Are there mushrooms on Mars?
Experts say that there is no substantiated evidence of life on Mars. They said there is "around zero" likelihood that the photos presented in the study actually reveal fungi growing on Mars, and noted that the features in the photos are "abiotic," or not derived from living organisms. We rate these claims False. PolitiFactNo, rover photos aren't proof that scientists have found fungi growing on Mars
NASA takes extreme care to clean its spacecraft piece by piece as they’re assembled, but it’s impossible to actually get the number of microbes in an area down to zero, Cornell geneticist Christopher Mason wrote in the BBC. While his work is theoretical, there’s an alarming body of evidence suggesting that NASA’s attempts to explore the Red Planet may have already contaminated it with resilient and possibly dangerous microbial life.
In other words, there’s a real risk that scientists will eventually find evidence of life on Mars — that we accidentally brought there ourselves.
In fact, the clean rooms at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) might accidentally serve as a sort of proving grounds for microbial life — a challenging environment where only the hardiest bugs can survive.
Mason’s own research involved scanning the JPL for DNA and identified microbes capable of latching onto metal surfaces and tolerating both radiation and extreme colds — all qualities that might help a bug hitch a ride to space and actually survive the ordeal.
“These findings have implications for a form of planetary protection called ‘forward contamination,'” Mason wrote in the BBC. “This is where we might bring something (accidentally or on purpose) to another planet. It is important to ensure the safety and preservation of any life that might exist elsewhere in the universe, since new organisms can wreak havoc when they arrive at a new ecosystem.”
Of course, the very same rovers or landers that possibly brought life to Mars might mistake them for brand-new alien microbes, Mason suggests, citing the fact that microbes brought from Earth into space rapidly mutated under the new conditions.
“The trials of space travel and unusual environments they encounter will have left their mark and caused them to evolve,” Mason wrote.
READ MORE: Could humans have contaminated Mars with life? [BBC]
Read full article at Futurism
11 May, 2021 - 08:01pm
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Since landing on Mars on February 18, 2021, NASA's Perseverance rover has achieved numerous "firsts," including beaming audio sounds from the Red Planet's surface. It also made history as the first spacecraft to record sounds from another spacecraft — the Ingenuity helicopter — on another planet.
On April 20, 2021, Perseverance added yet another feather to its cap by extracting 5.4 grams of breathable oxygen — enough to keep an astronaut healthy for about 10 minutes of normal activity — from the wispy Martian air.
The oxygen was generated by a toaster-sized instrument called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) aboard the rover. Still in the early stages of development, the machine, which took about an hour to produce the gas, carries out the conversion through a simple chemical process. It separates the two oxygen atoms from the carbon dioxide molecules, which make up over 96 percent of the atmosphere on Mars, and stores them for future use. The remaining carbon monoxide molecule is released back into the Red Planet's atmosphere.
"Its job is to break oxygen atoms off carbon dioxide, the primary component of Mars’ atmosphere. It’s like an electrical tree,” says Moxie's principal investigator Michael Hecht of MIT's Haystack Observatory.
NASA researchers say the experiment was the first phase to ensure MOXIE — which needs to be heated to 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit (800 degrees Celsius) — to function, had survived the seven-month journey and subsequent landing on Mars. The second phase will entail testing the instrument at different times of the day and in different seasons, while the third and final phase will involve new operating modes, and, according to Heft, introducing "new wrinkles, such as a run where we compare operations at three or more different temperatures.” Over the course of the two-year mission, MOXIE will produce oxygen at least nine additional times. Once all the kinks have been removed, the instrument will be scaled up to produce enough oxygen for future human flights to Mars.
While making breathable oxygen for Mars' astronauts is important, it is not MOXIE's sole purpose. The gas, which is essential for a rocket to burn its fuel, is also crucial for the astronauts' return journey to Earth. NASA estimates that launching four astronauts off the Martian surface would require about 15,000 pounds (7 metric tons) of rocket fuel and 55,000 pounds (25 metric tons) of oxygen. In contrast, the four humans would require just a fraction of that to live on the Red Planet. “The astronauts who spend a year on the surface will maybe use one metric ton between them,” Hecht said.
MOXIE is not the only NASA endeavor making headlines from Mars. On May 7, 2021, Ingenuity successfully completed its first one-way trip — and fifth flight — on the Red Planet. The tissue-box-sized autonomous aircraft flew for an impressive 108 seconds from the Wright Brothers Field to an airfield located 423 feet (129 meters) to the south. Upon reaching its destination, the tiny helicopter climbed to a record altitude of 33 feet (10 meters) to capture high-resolution color images of its new neighborhood before making a picture-perfect landing. Ingenuity will remain at its latest home — carefully selected by the astronauts — until it receives further instructions, relayed via Perseverance, from the mission controllers.
"We bid adieu to our first Martian home, Wright Brothers Field, with grateful thanks for the support it provided to the historic first flights of a planetary rotorcraft,” said Bob Balaram, the helicopter's chief engineer at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Lab. “No matter where we go from here, we will always carry with us a reminder of how much those two bicycle builders from Dayton meant to us during our pursuit of the first flight on another world.”
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10 May, 2021 - 04:55pm
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter as photographed by the Mastcam of the Perseverance rover. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)
NASA's Mars Ingenuity helicopter is making history every week. Brought to the planet by the Perseverance Mars Rover, the tiny craft recently completed the first helicopter flight in an atmosphere other than Earth's. Ingenuity has already made five successful flights. Now, NASA has released new video with sound so that everyone can listen to Ingenuity's whirring blades themselves.
Listen closely to the video tweeted out by NASA's rover, which captured the video and audio of the helicopter's flight. This is the first time a spacecraft has recorded audio of another spacecraft on a different planet. You can hear the whirring of the helicopter drone's blades—although the noise is faint. Mars has a thinner atmosphere than Earth. This makes Ingenuity's feat extra impressive, but it also impacts how sound travels. As a result, sounds have more difficulty traveling as waves on Mars. To make it easier to hear, NASA isolated the 84-hertz frequency of the blades, which beat at 2,537 rotations per minute.
This video recorded by the Mars rover is an important tool for scientists hoping to learn more about the atmosphere on Mars. Much of Perseverance's mission is to look for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet. However, its other tasks included launching Ingenuity and even producing oxygen. Perseverance will likely not return its soil samples to Earth until around 2030; but until then, the regular video, audio, and photographic footage returned by the rover will be regularly released to the public. You can follow Perseverance's Twitter and website for updates.
I’ve seen what the #MarsHelicopter can do – and now I’ve heard it.
🎧 Grab headphones and listen to the otherworldly hum of Ingenuity’s blades as it headed south to scout a new area on its fourth flight.
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) May 7, 2021
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