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Is There Water on Mars? We Asked a NASA Scientist


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    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      This image shows an aviation version of a smartphone navigation app that makes suggestions for an aircraft to fly an alternate, more efficient route. The new trajectories are based on information available from NASA’s Digital Information Platform and processed by the Collaborative Departure Digital Rerouting tool.NASA Just like your smartphone navigation app can instantly analyze information from many sources to suggest the best route to follow, a NASA-developed resource is now making data available to help the aviation industry do the same thing.
      To assist air traffic managers in keeping airplanes moving efficiently through the skies, information about weather, potential delays, and more is being gathered and processed to support decision making tools for a variety of aviation applications.
      Appropriately named the Digital Information Platform (DIP), this living database hosts key data gathered by flight participants such as airlines or drone operators. It will help power additional tools that, among other benefits, can save you travel time.
      Ultimately, the aviation industry… and even the flying public, will benefit from what we develop.
      Swati Saxena
      NASA Aerospace Engineer
      “Through DIP we’re also demonstrating how to deliver digital services for aviation users via a modern cloud-based, service-oriented architecture,” said Swati Saxena, DIP project manager at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California.
      The intent is not to compete with others. Instead, the hope is that industry will see DIP as a reference they can use in developing and implementing their own platforms and digital services.
      “Ultimately, the aviation industry – the Federal Aviation Administration, commercial airlines, flight operators, and even the flying public – will benefit from what we develop,” Saxena said.
      The platform and digital services have even more benefits than just saving some time on a journey.
      For example, NASA recently collaborated with airlines to demonstrate a traffic management tool that improved traffic flow at select airports, saving thousands of pounds of jet fuel and significantly reducing carbon emissions.
      Now, much of the data gathered in collaboration with airlines and integrated on the platform is publicly available. Users who qualify can create a guest account and access DIP data at a new website created by the project.
      It’s all part of NASA’s vision for 21st century aviation involving revolutionary next-generation future airspace and safety tools.
      Managing Future Air Traffic
      During the 2030s and beyond, the skies above the United States are expected to become much busier.
      Facing this rising demand, the current National Airspace System – the network of U.S. aviation infrastructure including airports, air navigation facilities, and communications – will be challenged to keep up. DIP represents a key piece of solving that challenge.
      NASA’s vision for future airspace and safety involves new technology to create a highly automated, safe, and scalable environment.
      What this vision looks like is a flight environment where many types of vehicles and their pilots, as well as air traffic managers, use state-of-the-art automated tools and systems that provide highly detailed and curated information.
      These tools leverage new capabilities like machine learning and artificial intelligence to streamline efficiency and handle the increase in traffic expected in the coming decades.
      Digital Services Ecosystem in Action
      To begin implementing this new vision, our aeronautical innovators are evaluating their platform, DIP, and services at several airports in Texas. This initial stage is a building block for larger such demonstrations in the future.
      “These digital services are being used in the live operational environment by our airline partners to improve efficiency of the current airspace operations,” Saxena said. “The tools are currently in use in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and will be deployed in the Houston airspace in 2025.”
      The results from these digital tools are already making a difference.
      Proven Air Traffic Results
      During 2022, a NASA machine learning-based tool named Collaborative Digital Departure Rerouting, designed to improve the flow of air traffic and prevent flight delays, saved more than 24,000 lbs. (10,886 kg.) of fuel by streamlining air traffic in the Dallas area.
      If such tools were used across the entire country, the improvements made in efficiency, safety, and sustainability would make a notable difference to the flying public and industry.
      “Continued agreements with airlines and the aviation industry led to the creation and expansion of this partnership ecosystem,” Saxena said. “There have been benefits across the board.”
      DIP was developed under NASA’s Airspace Operations and Safety Program.
      Learn about NASA’s Collaborative Digital Departure Rerouting tool and how it uses information from the Digital Information Platform to provide airlines with routing options similar to how drivers navigate using cellphone apps. About the Author
      John Gould
      Aeronautics Research Mission DirectorateJohn Gould is a member of NASA Aeronautics' Strategic Communications team at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. He is dedicated to public service and NASA’s leading role in scientific exploration. Prior to working for NASA Aeronautics, he was a spaceflight historian and writer, having a lifelong passion for space and aviation.
      Facebook logo @NASA@NASAaero@NASA_es @NASA@NASAaero@NASA_es Instagram logo @NASA@NASAaero@NASA_es Linkedin logo @NASA Explore More
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      Last Updated Jul 12, 2024 EditorJim BankeContactJim Bankejim.banke@nasa.gov Related Terms
      Aeronautics Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate Air Traffic Management – Exploration Air Traffic Solutions Airspace Operations and Safety Program View the full article
    • By NASA
      Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during an Apollo 11 moonwalk on July 20, 1969. The Lunar Module is on the left, and the footprints of the astronauts are clearly visible in the soil of the moon.Credit: NASA As the agency explores more of the Moon than ever before under the Artemis campaign, NASA will celebrate the 55th anniversary of the first astronauts landing on the Moon through a variety of in-person, virtual, and engagement activities nationwide between Monday, July 15, and Thursday, July 25.
      Events will honor America’s vision and technology that enabled the Apollo 11 crewed lunar landing on July 20, 1969, as well as Apollo-era inventions and techniques that spread into public life, many of which are still in use today. Activities also will highlight NASA’s Artemis campaign, which includes landing the first woman, first person of color, and first international astronaut on the Moon, inspiring great achievements, exploration, and scientific discovery for the benefit of all.
      NASA’s subject matter experts are available for a limited number of interviews about the anniversary. To request an interview virtually or in person, contact Jessica Taveau in the newsroom: jessica.c.taveau@nasa.gov.
      During the week of July 15, the agency also will share the iconic bootprint image and the significance of Apollo 11 to NASA’s mission, as well as use the #Apollo11 hashtag, across its digital platforms online.
      Additional activities from NASA include:
