Is there life on Mars?
To date, no proof of past or present life has been found on Mars. ... The search for evidence of habitability, taphonomy (related to fossils), and organic compounds on Mars is now a primary NASA and ESA objective. wikipedia.orgLife on Mars
For the first time, a spacecraft on another planet has recorded the sounds of a separate spacecraft. NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used one of its two microphones to listen as the Ingenuity helicopter flew for the fourth time on April 30, 2021. A new video combines footage of the solar-powered helicopter taken by Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z imager with audio from a microphone belonging to the rover’s SuperCam laser instrument.
The laser zaps rocks from a distance, studying their vapor with a spectrometer to reveal their chemical composition. The instrument’s microphone records the sounds of those laser strikes, which provide information on the physical properties of the targets, such as their relative hardness. The microphone can also record ambient noise, like the Martian wind.
With Perseverance parked 262 feet (80 meters) from the helicopter’s takeoff and landing spot, the rover mission wasn’t sure if the microphone would pick up any sound of the flight. Even during flight, when the helicopter’s blades spin at 2,537 rpm, the sound is greatly muffled by the thin Martian atmosphere. It is further obscured by Martian wind gusts during the initial moments of the flight. Listen closely, though, and the helicopter’s hum can be heard faintly above the sound of those winds.
“This is a very good surprise,” said David Mimoun, a professor of planetary science at Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (ISAE-SUPAERO) in Toulouse, France, and science lead for the SuperCam Mars microphone. “We had carried out tests and simulations that told us the microphone would barely pick up the sounds of the helicopter, as the Mars atmosphere damps the sound propagation strongly. We have been lucky to register the helicopter at such a distance. This recording will be a gold mine for our understanding of the Martian atmosphere.”
Scientists made the audio, which is recorded in mono, easier to hear by isolating the 84 hertz helicopter blade sound, reducing the frequencies below 80 hertz and above 90 hertz, and increasing the volume of the remaining signal. Some frequencies were clipped to bring out the helicopter’s hum, which is loudest when the helicopter passes through the field of view of the camera.
“This is an example of how the different payload instrument suites complement each other, resulting in information synergy,” said Soren Madsen, Perseverance payload development manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. JPL built Perseverance as well as Ingenuity and operates both of them. “In this particular case, the microphone and video let us observe the helicopter as if we are there, and additional information, such as the Doppler shift, confirms details of the flight path.”
SuperCam is led by the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where the instrument’s body unit was developed. That part of the instrument includes several spectrometers, control electronics, and software. The mast unit, including the microphone, was developed and built by several laboratories of the CNRS (French research center), ISAE-Supaéro, and French universities under the contracting authority of the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (the French space agency). Calibration targets on the rover deck are provided by Spain’s University of Valladolid.
Arizona State University leads operations of the Mastcam-Z instrument, working in collaboration with Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego. The Mastcam-Z team includes dozens of scientists, engineers, operations specialists, managers, and students from a variety of institutions.
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages the technology demonstration project for NASA Headquarters. It is supported by NASA’s Science, Aeronautics Research, and Space Technology mission directorates. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, provided significant flight performance analysis and technical assistance during Ingenuity’s development. AeroVironment Inc., Qualcomm, and SolAero also provided design assistance and major vehicle components. Lockheed Martin Space designed and manufactured the Mars Helicopter Delivery System.
A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.
Managed by the Mars Exploration Program and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate
Read full article at The Associated Press
07 May, 2021 - 03:20pm
“The conditions on Mars are so extreme that you’re not going to see fungi or any kind of life growing at that sort of speed under conditions like coldness and low air pressure,” Jonathan Clarke, president of Mars Society Australia, told the South China Morning Post. “Life can barely survive, let alone thrive.”
Clarke also took issue with the paper claiming that mushrooms were actually growing on Mars.
“It’s just like if you go to a beach and there are shells,” he told the newspaper. “If the wind blows, the sand moves and exposes more shells. But we won’t say the shells are growing there, it’s just that they become visible.”
The paper did have some fairly impressive credentialing, with authors listed from the Smithsonian Institute and George Mason University. But as it turns out, the lead author of the paper was Rhawn Gabriel Joseph, a fringe researcher known for dubious and unscientific claims about life on other planets.
Joseph has a lengthy track record of attempting to get his research published in reputable scientific journals. At one point, he even started his own renegade journal.
Joseph did break through and get a paper published in the journal Astrophysics & Space Science in November 2019, as Ryan points out — but it was promptly retracted after finding the paper “proffers insufficient critical assessment of the material presented and literature cited, and fails to provide a solid underpinning for the speculative statements made in the article which, in their view, invalidates the conclusions drawn.”
