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Nasa confirms it will make a major announcement about Mars this week

Nasa will hold a press conference to reveal its latest findings from Mars this week.

Few details have leaked about the mysterious new announcement, which will be streamed online from 7pm BST (2pm EDT) on Thursday 7 June.

Nasa is staying tight-lipped about whatever it has discovered on the red planet, however, it has confirmed the announcement will feature ‘new science results from Nasa’s Mars Curiosity rover’.

The Curiosity rover was built to gather evidence to answer whether the red planet could sustain life, has liquid water, study the climate and geology of Mars.

It is possible the new ‘science results’ from the rover could relate to Martian life. 

 

Nasa’s Curiosity rover pictured taking a selfie on the Vera Rubin Ridge, which it has been investigating for the past several months. The rover is now 11 miles (18 km) from the original landing site where it touched down in August 2012

Given that Curiosity recently started to drill into the Martian surface for the first time in 18 months, it is also possible the announcement relates to something unearthed by the rover.

Curiosity was forced to abandon plans to take samples from the surface of the planet after mechanical issues took its drill offline back in October 2016.

However, Nasa engineers developed a new technique to restore the robotic explorer’s drilling ability, using its robotic arm to push the drill bit forward as it spins, much like a human might operate a drill.

The new drilling technique, dubbed Feed Extended Drilling (FED), keeps the drill bit extended beyond the stabiliser posts, which were previously used to steady the drill against the rocks.

Engineers developed the technique over the using an exact duplicate of the Curiosity rover on Earth.

It took almost a year to devise the method, which was successfully used on Mars on 20 May.

The new drilling technique is known as Feed Extended Drilling (FED), and keeps the drill’s bit extended beyond the stabiliser posts that were previously used to steady the drill against the rocks, NASA explains

Nasa will hold a press conference to reveal ‘new science results from Nasa's Mars Curiosity rover’ on Thursday 7 June at 7pm BST (2pm EDT)

Nasa will hold a press conference to reveal ‘new science results from Nasa’s Mars Curiosity rover’ on Thursday 7 June at 7pm BST (2pm EDT)

Ashwin Vasavada, project scientist at Nasa’s Mars Science Laboratory at JPL — the official title for the Curiosity rover’s $2.5 billion mission, is scheduled to take part in the press conference later this week, further fuelling speculation the announcement relates to something uncovered by Curiosity.

Michelle Thaller, assistant director of science for communications in Nasa’s Planetary Science Division, will be hosting the event.

Also on the bill is Paul Mahaffy, Solar System Exploration Division Director at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and Jen Eigenbrode, a research scientist at Goddard.

Curiosity rover was forced to abandon plans to take samples from the surface of the planet after mechanical issues took its drill offline back in October 2016 (CGI Render By Nasa)

Curiosity rover was forced to abandon plans to take samples from the surface of the planet after mechanical issues took its drill offline back in October 2016 (CGI Render By Nasa)

Chris Webster, a senior research fellow at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will also be on the panel on Thursday.

Nasa will live stream the event on its NASA TV channel, as well as Facebook Live, Twitch TV, Ustream, YouTube and Twitter.

Viewers will be able to put questions to the panel by using the social media hashtag #askNASA.

WHAT IS THE MARS CURIOSITY ROVER AND WHAT HAS IT ACHIEVED SO FAR?

The Mars Curiosity rover was initially launched from Cape Canaveral, an American Air Force station in Florida on November 26, 2011. 

After embarking on a 350 million mile (560 million km) journey, the £1.8 billion ($2.5 billion) research vehicle touched down only 1.5 miles (2.4 km) away from the earmarked landing spot.

After a successful landing on August 6th, 2012, the rover has travelled about 11 miles (18 km). 

It was launched on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft and the rover constituted 23 per cent of the mass of the total mission. 

With 80 kg (180 lb) of scientific instruments on board, the rover weighs a total of 899 kg (1,982 lb) and is powered by a plutonium fuel source. 

The rover is 2.9 metres (9.5 ft) long by 2.7 metres (8.9 ft) wide by 2.2 metres (7.2 ft) in height. 

The Mars curiosity rover was initially intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer if the planet could support life, has liquid water, study the climate and the geology of Mars an has since been active for more than 2,000  days

The Mars curiosity rover was initially intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer if the planet could support life, has liquid water, study the climate and the geology of Mars an has since been active for more than 2,000  days

The rover was initially intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer if the planet could support life, has liquid water, study the climate and the geology of Mars.  

Due to its success, the mission has been extended indefinitely and has now been active for over 2,000 days.

The rover has several scientific instruments on board, including the mastcam which consists of two cameras and can take high-resolution images and videos in real colour. 

So far on the journey of the car-sized robot it has encountered an ancient streambed where liquid water used to flow, not long after it also discovered that billions of years ago, a nearby area known as Yellowknife Bay was part of a lake that could have supported microbial life.

The Mars Curiosity rover was initially launched from Cape Canaveral, an American Air Force station in Florida, on November 26, 2011.

The rover was initially intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer if the planet could support life, has liquid water, study the climate and the geology of Mars.

However, due to its success, the mission has been extended indefinitely and has now been active for over 2,000 days, sending back thousands of pictures during its lonely mission.

The £1.8 billion ($2.5 billion) rover has since travelled about 11 miles (18 km) on the Martian surface.

Curiosity will be superseded by a new Nasa rover in 2020, which will be used to collect Martian soil in up to 31 pen-sized canisters which will be sent back for analysis on Earth.

The ambitious plan also involves a rover developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) called ExoMars, which is set to reach the red planet in 2021 and will simultaneously drill deep into the surface to look for evidence of life.

ExoMars will be capable of drilling as far down as two meters.

The second step of the joint Nasa-ESA mission will launch a ‘fetch rover,’ which will retrieve the samples from the other rovers.

Then, it would return to its lander and place the samples in a small rocket dubbed a Mars Ascent Vehicle.

WHAT IS THE EXOMARS MISSION?

The main goal of ExoMars is to find out if life has ever existed on Mars.

The spacecraft on which the Schiaparelli travelled to Mars, Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), carries a probe to study trace gases such as methane around the planet. 

Scientists believe methane, a chemical that on Earth is strongly tied to life.

The second part of the ExoMars mission, delayed to 2020, will deliver a rover to Mars’ surface.

It will be the first with the ability to both move across the planet’s surface and drill into the ground to collect and analyse samples.

Schiaparelli was designed to test technologies for the rover’s landing in four years – but, it crashed into the red planet in October 2016.

This will launch the container holding the samples to Mars orbit, where it will be collected by a spacecraft – which would require its own separate launch from Earth.

After gathering the samples and loading them to an Earth entry vehicle, the craft would return to Earth with the Martian soil.

The opportunity to analyse Martian soil would provide unprecedented access to the red planet’s history and its potential to host life.

‘Previous Mars missions revealed ancient streambeds and the right chemistry that could have supported microbial life on the red planet,’ said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate.

‘A sample would provide a critical leap forward in our understanding of Mars’ potential to harbour life.’ 



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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