NIAC: Exploring subsurface oceans – “Doing the hard thing”

Over fifty years ago John Kennedy articulated one of the most important reasons for exploring space:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. . . “

NASA has a program which seeks out the things which are not easy, which are hard and which organize and measure the bet of our energies and skills: NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concept program (NIAC).

Earlier this month NIAC awarded a Phase I grants to several projects, giving each $100,000 and nine months to prove the feasibility of some aspect of the proposal.

One of the Phase I awardees was a project submitted by Dr. Masahiro Ono, a research technologist at JPL. Dr. Ono proposes exploring the oceans of Enceladus and Europa using a lander with three separate modules.
Continue reading “NIAC: Exploring subsurface oceans – “Doing the hard thing””

Mars: More water and more questions

NASA announced the week that Curiosity has backtracked to a formation it passed a few months ago to take a closer look at deposits of silica.C00002

Silica is silicon dioxide, a mineral which makes up 26% of the earth’s crust by weight. Silica based minerals include quartz, opal and tridymite. Tridymite is rare on earth and is usually found in areas which have experienced magma flow. NASA scientists were surprised to find it in the silica deposits examined by Curiosity.

Why is all this important? Continue reading “Mars: More water and more questions”