NASA set to make another major announcement about Mars
BRACE yourselves people. NASA has another announcement to make about Mars.
(Cue triumphant trumpets.)
Just what exactly it is we still don’t know.
The only shred of information we have been given is that the US space agency has said it will provide details of “key science findings” from it’s MAVEN (Mars, Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mars since 2014.
The exploration mission has been studying the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere and it’s the first time NASA has announced any findings from the project.
Given MAVEN’s mission, it is likely the announcement will have to do with the planet’s atmosphere. We just don’t know whether it’s about it’s past or present.
The spacecraft carries eight different sensors, including an ion mass spectrometer and a magnetometer, Science Alert reported.
NASA says this is to: “Determine the role that loss of volatiles from the Mars atmosphere to space has played through time, giving insight into the history of Mars’ atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability.”
So maybe the Red Planet’s past atmosphere?
The only other indication of what this announcement could be has come in a recently posted Vine by the space agency.
In it NASA says: “The atmosphere on Mars is whisper-thin and drier than bone – but it wasn’t always that way. For the past year, the MAVEN mission has been orbiting the planet, piecing together clues about what happened to all the air on Mars. At 2pm (Washington EST) on November 5, NASA will hold a briefing on some new findings about the Martian atmosphere.”Ooh.
The last time NASA made such a big announcement, space enthusiasts rejoiced.
It revealed there was evidence that water flowed on Mars.
This revelation gave further rise to the possibility of life on the Red Planet.
Data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter — a multipurpose spacecraft designed to conduct exploration from orbit — had provided the strongest evidence to date that liquid flowed intermittently on present-day Mars.
Director of planetary science at NASA headquarters Jim Green said in September that the space agency was revolutionising our understanding of the red planet.
“Our rover’s finding a lot more humidity in the air than we ever imagined. As we inject the soils, they’re moist, they’re hydrated, full of water,” he said. “These discoveries are very important, but only part of the hydrological cycle on Mars that we are just now beginning to understand.
“What we are going to announce today is Mars is not the dry, arid planet that we thought of in the past.
“Today, we are going to announce that under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found on Mars.”
These dark, narrow, 100m-long streaks called recurring slope lineae flowing downhill on Mars are believed to have been formed by contemporary flowing water. Picture: NASA/JPL/University of ArizonaSource:Supplied
So what will this new finding mean?
We already know from the recent water discovery that it had increased the possibility of life on Mars.
NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, John Grunsfeld, said that in September.
“The existence of liquid water, even if it’s super salty briny water, gives the possibility that if there’s life on Mars, it will give us a means to describe how life survived,” he said.
“We are now at a point, technologically, with over 50 years of successful space flight, that we have the capability to go there, ask this question ‘is there life on Mars?’ and answer it.
“This to me is the most exciting thing. Now that question is not an abstract scientific question. It’s a concrete one that we can answer.”
So if NASA is has already said the Red Planet’s atmosphere wasn’t always “whisper-thin and drier than bone” maybe the announcement could be that it’s atmosphere was more like Earth’s?
But we can only speculate.
The only people that do know are those who are set to talk at the conference, which is being held at NASA headquarters in Washington.