3D rendering of the martian surface with hills and the text, "Is there salt on Mars?"

Exploring the Salty Secrets of Mars (Tidal Salt)

The possibility of life on other planets has been a subject of fascination for centuries. As we explore the universe and search for signs of life on other planets, the question of whether there is sea salt on Mars has become an intriguing topic for researchers.

Sea salt is a common substance found on Earth, and it plays a significant role in our lives. It is used in food preparation, as a preservative, and as a key ingredient in many skincare products. But is there sea salt on Mars?

Some researchers believe that there may be traces of sea salt on Mars, based on data from the Curiosity rover. In 2013, Curiosity discovered evidence of a dry lakebed on the surface of Mars that contained deposits of salts, including calcium sulfate and sodium chloride. While these salts are not the same as the sea salt found on Earth, they are an indication that there may be a history of water on Mars.

To gain more insight into the presence of sea salt on Mars, we reached out to Dr. Tanya Harrison, a planetary scientist and expert in Martian geology.

Read more: Exploring the Salty Secrets of Mars: Insights from Planetary Scientist Dr. Tanya Harrison by Tidal Salt

More on Mars’ Watery History (Planetary Radio)

Mars expert Tanya Harrison shares the details on some of the newest discoveries about Mars’ history, including the discovery of an impact crater thought to be linked to a megatsunami in Mars’ ancient ocean and the discovery of opals, a water-rich gem, in Gale Crater. Stick around for What’s Up as we let you know what to look for this week in the night sky.

Listen here: More on Mars’ Watery History by Planetary Radio (The Planetary Society)

The Explorers Club Unveils “50 Individuals Changing the World” (Yahoo! Entertainment)

NEW YORK, Feb. 1, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The Explorers Club today unveiled its annual list of the 50 People Changing the World That the World Needs to Know About – scientists, educators and conservationists whose work will unlock the secrets of the oceans, advance conservation efforts, protect rare and endangered species, and take us further into space. 

The Explorers Club 50 (EC50) was established in 2020 to amplify the communication of science so that it is more inclusive and represents the many diverse voices in the global scientific community.

“We’re hoping to find or inspire the next Buzz Aldrin, Jane Goodall, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, or Kathy Sullivan. We see our EC50 members as being the next generation of individuals who will take us further into space, conserve our earth and oceans, and protect at-risk species worldwide,” said Richard Garriott de Cayeux, president of The Explorers Club. “At a time where science is often under attack, we need to ensure that this next generation of scientists and educators are given as many platforms and resources as possible to conduct and promote their work,”

Among this year’s new EC50 members are:

Dr. Tanya Harrison a scientist and mission operations specialist on multiple NASA missions to Mars, including the Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance Rovers, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Read more: The Explorers Club Unveils “50 Individuals Changing the World” by Yahoo! Entertainment

The Year Ahead in Astronomy (Gizmodo)

People to Follow: Tanya Harrison is a geomorphologist and the Director of Science for Impact at Planet; before that, she worked on remote sensing for several Mars rover teams. Harrison is a great follow for keeping up with spaceflight missions like Artemis I, but also understanding how space (and seeing Earth from space) can inform our understanding of planets.

Read more: The Year Ahead in Astronomy by Isaac Schultz

“Good Night Oppy” Tells the Human Story of Robotic Space Exploration (Medium)

An Opportunity operations team member’s reaction to a new documentary about an old friend.

January 2004: I was in my sophomore year of college, studying astronomy at the University of Washington. The Sojourner rover had me hooked on the Red Planet from the day it landed in the summer of 1997. The moment that rover took its first drive onto the martian surface, my entire life became focused on the goal of working on Mars missions. Since planets are in space, I figured an astronomy degree would be the right first step.

But that winter morning, I wasn’t buried in a textbook. My attention was wholly transfixed on the television, nervously waiting to see if the Spirit rover was going to successfully land on Mars. In the time since Pathfinder, NASA’s luck hadn’t been going well…they’d lost both the Mars Polar Lander and the Mars Climate Orbiter in rapid succession. If the twin Spirit and Opportunity rovers weren’t successful, it could be the death knell for Mars exploration. Thankfully, both rovers landed within days of each other, and began their planned 3-month expeditions on opposite sides of the planet.

I never would’ve guessed that four years later, I’d be working with those same rovers. And I certainly never would’ve guessed that nearly a decade after that, I would still be working on Opportunity, and even be on shift the day we lost her signal for the last time.

See more: “Good Night Oppy” Tells the Human Story of Robotic Space Exploration by Tanya Harrison

NASA spacecraft collides with asteroid in planetary defence test (Al Jazeera)

A NASA spacecraft has hit an asteroid in an unprecedented test designed to prevent potentially devastating collisions with Earth.

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft crashed into the asteroid Dimorphos about 11 million kilometres (6.8 million miles) from Earth at about 23:00 GMT on Monday.

The US space agency livestreamed the test from the mission operations centre outside Washington, DC, showing images taken by DART’s own camera as the cube-shaped “impactor” vehicle, no bigger than a vending machine with two rectangular solar arrays, careered into Dimorphos, an asteroid about the size of a football stadium.

Cheers could be heard from engineers in the control room as second-by-second images of the target asteroid grew larger and ultimately filled the TV screen of NASA’s live webcast just before the spacecraft’s signal was lost, confirming it had crashed into Dimorphos.

“Impact confirmed for the world’s first planetary defense test mission,” said a graphic that appeared on the live stream.

Read more: NASA spacecraft collides with asteroid in planetary defence test by Al Jazeera

Smelling strawberries, smoke and space in virtual reality (ASU)

​Virtual reality, or VR, has been a topic that has fascinated the public for years.

Movies like “Ready Player One” show the varied possibilities of this technology. Now, Arizona State University researcher Robert LiKamWa wants to take users one step closer to the future of VR.

LiKamWa, an associate professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and an assistant professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, leads a multidisciplinary team of students and faculty from across ASU departments to incorporate realistic, environmentally-sensitive smell into VR for more than just entertainment.

He and his team see possibilities for VR to be a valuable tool in a variety of scenarios in which smells represent vital information and are a powerful emotional tool.

While others have developed smell for VR, the ASU team is working on elements to enhance the experience, like incorporating different intensities of smells depending on how close the user is to a scent and combining multiple odors that can be present in the virtual environment.

The project known as the Smell Engine emerged from work that Tanya Harrison, former director of research at the ASU NewSpace initiative, had been leading for the university’s Interplanetary Initiative. Harrison’s original intent was to incorporate smell into virtual reality training for space exploration applications.

“When Tanya first called me and said she wanted to understand how outer space smells, I thought, ‘That’s so weird, I have to say yes to this project,’” says Trustees of ASU Professor Brian Smith, from the School of Life Sciences .

Read more: Smelling strawberries, smoke and space in virtual reality by TJ Triolo

‘Mission: Interplanetary’ podcast returns for Season 3 (ASU)

The Arizona State University Interplanetary Initiative’s podcast “Mission: Interplanetary” will launch its third season Oct. 4 with a stellar lineup of guests and, for the first time, guest hosts.

This year’s season brings hosts astronaut Cady Coleman and scientist Andrew Maynard back together. Maynard is the author of “Films From the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies” and “Future Rising,” as well as a professor in ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Coleman is a veteran of two space shuttle flights and spent six months living and working onboard the International Space Station. She serves as the ASU global explorer-in-residence at the School at Earth and Space Exploration.

They will be joined by guest hosts Tanya Harrison and Joe O’Rourke, who will take over hosting duties for several episodes.

Read more: ‘Mission: Interplanetary’ podcast returns for Season 3 by Sally Young