Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Two University of Tennessee Scientists to Begin Searching for Potential Habitats for Life on Mars

07.08.2012
NASA's Curiosity rover is scheduled to land on Mars Sunday. Then, the work will begin for two University of Tennessee, Knoxville, professors searching for potentially habitable environments on the red planet.

Linda Kah and Jeffrey Moersch, associate professors in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, are an integral part of the NASA team working on the rover.

The Curiosity rover is looking for clues to whether the Martian surface has ever had an environment capable of evolving, or potentially sustaining life. Critical evidence may include liquid or frozen water, organic compounds or other chemical ingredients related to life.

To view a video about the mission, visit http://bit.ly/PLy1eO.

Kah, Moersch and the rest of the science team will soon begin selecting targets for the rover and helping choose which instruments will be used to examine Martian soils and sedimentary rocks.

"In particular, we will be examining sedimentary rocks that form Mount Sharp, which is a more than five-kilometer-high mountain within Gale Crater, the area the rover is exploring," said Kah. "These rocks might serve as a time capsule of Mars' transition from a warm, wet planet to a cold, dry one."

Kah is part of a camera team that is searching for features within rocks that might provide clues to the role of fluids in the planet's past. When combined with chemical measurements, these observations can help determine how life might have exploited surface environments.

"We like to pretend that the rover is like a field geologist with an analytical laboratory on her back," said Kah. "Curiosity has a lot more capabilities than earlier rovers. The cameras and my scientific team act as the rover's eyes and ears."

Working from Pasadena, Calif., the team will guide the rover to collect soil material and powdered rock samples using its robotic arm to gather, filter and transfer them into the rover's analytical system. Kah and other scientists will then use an instrument capable of detecting both organic molecules and the isotopic signatures often left in rocks by microbial metabolisms.

"Twice a day, data will be downlinked to specialists who will put it into a format that will be most accessible to the rest of the scientists," said Kah. "Five teams will look at the data and use their expertise to decide the next targets and the most pertinent questions."

Moersch is searching for hydrogen—another ingredient important for life—in the form of water, ice or hydrated minerals.

"Hydrogen is an interesting element because, geologically, it is only likely to be found in water and in hydrated minerals, such as gypsum or clays," said Moersch. "Those types of minerals tell us about the history of the environment in that location and whether or not there was liquid water there, making it more hospitable for life."

Moersch and the team will use the rover's neutron detector—the same technology oil companies use to sniff out hydrocarbons in drill holes—to search for hydrogen-bearing materials and other geochemical anomalies in the Martian surface.

"If the neutron detector turns up something that is potentially interesting in a given location, we may choose to spend some additional time to investigate that location with the rover's other instruments, including sampling the subsurface with a small drill," said Moersch.

The process is painstakingly slow. The rover likely will cover only about 200 meters on a good day, and the mission will not conclude until at least 2014. Still the scientists are certain their hard work will pay off.

"I expect that we will find evidence for the building blocks of life, although that is a far cry from actually finding evidence for life," said Kah. "Personally, I am more excited by the opportunity to ask a whole set of higher-order questions about what the Martian surface was like and how it might have changed through time."

The rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 26.

Whitney Heins | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.utk.edu
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaUh7CO4Hdc&feature=youtu.be

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Tune your radio: galaxies sing while forming stars
21.02.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie

nachricht Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms
17.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Impacts of mass coral die-off on Indian Ocean reefs revealed

21.02.2017 | Earth Sciences

Novel breast tomosynthesis technique reduces screening recall rate

21.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Use your Voice – and Smart Homes will “LISTEN”

21.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>