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Fri, June 2 2017

Former Lake Environment on Mars Might Hold Clues to Life Beyond Earth

When John Grant was only 16, the Viking landers were sent to Mars. Today, Grant  helps lead the operation groups controlling two Mars rovers,  Opportunity and Curiosity, as a geologist at the National Air and Space Museum’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies. Recent data collected by Curiosity and published in Science describes an ancient lake environment located at Gale Crater—an environment Grant, a coauthor of the article, believes holds further clues to whether there was ever life on the Red Planet.

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Curiosity's Selfie
Thu, August 4 2016

On This Day: Phoenix Launched to Mars 

On this day in 2007, the Mars Phoenix lander was launched from a Delta II at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Phoenix flew to a site in the far northern plains of Mars where it analyzed components of the surface, subsurface, and atmosphere.

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On This Day: Phoenix Launched to Mars 

Phoenix Mars Lander Launches
Mon, July 25 2016

Exploring Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes: A Towering Red Planet Analog

As the National Air and Space Museum’s annual Mars Day! celebration approaches, we look to a recent research trip taken by a Smithsonian Summer Intern to investigate the similarities between some of Earth’s most amazing dunes and those found on the ruddy surface of Mars.

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Measuring a Megaripple
Wed, September 30 2015

Mars: One Mystery Revealed, Many More to Solve

The recent announcement by NASA that there is evidence of salty, liquid water seeping out of the ground on Mars is both exciting and scientifically puzzling at the same time. As a member of the science team for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), I’ve been hearing about these possible seeps, or Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL), for several years now.

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Recurring Slope Lineae on Hale Crater
Tue, January 7 2014

10 Years on Mars

For the last ten years the missions of the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have brought breathtaking images of Mars back to Earth.

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Setting Sun
Wed, September 18 2013

Bruce C. Murray

Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) from 1976 to 1982, Bruce Murray was a geologist whose vision was never earthbound. He earned his PhD from MIT and served two years in the U.S. Air Force before joining the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1960. Caltech manages JPL for NASA, and soon Murray was working on JPL’s Mariner missions to Mars. During his tenure as director of JPL, the Viking spacecraft landed on Mars and the Voyagers began exploring the outer solar system. He also oversaw Earth orbital missions, including Seasat, the Solar Mesosphere Explorer, and Shuttle Imaging Radar-A.

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Bruce C. Murray
Tue, August 20 2013

Digging up some Dirt on Mars

The Viking program represents a major effort by the United States to explore Mars, with the particular goal of performing experiments on Martian soil to look for possible evidence of life.  Four individual spacecraft were sent to Mars as part of the Viking project, two orbiters and two landers, launched as identical orbiter/lander pairs.    

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Viking 1 Launch
Thu, January 3 2013

That was the Year That Was…2012 in Air and Space

No question 2012 will be remembered as a simultaneously joyous and tumultuous year, certainly in politics but also in air and space. As a retrospective of the year just gone, here are my five most significant events in air and space. Like all such lists, it is idiosyncratic and I recognize that others might choose different events. I list them in order of their occurrence—not according to their significance—during the year, along with my reason for including them on this list.

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First Marine Aviator - Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham
Thu, October 18 2012

Investigating the Apollo Valley

In July, I joined a team from Johnson Space Center and elsewhere in investigating the geology of Apollo Valley with rover-deployed scientific instruments. Apollo Valley is a former 1960s Apollo-era astronaut training site at 3,505 meters (11,500 feet) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The project was funded by NASA's Moon and Mars Analog Mission Activities Program, which funds projects that simulate scientific, robotic, and human aspects of exploring the Moon and Mars, with the goal of designing the most effective, efficient, and well-integrated future missions. 

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Apollo Valley, Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Mon, August 6 2012

Drive on Curiosity, Drive On!

“You put an X anyplace in the solar system, and the engineers at NASA can land a spacecraft on it,” so said actor Robert Guillaume in an episode of “Sports Night.” Amen brother, the team that landed Curiosity proved the truth of that statement one more time with the successful landing of a big rover on Mars in the wee morning hours of August 6, 2012! It was a stunning success.

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