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Talking with Vietnam about Mars

NASA is now hiring astronauts for trips to space and Mars that would blast them with radiation, but Crave’s Eric Mack learns that some corners of the world already get a similar treatment.

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    Why the best Mars colonists could come from places like Iran and Brazil

by Eric Mack

@ericcmack

Mars colonists will need to stand up to heavy doses of radiation.

NASA

On Monday, NASA officially opened an application window for the next generation of American astronauts it hopes to send to the International Space Station, lunar orbit and eventually to Mars. But to find the best candidates for dealing with the harsh levels of radiation in space and on the Red Planet, the agency may want to consider looking beyond the borders of the United States for applicants.

One of the biggest challenges in sending astronauts into deep space or setting up a base on Mars is dealing with the radiation from the cosmic rays that our sun and other stars send flying around the universe. Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field deflect the worst of this radiation, but Mars has no substantial magnetic field, which has in turn allowed much of its atmosphere to be lost to space over the millennia.

Spacecraft can be equipped with radioactive shielding to some extent, and a base on Mars could also be constructed essentially underground, using several meters of Martian soil to provide radiation protection on par with Earth’s atmosphere (this is what Mars One hopes to do). But when it comes to roaming around the surface of Mars in a spacesuit or in a rover, there’s no real practical way for those astronauts to avoid some big doses of radiation in the process.

When I attended the New Worlds conference earlier in 2015, there was a discussion of the challenge that cosmic radiation presents for space exploration, and there were some pretty far-fetched possible solutions, like genetically engineering astronauts in the future to handle more radiation.

But I was more intrigued by one partial solution that was mentioned in passing and only half-seriously — to consider astronaut candidates who are already used to dealing with more exposure to radiation than most of the rest of us.

For years now, scientists have been studying residents of Ramsar, a town in northern Iran that is believed to have the highest levels of naturally occurring background radiation for an inhabited area. Levels up to 80 times the world average (PDF) have been measured in town, yet studies of the few thousand people living in the area show rates of lung cancer are actually below average. In fact, research shows that a gene responsible for the production of white blood cells and so-called “natural killer cells” that attack tumors was more strongly expressed among the population.

10 spots in our solar system worth visiting…

In other words, there may be no need to engage in controversial “editing” of human genetics to create radiation-resistant astronauts because there might already be good prospects in a few corners of the world.

Besides Ramsar, the beaches near Guarapari, Brazil, also exhibit very high levels of natural radiation. People in Yangjiang, China, live with radiation levels three times the world average but have below-average cancer levels, and the story is the same in Karunagappally, India.

Unfortunately, none of the people from these areas would be eligible for the program NASA is now hiring for — the agency is only looking for American applicants. So who in the United States might be best suited for withstanding the most cosmic radiation?

Related stories

NASA puts out open call for new astronauts to pave way to Mars

NASA’s 20-year road map for getting us to Mars

Red Planet red flags? NASA council has doubts about Mars mission

Las Vegas odds on who will set foot on Mars first are totally nuts

As it turns out, I think it might be me. According to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the National Radiation Map, Colorado — where my family has hailed from for generations — has some of the highest levels of background radiation in the country thanks to the high altitude and naturally occurring radioactive elements working their way up from the Earth.

Today, I’m actually about 50 miles south of the Colorado border, but I’m living at a higher elevation than Denver, and previous reporting has taught me that radon levels are actually quite high in the neighborhood as well.

Unfortunately, I am quite content just writing about space exploration and have no interest in ever leaving this planet myself. (As witness our CraveCast episode, Who wants to die on Mars?) Besides, some of my neighbors — who have lived with this region’s natural radiation for many more generations than my family has — would probably make better candidates.

So if NASA is unwilling to change its eligibility requirements to consider candidates from northern Iran, perhaps the organization ought to consider sending a recruiter to Taos Pueblo in northern New Mexico instead.

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Who can help us with the Hyperloop project?

What will it take to get the Hyperloop to work on Mars?   Kids Talk Radio Science and the Barboza Space Center want to build a prototype of this ideas and we are talking to the Rloop team to get some creative ideas.   And now for the rest of the story.

