The Search for Life on Mars


Astronomy


From the Big Bang to Galaxies

In the beginning, the universe started the size smaller then an atom. Near instantly, the universe started to expand. Matter and anti-matter particles were created from radiation. The energy created form matter and anti-matter particle annihilating each other created matter. Before the universe was a tenth of a second old, protons and nuclei are created. The universe was dominated by the lighter particles, such as the electron. Proton and nuclei combined to create helium nuclei. For the next 300,000 years, the universe expanded and cooled down. Once the temperature reached a low enough point, electrons were able to start to orbit protons and hydrogen nuclei. After about 2 billion years, galaxies started to form. This happened because of gravity and clumps of matter or atoms.

The Milky Way Galaxy

In the center of our galaxy, there is a central bulge. Around the bulge there are red and orange stars, which are very close together. In the very center of the galaxy is also believed to be a huge black hole. Surrounding our galaxy is a huge koruna, which is about 10 times bigger than our galaxy. The koruna has star, dust and gas in it. Dark matter is pulling on the stars we see, but no one knows what it is.

Lives of the Stars

Stars form in cold dark clouds of gas and dust. Often times, a blast wave causes clumps to form, the gravity starts to pull it together and causes it to rotate. The energy of the falling gas heats up the center of the clump, which in turn creates a proto star. The stars are provided nuclear energy by creating helium from the hydrogen gas. It is this reaction which keeps the star burning. Hottest stars are blue-ish white, second are white, then yellowish cream-ish, followed by orange and red.

The Sun

In the center of the sun, the temperatures is 15 million degrees. It is in here that hydrogen nuclei crash hard together and build nuclei of helium. Sun spots are more than 1000 degrees colder than what's around it. The suns magnetic field is about 5 times stronger than Earths. The sun spins about once a month. Each Magnetic field line is tied into the fabric of the sun. As the sun turns the the field gets more distorted. Sun spots form where the field loops out through the surface. The twisted magnetic field resets every 11 years.

History of the Solar System

Our sun formed just like all other stars. Solid particles collected into lumps called planetesimals when the planetesimals collided; some combined became bigger and shattered. In the outer, Jupiter, Uranus, Saturn, and Neptune were formed. While on the inner solar system Mercury, Mars, earth and Venus were formed. Constant bombardment and radioactivity heated up these planets. In hot liquid stank to the center while the cooler liquid went to the top and froze. The oxygen was created by plants by breaking down Carbon Dioxide. The atmospheres of Venus, Mars, and Earth were hypothesized to have been created by gases released form volcanoes.

Hubble Deep Field Academy (HAL)


In the orientation of HAL, it is hypothesized that there are about 3000 objects. In level 2, I learned that astronomers categorize such objects in multiple categories, including irregular, stars, spiral galaxies, and elliptical galaxies. In level 3, I learned astronomers can estimate distance in space by studying the light it emits. Another way is taking a picture of a certain region of space, then in 6 months, take a picture of the same region and compare to the two to find a depth. In level 4 I learned the color and shape of a galaxy can indicate its age. Also in level 4 I learned astronomers are able to estimate the number of galaxies in the Universe by dividing space into sectors, then counting the number of galaxies in that one sector, and then multiplying that number by the number of sectors. Once done, they have a rough estimate of the number of galaxies. I found out that spiral galaxies are often the youngest, and are often blue or white, especially in the arms. Next would be the elliptical galaxies, after the Spirals galaxy has collided with another, or some other incident occurs, it causes the Elliptical Galaxy to form. Elliptical galaxies are often red or orange and contain no young stars. Scattered galaxies often have no pattern, and are just scattered.

Below is a labeled picture of the Hubble Telescope. This is the telescope that has the Hubble Deep Field (HDbF)
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Ancient to Modern Rocketry


Ancient Rocketry

The earliest type of rocket/engine employed boiling water, then have the water travel up specific tubes to two nozzles that were attached to a sphere. These nozzles lead outside and propelled the sphere. This may not seem significant, but this lead to the discovery of rockets. The first rockets are believed to have come from the early Chinese. Some of the ways the Chinese used the rockets were for fireworks. Later they found that they could attach the early versions of fireworks to arrows, or sticks, and rain "fire arrows" on their enemies. While these raining arrows didn't often kill their enemies, they did cause a physiological effect on their enemies. If you see mass amounts of fiery arrows rain down on you, it makes you want to run.
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Modern Rocketry

Tsiolkovsky is considered the father of modern rocketry. He was the first to proposed rockets for space exploration, and use of liquid propellant. His ideas lead to Goddard's experiments.

Goddard was able to create the first liquid propelled rocket. This is significant because it lead to more discoveries regarding rockets, and opened the doorway for liquid propellants which are still used today. Another amazing accomplishment was from Nazi Germany. They were able to created the V-2 rocket, with hopes of using it military purposes. They had hopes that they could send the missile long range and hit the United States. Although these early rockets were created to late in the war to make a major difference. Soon after the V2 rockets, NASA was formed to be a civilian agency that had hopes to explore the stars. Although when first formed, NASA was created to catch up with Russia's technology of rockets.


Model Rocket Labeled Parts

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Rocket Launch Analysis


I highly recommend listening to this MP3 track of "Flight of the Valkaries" by Waglen as you read through this part of the wiki. It is very fitting for this section.

