Space agency gears up for major announcement
NASA has announced they will hold an emergency press conference regarding its latest findings on Mars this week.
Details have leaked about the mysterious announcement which will be live streamed from 7 pm BST (2 pm EDT) on Thursday 7 June.
Although we know the press conference announcement will be regarding Mars, the s[ace agency has remained tight-lipped about what has actually been discovered on the red planet.
The announcement will feature ‘new science results from Nasa’s Mars Curiosity rover’.
The DailyMail reports: Curiosity was sent to Mars in August 2012 to to study its climate and geology as well as investigate whether the planet could sustain life or has liquid water.
Nasa has not announced where the event will be held, but it is likely the agency will host it at its headquarters in Washington, DC.
Given that Curiosity recently started to drill into the Martian surface for the first time in 18 months, it is also possible the announcement relates to something unearthed by the rover.
Curiosity was forced to abandon plans to take samples from the surface of the planet after mechanical issues took its drill offline back in October 2016.
However, Nasa engineers developed a new technique to restore the robotic explorer’s drilling ability, using its robotic arm to push the drill bit forward as it spins, much like a human might operate a drill.
The new drilling technique, dubbed Feed Extended Drilling (FED), keeps the drill bit extended beyond the stabiliser posts, which were previously used to steady the drill against the rocks.
Engineers developed the technique using an exact duplicate of the Curiosity rover on Earth.
It took almost a year to devise the method, which was successfully used on Mars on 20 May.
Ashwin Vasavada, project scientist at Nasa’s Mars Science Laboratory at JPL — the official title for the Curiosity rover’s £1.9 billion ($2.5 billion) mission, is scheduled to take part in the press conference later this week, further fuelling speculation the announcement relates to something uncovered by Curiosity.
Michelle Thaller, assistant director of science for communications in Nasa’s Planetary Science Division, based at its headquarters in Washington DC, will host the event.
Also on the bill is Paul Mahaffy, Solar System Exploration Division Director at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and Jen Eigenbrode, a research scientist at Goddard.
Chris Webster, a senior research fellow at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will also be on the panel on Thursday.
Nasa will live stream the event on its Nasa TV channel, as well as Facebook Live, Twitch TV, Ustream, YouTube and Twitter.
Viewers will be able to put questions to the panel by using the social media hashtag #askNASA.
The Mars Curiosity rover was initially launched from Cape Canaveral, an American Air Force station in Florida, on November 26, 2011.
The rover was initially intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer if the planet could support life or has liquid water, as well as study the climate and the geology of Mars.
However, due to its success, the mission has been extended indefinitely and has now been active for over 2,000 days, sending back thousands of pictures during its lonely mission.
The £1.8 billion ($2.5 billion) rover has since travelled about 11 miles (18 km) on the Martian surface.