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After Elon’s public discussion of the HyperLoop, he was surprised by the overwhelming interest in the concept from the public. That interest inspired him to release the monumental Hyperloop Alpha paper in 2013, which presented a number of novel solutions to problems that would arise from traveling at hypersonic speeds inside a tube.

One problem was the requirement to eliminate rolling resistance from wheels. Another was the power and reliability issues associated with a complete vacuum in the tube. And the most difficult problem would be the build up of air pressure in front of the pod as it traveled at fast speeds, an effect known as the Kantrowitz Limit (or the syringe effect).

At that time, Elon was not sure what would happen to the concept once released – but the Hyperloop went viral. He had originally thought he would have to create a subscale version himself to iron out the details, but the overwhelming interest from the public in this new mode of transportation gave him the idea of creating a contest to crowdsource the solutions.

On June 15th, 2015, SpaceX announced a competition, open to the public, where teams could submit designs for pods and subsystems that could have a chance to be tested on an actual track at SpaceX headquarters in the summer of 2016. This is when rLoop was born.

In the comments section of an article about the competition on the SpaceX subreddit, a number of members began proposing that they should collectively form a team; that maybe strangers on the internet could come together, united by a common goal, and compete against top engineering companies and universities in the world.


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Who want to create the next great battery?

Who wants to help us to create the next great battery?

Most people would conclude that it will be very difficult for young kids in high school to create a better battery.   Some would say they just don’t have the background knowledge and/or  experience.   Well, the students at the Barboza Space Center are going to try.  You can follow our work at http://www.BarbozaSpaceCenter.com.  All of our students want to dive affordable Tesslers while here on Earth.   We need better batteries for the robots and satellites that we are creating for the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures.  We are studying AP Physics for Scientists and Engineers and AP Electro-Chemistry. 

Kids Talk Radio Science will be sending out a message to all of our members and other students around the world.  We want to collaborate in finding a “Better Battery.”  Many of our students have parents that are scientists and engineers and educators with lots of contacts around the world.  You can contact us at Bob@BarbozaSpaceCenter.com or Suprschool@aol.com. 

Visit: http://www.BarbozaSpaceCenter.com  and http://www.KidsTalkRadioLA.com.   

You do need parent permission to participate in any of our programs.  

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Blog #9: Battery Improvements

http://e2af.com/review/091111.shtml

As technology advances, the power output and lifespan of batteries will be expected to advance as well in order to accommodate. Almost every standard lithium ion battery that is currently in existence and use consists of a graphite electrode. While graphite is relatively cheap and durable, silicon, which is now being explored for use in batteries, would offer a much greater power capacity. While it takes six graphite (carbon) atoms to bind to a single lithium ion, a single silicon atom can bind to four lithium ions. Current batteries can be recharged over 500 times and still retain 80 percent of their original capacity; but with the next-generation of silicon batteries, they are expected to last from 700 to 1,000 cycles. From a power output perspective, prototypes of the silicon batteries can store up to 750 watt-hours per liter, a noticeable increase from the 400 to 620 watt-hours per liter for conventional batteries.

http://www.clipartpanda.com/categories/battery-20clipart

Despite the obvious improvements from the graphite battery to the silicon one, there are some significant drawbacks to using this new type of battery. The largest concern for silicon batteries is that the silicon anodes often suffer from structural failure. Because silicon absorbs so many ions, it physically expands to four times its original size. As the batteries are used and recharged, they tend to swell and shrink, causing the battery to fall apart. This obstacle was overcome by making silicon nanowires that do not fall apart. However, this new material brought a challenge of its own. The nanowires proved difficult to bring to market because the new material required custom manufacturing equipment, making it very difficult to produce.

