Thanks to its carved topography, researchers have always suspected that Mars was once home to several rivers, lakes, and perhaps even oceans. There has even been some speculation about the existence of frozen water deep beneath the ground. However, finding evidence of liquid water in the present day, has been a little elusive. That is why NASA's September 28th announcement that confirmed the detection of liquid brine on the Red Planet caused so much excitement.
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On August 28, six researchers who barely know each other made their way to the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii's Big Island for a year-long "vacation." However, the crew of three men and three women that includes a soil scientist, a doctor, a post-grad architect student, and an astrobiologist, did not check into a fancy resort. Instead, they locked themselves up inside a solar-powered dome without fresh air, fresh food, or privacy.
Space food has come a long way since John Glenn orbited Earth in 1962. He and other members of Project Mercury, the first American human spaceflight program, had to endure unappetizing foods that came in the form of bite-sized cubes, freeze-dried powders, and semi-liquids stuffed in aluminum tubes. Today astronauts can select from an extensive menu of over 70 foods and 20 beverages. The one thing they still can't get? Fresh fruits and vegetables!
Cheers erupted at "Plutopalooza" parties all across the United States as the New Horizons spacecraft soared past the dwarf planet at 7:49 am EDT on Tuesday, July 14th. The historic encounter that brought the spacecraft within 7,800 miles of Pluto, successfully ended the three billion mile journey that began almost a decade ago.
Fifty years ago, on March 18th, 1965, Soviet Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov took the first spacewalk. It lasted just twelve minutes and almost ended in a disaster. That's because the vacuum of space caused his pressurized suit to inflate and become rigid, making it impossible for Leonov to re-enter the Voskhod 2 space capsule airlock. The quick thinking astronaut let out some of the precious air from his suit and despite severe decompression sickness, manage to stumble back in and live to tell his harrowing tale.
On March 28th, US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will launch aboard the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft on a historic mission - a year long visit to the International Space Station. The trip, the first of many that will be undertaken before a manned mission to Mars, is a test to gather information about the psychological and physical effects of extended space travel on the human body.
On December 5th, 2014, NASA scientists got one step closer to their dream of landing humans on Mars with Orion's successful test flight. One of the biggest challenges it overcame was withstanding the dreaded Van Allen radiation belt located 3,600 miles above Earth's surface. Now scientists have to come up with a way to ensure that the humans that will call the spacecraft home during the six-to-nine month long journey to the Red Planet and back, are able to do the same.