      Monday, July 15 and Tuesday, July 16, NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana: NASA will host the rollout of the agency’s Artemis II SLS (Space Launch System) core stage. Friday, July 19, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston: In a dedication and ribbon cutting, the center will name its building 12 the ‘Dorothy Vaughan Center in Honor of the Women of Apollo.’ Vaughan was a mathematician, computer programmer, and NASA’s first Black manager. Sunday, July 21, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland: NASA Goddard will host a model rocket contest conducted by the National Association of Rocketry Headquarters Astro Modeling Section. This free contest is open to all model rocketeers and the public.  Other activities include:
      Tuesday, July 16 through Wednesday, July 24, Space Center Houston: The center will host pop-up science labs, mission briefings, special tram tours that feature the Mission Control Center at NASA Johnson, and more. Friday, July 19 through Saturday, July 20, National Cathedral in Washington: The cathedral will host a festival marking the 50th anniversary of its Space Window, which contains a piece of lunar rock that was donated by NASA and the crew of Apollo 11. Thursday, July 25, San Diego Comic-Con: NASA representatives will participate in a panel entitled ‘Exploring the Moon: the Artemis Generation.’ Panelists are:Stan Love, NASA astronaut A.C. Charania, NASA chief technologist Dionne Hernandez-Lugo, NASA’s Gateway Program Jackelynne Silva-Martinez, NASA Human Health and Performance For more details about NASA’s Apollo Program, please visit:
      https://www.nasa.gov/the-apollo-program
      -end-
      Cheryl Warner / Jessica Taveau
      Headquarters, Washington
      202-356-1600
      cheryl.m.warner@nasa.gov / jessica.c.taveau@nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Jul 12, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
      Apollo 11 Artemis View the full article
    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      Paul Dumbacher, right, lead test engineer for the Propulsion Test Branch at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, confers with Meredith Patterson, solid propulsion systems engineer, as they install the 11-inch hybrid rocket motor testbed into its cradle in Marshall’s East Test Stand. The new testbed, offering versatile, low-cost test opportunities to NASA propulsion engineers and their government, academic, and industry partners, reflects the collaboration of dozens of team members across multiple departments at Marshall. NASA/Charles Beason In June, engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, unveiled an innovative, 11-inch hybrid rocket motor testbed.
      The new hybrid testbed, which features variable flow capability and a 20-second continuous burn duration, is designed to provide a low-cost, quick-turnaround solution for conducting hot-fire tests of advanced nozzles and other rocket engine hardware, composite materials, and propellants.
      Solid rocket propulsion remains a competitive, reliable technology for various compact and heavy-lift rockets as well as in-space missions, offering low propulsion element mass, high energy density, resilience in extreme environments, and reliable performance.
      “It’s time consuming and costly to put a new solid rocket motor through its paces – identifying how materials perform in extreme temperatures and under severe structural and dynamic loads,” said Benjamin Davis, branch chief of the Solid Propulsion and Pyrotechnic Devices Branch of Marshall’s Engineering Directorate. “In today’s fast-paced, competitive environment, we wanted to find a way to condense that schedule. The hybrid testbed offers an exciting, low-cost solution.”
      Initiated in 2020, the project stemmed from NASA’s work to develop new composite materials, additively manufactured – or 3D-printed – nozzles, and other components with proven benefits across the spacefaring spectrum, from rockets to planetary landers.
      After analyzing future industry requirements, and with feedback from NASA’s aerospace partners, the Marshall team recognized that their existing 24-inch rocket motor testbed – a subscale version of the Space Launch System booster – could prove too costly for small startups. Additionally, conventional, six-inch test motors limited flexible configuration and required multiple tests to achieve all customer goals. The team realized what industry needed most was an efficient, versatile third option.
      “The 11-inch hybrid motor testbed offers the instrumentation, configurability, and cost-efficiency our government, industry, and academic partners need,” said Chloe Bower, subscale solid rocket motor manufacturing lead at Marshall. “It can accomplish multiple test objectives simultaneously – including different nozzle configurations, new instrumentation or internal insulation, and various propellants or flight environments.”
      “That quicker pace can reduce test time from months to weeks or days,” said Precious Mitchell, solid propulsion design lead for the project.
      Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, assess components of the 11-inch hybrid rocket motor testbed in the wake of successful testing in June. Among Marshall personnel leading in-house development of the new testbed are, from left, Chloe Bower, subscale solid rocket motor manufacturing lead; Jacobs manufacturing engineer Shelby Westrich; and Precious Mitchell, solid propulsion design lead. NASA/Benjamin Davis Another feature of great interest is the on/off switch. “That’s one of the big advantages to a hybrid testbed,” Mitchell continued. “With a solid propulsion system, once it’s ignited, it will burn until the fuel is spent. But because there’s no oxidizer in hybrid fuel, we can simply turn it off at any point if we see anomalies or need to fine-tune a test element, yielding more accurate test results that precisely meet customer needs.”
      The team expects to deliver to NASA leadership final test data later this summer. For now, Davis congratulates the Marshall propulsion designers, analysts, chemists, materials engineers, safety personnel, and test engineers who collaborated on the new testbed.
      “We’re not just supporting the aerospace industry in broad terms,” he said. “We’re also giving young NASA engineers a chance to get their hands dirty in a practical test environment solving problems. This work helps educate new generations who will carry on NASA’s mission in the decades to come.”
      For nearly 65 years, Marshall teams have led development of the U.S. space program’s most powerful rocket engines and spacecraft, from the Apollo-era Saturn V rocket and the space shuttle to today’s cutting-edge propulsion systems, including NASA’s newest rocket, the Space Launch System. NASA technology testbeds designed and built by Marshall engineers and their partners have shaped the reliable technologies of spaceflight and continue to enable discovery, testing, and certification of advanced rocket engine materials and manufacturing techniques. 
      Learn more about NASA Marshall capabilities at:
      https://www.nasa.gov/marshall-space-flight-center-capabilities
      Ramon J. Osorio
      Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama
      256-544-0034
      ramon.j.osorio@nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Jul 12, 2024 EditorBeth RidgewayLocationMarshall Space Flight Center Related Terms
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    • By Space Force
      In a groundbreaking NASA study set against the remote backdrop of North Dakota, Spc. 4 William Wallace, 4th Space Operations Squadron payload engineer, played a pivotal role in advancing the science community’s understanding of extraterrestrial agriculture.