A variety of designs of the silicon-based battery are being explored and experimented with in order to minimize their shortcomings and bring them to the market. One possible solution is to implement the use of nanoparticles, which have silicon at the core and are surrounded by a layer of carbon. Although these nanoparticles store less energy than silicon nanowires, they do not require custom manufacturing equipment and can be used in existing factories. In addition, they seem to help solve the problems associated with silicon’s volume expansion. Another possibility is the mesoporous silicon sponge, which is basically a piece of silicon that’s riddled with holes. This fabricated silicon electrode only expands by 30% rather than 400%, a huge reduction that greatly improves the physical strength of the silicon battery. As more and more designs are formed which improve the functionality of the silicon battery, the closer this more powerful battery gets to making its mark on the world.

http://www.extremetech.com/computing/185999-us-department-of-energy-doubles-lithium-ion-battery-capacity-with-spongy-silicon

Sources:

  1. http://www.technologyreview.com/news/523296/startup-gets-30-million-to-bring-high-energy-silicon-batteries-to-market/
  2. http://forumblog.org/2014/09/top-ten-emerging-technologies-2014/#nanowire
  3. http://www.extremetech.com/computing/185999-us-department-of-energy-doubles-lithium-ion-battery-capacity-with-spongy-silicon


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NASA counting on humanoid robots in deep space exploration

High school students at the Barboza Space Center are working with humanoid and other robots in the hopes of one day getting an opportunity to work for NASA and other companies in the aerospace industry.  Our student are learning how to design prototypes. We are part of an XQ team that is working on designing the American high school.  You can follow our work at http://www.KidsTalkRadioLA.com and http://www.BarbozaSpaceCenter.com.   We would like to share this article by Robo Daily……
ROBO SPACE

NASA counting on humanoid robots in deep space exploration
by Tomasz Nowakowski for AstroWatch
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Jan 25, 2016


NASA’s R5 robot. Image courtesy NASA.

As humanity moves forward with space exploration, we should prepare for risky and extremely hazardous endeavors such as manned missions to Mars and asteroids. Having fully operational robotic help ready to assist in every dangerous task would be of the utmost importance during long-lasting journeys beyond Earth. NASA is seriously considering this subject matter, ushering new humanoid robots, expected to be space pioneers that could offer astronauts a helping hand in future expeditions.

“NASA is counting on robots to setup and care for deep space exploration facilities and equipment pre-deployed ahead of astronauts. Robots are also excellent precursors for conducting science missions ahead of human exploration,” Sasha Congiu Ellis of NASA’s Langley Research Center, told Astrowatch.net.

That’s why the agency is developing a six-feet tall humanoid robot called R5, previously known as Valkyrie. The machine weighs about 290 lbs., and what’s interesting, it was initially designed to complete disaster-relief maneuvers. In November 2015, NASA awarded two R5 robots to university groups competing in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge (DRC).

One robot is tested by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts under its Robust Autonomy for Extreme Space Environments program. The second one is available for the Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts for its Accessible Testing on Humanoid-Robot-R5 and Evaluation of NASA Administered (ATHENA) Space Robotics Challenge. According to NASA, the teams have two years to perform research and software development in order to improve the robot’s autonomy.

They will be also receiving $250,000 a year for two years and have access to onsite and virtual technical support from the agency. Moreover, the robots will compete in a Space Robotics Challenge through NASA’s Centennial Challenge Program.

“This will be our first hands-on experience with this hardware. We will leverage our lessons learned from the DARPA Robotics Challenge to perform tasks relevant to future space missions with Valkyrie autonomously,” Taskin Padir, the principal investigator of ATHENA at the Northeastern University, told SpaceFlight Insider.

Padir’s team will make contributions in three main areas, constrained motion planning and control, grasping of unknown objects, and human-robot interaction. Their testing strategy will rely on completing these task by progressing from teleoperation to full autonomy.

ATHENA program will include collecting or recovering desired samples or items, such as Mars soil and rocks as well as exiting a habitat airlock hatch and using a ladder to reach the terrestrial surface.

Next test will check if the robot is capable of removing a communications or power cable from a soft-goods storage location and attach it to a connector located at least 33 feet away, while traversing an irregular rocky terrain, like the surface of Mars. The task list concludes with repairing or replacing damaged components on complex equipment, such as a broken valve or a damaged tire on a planetary rover.

Ellis admitted that all these tests are Mars-oriented as the Red Planet is perceived as the next giant leap for humanity in space exploration.

