Desperately Seeking (Signs of) Martian

A newly-formed group at NASA hopes to build on the success of the Mars Curiosity rover by creating workable plans for future exploration of the planet.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

A report with the theme “Seeking the Signs of Life” is coming out in the next few weeks that will detail next steps in Mars exploration via the efforts of a newly-formed group at NASA, the Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG). The recent success of the Curiosity rover, combined with budget cuts and President Obama’s challenge to put humans on or near the planet in the next 20 years, is propelling the MPPG to come up with innovative changes to NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. The report grew from a meeting of Mars experts in June that helped demonstrate the possibility of significant scientific progress  from research and development partnerships involving scientists from around the world.

What’s the Big Idea?

For example, the MPPG is “looking at mixing technology with increasing capability over time … leading up to putting larger things on the surface” than the 1-ton Curiosity. Suggestions presented include “gliders and balloons, ground-thumping penetrators, deep drilling platforms, slinky robot snakes, and even sensor-laden tumbleweed-like vehicles.” While some of these seem like they’re coming right out of science fiction and fantasy, the director of the Mars Exploration Program insists that the MPPG’s outputs remain in the realm of science fact, providing NASA with feasible ways towards discovering evidence of past or current life on the planet.

Photo Credit:

California wildfires death toll climbs to 50

Firefighters in California are still struggling to contain several wildfires nearly one week after they broke out.

(Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Hundreds of people are still missing after three wildfires spread across Northern and Southern California last week.
  • 48 of the 50 deaths occurred after the Camp Fire blazed through the town of Paradise, north of Sacramento.
  • On Tuesday night, a fourth wildfire broke out, though it's mostly contained.
Keep reading Show less

Too much sleep results in cognitive decline, researchers find

We know the dangers of too little sleep. Now for the other side of the story.

Photo: Vladislav Muslakvo / Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Western University researchers found that sleeping over eight hours per night results in cognitive decline.
  • Oversleepers suffer similar difficulties on certain cognitive tests as those who sleep under seven hours.
  • Not all the news is bad: One night of oversleeping results in a cognitive boost.
Keep reading Show less

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
Keep reading Show less