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    • By NASA
      When the first humans travel to the Red Planet, they will need to know how to repair and maintain equipment, grow their own food, and stay healthy, all while contending with Earth-to-Mars communication delays. They must also find ways to build comradery and have fun. 

      The first all-volunteer CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog) crew accomplished all of that and more during their 378-day analog mission on the surface of Mars.  

      Living in the isolated Mars Dune Alpha, a 3D-printed, 1,700-square-foot habitat, crew members Kelly Haston, Ross Brockwell, Nathan Jones, and Anca Selariu faced the rigors of a simulated Mars expedition, enduring stressors akin to those of a real mission to the Red Planet. They also celebrated holidays and birthdays, gave each other haircuts, and found moments of levity in isolation. Their journey will help scientists understand the challenges of deep space missions and offer invaluable insights into the resilience of the human spirit. 
      NASA’s CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog) crew member Kelly Haston greets Deputy Director of Flight Operations Kjell Lindgren and Johnson Space Center Deputy Director Stephen Koerner at the habitat’s door. NASA/Josh Valcarcel As the crew concluded their journey on July 6, NASA astronaut and Deputy Director of Flight Operations Kjell Lindgren opened the habitat door and welcomed them home. 

      “The crew and their families have committed a year of their lives in service to NASA, the country, and humanity’s exploration of space. Thank you to for committing yourselves to research that will enable our future exploration of space,” he said. “Your fingerprints are going to be an indelible part of those first footprints on Mars.” 

