NASA Rover Finds Clue to Mars' Past and Environment for Life

Mars outcrop called “Comanche”Rocks examined by NASA’s Mars rover Spirit hold evidence of an ancient wet, non-acidic environment that may have been favorable for life. Confirming this mineral clue took four years of analysis by several scientists.

Spirit inspected many rock outcrops, including one called Comanche by scientists. They discovered magnesium iron carbonate makes up about one-fourth of the measured volume in Comanche samples. That is a tenfold higher concentration than any previously identified for carbonate in a Martian rock. 

Massive carbonate deposits on Mars have been sought for years without much success. Numerous channels apparently carved by flows of liquid water on ancient Mars suggest the planet was formerly warmer, thanks to greenhouse warming from a thicker atmosphere than exists now. The dense, ancient Martian atmosphere was probably rich in carbon dioxide, because that gas makes up nearly all the very thin, modern atmosphere.

Lunokhod Once Was Lost but Now It's Found — After 40 Years

A Soviet robot lost on the dusty plains of the moon for the past 40 years has been found again, and it is returning surprisingly strong laser pulses to Earth. “We shined a laser on Lunokhod 1’s position, and we were stunned by the power of the reflection,” says Tom Murphy of UC San Diego, who leads the research team that’s putting the old robot back to work. “Lunokhod 1 is talking to us loudly and clearly.”

The remote-controlled rover traveled almost seven miles during its 11-month lunar tour, relaying thousands of TV images and hundreds of high-resolution panoramas of the moon back to Earth. It also sampled and analyzed lunar soil at 500 locations. Then Lunokhod-1 was lost — until last month when NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter found it again.

Murphy’s initial reaction was disbelief: “The signal was so strong; my first thought was that our detector was acting up! I expected the rover’s reflector to be degraded and dull after all this time, so I thought, ‘This couldn’t possibly be it.’ But it was. We got about 2,000 photons from Lunokhod 1 on our first try. After almost 40 years of silence, this rover has a lot to say.” 

To read more about the rediscovery of Lunokhod 1, visit

Big Lunar Eclipse

Saturday, June 26th, there’s going to be a lunar eclipse — and for many residents of the USA, it’s going to be a big one. The eclipse begins at 3:17 a.m. PDT when the moon enters the sunset-colored shadow of Earth. By 4:38 a.m. PDT, the moment of greatest eclipse, 54 percent of the moon’s diameter will be covered. From beginning to end, the event lasts almost three hours.

Although the eclipse is only partial, it will be magnified in size and charm by the “Moon Illusion” — a result of the eclipse occurring close to the horizon from viewing sites in the USA. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. In fact, a low moon is no wider than any other moon — cameras prove it — but the human brain insists otherwise. The effect will be particularly strong in western and central parts of the USA and Canada where the moon will be setting as the eclipse reaches maximum.

NASA Satellite Images Used to Locate Ticks

Blacklegged tick resting on a blade of grass
Finding a tick usually involves a squeamish self-examination — carefully rubbing fingertips through your scalp, meticulously scanning your body, and groaning “eyeww” if a little bloodsucker is discovered. But now there is a new way to discover these pesky, disease-laden critters — via satellite!

Two University of Alabama at Birmingham graduate students are pioneering the new technique as part of a NASA program called DEVELOP. They’ve been using satellite images of Alabama’s Talladega National Forest to reveal likely areas of the forest where ticks may flourish. The students used what they learned from their NASA advisor, Dr. Jeff Luvall of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, to classify levels of vegetation and moisture in 12 locations in the forest. They then created detailed digital maps and images showing likely tick habitats — areas where dense vegetation overlapped those with high soil moisture. 

If you want to know more about the program, visit:

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Women in Space Day!

Did you know that 53 different women including cosmonauts, astronauts, payload specialists and foreign nationals have flown in space? That six different female cosmonauts have flown with the Soviet/Russian program and 47 different women have flown with NASA?
In 1963, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space when she piloted the Vostok 6 spacecraft. Later, she married Andrian Nikolayev, another cosmonaut. Their child Yelena was the first child born to space-faring parents.
Sally Ride was the first American woman in space but the third woman in space overall after Tereshkova and Svetlana Savitskaya. Savitskaya flew on Soyuz T-7 on Aug. 19, 1982.

Peggy Whitson was the first woman to complete a six-month tour of duty aboard the International Space Station as the station commander for Expedition 16 in April 2008.

For more information on Inspirational Women of NASA, have yourstudents visit

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