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Thread: Mars Explorer lands successfully

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    Contributor DBT's Avatar
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    With Mars Methane Mystery Unsolved, Curiosity Serves Scientists a New One: Oxygen

    ''For the first time in the history of space exploration, scientists have measured the seasonal changes in the gases that fill the air directly above the surface of Gale Crater on Mars. As a result, they noticed something baffling: oxygen, the gas many Earth creatures use to breathe, behaves in a way that so far scientists cannot explain through any known chemical processes.

    Over the course of three Mars years (or nearly six Earth years) an instrument in the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) portable chemistry lab inside the belly of NASA’s Curiosity rover inhaled the air of Gale Crater and analyzed its composition. The results SAM spit out confirmed the makeup of the Martian atmosphere at the surface: 95% by volume of carbon dioxide (CO2), 2.6% molecular nitrogen (N2), 1.9% argon (Ar), 0.16% molecular oxygen (O2), and 0.06% carbon monoxide (CO). They also revealed how the molecules in the Martian air mix and circulate with the changes in air pressure throughout the year. These changes are caused when CO2 gas freezes over the poles in the winter, thereby lowering the air pressure across the planet following redistribution of air to maintain pressure equilibrium. When CO2 evaporates in the spring and summer and mixes across Mars, it raises the air pressure.

    Within this environment, scientists found that nitrogen and argon follow a predictable seasonal pattern, waxing and waning in concentration in Gale Crater throughout the year relative to how much CO2 is in the air. They expected oxygen to do the same. But it didn’t. Instead, the amount of the gas in the air rose throughout spring and summer by as much as 30%, and then dropped back to levels predicted by known chemistry in fall. This pattern repeated each spring, though the amount of oxygen added to the atmosphere varied, implying that something was producing it and then taking it away.''

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    NASA graph showing the pattern of oxygen spikes in Mars atmosphere;


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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    NASA Engineers Are Trying To Figure Out Why It's So Hard To Dig Mars : NPR

    Going into detail about their struggles with InSight's "mole", a borer that has made only very little progress downward.

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    NASA's Mars Lander 'Mole' Is Digging Again as Marsquake Mystery Baffles Scientists | Space

    NASA InSight on Twitter: "Digging a little deeper - The mole has moved further down. With help from @NASAJPL and @DLR_en, my latest efforts to help the heat probe seem to be working. More digging to come. https://t.co/JumZaqAecY" / Twitter

    Most recently, the InSight team tried maneuvering the lander's arm to gently press sideways on the mole. On Nov. 21, NASA announced that the technique had successfully let the probe dig itself down about 1.25 inches (32 millimeters). And on Dec. 16, the agency said that the mole was continuing to burrow properly.

    The update did not include details on how far the probe has moved, but a gif accompanying the tweet suggests that the probe, which measures 15.7 inches (400 mm) in length, dug about 2.5 inches (65 mm) between and Dec. 7 and Dec. 14. "More digging to come," the update concluded.
    SEIS on Twitter: "🇺🇸 Cerberus Fossae is the first active seismic zone ever discovered on Mars. Located about 1,600 kilometers east of @NASAInSight lander, this huge extensive tectonic structure was the epicenter of two significant MarsQuakes detected during sols 173 and 235. https://t.co/bmQLo8E07L" / Twitter
    Meanwhile, the team working on InSight's seismometer is also keeping busy. On Dec. 16, the group posted that "significant" marsquakes detected on May 22 and July 25 originated in a tectonic structure called Cerberus Fossae, making the area "the first active seismic zone ever discovered on Mars," according to a statement posted to the instrument's Twitter feed.
    Those quakes were reported over 6 months ago, so there may have been some more since then.

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    This picture is from Mars. It's probably not what you think. | Space - "Looking for 'shooting stars' on Mars is hard."

    Not much luck in finding meteors with InSight's cameras. Those cameras do see a lot of cosmic-ray effects, however.

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