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    • By NASA
      6 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video
      In this time-lapse video of a test conducted at JPL in June 2023, an engineering model of the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) instrument aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover places itself against a rock to collect data. NASA/JPL-Caltech Artificial intelligence is helping scientists to identify minerals within rocks studied by the Perseverance rover.
      Some scientists dream of exploring planets with “smart” spacecraft that know exactly what data to look for, where to find it, and how to analyze it. Although making that dream a reality will take time, advances made with NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover offer promising steps in that direction.
      For almost three years, the rover mission has been testing a form of artificial intelligence that seeks out minerals in the Red Planet’s rocks. This marks the first time AI has been used on Mars to make autonomous decisions based on real-time analysis of rock composition.
      PIXL, the white instrument at top left, is one of several science tools located on the end of the robotic arm aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover. The Mars rover’s left navcam took the images that make up this composite on March 2, 2021NASA/JPL-Caltech The software supports PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry), a spectrometer developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. By mapping the chemical composition of minerals across a rock’s surface, PIXL allows scientists to determine whether the rock formed in conditions that could have been supportive of microbial life in Mars’ ancient past.
      Called “adaptive sampling,” the software autonomously positions the instrument close to a rock target, then looks at PIXL’s scans of the target to find minerals worth examining more deeply. It’s all done in real time, without the rover talking to mission controllers back on Earth.
      “We use PIXL’s AI to home in on key science,” said the instrument’s principal investigator, Abigail Allwood of JPL. “Without it, you’d see a hint of something interesting in the data and then need to rescan the rock to study it more. This lets PIXL reach a conclusion without humans examining the data.”
      This image of a rock target nicknamed “Thunderbolt Peak” was created by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover using PIXL, which determines the mineral composition of rocks by zapping them with X-rays. Each blue dot in the image represents a spot where an X-ray hit.NASA/JPL-Caltech/DTU/QUT Data from Perseverance’s instruments, including PIXL, helps scientists determine when to drill a core of rock and seal it in a titanium metal tube so that it, along with other high-priority samples, could be brought to Earth for further study as part of NASA’s Mars Sample Return campaign.
      Adaptive sampling is not the only application of AI on Mars. About 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) from Perseverance is NASA’s Curiosity, which pioneered a form of AI that allows the rover to autonomously zap rocks with a laser based on their shape and color. Studying the gas that burns off after each laser zap reveals a rock’s chemical composition. Perseverance features this same ability, as well as a more advanced form of AI that enables it to navigate without specific direction from Earth. Both rovers still rely on dozens of engineers and scientists to plan each day’s set of hundreds of individual commands, but these digital smarts help both missions get more done in less time.
      “The idea behind PIXL’s adaptive sampling is to help scientists find the needle within a haystack of data, freeing up time and energy for them to focus on other things,” said Peter Lawson, who led the implementation of adaptive sampling before retiring from JPL. “Ultimately, it helps us gather the best science more quickly.”
      Using AI to Position PIXL
      AI assists PIXL in two ways. First, it positions the instrument just right once the instrument is in the vicinity of a rock target. Located at the end of Perseverance’s robotic arm, the spectrometer sits on six tiny robotic legs, called a hexapod. PIXL’s camera repeatedly checks the distance between the instrument and a rock target to aid with positioning.
      Temperature swings on Mars are large enough that Perseverance’s arm will expand or contract a microscopic amount, which can throw off PIXL’s aim. The hexapod automatically adjusts the instrument to get it exceptionally close without coming into contact with the rock.
      “We have to make adjustments on the scale of micrometers to get the accuracy we need,” Allwood said. “It gets close enough to the rock to raise the hairs on the back of an engineer’s neck.”
      Making a Mineral Map
      Once PIXL is in position, another AI system gets the chance to shine. PIXL scans a postage-stamp-size area of a rock, firing an X-ray beam thousands of times to create a grid of microscopic dots. Each dot reveals information about the chemical composition of the minerals present.
      Minerals are crucial to answering key questions about Mars. Depending on the rock, scientists might be on the hunt for carbonates, which hide clues to how water may have formed the rock, or they may be looking for phosphates, which could have provided nutrients for microbes, if any were present in the Martian past.
      There’s no way for scientists to know ahead of time which of the hundreds of X-ray zaps will turn up a particular mineral, but when the instrument finds certain minerals, it can automatically stop to gather more data — an action called a “long dwell.” As the system improves through machine learning, the list of minerals on which PIXL can focus with a long dwell is growing.
      “PIXL is kind of a Swiss army knife in that it can be configured depending on what the scientists are looking for at a given time,” said JPL’s David Thompson, who helped develop the software. “Mars is a great place to test out AI since we have regular communications each day, giving us a chance to make tweaks along the way.”
      When future missions travel deeper into the solar system, they’ll be out of contact longer than missions currently are on Mars. That’s why there is strong interest in developing more autonomy for missions as they rove and conduct science for the benefit of humanity.
      More About the Mission
      A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
      Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
      The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
      JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.
      For more about Perseverance:
      mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/
