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Mars

— Space

Fungi survive on the ISS under Mars-like conditions

Results are back from one of the latest experiments hosted on the International Space Station (ISS), with researchers from Spain's National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA) using the facility to study how hardy fungi species, collected from the Antarctic, cope under simulated Martian conditions. The results are helping scientists gain insights relevant to the search for life on the Red Planet.

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— Space

Faulty instrument delays Mars lander launch

NASA's next big Mars mission will have to wait a couple of years due to a faulty piece of equipment that won't stay fixed. The space agency announced today that the launch of the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander mission scheduled for next March has been scrubbed due to a persistent vacuum leak in the lander's primary science instrument. A new launch date has yet to be determined.

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— Biology

Scientists plan to grow potatoes under Martian conditions

A new collaborative project between the International Potato Center (CIP) and NASA will see a crop of potatoes grown on Earth under the same conditions found on the Red Planet. The effort is not only a big step towards the goal of one day constructing a controlled farming dome on Mars, but will also demonstrate the potential of growing potatoes in inhospitable environments back home – something that the researchers hope will help tackle world hunger.

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Sending a letter to Mars would need a £11,602.25 stamp

Keeping in touch with your Martian pen pal won't be cheap according to the British postal service. Five-year old aspiring future astronaut Oliver Giddings asked the Royal Mail how much it would cost to post a letter to the Red Planet. After consulting with NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the answer came back: 18,416 First Class stamps costing £11,602.25 (US$18K).

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— Space

Novel theory explains carbon levels in the modern Martian atmosphere

Scientists believe that Mars once played host to a much warmer and wetter climate, but for that to be the case it must have once had a thicker atmosphere. There's a big problem with that theory, though, with detected levels of carbon not playing nice with atmospheric loss theories. Now, a joint team from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) believes it may have solved the problem, with a new theory that explains the issue by means of two simultaneous mechanisms.

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— Space

Doomed Phobos will become a ring around Mars

According to NASA, the larger Martian moon, Phobos, is spiraling in toward the Red Planet and will eventually be destroyed in tens of millions of years, but it turns out that it may have a second career after its death. University of California, Berkeley Department of Earth and Planetary Science postdoctoral fellow Benjamin Black and graduate student Tushar Mittal have calculated that the doomed satellite will be so torn by tidal forces that its fragments will form a ring like those that encircle Saturn and the other gas giants of the outer Solar System.

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— Space

Surface grooves indicate Mars is tearing one of its moons apart

Mars' moon Phobos is on a slow path to destruction, as evidenced by long, shallow grooves lining its surface, according to NASA scientists. The lines are the first stages of structural failure caused by tidal forces between the moon and its parent planet. At a distance of 3,700 miles (6,000 km), Phobos is closer to Mars than any other moon and planet in the Solar System, which is what is responsible for its looming death.

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— Space

Mars Express sheds light on rare Martian auroras

Auroras are common spectacles in Earth's Arctic and Antarctic regions, but on Mars they're rare and not nearly as attention grabbing. Visible only in the ultraviolet, they may not be as entertaining as their earthly counterparts, but after a decade of measurements by ESA’s unmanned Mars Express orbiter, the rare Martian auroras are telling scientists a lot about the local vestigial magnetic fields of the Red Planet.

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