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NASA delays launch of its next Mars rover as time runs out for takeoff – The Verge

NASA is pushing back the launch of it next Mars rover, called Perseverance, to July 30th out of Cape Canaveral, Florida. The delay is due to a problem with the Atlas V rocket that’s supposed to send the spacecraft to the Red Planet.

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The quest to find signs of ancient life on Mars – Global Times

Mars may now be considered a barren, icy desert but did Earth’s nearest neighbor once harbor life?

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Mars may now be considered a barren, icy desert but did Earth’s nearest neighbor once harbor life? 
Technicians work at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, in the Gulf city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Thursday. Photo and illustration: AFP
It is a question that has preoccupied scientists for centuries and fired up sci-fi imaginings.Now three space exploration projects are gearing up to launch some of the most ambitious bids yet to find an answer.
Scientists say that four billion years ago the two planets both had the potential to nurture life – but much of Mars’ intervening history is an enigma.
The new Mars probes from the US, United Arab Emirates and China will launch this summer.
Their goal is not to find Martian life – scientists believe nothing would survive there now – but to search for possible traces of past life-forms.
These vast and costly programs could prove futile. But astrobiologists say the red planet is still our best hope for finding a record of life on other planets.
Mars is “the only planet with concrete chances of finding traces of extraterrestrial life because we know that billions of years ago it was inhabitable,” said Jean-Yves le Gall, president of French space agency CNES in a conference call with journalists this week.
Le Gall is one of the architects of NASA’s Mars 2020 exploratory probe, which is scheduled for launch at the end of July when Earth and Mars will be the closest for more than two years.
The more than $2.5 billion project is the latest – and most technologically advanced – attempt to uncover Mars’ deep buried secrets. But it is not alone, as enthusiasm for space exploration has reignited.
‘News from Mars’ 
Scientific enquiry of the red planet began in earnest in the 17th century.
In 1609 Italian Galileo Galilei observed Mars with a primitive telescope and in doing so became the first person to use the new technology for astronomical purposes.
Fifty years later Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens used a more advanced telescope of his own design to make the first ever topographical drawing of the planet.
Mars – compared to the “desolate, empty” moon – has long seemed promising for potential inhabitability by microorganisms, wrote astrophysicist Francis Rocard in his recent essay “Latest News from Mars.” 
But the 20th century presented setbacks. 
In the 1960s, as the race to put a man on the moon was accelerating towards its dazzling “Giant Leap,” Dian Hitchcock and James Lovelock were putting a dampener in hopes of finding life on Mars.
Their research analyzed the planet’s atmosphere looking for a chemical imbalance, gases reacting with each other, which would hint at life.
“If there is no reaction, then there is probably no life there,” Lovelock told AFP.
“And that was the case – Mars has an atmosphere that is completely inactive as far as chemistry is concerned.”
Their conclusion was confirmed a decade later, when the Viking landers took atmospheric and soil samples that showed the planet was no longer inhabitable.
This discovery was a “real tanker” for Mars research, Rocard told AFP.
Mars exploration programs essentially paused for 20 years.
Then in 2000 scientists made a game-changing discovery: They found that water had once flowed over its surface.
‘Follow the water’ 
This tantalizing finding helped rekindle the latent interest in Mars exploration.  
Scientists pored over images of gullies, ravines, scouring the Martian surface for evidence of liquid water.
More than 10 years later, in 2011, they definitively found it.
The “follow the water, follow the carbon, follow the light” strategy has paid off, Rocard said.
Every mission since the discovery of water has brought “more and more evidence to light that Mars is not quite as dead as we thought,” Michel Viso, an astrobiologist at CNES, told AFP.
The latest US rover to make the journey – aptly named Perseverance – is scheduled to touch down in February 2021 after a six-month journey from launch time. 
The probe is perhaps the most highly-awaited yet. 
Its landing spot, the Jezero Crater, may have once been a wide, 45-kilometer river delta. 
Rich in sedimentary rocks, such as clay and carbonates – the same types of rocks that hold fossil traces on Earth – Jezero could be a treasure trove. 
Or perhaps not.
“We know that water once flowed, but the question remains: for how long?” asked Rocard. 
“We don’t even know how long it took for life to appear on Earth.”
If the mission can bring these rocks back to Earth they might yield answers to the questions that have long confounded scientists. 
But they will have to wait at least 10 years for the analysis to be available.
Viso said the results will likely be “a bundle of clues” rather than a clear answer.
Illustration of a view over the rim of a small crater, about one kilometer across on Mars
In the beginning Scientists are also considering perhaps an even more profound question. 
If life never existed on Mars, then why not?
The answer to this could enrich our understanding of how life developed on our own planet, Jorge Vago, the spokesperson of the European Space Agency said.
Due to shifting plate tectonics below the Earth’s core, it is exceedingly difficult to find any traces of life here before 3.5 billion years ago.
Mars has no tectonic plates and so there is a chance that four billion year old signs of life that “one could never find on Earth” may be preserved there, Vago said. 
And if the latest Mars programs fail to find signs of ancient Martian life, there are always further frontiers to explore.
Encelade and Europe, moons of Saturn and Jupiter, are considered promising contenders.
Although reaching them remains more science fiction than reality.
Newspaper headline: Keep exploring

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Be a Part of History, Help NASA Design the Lunar Loo for the Next Mission – autoevolution

A mission in space involves more than just building rockets and training people to be able to withstand everything that goes with space travel for longer stretches. It also involves thinking about the mundane, apparently trivial stuff like being able to go to…

