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Mars Planet

December 24, 2005 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
Two new studies are challenging the notion that the desolate Martian plains once brimmed with salty pools of water that could have supported some form of life. The studies, published in the current issue of the journal Nature, argue that layered rock outcrops probed by NASA's Opportunity rover appear to have formed from volcanic ash that reacted with small traces of acidic water and sulfur dioxide gas, said geochemist Thomas McCollom of the University of Colorado at Boulder.
December 17, 2005 | John Johnson Jr., Times Staff Writer
Auroras similar to the ones that cast great curtains of spectral light over Earth's polar regions have been found on Mars, physicists at UC Berkeley said. Researchers analyzing six years of data from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft say they have found evidence of hundreds of auroras flashing across the barren landscape. The discovery is a surprise because Mars does not have a planet-wide magnetic field like the one that blankets Earth.
December 1, 2005 | John Johnson Jr., Times Staff Writer
Using sophisticated radar aboard the European Mars Express spacecraft, scientists have for the first time peered into the heart of Mars, uncovering ancient geological structures and reservoirs of ice more than a mile beneath the arid surface. "We're looking at the third dimension on Mars, something no other mission has done before," Agustin Chicarro, project scientist for the European Space Agency, said during a news conference Wednesday from the agency's Paris headquarters.
October 4, 2005 | Brenda Beitler Bowen
Site: Lake Brown in Australia, about 300 miles east of Perth. Why is it so special? In southern Australia, millions of years of continental weathering and arid desert conditions have created super-salty, acidic lakes. The water is as much as eight times saltier than the ocean. There's no other place like this known on Earth. Comparable areas may include the acid salt lakes believed to have existed in the central United States about 300 million years ago, or formations on Mars.
September 24, 2005 | From Associated Press
The Martian surface has changed in the last few years, with new gullies and boulder tracks now visible, according to images released this week. The photos, taken by the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter, suggest the Red Planet is more active than previously thought. The spacecraft, which entered orbit eight years ago, captured images of two gullies on a sand dune that were not present in 2002.
September 24, 2005 | Jia-Rui Chong, Times Staff Writer
Diana Blaney, a planetary scientist working on the Mars rover missions, stared at a black-and-white image of three rocks about the size of duffle bags in Gusev Crater. Feeling a little brain-dead from a lack of sleep and an overdose of Diet Coke, she scraped her mind for a name. Any name. Then it came to her. She had just read an e-mail from two friends, so she typed "Rita" into her computer after their black shepherd-Labrador mix. Now she was on a roll.
August 13, 2005 | Thomas H. Maugh II, Times Staff Writer
A school-bus sized spacecraft carrying the largest telescope ever installed in a planetary probe blasted off early Friday morning from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, beginning a seven-month journey to the Red Planet.
August 12, 2005 | From Associated Press
NASA postponed the liftoff of a spacecraft to Mars on Thursday after a glitch popped up in the computer software used for monitoring the fueling of the launch rocket. The problem with sensors and software that measure the amount of fuel being loaded into the rocket appeared minutes before liftoff. NASA rescheduled the launch for today, three days after the shuttle Discovery returned to Earth.
August 8, 2005 | From Associated Press
A year and a half after twin robot rovers thrilled space fans with their high jinks on Mars, NASA is heading there again. A fourth Mars orbiter is to blast off Wednesday from Florida, carrying some of the most sophisticated science instruments ever sent into space. Circling the Red Planet, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is to scan the desolate surface in search of sites to land more robotic explorers in the next decade.
June 11, 2005 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
The Mars rover Opportunity has resumed roaming the Martian surface after scientists freed it from a sand dune where it had been mired for nearly five weeks, NASA officials said. Opportunity's wheels started slipping April 26 during a planned 295-foot trip. While trying to drive over a foot-high sand dune, the robotic explorer stopped moving, its wheels hub-deep in soft soil.
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