      News Media Contacts
      Andrew Good
      Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
      818-393-2433
      andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov
      Karen Fox / Alana Johnson
      NASA Headquarters, Washington
      202-358-1600 / 202-358-1501
      karen.c.fox@nasa.gov / alana.r.johnson@nasa.gov
      2024-099
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      Last Updated Jul 16, 2024 Related Terms
      Perseverance (Rover) Astrobiology High-Tech Computing Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mars Mars 2020 Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS) Robotics Science-enabling Technology Explore More
      1 min read NASA Science Activation Teams Present at National Rural STEM Summit
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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
    • By NASA
      The inaugural CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog) crew is “back on Earth” after walking out of their simulated Martian habitat at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on July 6. The first of three simulated missions, CHAPEA Mission 1 was designed to help scientists, engineers, and mission planners better understand how living on another world could affect human health and performance.
      Kelly Haston, commander, Ross Brockwell, flight engineer, Nathan Jones, medical officer, and Anca Selariu, science officer, lived and worked in an isolated 1,700-square-foot, 3D-printed habitat to support human health and performance research to prepare for future missions to Mars.
      “Congratulations to the crew of CHAPEA Mission 1 on their completion of a year in a Mars-simulated environment,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Through the Artemis missions, we will use what we learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars. The CHAPEA missions are critical to developing the knowledge and tools needed for humans to one day live and work on the Red Planet.”
      The crew stepped out of the habitat and back into the arms of family and friends after a 378-day simulated Mars surface mission that began June 25, 2023.
      This high-fidelity simulation involved the crew carrying out different types of mission objectives, including simulated “marswalks,” robotic operations, habitat maintenance, exercise, and crop growth. The crew also faced intentional environmental stressors in their habitat such as resource limitations, isolation, and confinement. For the next two weeks, the volunteers will complete post-mission data collection activities before returning home.
      “We planned the last 378 days with many of the challenges crews could face on Mars and this crew dedicated their lives over that time to achieve these unprecedented operational objectives,” said CHAPEA Principal Investigator Grace Douglas. “I am looking forward to diving into the data we have gathered, preparing for CHAPEA Mission 2 and eventually, a human presence on Mars.”
      As NASA works to establish a long-term presence for scientific discovery and exploration on the Moon through the Artemis campaign, analog missions like CHAPEA provide scientific data to validate systems and develop technological solutions for future missions to Mars.
      Two additional one-year CHAPEA missions are planned, with the next targeted to begin in 2025. The subsequent missions will be nearly identical, allowing researchers to collect data from more participants to expand the dataset and provide a broader perspective on the impacts of Mars-realistic resource limitations, isolation and confinement on human health and performance.
      NASA has several other avenues for gathering isolation research, including the Human Exploration Research Analog, Antarctica, and other analogs, as well as human spaceflight missions to the International Space Station to ensure key research goals can be completed to inform future human missions to the Moon and Mars.
      The CHAPEA simulated missions are unique because they test the impacts of extended isolation and confinement with the addition of Mars-realistic time delays of communicating to Earth – up to 44-minutes roundtrip – along with resource limitations relevant to Mars, including a more limited food system that can be supported on the space station and in other analogs.
      To view the ceremony of crew exiting their habitat, visit here.
      Under NASA’s Artemis campaign, the agency will establish the foundation for long-term scientific exploration at the Moon, land the first woman, first person of color, and its first international partner astronaut on the lunar surface, and prepare for human expeditions to Mars for the benefit of all.
      Learn more about CHAPEA at:
      www.nasa.gov/humans-in-space/chapea/
      View the full article
    • By USH
      Years ago, physicist Dr. John Brandenburg stated that there is evidence of two nuclear explosions on Mars. These explosions could have been caused by thermonuclear bombs. 
      Remnants of an ancient city on Mars destroyed by thermonuclear attack.
      Evidence supporting this theory includes the presence of nuclear isotopes in the Martian atmosphere and the detection of a thin layer of substances such as uranium, thorium, and radioactive potassium on the surface of Mars. 
      The absence of craters at the sites indicates that the bombs were likely detonated above ground in an air blast, which worsens the global fallout but dampens the immediate ground impact. Conversely, if detonated on the ground, the local devastation is immense but the global impact is minimized. Regardless, these explosions were powerful enough to cause a global catastrophe and significantly alter Mars' climate. According to Brandenburg, the nuclear attack apparently wiped out two races: the Cydonians and Utopians. 

      The MRO HiRISE image ESP_019103_1460 shows the "Atlantic Chaos," and a closer examination reveals a city that was almost destroyed by the thermonuclear explosions. Amid the ruins of destroyed buildings and towering structures, a largely intact dome-shaped structure is visible (See image below.) 

      The remnants of this city suggest that Mars was once inhabited by intelligent species like the Cydonians and Utopians, who lived there under conditions similar to those on Earth. This also serves as evidence that far more advanced civilizations may have existed for millions of years and possessed the capability to annihilate all life on a planet using thermonuclear bombs, among other means. 
      See also:
      J.E. Brandenburg:Evidence for a Large Anomalous Nuclear Explosions in Mars Past 
      Gigapan images (zoom) of the destroyed city on Mars: Javed Raza's-Atlantis Chassis-ESP 019103 1460 by Neville Thompson

      View the full article
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