Friday, October 20The Voice of London

NASA’s Mars Announcement – Live

Voice of London will be live-blogging the upcoming announcement from NASA on Mars. The live-stream (that we have included below) will begin at 19:00 GMT, and is predicted to reveal something important about the atmosphere on the red planet. The announcement by NASA last month revealed that evidence of water had been discovered on the planet’s surface.

Words: Megan Townsend, Corey Armishaw

Mars Captured by the Hubble Telescope. Source: Hubble
Mars Captured by the Hubble Telescope. Source: Hubble

NASA live-stream here

Check the live-stream above at 7:00pm for the announcement.

 

  • 20:25

NASA has uploaded this handy highlights video for those who missed the announcement:

  • 19:55

That’s all folks, expect to hear much more about this as NASA scientists do one on one interviews with the media. All the info is available on the MAVEN website.

If you keep watching the NASA live stream you will be treated to live footage from the International Space Station. Being able to watch the crew go about their research, and preparations for a space walk taking place tomorrow.

Don’t forget to upload your CV to NASA, so that maybe you too can boldly go into the unknown of space.

CA

  • 19:50

Northen lights on mars?

“Yes, mars does experience similar aurora as that of earth.”

Effect of comet impacts/passings?

“Dust would be deposited from the comet into the atmosphere. Very rare though. More common is interplanetary dust. This has the effect of producing a long standing layer of metal ions in upper atmospheric layers, chemical processes driven by that are affecting atmosphere as a whole.”

How does this get you closer to understand what happened eons ago?

“We would have liked to observe more, but we don’t have $4 billion, so we’re studying today and trying to extrapolate backwards. We’re so focused on what’s going on today, haven’t had time to look into what happend in the past.”

What kind of lessons does this give for earth?

“Climate problems on mars very different for earth climate change. Eg human induced climate change. Comparing apples and oranges, no direct comparison, but we do get a better understanding on atmosphere pressure in general.”

CA

  • 19:40

Phone in questions from journalists now.

Any other reasons for loss of atmosphere?

“Possibly asteroids” basically quite a few things, they’re still researching it.

Which event did you get these results from?

“Many”

When would mars have had lakes etc

“From geology we can tell that about 3.7 Billion years ago water was very abundant and active, but the stripping by the solar wind has caused the loss of the atmosphere at the water.”

How much more of a loss needed to cause more damage

“Early Mars would have had a magnetic field, but the evidence suggests its disappearance 2.4 billion years ago.”

Sustainable life?

“The question of water is the highlight of this study. Water can exist today but only slightly. So we have this contrast of global scale water, and tiny amounts of liquid water that might be present today. It’s all about trying to understand the history of liquid water”

Main thing learnt from the studies is that mars is very complex, and everything needs to be studied in tandem with the others. Atmosphere, geology and now upper atmosphere.

They hope to answer the question of “Was there life on mars at some point, if so was it terrestrial?”

A few more questions, then it’s over.

CA

  • 19:30

Right, first to twitter questions then:

Could this happen to Earth, now or in the future?

“Mostly, yes. Earth is losing particles, but has a big magnetic field which helps defend it.”

“During the periods in which Earth’s magnetic field reverses, it is more sucebtable to striping by solar winds”

Possible to reverse effect of mars? (Terraforming)

“Its all been striped away into space, so it’s not possible to bring it back, because it no longer exists.”

CA

  • 19:22

Discussion has moved onto the ice which escapes from Mars because of the solar winds. Things have got very technical, well done if you’ve managed to keep up.

Roughly 100 grams of atmosphere escape every second from Mars. Essentially water escaping the planet. This is a huge scale of loss, even Jasper Halekas seems overwhelmed.

The effect is weakened during solar storms as Mars would be partially hidden.

They’re hoping the new finding on atmosphere will help understand other planets, not just Mars.

Onwards to questions.

CA

  • 19:10

We’re hearing about Ancient Mars, a planet that was filled with water and lush greenery. MAVEN has been studying what happened to this old planet and turned it into the barren wasteland it is today.

Solar wind is supposedly one cause, or as Michael Meyer explains it “The answer my friend, is blowin in the wind”.

