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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Clues to Life May Change Selection of Next Mars Rover Site
16 January 2009 3:32 pm
Yesterday's announcement of methane on Mars--a possible byproduct of life--could influence where NASA's next rover touches down, according to an agency official. One possible target is Nili Fossae, a once-water-rich area that had been in contention until its relatively high altitude put the kibosh on it.
The years-long landing site selection process--open to any planetary scientist--had whittled down a list of sites to seven and then to four, all with the guidance of mission engineers. All of the finalists showed signs of once-flowing water or water-altered minerals. Nili Fossae was a favorite for its clays, which are products of water alteration. Scientists were to pass a single recommended site up the management chain for a final decision this spring by NASA Associate Administrator Edward Weiler.
At yesterday's press conference, NASA's Mars program lead scientist, Michael Meyer, explained that Nili Fossae had been axed because its high altitude made landing problematic. But that was before NASA had to delay the Mars Science Laboratory, a classically ambitious mission whose high-tech instruments and landing system pushed its launch date back to late 2011. It was also before the methane discovery placed Nili Fossae close to one of three sources of the gas. "Adding potential landing sites is possible," said Meyer. "Nili Fossae is not ruled out."