Long time, no blogging. Breaking the silence with something a bit different than my usual content – a molecular biology question for you.
Read the rest…
Late one evening back in July 1997, I was alone in the lab writing my Ph.D. thesis, several months behind schedule. I fired up the web browser (probably Mosaic in those days) on our single computer and discovered that a tiny rover was about to land on Mars. Live, on the web!
When people use the phrase “web design circa 1996″, this is what they mean. It was all very exciting back then. Up came the first image, in near-real-time. Wow!
I’ve been a Mars geek ever since. Yesterday morning there I was again, except this time I was watching live streaming video of the Phoenix lander. After a near-perfect landing, the science is set to begin and it could be pretty exciting. Phoenix is the first lander since the Viking program to dig into and analyse the Martian surface. If there ever was (or is?) microbial life there, Phoenix has a pretty good shot at finding the signs.
Get the news as it happens from:
Longest running TV programme with the same presenter? Why, that would be The Sky At Night, soon to mark its fiftieth anniversary.
It’s a peculiarly-English TV show which has doubtless inspired many a young scientist, myself included.
The recently-demised Mars Global Surveyor has left us a legacy – evidence for flowing water today on Mars. Here’s the NASA press release and a BBC Science News story. The findings will be reported in Science tomorrow.
Let’s not get too excited. Planetary photogeology is a very interpretive science. Interpretations have been wrong before and always seem to split scientists into “for” and “against” – in this case the water versus CO2 camps. On the other hand, the possibility of subterranean water is very exciting. I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for Gilbert Levin, the Viking mission scientist who maintains that the Viking lander has already found evidence of microbial life. One of his arguments is that surface water is quite possible based on temperature/pressure measurements from Viking. It would be fun if the evidence finally brought NASA around to his position after all these years.
update – Science abstract, also reports present-day impact craters.
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter continues to amaze. The latest press release links to images of the Spirit rover and the Viking landers (the latter touched down in 1976). Vehicles, heat shields, backshells and parachutes are all clearly visible – you can even see the folds in the Spirit parachute.
These are great publicity demonstrations for MRO – let’s hope that they continue to inform us of the science from the mission.
10 years after launch, it looks like Mars Global Surveyor has signed off.
I guess it’s sad for the people who worked on the mission. However, MGS had a great run and generated lots of science. There are still plenty of current and future missions too.
Meanwhile, aboard the ISS:
# 06:38 p.m. – Perform golf shot demonstration
# 06:41 p.m. – Begin BTN-Neutron experiment installation