Luckily Earth’s strong magnetic field helps shield it from solar wind, somthing Mars lacks.

It is able to deflect it partially but not fully.

CA

  • 19:05

Dwayne Brown opens the proceedings by hyping up MAVEN and teasing a planned mars mission in 2030’s. As he rightly mentions, Twitter is going insane. The plan is for people to ring or tweet in to get their questions answered by the panelists. Michael Meyer takes over to begin briefing.

CA

  • 18:58

    Two minutes until the start of what should be a very interesting announcement. Sit back and prepare your brain for some intense knowledge to be dropped. The stream will no doubt be busy, so expect some lag on the video.

    CA (Corey Armishaw)

  • 16:00

Nasa have given hints on twitter to what the announcement may reveal to us, it looks likely to be the past of mars and its similarities to earth:

  • 13:45

 

 NASA put out a call for new astronauts yesterday, revealing they would begin taking in applications, and unveiling a new class of astronauts by December 14th with a final class announced in 2017 – the year of a proposed Mars mission. Could these astronauts be the first to go to Mars?

If you’re thinking of applying, there are a few very specific criteria. Whilst education isn’t too specific (though you would have to be a world class mathematician, engineer, physicist or some sort of expertise in technology or a science-based discipline) there is also the matter of physical specifications.

Candidates must be between 62 – 75 inches tall, have 20/20 vision and blood pressure cannot be above 140 while sitting.

What does this mean for the announcement? It could mean that life very much exists on the planet, and would be safe for astronauts to travel. The class of 2017 may well be the first to step foot on Mars.

Megan Townsend

  • 13:23  

Three things the NASA announcement could reveal

Life on Mars?

Probably the theory getting everyone most excited is the possibility that MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) found evidence in the atmosphere that living organisms exist on the red planet.  By looking at methane readings, a gas produced by living creatures, it could indicate that life very much exists on its surface.

{vine here}

This is not an entirely ludicrous concept; There have been previous methane readings, with tiny amounts found in 2003. The amount of ultraviolet radiation on its surface should break down methane rapidly, however a persistent presence would indicate that something on the surface is replenishing it. The initial theory for this had been that the gas was originating from asteroids and meteorites, however since Mars is so far away from the Sun, it receives far less impacts than earth, certainly not enough to maintain methane levels.

Last year, bursts of methane were recorded, possibly released by martian bacteria with readings increasing by 1000% in an area of 300 square meters. A new measurement by Maven could finally reveal where those bursts came from, and what caused them.

 The History of Mars Atmosphere?

We already know that the revelation will be linked to MAVEN, a team  studying Mars atmosphere.  They released this Vine on the 9th of September, a time-lapse of how the planet may have lost its atmosphere, and even a subtle hint on the past of the planet.

If so, this evening we may learn the about the possibility of travelling to mars and the theoretical history of the planet that led to its current atmosphere. The curiosity rover had found evidence that it once had a lush, dense atmosphere – with lakes and rivers. Currently the planets atmosphere is 98.5% less dense than that of earth, the announcement could explain the process of how this happened. Many hypothesize that this was due to a cooling of the planet’s core and loss of its natural magnetic field.

Though it seems the most predictable of the possible developments – it is important. This will allow NASA to determine the possibility to sending humans to Mars, and plan for future missions.

Can Humans Survive on Mars?

Although this feels like something quite obvious, we actually know very little about the effects that Mars’ atmosphere, distance from Earth and indeed distance from the Sun, will actually have on the Human body if a manned mission were to take place.

The planet is bombarded by a lot of solar radiation and unlike earth, humans would not be protected by the atmosphere. Currently the understanding is that an extended amount of time on the planet could cause cancer. Considering Mars plans to have a space colony within the next few decades, this might cause a few problems.

Last week scientists even found evidence of an “acid fog” that regularly sweeps the planet, released from massive volcanoes. Could this announcement end our dreams of Mars exploration? Will you finally have to say goodbye to your aspirations of a futurama-style ranch on the red planet?

Possibly not. With the last big announcement we learned of life sustaining saltwater on the planet. If MAVEN have discovered a spike in oxygen levels this could spell good news for exploration missions and the first step toward getting humans to Mars.

– Megan Townsend

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