“The universities selected as hosts for NASA robots will be asked to validate tasks like those needed on a Mars mission, pre deploying and setting up equipment ahead of human members of the crew,” she said. Creating more dexterous autonomous robots, designed to operate in extreme space environments could be crucial for expeditions to Mars and beyond. Humanoid machines could easily undertake activities dangerous for future astronauts.

“Extreme space environments are dangerous for humans. And, robots are ideal for dangerous tasks. NASA already has rovers on Mars. This is an effort to advance autonomy of humanoid robots. We will have a better understanding of when and how humanoid robots will help with future deep space exploration missions as we continue our research and development in this field,” Padir said.

In developing R5, NASA can rely on experience coming from its Robonaut project. The latest version of this humanoid robot, Robonaut 2, flew to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2011.

It was built as a prototype to work on Earth but was sent to ISS and is completing regular and repetitive tasks inside the orbital laboratory, like pressing buttons, flipping, switches and turning knobs. It also worked with two tools: the air flow meter and an RFID inventory scanner. In 2014, the robot received a pair of climbing legs to help it move around the station. It is successfully paving way for future more complex humanoid robots like R5.

“NASA has the first of this new class of care taking robot onboard the ISS today. Called Robonaut 2, this system is being used to develop and test new approaches for robots to perform maintenance and repair tasks,” Ellis noted.

The R5 project is a part of NASA’s Game Changing Development Program. Langley Research Center manages this program for the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.


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How can teachers and students from Vietnam and the USA help our international team?

The new Kids Talk Radio Science Channel will be updating you on what is going on in the world of STEM NEWS (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).  Our goal is to work with students from around the world on our new projects: The Occupy Mars Learning Adventures, NASA Needs Your Help, and the Cabo Verde Tenth Island Project.  We have just started a series of hands on STEAM++ (science, technology, engineering, visual and performing arts, mathematics, computer languages and foreign language) workshops in California and will continue through 2015-2016 and beyond.  For more information  about workshops and projects you can contact:

Bob Barboza at Suprschool@aol.com or visit: http://www.KidsTalkRadioLA.com and http://www.OccupyMars.WordPress.com.

STEM NEWS

Doug Podcasting from Antarctica

Students Collaborate Worldwide on Science, Engineering
By Lynn Petrinjak | Published: May 12, 2015
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A student at Preston Middle School in Fort Collins, Colorado, holds up a prototype rechargeable lantern for inspection by collaborating students at the CHAT House in Uganda via Skype. Photo courtesy of Heidi Hood
A student at Preston Middle School in Fort Collins, Colorado, holds up a prototype rechargeable lantern for inspection by collaborating students at the CHAT House in Uganda via Skype. Photo courtesy of Heidi Hood
It’s an international effort that may be unique: Students in the United States and Canada are working together to design 3D–printed, portable, battery-powered, rechargeable lanterns that students in Uganda and the Dominican Republic, who do not have reliable access to electricity, will field test. This isn’t an act of charity, it’s a “global collaboration to use kids’ unique talents and technology to make the world a better place,” says Tracey Winey, media specialist at Preston Middle School in Fort Collins, Colorado.

“The premise of the program is everybody has different talents,” she continues. “It’s not one group serving another. Each [group] is contributing unique talents to make a successful program. We have laid a foundation that everybody’s voice is important.”

The groups include students at Preston Middle School; Riverview High School in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada; the Care and Hope through Adoption and Technology (CHAT) House in Uganda; the Dominican Republic; and Pheasey Park Farm Primary School and Children’s Centre in Walsall, United Kingdom.

At Preston Middle School, students in the One Million Lights Club visit Winey’s media center before and after school and during lunch to work on the project. Along with Winey and John Howe, the school’s vice principal, they have Skyped with CHAT House students to learn more about their particular needs for the portable lights and shared their designs with the Riverview students. The CHAT House students also will field test the lights designed and built in Colorado. Winey says the CHAT House students will check the circuits to make sure they work and track how long the lights last, how many cranks are needed to charge the battery for how many minutes of light, whether the light is strong enough, how long batteries must be plugged into solar panels to be fully charged, and more. Their feedback will help the Preston students improve their designs.

