Mars looks dead, but don’t count it out just yet

Mars’ surface is a lifeless, unwelcoming desert. But beneath its red soil the planet still might be alive — geologically.

Big space news broke in 2018: Using a ground-penetrating radar aboard a Mars satellite, a group of scientists detected a thin 12-mile lake thousands of feet beneath the Martian south pole. Now, researchers have put forward a paper arguing that if there is indeed a sizable briny-lake underneath this ice cap, hot molten rock (magma) must have oozed up near the surface and melted the ice. 

Such underground volcanism would have happened in geologically recent time, perhaps a few hundred thousand years ago, or less.  Read more…

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Watch a space harpoon impale a piece of space debris

The U.S. government tracks 500,000 chunks and bits of space junk as they hurtle around Earth. Some 20,000 of these objects are larger than a softball.

To clean up the growing mess, scientists at the University of Surrey have previously tested a net to catch chunks of debris. Now, they’ve successfully tested out a harpoon.

The video below, released Friday by the university’s space center, shows a test of the experimental RemoveDEBRIS satellite as it unleashes a harpoon at a piece of solar panel, held out on a 1.5-meter boom.

The harpoon clearly impales its target. 

“This is RemoveDEBRIS’ most demanding experiment and the fact that it was a success is testament to all involved,” Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey, said in a statement.  Read more…

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El Niño has arrived. What does that mean for weather in 2019?

El Niño has arrived in 2019. So far, it’s pretty weak. That doesn’t mean it will stay that way. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Thursday that this natural climate phenomenon — which is triggered by warmer temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and can significantly affect weather in the U.S. — will likely persist through the spring. But what happens next is still unclear.

“We don’t have a good handle on where this goes the rest of the year,” Mike Halpert, the deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said in an interview. “It becomes kind of a tossup after spring.” Read more…

More about Climate, Science, Weather, El Nino, and Noaa

The Opportunity rover is dead

The Opportunity rover is dead, at age 15. 

After spending over 5,000 Martian days rumbling through the inhospitable red desert planet, NASA acknowledged on Wednesday that its sun-powered exploration rover hasn’t responded to over 600 attempts at contact since June 2018, and is presumed dead. 

“I’m standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude to declare the Opportunity mission as complete,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

Deprived of sunlight by a dust storm the size of North America, Opportunity came to rest in a place known as “Perseverance Valley,” which sits on the edge of the 14-mile wide Endeavor crater. It is here that the 400-pound machine, built by NASA engineers in Southern California, will now spend millennia getting blanketed in red dust, for the Martian winds don’t ever stop blowing. Its batteries, completely bereft of power, will not turn on again. Read more…

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Xnor’s saltine-sized, solar-powered AI hardware redefines the edge

The Green New Deal: Historians weigh in on the immense scale required to pull it off

In an attempt to cure his paralysis, a 42-year-old Franklin D. Roosevelt began to visit Warm Springs, Georgia in the mid-1920s, soaking his weak legs in the town’s soothing mineral waters. It was here that Roosevelt — who in less than a decade would become President of the United States — would see a part of the nation new to him.

And it was miserable.

“He saw the reality. He had never seen poverty like that. He saw a family of eight living in a tar paper shack, farming on depleted soil,” Paul Sparrow, director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, said in an interview. 

Roosevelt never could cure his late-onset paralysis. But FDR would heal many of the economic plagues of the nation with a massive government-funded work mobilization: the New Deal. By the early 1930s, the woes Roosevelt saw in the South had become pervasive after the Great Depression set in. “People were starving in the streets,” said Sparrow.  Read more…

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