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The topic of astronauts’ number ones and twos isn’t often discussed in the media because, well, what anyone does in the bathroom is no one else’s business. This time, though, NASA wants and needs media attention, in order to reach out to as many innovators as possible – because NASA wants their help in designing the next-generation space toilet.Or, as NASA calls it, the Lunar Loo. As of the end of last month, applications opened for the so-called Lunar Loo Challenge, which will see teams or individual innovators submitting their ideas for a new space toilet. NASA plans to put the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024, and it wants to do so with a new, smaller and more efficient toilet.
Current space toilets, like the one on ISS, are made solely for microgravity. NASA wants this next generation of toilets to be for both microgravity and Lunar gravity, fit for both men and women, for both number one and number two, smaller, more silent and lighter.
“Getting back to the Moon by 2024 is an ambitious goal, and NASA is already working on approaches to miniaturize and streamline the existing toilets,” reads the campaign on HeroX. “But they are also inviting ideas from the global community, knowing that they will approach the problem with a mindset different from traditional aerospace engineering.”
Total prizes are $35,000 in the senior category, with first spot getting $20,000. Junior submissions will get recognition and official NASA merchandise. NASA doesn’t say exactly what that is, noting that it’s a “surprise.”
Submissions are accepted until August 17 and must follow a very strict set of criteria, including a weight of no more than 15 kg (33 pounds) in Earth’s gravity, a volume no greater than 0.12 m3 and power consumption under 70 Watts.
Back in the days of the Apollo program, astronauts didn’t actually have toilets, relying on plastic bags with hoses and sticky rings in order to do their business. These days, modern space toilets look like the contraptions in the video below. If you think you can do better, help NASA out and be a part of history.

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Rubery couple’s bathroom ‘demolished by builder who took £3,700 and then vanished’ – Birmingham Live

StevenDavis faces string of complaints from customers, including Susan and David Price who say he vanished after just two hours work on bathroom

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An elderly couple claim their bathroom was left demolished by a builder they had paid £3,740 for renovation works – one of a string of complaints against him.
Susan and David Price have now reported Steven Davis to trading standards after alleging he completed just two hours work at their Rubery property – and has not been seen since.
Other unsatisfied customers have also complained about the builder who advertised on the NextDoor community app.
BirminghamLive has been unable to contact Mr Davis, who trades under the name Birmingham Plumbing Services Ltd.
Steven Davis
Retired Mr and Mrs Price say they contacted the builder after spotting a recommendation on the NextDoor site, where neighbours can connect online.
They wanted a new bathroom at their home in Callowbrook Lane to include a walk-in shower and on June 5 agreed a price of £5,740 with Mr Davis.
The builder, claim the couple, visited them with tile brochures and asked them to transfer £3,740 to his account which they did, with the remaining £2,000 to be paid on completion.
Susan Price in ‘demolished’ bathroom (Image: Birmingham Live/Darren Quinton)
Former NHS worker Mrs Price, 75, said: We needed a walk-in shower now so we decided wed have the bathroom completely refurbished.
He came and was charming and showed us tiles, sat with us and had a coffee. He was so convincing.
He was going to fit an entirely new bathroom for us, it was going to be completely refurbished, tiles, shower.
The builder, from the Rubery area, arrived to start work on Monday, June 15. Mrs Price said:
He came in, demolished the bathroom, took the sink out, bath out, the shower, took all the tiles off the wall.
He was here for about two hours, then he left saying he was going to go and get the tiles and the shower tray and never came back.
Its heartbreaking really.
The couple claim they repeatedly tried to call Mr Davis, and left messages on his phone, but he has not so far called them back.
(Image: Birmingham Live/Darren Quinton)
With an out-of-use bathroom, they relied on the generosity of neighbours to help.
Mrs Price said: Our neighbour came and put the bath back in for us.
We have to clean our teeth, wash our hands in the bath because he demolished the bathroom really.
I cant believe he would do that to an elderly couple.
Weve had to be in the home for so much of the time in the last few months. My husband did go out once a week for shopping, we were very uncomfortable about it and for the rest of the time we were stuck in here.
After detailing their case on NextDoor, the couple claim they have been contacted by other customers of the builder.
(Image: Birmingham Live/Darren Quinton)
Mrs Price said:  I did put a warning on the site about him when we realised what was happening and thats how I came to get lots of people contacting me about what hed done to them as well.
Jon Colley claims he paid £1,500 to Mr Price to take out a boiler at his home in Lickey, Worcestershire.
He said: “He came over and took a look and said he was happy to do the required work and gave me a price.
“Then he asked me for a deposit of £1,500 to buy the boiler from Worcester Bosch I believe. I transferred the money over and took text message screenshots. He said via text he would order it the next day with a view to start roughly about two weeks later.
“After around a week I called and text asking if he knew a start date. I havent heard from him since then. I have text and called and heard nothing.
“I messaged asking for a refund – but he still has not been in contact at all.”
Sound engineer James Collee, 36, claims he had employed Mr Davis to install a flat roof to his home in Worcestershire and paid £100 deposit.
But he said he asked for a refund when he read about Price’s experience on the NextDoor website – and has heard nothing since.
Obviously immediately I told him we wanted a refund and we wouldnt be using him, he said.
But Ive heard nothing from him, despite numerous texts. Ive contacted him on his Facebook page for his business, by email, nothing, no response whatsoever.
Luckily our case is not that severe, its more the principle of it if anything.
“But on hearing what he had done to the elderly couple I thought it was unacceptable.
Mr Collee added: Ive raised a separate trading standards query and Ive also reported it to Action Fraud.
Im aware of ourselves as victims, Mr and Mrs Price, theres certainly five or six Ive documented.
Its just disgraceful isnt it? You wouldnt want your mum and dad treated like that.
BirminghamLive was unable to reach Steven Davis for comment.
*Have you employed Steven Davis and were you a satisfied customer? Email [email protected]

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