Space News: December 10, 2015

dn28644-1_800Mars moisture-farming mission gets approval for 2018 launch

Earlier this year, Javier Martin-Torres of Luleå University of Technology in Kiruna, Sweden, and his colleagues reported results from NASA’s Curiosity rover suggesting that liquid water pools just beneath the surface of Mars at night before evaporating during the day.

The team has designed an instrument called HABIT to measure and test this process, and ESA has now approved its use on ExoMars, the joint mission between ESA and Russia to send a rover and lander to Mars in 2018.

HABIT will use salts to absorb 5 millilitres of water from the atmosphere a day, and it can hold up to 25  millilitres in total. That might not sound like much, but if the process works, it can easily be scaled up to provide water for future crewed missions to Mars, says Martin-Torres.

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US Air Force’s X-37B space plane wings past 200 days in orbit

Mum’s the word: The U.S. Air Force’s secretive X-37B space plane has winged its way past the 200 day mark, carrying out a classified agenda for the American military.

While the overall duties of the space plane remain secretive, it was previously announced that this craft carries a NASA advanced materials experiment and an experimental propulsion system developed by the Air Force.

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Ceres’ mysterious bright spots are giant salt pans, Dawn mission data shows


Strange bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres are giant salt pans caused by the evaporation of water from a subsurface ocean, scientists have confirmed. The researchers said the findings could help us understand how our solar system — and particularly Earth — evolved.

“A significant number of objects in the inner solar system are now known to have water ice or briny water on them, and all these ingredients are needed for life on Earth as we know it,” Dr Reddy said.

“So the ingredients for life could have come from all these small bodies and they contributed a lot of material to Earth early in the history of the solar system both in terms of organics and water, so we could be here because of asteroids hitting the Earth.”

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A vacancy for a Ground Segment and Information Systems Engineer has arisen within Airbus Defence & Space in Toulouse. You will join the “Ground Equipment” department of the Telecommunications satellite division in Toulouse. This department is responsible for procuring, installing, configuring and operating the control centres. More information

Build up your space experience by participating in the Space Flower challenge. Describe how you see the process of growing, saving and/or delivering flowers in the outer space. Use any form for your solution: writing, videos, images or schemes. More information



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