“One byproduct [of the project] is light, but another is to foster global collaboration…[while] creating philanthropy in our kids,” explains Winey. “Our kids learn so much content through this program. This isn’t a class; my kids come before school, after school. Kids are motivated because they are curious and they know their work matters.”

And it does. While speaking with the CHAT House students, Winey’s students learned they wanted handheld lights so they would be able to identify predatory animals and other threats when they left the main CHAT House building to visit outhouses during the night. Her students also learned that while CHAT House has a generator for reliable light inside the orphanage, most of the surrounding village does not, which could lead to resentment. Sharing rechargeable lights with their neighbors would help build a stronger sense of community.

At Riverview High School, science teacher Ian Fogarty shares the story of Maria and Hailey with his students. In August 2014, one of his students met the two girls in the Dominican Republic. They both dream of becoming doctors, but struggle to study after dark when their home only has electricity a few nights a week.

“Engineering seems to be a nice mix of purposeful science,” Fogarty says. Instead of getting “lost in our science lab,” he adds, philanthropic engineering projects provide concrete answers to why students learn about circuits. “Now they are learning to help somebody. I tell them, ‘Here’s their story, here’s how we can help.’ It gives content real-life purpose…The motivation is ‘We’re going to learn this to help somebody; if we don’t learn, someone is going to suffer.’ There is no middle ground; either it works or it doesn’t.”

Fogarty was able to add the light project to his existing curriculum. “It wasn’t a big change in the classroom. It was a change of focus. We can do the same tests as before,” he explains. His ninth-grade students do the same circuitry labs as in previous years, but do them with Maria and Hailey in mind. In his 10th-grade Broad Based Technology course, students use Google SketchUp to draw cases for the flashlights, while 11th- and 12th-grade physics students go into greater depths working with electronics and microprocessors. The Science 12 class, which “blends the borders [among] science, humanities, and language arts,” also examines the role of the local culture, investigating how they will get the lights to Maria and Hailey (and other students in similar situations), he relates.

“Engineering is the last gender gap, I think,” remarks Fogarty. “In this project, eight out of 12 students are girls. Three [female] students not in class are checking in weekly. They tell me, ‘We’re invested in it now. We want to see it through.’ One of the goals is gender equity in science moving forward; this seems to be helping that out quite a bit.”

The Fort Collins and Moncton students shared their designs with one another electronically. Winey explains the Moncton students knew more about circuitry than her middle school students did, and her students had more experience in virtual collaboration and 3D printing. In addition to collaborating on circuitry with Winey’s students in Colorado, Fogarty’s students worked across the Atlantic Ocean with Gareth Hancox’s fourth-grade students at Pheasey Park Farm Primary.

“My students taught those students about circuits and sent them a design task [to create] cases. Each kid spent five [to] eight hours of [his or her] own time designing lights. They pitched their designs to us and really challenged what my high school kids were thinking…They’ve helped us with brainstorming design,” says Fogarty. The elementary students’ designs included glow-in-the-dark cases, dimmer switches, and options to make the lights wearable.

Hancox notes this “revolutionary approach to learning…between elementary and high school students on different continents has been a giant leap forward in learning. Both sets of students had interesting, sensible, and exciting ideas on how best to approach the problem of supplying light to students in the Dominican Republic. What happened next was true collaboration; the younger students presented their designs over a Skype video presentation with immediate feedback from Canada. Ideas however ‘out of the box’ were discussed, and certain elements were further developed until a final design was agreed upon by all the students.” He adds that it has been incredibly important for his students “to work on a real project with definitive outcomes that will change the lives of others.”

Fogarty and Winey also tapped into resources in their local communities. He has had an engineer “loaned” from a technology company check that the students were designing with safety in mind, and a university professor visit while students worked on circuit boards. Volunteers from Intel worked with Winey’s students on soldering, and the school’s computer science and electronics teacher checked students’ circuits. “The beauty of it is that people who want to come, come. It’s truly motivated by people…serving for the sake of serving,” Winey says.

UNESCO has declared 2015 the Year of Light to raise awareness about light-based technologies and how they can be used to promote sustainable development and resolve energy, education, agriculture, and health challenges. Winey and Fogarty hope more educators will be inspired to make philanthropic engineering part of their curriculum.

