NASA wants volunteers to go to Mars


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WASHINGTON —  NASA is inviting members of the public to submit their names and a personal message online for a DVD to be carried aboard a spacecraft that will study the Martian upper atmosphere.

The DVD will be in NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft, which is scheduled for launch in November. The DVD is part of the mission’s Going to Mars Campaign coordinated at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU/LASP).

The DVD will carry every name submitted. The public also is encouraged to submit a message in the form of a three-line poem, or haiku. However, only three haikus will be selected. The deadline for all submissions is July 1. An online public vote to determine the top three messages to be placed on the DVD will begin July 15.

“The Going to Mars campaign offers people worldwide a way to make a personal connection to space, space exploration, and science in general, and share in our excitement about the MAVEN mission,” said Stephanie Renfrow, lead for the MAVEN Education and Public Outreach program at CU/LASP.

Participants who submit their names to the Going to Mars campaign will be able to print a certificate of appreciation to document their involvement with the MAVEN mission.
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“This new campaign is a great opportunity to reach the next generation of explorers and excite them about science, technology, engineering and math,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from CU/LASP. “I look forward to sharing our science with the worldwide community as MAVEN begins to piece together what happened to the Red Planet’s atmosphere.”

MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. The spacecraft will investigate how the loss of Mars’ atmosphere to space determined the history of water on the surface.

“This mission will continue NASA’s rich history of inspiring and engaging the public in spaceflight in ongoing Mars exploration,” said David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

MAVEN’s principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. The university will provide science operations, science instruments and lead Education and Public Outreach. Goddard manages the project and provides two of the science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colo., built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. The University of California at Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory provides science instruments for the mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., provides navigation support, the Deep Space Network and the Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.

To participate in the Going to Mars campaign, visit: http://lasp.colorado.edu/maven/goingtomars

For more information on MAVEN, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/maven

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Green Meteorite Is From The Red Planet


Green Meteorite May Be From Mercury, A First

By Miriam Kramer

Scientists may have discovered the first meteorite from Mercury.

The green rock found in Morocco last year may be the first known visitor from the solar system’s innermost planet, according to meteorite scientist Anthony Irving, who unveiled the new findings this month at the 44th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. The study suggests that a space rock called NWA 7325 came from Mercury, and not an asteroid or Mars.

mercury-planet-profile-101111-02.jpgNWA 7325 is actually a group of 35 meteorite samples discovered in 2012 in Morocco. They are ancient, with Irving and his team dating the rocks to an age of about 4.56 billion years.

“It might be a sample from Mercury, or it might be a sample from a body smaller than Mercury but [which] is like Mercury,” Irving said during his talk. A large impact could have shot NWA 7325 out from Mercury to Earth, he added. [10 Most Enduring Mercury Mysteries]

Irving is an Earth and Space Sciences professor at the University of Washington and has been studying meteorites for years. But the NWA 7325 meteorite is unlike anything found on Earth before,  he told SPACE.com.

Meteorites from Mars are imbued with some Martian atmosphere, making them somewhat simple to tell apart from other rocks. Space rocks from Vesta, one of the largest asteroids in the solar system, are also chemically distinct, but NWA 7325 does not resemble any space rock documented by scientists today.

Irving thinks that the meteorite was created and eventually ejected from a planet or other body that had flowing magma on its surface at some point in its history. Evidence suggests that the rock could have been formed as “scum” on the top of the magma, Irving said.

mercury-3-638NWA 7325 has a lower magnetic intensity — the magnetism passed from a cosmic body’s magnetic field into a rock — than any other rock yet found, Irving said. Data sent back from NASA’s Messenger spacecraft currently in orbit around Mercury shows that the planet’s low magnetism closely resembles that found in NWA 7325, Irving said.

Messenger’s observations also provided Irving with further evidence that could support his hypothesis. Scientists familiar with Mercury’s geological and chemical composition think that the planet’s surface is very low in iron. The meteorite is also low in iron, suggesting that wherever the rock came from, its parent body resembles Mercury.

While Messenger’s first extended mission just finished, the team has put in a request to continue researching the planet with the orbiter for the next two years. If the mission is extended until 2015, the science returned by the spacecraft could help further validate or invalidate Irving’s ideas about the origin of the meteorite.Although finding meteorites on Earth that came from Mercury is less likely than finding Martian meteorites, it could be possible, Irving said.

SPACE.COM-LOGO

For more information: space.com/mercury-meteorite-discovery-messenger.html

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