NASA's Mars Curiosity
rover has been forced to alter its route after being faced with
dangerous terrain. The current objective of the robotic explorer is
to investigate a geological boundary between two distinct forms of
bedrock as a part of its mission to explore the heights of Mount
Sharp, and ultimately unlock the secrets of the Red Planet's ancient
There's plenty to suggest that water exists in various non-liquid forms
on Mars, as well as signs that liquid water existed in the past
, but now scientists have unearthed the first evidence that microscopic pools of water are developing and evaporating just below the surface of the Red Planet on a regular basis.
In another hopeful sign that Mars was once habitable, NASA's Curiosity rover
has detected nitrogen in the soil of the Red Planet for the first time. While NASA doesn't think that the compounds are biological in origin, they are still significant to Mars having been more favorable to life in the ancient past.
NASA is putting its Curiosity
Mars rover on hold for a few days as engineers try to determine the cause and severity of a recent short circuit. The space agency says that during a recent sample-taking operation, the unmanned explorer suffered a transient short circuit that activated an automatic shutdown by the rover's computers.
NASA has released a self-portrait of Curiosity
, showing a full view of the Pahrump Hills sites where the rover has been working for the last five months. The mosaic view includes a look at the Telegraph Peak site where the rover has just begun drilling, analyzing the chemistry of the rocks and soil.
Years before the first astronauts set foot on Mars, scientists will already be there – virtually. Thanks to a collaboration between NASA and Microsoft aimed at advancing human-robot interactions, the space agency's OnSight software will allow researchers to explore a virtual Martian landscape created from data sent back by the Curiosity rover.
The hunt for present or past life on Mars got a boost as NASA's Curiosity rover records spikes in atmospheric methane ten times greater than previously measured by the unmanned probe. Though the levels are far below those found on Earth, methane is a key indicator that life may be or may once have been present. In addition, the nuclear-powered explorer has also detected the first confirmed organic compounds in drill samples taken from Martian rocks.
We tend to think that Mars is as dry as a Noel Coward comedy, but it wasn't always like that. At a press conference on Monday, NASA revealed that data from its Curiosity
Mars rover indicates that the Gale Crater area that the robotic explorer has been traversing for over two years may once have been a circular lake that filled and refilled over a period of tens of millions of years.
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN
) spacecraft is the latest link in the space agency's Martian communications network for keeping in touch with its surface rovers. Last week, the unmanned orbiter carried out a test using a special radio apparatus that allowed it to relay 550 megabits of data from the Curiosity rover to NASA’s Deep Space Network back on Earth.
"Dodging a bullet" is a well-worn cliche, but it looks as if the small armada of space probes orbiting Mars dodged a shrapnel blast last month. According to observations made by NASA and ESA orbiters, the extremely close flyby of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring
was accompanied by a meteor shower larger than any seen on Earth.