Scientists Find Possible Window to Martian Life


Researchers from Brown University announce discovery of large deposits of glass formed by impactors on the surface of Mars. Similar impactors on Earth have preserved signatures of ancient life.

Martian crater Alga

Researchers have found deposits of impact glass preserved in Martian craters like Alga (above) using data from NASA’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM). Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/University of Arizona

Using satellite data, the team detected deposits of glass within Martian craters. The glass, which was formed by unimaginable heat brought on by violent impact, could possibly offer a “delicate window into the possibility of past life on the Red Planet.”

Could such a window exist in these unlikely circumstances? Research groups on Earth have shown that terrestrial ancient biosignatures can be preserved in impact glass. In one study, geologists found organic molecules and plant matter in glass that formed during an impact millions of years in the past. Evidence suggests the same process could have occurred on Mars.


NASA Selects Eight Projects for 2016 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge


American space agency announces selection of eight U.S. universities to create new technologies for deep space exploration, including the journey to Mars.

X-Hab loft

This 2011 version of the deep space habitat at the Desert Research and Technology Studies (Desert RATS) analog field test site in Arizona features a Habitat Demonstration Unit, with the student-built X-Hab loft on top, a hygiene compartment on one side and airlock on the other. Credit: NASA

As NASA makes progress on its new Space Launch System and continues to emphasize future deep space missions, it has to deal with a critical problem. Put simply (and in NASA’s own words), the breadth of available technology required to successfully complete such long duration flights is inadequate.

The problem is even broader than that. Not only will new technology be required if humanity is to explore beyond low Earth orbit, but new engineers will also be needed to invent and produce that technology. Hence NASA’s X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge.

X-Hab is NASA’s way of providing university students with the chance to be part of the innovation so desperately needed for space exploration.


Engineers Perform “Heart Surgery” on James Webb Space Telescope


Airbus Defense and Space experts complete a delicate surgical procedure to exchange key components from the “heart” of Hubble’s replacement.

Artist impression of the James Webb Space Telescope

August 2013 James Webb Space Telescope mural image. (Artist’s impression.) Credits: Northrop Grumman, NASA

NASA announced the success of a procedure to upgrade a key component of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). JWST is the successor to NASA’s hugely successful Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built and will revolutionize the discovery and examination of planets beyond our solar system.

The telescope will fly four main instruments that will “detect light from distant stars and galaxies, and planets orbiting other stars.” The engineers carried out the surgery in order to upgrade one of the instruments, the Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec). 


Lockheed Completes Assembly of InSight Mars Spacecraft


NASA Moves One Step Closer to Continuing Exploration of the Solar System

InSight Spacecraft

NASA’s InSight Mars lander spacecraft in a Lockheed Martin clean room near Denver. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin announced it has completed assembly of NASA’s InSight Mars Spacecraft. The craft will be the next NASA vehicle to travel to Mars and will be the first mission devoted to understanding the interior structure of the Red Planet.

With assembly completed, the craft will next undergo critical environmental testing. The objective of this testing will be to determine if InSight can survive the 140 million mile journey between Earth and Mars, land, and conduct its critical science mission.

Engineers at Lockheed’s Space Systems facilities in Denver, Colorado, will subject InSight to extreme vibration and noise similar to conditions it will experience during launch. They will then expose the spacecraft to cold and vacuum in order to replicate the trans-Mars voyage. Finally, the test team will simulate what Lockheed describes as “the gauntlet of entry through the Martian atmosphere.”


MUFON Releases Monthly Sightings Report for May 2015


Each month, MUFON releases a statistical break-down of UFO reports by country and state. These numbers are gathered from MUFON’s case management system (CMS).

In May, the United States saw 900 reports filed through CMS. Out of the American states, California and Texas saw the most reports with 91 and 56, respectively.

See the full statistical report, including the state-by-state breakdown and international numbers, below the fold.