      The CHAPEA crew brought their diverse backgrounds and experiences to the mission, collaborating with NASA’s scientists and engineers to collect data that will provide insight into maintaining crew health and performance for future missions to Mars. 
      PHOTO DATE: July 06, 2024 LOCATION: Bldg. 220 – CHAPEA Habitat SUBJECT: ASA Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA) Mars Analog Mission 1 Egress Event with crew Anca Selariu, Nathan Jones, Kelly Haston, Ross Brockwell. PHOTOGRAPHER: NASA/Josh ValcarcelNASA/Josh Valcarcel Kelly Haston: Mission Commander and Pioneering Scientist 

      Haston, the mission commander, is a research scientist who builds human disease models. She has spearheaded innovative stem cell-based projects, deriving multiple cell types for work in infertility, liver disease, and neurodegeneration. Her role was pivotal in maintaining crew morale and ensuring the success of daily operations. 
      She highlighted the importance of teamwork and adaptability in a mission with such high stakes.
      “We had to rely on each other and our training to navigate the challenges we faced,” she said. “Every day brought new obstacles, but also new opportunities for growth and learning.” 

      Nathan Jones: Medical Officer and Expert Communicator 

      Jones, the crew medical officer, used his emergency and international medicine experience to tackle the unique challenges of the Mars mission. His expertise in problem-solving and effective communication in a time-sensitive and resource-limited environment was essential due to the approximately one-hour transmission delay. “Even something as simple as when to communicate is important,” said Jones. The crew had to consider what observations were essential to report to each other or Mission Control to avoid overburdening the team or unnecessarily using the limited bandwidth to Earth. 

      “Everything we do in CHAPEA is touched by the heroes working on the ground at NASA,” he said. “We couldn’t ask for a better experience or better people to work with.” 

      The experience evolved into a journey of personal growth for Jones. “I am constantly looking forward, planning for the future,” he said. “I learned to take time to enjoy the current season and be patient for the coming ones.” 
      He also discovered a new hobby: art. “I have even surprised myself with how well some of my sketches have turned out,” he said. 

      Anca Selariu: Microbiologist and Innovative Thinker 

      Anca Selariu brought expertise as a microbiologist in the U.S. Navy, with a background in viral vaccine discovery, prion transmission, gene therapy development, and infectious disease research management. 

      Selariu expressed that she owes much to the Navy, including her involvement in CHAPEA, as it helped shape her both personally and professionally. “I hope to bring back a fresh perspective, along with a strong inclination to think differently about a problem, and test which questions are worth asking before we set out answering them,” she said.  

      Reflecting on the mission, Selariu said, “Every day seemed to be a new revelation about something; about Earth, about art, about humans, about cultures, about the history of life in the universe – what little we know of it.” 
      She added, “As much as I appreciate having information at my fingertips, I will miss the luxury of being unplugged in a world that now validates humans by their digital presence.”  

      Ross Brockwell: Structural Engineer and Problem Solver 

      Brockwell, the mission’s flight engineer, focused on infrastructure, building design, and organizational leadership. His structural engineering background influenced his approach to problem solving in the CHAPEA habitat. 
      “An engineering perspective leads you to build an understanding of how things will react and interact, anticipate possible failure points, and ensure redundancy and contingency planning,” he said. 

      That mindset helped the crew develop creative solutions to mission challenges, such as using a 3D printer to design part adapters and tools and find ways to connect as a team. “Several things we wanted to do for fun required innovation, one being developing a bracket so we could safely and securely mount our mini-basketball hoop,” he said. 
      He advises Artemis Generation members interested in contributing to future analog missions to think about systems engineering theory and learn to develop and integrate whole systems while solving individual challenges.  

      Brockwell believes the most important attributes for a CHAPEA crew member are imagination and a strong sense of wonder. “Of course, one needs to have patience, self-control, emotional regulation, and a sense of humor,” he said. “I would also add perspective, which means understanding the importance of exploration missions on behalf of humankind and appreciating being part of something greater than oneself.” 
      The CHAPEA crew is “back on Earth” after their 378-day mission inside the simulated Martian habitat. NASA /Josh Valcarcel A Vision for the Future 
      As the first CHAPEA mission concludes, the data collected and experiences shared by the crew will pave the way for future explorations, bringing humanity one step closer to setting foot on Mars.  
      “One of the biggest things I have learned on this long-duration mission is that we should never underestimate the effects of small gains over time,” said Jones. “Be willing to do the hard things now and it may make all the difference for the future.” 
      Selariu emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in upcoming space missions. “What everyone at CHAPEA seems to have in common is passion for space and drive to pursue it no matter the challenges, inconvenience, and personal sacrifices.” 
      Brockwell looks forward to missions to the Red Planet becoming a reality. “It still fills me with awe and excitement to think that one day there will be people on the surface of other worlds, overcoming immense challenges and expanding the existence and awareness of life from Earth.” 
      View the full article
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