2014 Paris Motor Show highlights

Mars

The prototype Mars sample return container (Image: ESA)

A mission to return samples from the planet Mars is still many years away and, officially, not on the calendar. That hasn't stopped ESA from producing a proof-of-concept prototype of the scientific “box of delights,” which could one day bring bits of the Red Planet back to Earth for study.  Read More

Artist's concept of the MAVEN spacecraft (Image: NASA/Goddard)

On Monday, NASA confirmed the launch date of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission (MAVEN). According to the space agency, MAVEN will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida at 1:28 PM EST on November 18 on the first leg of its mission to study the upper atmosphere of the Red Planet.  Read More

Bridget spent six 'Martian' days in the desert (Image: ESA)

ESA’s Sample Acquisition Field Experiment with a Rover (SAFER) has completed six “Martian days” of tests roaming Chile’s Atacama Desert. Nicknamed "Bridget," the prototype of the space agency’s ExoMars rover is part of a program to gain experience in building and operating planetary rovers in anticipation of the 2018 ESA Mars mission.  Read More

The Aouda.X Mars space suit  simulator exploring in Morocco, February 2013

On October 8, three teams in various parts of the world participated in an unprecedented simultaneous test of three experimental spacesuits. Coordinated from a mission control center in Innsbruck, Austria run by the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF), World Space Walk 2013 aims at setting standards for developing suits for the future exploration of the planet Mars.  Read More

SAFER field test rover (Image: ESA, Michel van Winnendael)

The Atacama desert in Chile is so dry that parts of it are utterly devoid of life down to bacteria. That and its sandy, rock-strewn terrain makes it so similar to Mars that it's a perfect spot for ESA to trial its Sample Acquisition Field Experiment with a Rover (SAFER), which will this week carry out tests related to navigation, remote control and the use of scientific instruments. The agency’s goal is the latest in a series of tests to develop technologies and gain practical experience in anticipation of ESA’s launch of the ExoMars rover to the Red Planet in 2018.  Read More

Scoop marks made by Curiosity while collecting soil samples in October 2012 (Image: NASA/J...

Water, like gold, is where you find it and NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has discovered water in the Martian soil in greater quantities than expected. The unmanned explorer’s analysis of the first soil samples taken in Gale Crater indicate that water is present globally and uniformly in the Martian topsoil, and isn't found just at the polar ice caps  Read More

Lab demonstration of the Tunable Laser Spectrometer (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has detected no methane on Mars after more than a year of extensive testing of the Martian atmosphere using the robot explorer’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory. Since methane is a key indicator for the presence of biological activity, its absence throws into question the notion that there may be life on Mars today.  Read More

Artist's impression of a robot snake and a rover on Mars (Image: James Steidl/Shutterstock...

Mars is essentially one big desert, and what do you tend to find in deserts? Snakes. There’s a reason for this, so the European Space Agency-funded SERPEX project is conducting a feasibility study on how robot snakes could one day be used to explore the Red Planet.  Read More

Basaltic roving would be used as a building material

Setting up house is always a pain and when that house is on Mars, it’s a logistical nightmare. To make things a bit easier, Dmitry Zhuikov, Arina Ageeva, and Krassimir Krastev of ZA Architects in Germany have come up with a concept architecture for future Mars colonies, built underground by robots before the colonists arrive.  Read More

Did life as we know it originate on Mars? (Image: Shutterstock)

New evidence presented by Prof. Steven Benner at The Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology in Florida suggests that, billions of years ago, Mars was a much better place for the first cells to have formed compared to Earth. This gives more weight to the theory that life may have started on the Red Planet and then found its way to Earth aboard a meteorite.  Read More

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