Whether there's life on Mars could be one of the defining questions of our generation, since a definitive "yes" would suggest that life is significantly more common on places that aren't Earth, which includes the entire rest of the universe. This is why we're scouting out extremophiles, and the latest almost-alien bacteria hail from a lava tube in Oregon.
It's a bad time to be a water bear, especially a water bear with a non-refundable round-trip ticket from Earth orbit to Mars' moon Phobos. Russian's Phobos-Grunt probe is having engine trouble, and unless engineers are able to work a minor miracle, the whole thing will be coming back down in a matter of weeks.
We're not really sure whether there is currently, or has ever been, life on Mars. Russia is taking a proactive approach to that whole situation and sending a spacecraft 140 million miles or so to visit the red planet with a cargo of microbial sightseers.
The six-man crew of volunteer astronauts who joined the Mars500 mission to isolate themselves in a bus-sized simulator for 520 days to simulate a journey to Mars are returning back to "Earth." Technically, they never left Earth, so they're just opening the door to their bunker for the first time in over nearly a year and a half.
Today is day 2,816 of Opportunity's 90 day mission to Mars. If you do the math, it means that we've been surprised by how awesome this robot is doing about 30 times over. It's traveled a staggering 20 miles over the last six or seven years, and JPL has put together this time-lapse of a three-year, 13-mile section of that journey.
While NASA is leaving low Earth orbit and manned lunar ambitions to private spaceflight companies, the agency has been tasked by the Obama administration with taking the U.S. beyond the moon. To that end, NASA is revealing a huge rocket that the agency's calling the Space Launch System.
It may not take us a long time to get to Mars, but on the off-chance that it does take several years for humans to get there and back, we're gonna need a bunch of food along the way. NASA's been thinking about it, and they've got some menu ideas.
We wish we had better news to report, but the official timetable for that next "small step for Man" isn't all that timely. Our species has fallen depressingly short of the star-hopping future we were promised in the post-Apollo orgy of interplanetary sci-fi — and that was all before the global economic train wreck. Still, the next few decades aren't entirely without promise. Two trends are in our favor: 1) space exploration is becoming an increasingly international sport — more competition will breed more results — and 2) the advent of a commercial space industry will shepherd a nimbler, more efficient approach to exploration. To that end, we present some of the projects that hold the most promise for Humanity's Big Move into the final frontier. While plenty of cool scientific toys will be flung out into the cosmos in the coming years, for this piece we're concentrating on the missions and projects that will directly lead to getting our species' collective butt back into the cosmos. Earth is so yesterday.
Oh no you didn't, Europe! The European Space Agency is partnering with Russia's Roskosmos for a mission to Mars, and the pair aim to be the first to reach the Red Planet. Space Race 2.0, anyone?
We've known for a while now that there's water ice on Mars, and we've seen lots of tantalizing suggestions that liquid water may have once existed on the surface in huge rivers and oceans. Today, NASA announced that for the first time, they may have actually spotted some flowing, liquid water, and here are the pics to prove it.