In other words, the journal realized its mistake, and seemingly laughed him out of the room.
Joseph’s latest paper was published in the journal Advances in Microbiology, a journal headquartered in China that’s been criticized for republishing existing articles, as Nature reported back in 2010.
And so here we are yet again, with the latest paper being shredded by the scientific community.
“Claiming that mushrooms are sprouting all over Mars is an extraordinary claim that requires better evidence than an analysis of photographic morphology by a known crank who has claimed, on the basis of the same kind of analysis, that he has seen fields of skulls on Mars,” University of Minnesota, Morris, developmental biologist Paul Myers told CNET.
In short, we have a mountain of evidence that Mars is extremely unhospitable to life as we know it on Earth. And photographic evidence is simply not nearly enough, experts say.
“We have more than photos, records, instruments that tell us what these materials are made of,” David Flannery, lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology who is a member of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission science team, told SCMP. “And we have models for the features we see around us.”
“Robots are sending back huge amounts of data,” he added. “We have plenty of information but it’s just that no one is interpreting the features that we see as something like fungi. There’s zero evidence for that.”
“This paper, which is really not credible, will be ignored by the scientific community,” Flannery said.
Advances in Microbiology has remained quiet, failing to respond to Ryan’s requests for comment.
The journal’s managing editor Zoey Yang did tell SCMP that the paper “was accepted with revisions as we received four review results from different reviewers” after peer review. “They all suggest that we accept it after some revisions.”
It’s an admittedly enjoyable daydream: the prospect of mushrooms growing on Mars would be a tremendous breakthrough in our understanding of our Solar System and humanity’s place in the universe.
But without backing up such claims with extensive evidence — and compelling support from academic peers — the findings should be treated with a grain of salt.
07 May, 2021 - 03:20pm
Why it matters: By recording sound on Mars, scientists will be able to learn more about how the Martian atmosphere works and potentially diagnose problems with Perseverance, should they pop up.
Driving the news: NASA released a video Friday showing Ingenuity's fourth flight on April 30 when the helicopter flew a 872-foot round-trip test.
Perseverance recorded the flight, capturing the Martian wind and hum of the helicopter's blades spinning at 2,537 rpm. (If you're watching the full video, it helps to use headphones.)
"We had carried out tests and simulations that told us the microphone would barely pick up the sounds of the helicopter, as the Mars atmosphere damps the sound propagation strongly," David Mimoun, the science lead for Perseverance's SuperCam Mars microphone, said in a statement. "We have been lucky to register the helicopter at such a distance."
The big picture: Ingenuity is the first human-made drone to ever fly on another planet, and NASA hopes the tests it's running with the 4-pound helicopter will pave the way for future missions using other drones on Mars and elsewhere.
What's next: NASA will continue to test Ingenuity on Mars, allowing it to go on farther flights and one-way trips, potentially to help scout out areas of interest for Perseverance.
The claim is bound to cause controversy. See the possible evidence.
With a window scheduled for 7:58 p.m. Friday, the Black Brant XII rocket will launch from Virginia's NASA Wallops Flight Facility.
First came the amazing pictures, then the video. Now NASA is sharing sounds of its little helicopter humming through the thin Martian air. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California released this first-ever audio Friday, just before Ingenuity was set to soar on its fifth test flight.
