With NASA focussing more on their Journey to Mars than ever, it’s unsurprising that they have more information to share with us — but still no less exciting. As opposed to September’s water on Mars announcement, when NASA left us guessing as to what they would be revealing, we have been told that this event will be addressing recent findings about Mars’s atmosphere.
This week NASA celebrates 15 years in space — which means that from this Monday, November 2, there has not been a single day without humans living and working in space. The ISS program is only a stepping stone in the Journey to Mars, however, which is why Mars developments are so important at this time. Tomorrow’s announcement will be based on the MAVEN Mission’s findings about Mars’ atmosphere — which could be vital to any potential extended settlement on the planet.
Here’s a quick rundown of what we know so far to bring you up to speed for tomorrow morning’s announcement. Mars has a notoriously thin, bone-dry atmosphere, although it was not always that way. Recent findings have shown that Mars used to be a wet planet like earth, with up to one fifth of the planet being covered in water. That meant that the planet had to have had a much denser atmosphere than it does currently, to support such an environment. It could even potentially have supported life.
In what NASA describes as a dramatic climate change, most of the atmosphere was at some point lost to space, leaving Mars in the state in which we all know it today. Many features of the terrain on Mars show evidence of Mars’ wet past, such as dry channels and water-smoothed pebbles — not to mention the recently discovered seasonally flowing water that still exists today.
MAVEN, which stands for Mars Atmospheric and Volatile EvolutioN, is one of five active satellites currently orbiting Mars, with the mission to collect data on the planet’s atmosphere. It’s the first spacecraft ever to make direct measurements of the Martian atmosphere, and is equipped with eight different instruments to take these measurements. The measurements it takes are intended to provide critical data on Mars’ historical climate change event — which is critical to understanding whether Mars was once able to support life.
This information could also inform Mars’ ability to support life in the future, which is crucial to NASA’s extended Journey to Mars. NASA’s plan for Mars is not to undertake one single expedition-style trip to Mars, but to establish an extended human presence on the planet, just as we have in space now with the ISS. So will tomorrow’s announcement reveal something important for future habitation? You’ll have to watch to find out.
The event begins at 2pm EST, which equates to 6am AEST. For all the space enthusiasts out there it should be well worth the early morning, however. You can watch NASA’s briefing live on the space agency’s streaming channel, NASA TV which we’ve embedded below:
NASA TV airs video to the public 24/7, including live coverage of ongoing space missions. This will be the first place that the news appears.