With Howe, they launched a website, http://www.philanthropic-engineering.org, to share how they have made creating reliable light sources for others central to their students’ learning experiences. Fogarty hopes to eventually add more philanthropic engineering materials—such as designs for an automated greenhouse a group of his students have been working on to support a community garden—to the site.

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of NSTA Reports, the member newspaper of the National Science Teachers Association.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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Kids Talk Radio Needs Intern News Reporters: We will train you.

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How would you like to report the news from your country to students from around the world?

Kids Talk Radio can use your help.   We are looking for student journalists from grades 5 thorough 12. We need you for our new volunteer intern program. You must have parent permission to participate. Your job is to report the news from your country in the areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). We will provide you with free training.

How to apply?

  1. Your parents, guardians or teachers must send us a letter asking permission for you to participate in this program.
  2. You must write a sample news story and send it to Suprschool.com.
  3. We will need an MP3 or Wav file of you doing a sample news report for radio.

Questions:

Contact: Bob Barboza at Suprschool@aol.com

You can follow our work at:

www.KidsTalkRadioLA.com

www.KidsTalkRadioUSA.com

www.OccupyMars.WordPress.com

www.SuperSchoolUniversity.WordPress.com

www.KidsTalkRadioWorld.WordPress.com

www.Youtube.com/user/KidsTalkRadio


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Who wants to move to Mars? We have found water and that is all we need.

MARSDAILY

NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Sep 29, 2015


Dark, narrow streaks on Martian slopes such as these at Hale Crater are inferred to be formed by seasonal flow of water on contemporary Mars. The streaks are roughly the length of a football field. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona 

New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water – albeit briny – is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

These downhill flows, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), often have been described as possibly related to liquid water. The new findings of hydrated salts on the slopes point to what that relationship may be to these dark features.

The hydrated salts would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly. Scientists say it’s likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening.

“We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration. In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks,” said Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, lead author of a report on these findings published Sept. 28 by Nature Geoscience.

Ojha first noticed these puzzling features as a University of Arizona undergraduate student in 2010, using images from the MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). HiRISE observations now have documented RSL at dozens of sites on Mars. The new study pairs HiRISE observations with mineral mapping by MRO’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

The spectrometer observations show signatures of hydrated salts at multiple RSL locations, but only when the dark features were relatively wide. When the researchers looked at the same locations and RSL weren’t as extensive, they detected no hydrated salt.

Ojha and his co-authors interpret the spectral signatures as caused by hydrated minerals called perchlorates. The hydrated salts most consistent with the chemical signatures are likely a mixture of magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate.

Some perchlorates have been shown to keep liquids from freezing even when conditions are as cold as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 Celsius). On Earth, naturally produced perchlorates are concentrated in deserts, and some types of perchlorates can be used as rocket propellant.

Perchlorates have previously been seen on Mars. NASA’s Phoenix lander and Curiosity rover both found them in the planet’s soil, and some scientists believe that the Viking missions in the 1970s measured signatures of these salts. However, this study of RSL detected perchlorates, now in hydrated form, in different areas than those explored by the landers. This also is the first time perchlorates have been identified from orbit.

MRO has been examining Mars since 2006 with its six science instruments.
“The ability of MRO to observe for multiple Mars years with a payload able to see the fine detail of these features has enabled findings such as these: first identifying the puzzling seasonal streaks and now making a big step towards explaining what they are,” said Rich Zurek, MRO project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

For Ojha, the new findings are more proof that the mysterious lines he first saw darkening Martian slopes five years ago are, indeed, present-day water.

“When most people talk about water on Mars, they’re usually talking about ancient water or frozen water,” he said. “Now we know there’s more to the story. This is the first spectral detection that unambiguously supports our liquid water-formation hypotheses for RSL.”

The discovery is the latest of many breakthroughs by NASA’s Mars missions.
“It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future.”

There are eight co-authors of the Nature Geoscience paper, including Mary Beth Wilhelm at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California and Georgia Tech; CRISM Principal Investigator Scott Murchie of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland; and HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona. Others are at Georgia Tech, the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and Laboratoire de Planetologie et Geodynamique in Nantes, France.