NASA puzzles over Mars mystery of missing rover rock sample


CNET 09 August, 2021 - 10:15am 52 views

NASA Wants You To Spend A Year Simulating Life On Mars, For Science

NPR 09 August, 2021 - 04:40pm

Would you like to spend a year pretending to live on Mars in a 1,700-square-foot space shared with three other people?

If that's your idea of a dream job, you can thank your lucky stars, because NASA is hiring.

The agency is seeking applicants for what it calls a "one-year analog mission in a habitat to simulate life on a distant world." NASA plans to observe humans in a Mars-like situation on Earth so it can study the challenges that might crop up during a future mission to the red planet.

Grace Douglas, the lead scientist for NASA's Advanced Food Technology research effort at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, says the simulated mission will benefit future missions that actually go to space.

"Simulations on Earth will help us understand and counter the physical and mental challenges astronauts will face before they go," Douglas says.

NASA is looking for four crew members who will live and work for a year in a 3D-printed, 1,700-square-foot module called Mars Dune Alpha, based at NASA's Johnson Space Center. According to NASA, the crew might perform tasks such as simulated spacewalks, using virtual reality and robotic controls, exchanging communications and conducting other research.

It won't necessarily be an easy gig, though. NASA warns that the crew will experience simulated problems like those humans might face on Mars, including resource limitations, equipment failure, communication delays and other environmental stressors.

In exchange, selected crew members will help bring humans one step closer to reaching Mars.

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

NASA seeking US volunteers for Mars simulation

Click On Detroit | Local 4 | WDIV 09 August, 2021 - 04:40pm

NASA's Perseverance mission has been one of triumphs, but now the rover is facing a mystery worthy of an interplanetary Sherlock Holmes. A rock sample has gone missing.

The rover successfully made its first drill hole in a rock on Mars with the intention of collecting a small sample and stashing it into a tube. The tubes are meant to be picked up and returned to Earth by a future mission. On Friday, NASA said data indicates "no rock was collected during the initial sampling activity."

From the lab to your inbox. Get the latest science stories from CNET every week.

The sampling seemed to go as expected, but the autonomous process includes a probe check of the tube to measure how much rock is in it. "The probe did not encounter the expected resistance that would be there if a sample were inside the tube," said Perseverance surface mission manager Jessica Samuels.

The rover's Twitter account noted this sampling enigma is "something we've never seen in testing on Earth."

The rover team suspects Perseverance did everything right, but that the rock itself didn't behave as expected. NASA is continuing to analyze data and images to try to solve the mystery.

Perseverance landed in the Jezero Crater in February and its first sample was expected to be met with celebration rather than head-scratching. The crater was once home to a lake, making it a prime spot for the rover to seek out signs of ancient microbial life.

The sample attempt might not have worked out, but the wheeled explorer is equipped with 43 tubes, so the team will try again. Mars is full of surprises and the rover was bound to encounter a few hiccups as it travels across the red planet.

Follow CNET's 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.      

Science Stories