[…] significant progress in the solutions of technical problems is frequently made not by a direct approach, but by first setting a goal of high challenge which offers a strong motivation for innovative work, which fires the imagination and spurs men to expend their best efforts, and which acts as a catalyst by including chains of other reactions.
Why Explore Space?
In 1970, Sister Mary Jucunda wrote to NASA scientist Dr. Stuhlinger about his research into a piloted mission to Mars asking him how he could suggest to spend money on such a project when there are children starving on Earth. Stuhlinger wrote back to her a thoughtful reply that’s worth reading, especially today.
The pit-chains of Mars – a possible place for life?
The latest images released from ESA’s Mars Express reveal a series of ‘pit-chains’ on the flanks of one of the largest volcanoes of the Solar System. Depending on their origin, they might be tempting targets in the search for microbial life on the Red Planet.
The origins of these pit-chains could involve groundwater, like in similar structures on Earth, and this is an interesting scenario, because there could be cave-like structures associated with the pits, in which microorganisms could have survived the harsh surface environment of Mars (via ESA)
Mars Express reveals wind-blown deposits on Mars
Syrtis Major, discovered in 1659 by Christaan Huygens, is a volcanic province on Mars.
Newly released images of a part of Syrtis Major seen from ESA’s Mars Express orbiter show lava flows that flooded the older highland material, leaving behind buttes – isolated hills with steep sides that were too high to be affected.
They can be identified by their lighter colours and their eroded state, and some even show ancient valleys on their flanks.
Individual lava flows, filled craters and partly-filled craters can be made out in the images. The prevailing wind direction can be seen from the dispersal of the lighter-toned dust and darker-toned sand in and around the craters and buttes. The smaller craters illustrate this clearly.
The largest crater in the pictures has a small central peak and contains a small dune field of darker-toned dunes to the east of its floor.
The number and size of craters can be used to date surfaces in the Solar System because craters slowly accumulate as impacts occur over time. This information can be used to date the volcanic province and suggests an age of over 3 billion years. (ESA)
The fourth planet from the Sun.
Chandra’s image of Mars gave scientists their first look at X-rays from the red planet. In its sparse upper atmosphere, about 120 (75 miles) kilometers above the surface, X-rays are produced by fluorescent radiation from oxygen atoms excited by X-radiation from the Sun. The X-ray power detected from the Martian atmosphere is very small, amounting to only 4 megawatts, comparable to the X-ray power of about ten thousand medical X-ray machines. (by Smithsonian Institution)