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Untrained citizens are trying to find traces of bamboo on last year’s ballots, seemingly trying to prove a conspiracy theory that the election was tainted by fake votes from Asia. Thousands of ballots are left unattended and unsecured. People with open partisan bias, including a man who was photographed on the Capitol steps during the Jan. 6 riot, are doing the recounting. All of these issues with the Republican-backed re-examination of the November election results from Arizona’s most populous county were laid out this week by Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s Democratic secretary of state, in a scathing six-page letter. Hobbs called the process “a significant departure from standard best practices.” Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times “Though conspiracy theorists are undoubtedly cheering on these types of inspections — and perhaps providing financial support because of their use — they do little other than further marginalize the professionalism and intent of this ‘audit,’” she wrote to Ken Bennett, a former Republican secretary of state and the liaison between Republicans in the state Senate and the company conducting it. The effort has no official standing and will not change the state’s vote, whatever it finds. But it has become so troubled that the Department of Justice also expressed concerns this week in a letter saying that it might violate federal laws. “We have a concern that Maricopa County election records, which are required by federal law to be retained and preserved, are no longer under the ultimate control of elections officials, are not being adequately safeguarded by contractors, and are at risk of damage or loss,” wrote Pamela Karlan, the principal deputy assistant attorney general with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The scene playing out in Arizona is perhaps the most off-the-rails episode in the Republican Party’s escalating effort to support former President Donald Trump’s lie that he won the election. Four months after Congress certified the results of the presidential election, local officials around the country are continuing to provide oxygen for Trump’s obsession that he beat Joe Biden last fall. In Arizona, the review is proving to be every bit as problematic as skeptics had imagined. Last month, the Arizona Republic editorial board called for the state’s GOP Senate majority to stop “abusing its authority.” “Republicans in the Arizona Legislature have set aside dollars, hired consultants, procured the hardware and software to conduct what they call ‘an audit’ of the 2020 presidential election in Maricopa County,” the editorial said. “What they don’t have is the moral authority to make it credible.” Republican state senators ordered a review of the election in Maricopa County, whose 2.1 million ballots accounted for two-thirds of the entire vote statewide, in December, after some supporters of Trump refused to accept his 10,457-vote loss in Arizona. Democrats had flipped the county, giving Biden more than enough votes to ensure his victory statewide. The senators later assigned oversight of the effort to a Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, whose chief executive had publicly embraced conspiracy theories claiming that voting machines had been rigged to deliver the state to Biden. Since then, supporters of Trump’s stolen-election story line have been given broad access to the site of the review, while election experts, the press and independent observers have struggled to gain access, sometimes resorting to going to court. In one much-noted instance, Anthony Kern, a former state representative who was photographed on the Capitol steps on the day of the insurrection — and who was on the Maricopa ballot both as a legislative candidate and as a presidential elector — was hired to help recount ballots. Among other concerns, Hobbs’ letter contended that stacks of ballots were not properly protected and that there was no apparent procedure for preventing the commingling of tallied and untallied ballots. The security violations spotted by observers, the letter stated, included ballots left unattended on tables and ballots counted using scrap paper instead of official tally sheets. Counters receive “on the fly” training. Ballots from separate stacks are mixed together. Software problems cause ballot images to get lost. The letter also noted that some aspects of the process “appear better suited for chasing conspiracy theories than as a part of a professional audit.” For instance, some ballots are receiving microscope and ultraviolet-light examinations, apparently to address unfounded claims that fraudulent ballots contained watermarks that were visible under UV light — or that thousands of fraudulent ballots were flown in from Southeast Asia using paper with bamboo fibers. John Brakey, an official helping supervise the effort, said high-powered microscopes were being used to search for evidence of fake ballots, according to a video interview with the CBS News affiliate in Phoenix. “There’s accusations that 40,000 ballots were flown in, to Arizona, and it was stuffed into the box,” he said in the interview. “And it came from the southeast part of the world, Asia, OK. And what they’re doing is to find out if there’s bamboo in the paper.” “I don’t believe any of that,” he added. “I’m just saying it’s part of the mystery that we want to un-gaslight people about.” Republicans in the Senate signed a contract agreeing to pay $150,000 for the vote review, a figure that many said then would not cover its cost. A variety of outside groups later started fundraisers to offset extra expenses, including the right-wing One America News cable channel and an Arizona state representative, Mark Finchem, who argues the election was stolen. How much in outside donations has been collected — and who the donors are — is unclear. The letter from the secretary of state also said that equipment and software being used to display images of ballots had not been tested by a federal laboratory or certified by the federal Election Assistance Commission, as state law requires. That left open the possibility, the letter said, that the systems could have been preloaded with false images of ballots or that the software had been designed to manipulate ballot images — concerns similar to those that believers in a stolen election had themselves raised. Hobbs also said the procedures for checking the accuracy of the effort included no “reliable process for ensuring consistency and resolving discrepancies” among the three separate counts of ballots. It also appeared that the task of entering recount results into an electronic spreadsheet was performed by a single person rather than a team of people from both political parties, the letter stated. Bennett, the liaison between Republicans in the state Senate and the company conducting the vote review, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Hobbs concluded her letter to him by saying, “you know that our elections are governed by a complex framework of laws and procedures designed to ensure accuracy, security, and transparency. You also must therefore know that the procedures governing this audit ensure none of those things. “I’m not sure what compelled you to oversee this audit, but I’d like to assume you took this role with the best of intentions. It is those intentions I appeal to now: either do it right, or don’t do it at all.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
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07 May, 2021 - 03:20pm
Updated 1:50 PM ET, Fri May 7, 2021