NASA has sent the scientific world into overdrive by revealing that key findings will be revealed on Thursday November 5.
Scientific findings about Mars’ atmosphere will be revealed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Nov. 5, 2015. The event will start at 2:00 PM EST and Space.com will be providing a live stream from NASA’s Washington headquarters at the James Webb Auditorium.
Anticipation building ahead of press conference this Thursday
Jim Green, NASA’s planetary science monitor, will host the event, which will feature Michael Meyer (Mars Exploration Program lead scientist at NASA Headquarters), Bruce Jakosky (MAVEN spacecraft’s chief investigator at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics or LASP at the University of Colorado), Jasper Halekas (MAVEN spacecraft’s instrument lead for Solar Wind Ion Analyzer at the University of Iowa), Dave Brain, (MAVEN LASP co-investigator) and Yaxue Dong (MAVEN LASP science team member).
NASA is set to reveal key findings from the MAVEN spacecraft. MAVEN stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, a $671 million mission which aims to find out why Mars has no atmosphere, in addition to why and how it was lost. The mission launched in November 2013 and entered Mars‘ orbit in September 2014.
“Scientists will use MAVEN data 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,” according to the MAVEN mission overview.
Mars research progressing well thanks to multiple spacecraft
Alongside MAVEN there are another 4 spacecraft currently in orbit around Mars, such as NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey, European Space Agency’s Mars Express and India’s Mangalyaan probe. The study of the Red Planet has taken some interesting turns of late, and the announcement could be huge.
In September NASA was able to confirm that “liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars” thanks to data collected by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Scientists have also speculated that oceans and river systems may have once existed on the surface of the Red Planet, but a catastrophic event led to the demise of these bodies of water.
As it stands Mars looks to be barren but there are theories that it offered the appropriate conditions for life at one point in its history. Speaking about the discovery of water, James L. Green called the news “tremendously exciting.”
“We haven’t been able to answer the question, ‘Does life exist beyond Earth?’ But following the water is a critical element of that. We now have, I think, great opportunities in the right locations on Mars to thoroughly investigate that,” he added.
Conspiracy theories abound concerning life on Mars
A new wave of interest in Mars has led to some less-than-scientific speculation as well. A number of conspiracy theorists pointed to a rock formation that looked like a statue of the Buddha as evidence that intelligent life existed, or still exists, on Mars.
Those theories were debunked by scientists, who said that the Buddha statue could be explained by a phenomenon known as pareidolia. It has been proven that humans are likely to see faces or familiar patterns in inanimate objects due to a trick of the brain.
In order to investigate these claims, and many others, scientists have long dreamed of sending humans to Mars. Since the first humans set foot on the Moon, there have been no new milestones for manned missions.
NASA could make manned missions to Mars by 2030s
Now it appears that NASA is closer than previously thought to making manned missions to Mars a reality.
“We are farther down the path to sending humans to Mars than at any point in NASA’s history,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We have a lot of work to do to get humans to Mars, but we’ll get there.”
One hugely important factor to consider before a manned mission can take place is the production of oxygen. In order to test the necessary technology, the next-generation Mars rover will take the Oxygen ISRY experiment with it.
Should the experiment prove successful it will allow astronauts to produce enough oxygen to survive, and they will also be able to use the gas to power their spacecraft on the return journey back to Earth. It would be the first time that mankind has managed to produce oxygen on another planet.
While there is a lot of work that needs to be done before humans can travel to Mars, NASA scientists are optimistic about the prospects of a manned mission. Who would volunteer to be the first person on Mars?