science! And if you haven’t seen these yet, we’ve shared some of our favorite science videos for kids over at RiChannel.org, where they know great science videos.