The purpose of this experiment was to see if weight would effect the height the rocket would fly. The experiment was performed by first constructing the rocket, out of a kit. After we finished the construction, all the rockets were about the same. But to change the weight of each rocket, they were painted. Not only to change the weight, but to secure the glue of the fins and launch lug. The data appears to be random, seeing as some outliers caused this. But, part of the data appears to be a parabola shape. This makes me believe that if its to light, the air resistance is to great, but if its to heavy, gravity causes to much resistance. But if it is at the perfect weight of about 45.5 g, it has a chance of going very high.
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This graph contains the data from the rocket experiment.

The rocket started to sizzle after both buttons were pressed, igniting the engine. It soon flew off the launch pad with no errors. It flew in a near straight path upwards of about 50 meters very quickly, only to loose its momentum when the cap ejected. The parachute soon deployed only to get caught in the wind, and move about 15 meters from the launch pad, only to be caught by myself. The rocket itself was pretty well constructed, it seemed sturdy enough to withstand an impact without the parachute, with little loss of fins. I believe our rocket would have flown better if it had had slightly less mass than it does now. Roughly around 45.5 grams. Otherwise, there is little to change that would effect its flight.


Rover/Egg Drop Experiment


My team and I designed a vehicle that was mainly focused on cushioning the the fall. The egg was held in a cup, also in the cup was a crumpled up paper towel to fill in space, and provide small amount of cushioning. The cup was then surrounded by bubble wrap, that was help together by rubber bands, just to make it easier for the egg to be taken out. That contraption was attached to two things, the first one being a gallon sized zip-lock bag that was blown up, similar to a balloon, full of air. In that bag was a slightly inflated balloon. The other thing attached to the egg-holder was a parachute consisting of two sheets of paper, held together by tape. This was to reduce the speed of the whole vehicle before impact with the ground. In hindsight, a bigger parachute would have been much more helpful. Other than that, there was little room to improve, seeing as we only dropped the contraption off the bleachers which were about 15 feet up. Our design was the way it was, due to the fact that being only a 15 foot drop, it would not have enough time to build up a huge velocity, so cushioning would be key. Also the components we had did not make it easy to construct a parachute larger than we did.
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This is an image of the contraption described in the above paragraph.

















Mindstorms Programming: Tribot


Motors



The motors are one of the main components of the Lego Mindstorms tribot we used. They can be programmed to move the robot in a variety of ways. To move forward, electrical energy is turned into mechanical energy, which is to turn multiple gears that eventually turn the wheels. If both wheels receive the same amount of power in the same direction, they will go in said direction. There are multiple ways to turn. To turn left, you would apply no power to the left wheel and power to the right wheel to get the robot to turn left, and vis versa for right. This is called a point turn. To do a moving turn, while the robot is moving, apply more power of the wheel opposite of the direction you want to go. Some challenge, especially for turning, is trying to find the right amount of degrees to use on different surfaces. For normal tile floor, it is 180 degrees to do a 90 degree turn. (This also has to do with the way the robot was designed.) But we found on carpet, we had to use 220 degrees to complete a 90 degree turn.

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Above is a picture that depicts the Tribot used with ultrasonic sensor attached


Sensors


A sensor is defined as a device that detects or measures a physical property and records, indicates, or otherwise responds to it. In other words, it takes any form of energy and converts it to electrical energy that the computer can read. In our case, it was a module that was attached to our tribot that would record information, if said information met requirements such as if the ultrasonic sensor detects and object 35 cm ahead, it would then relay the information to the main bot, which would in turn do what was it was set to do, such as break. There are many types of sensors, some of the ones we used were the ultrasonic sensor, the touch sensor, a light detecting sensor, and a sound sensor. All these sensors are useful to the bot. They are all used in different ways, and for different situations. I found the ultrasonic sensor to be most useful. With the ultrasonic sensor you could navigate nearly any obstacle course. The ultrasonic sensor was able to tell distance the same way bats do, by emitting a sound, and seeing how long it takes to return.
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Above is an Ultrasonic sensor.

Mars Rover 'Curiosity'

Geologist are able to identify minerals in many ways, even taste can help identify minerals. Minerals such as halite taste salty, while some just taste like dirt or chalk. Sight is often able to help identify minerals, but it can be misleading. Some minerals with different additives can change colors. This is why geologist will do things called streak test. Streak tests will take a mineral, and a white and black plates. This is performed by scratching the mineral on the plates and see what color shows. Sometimes it will not be excepted. Magnetism can also help identify minerals. Keep in mind these are only a few of the many ways to identify minerals. These are just a few of the ways that we learned in class.
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Above is a image of a streak test being performed


The rover 'Curiosity' is able to identify minerals in a variety of ways. One way being drilling into an object, then collecting the powder from the drill and analyzing it. It divides the powder into two tests. First one being to find out its composition, the other searching for biological life or evidence of life. If the rover is unable to drill into something, due to it being to high, or unreachable. It has a laser that would shoot at it, then look at the light reflected back from it to get an idea of the chemical composition. These are a few ways the rover is able to identify minerals.
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Above is an animated image of the curiosity rover using its laser feature.

Characterestics of Life


There are 8 characteristics of life. They are as follows. They have to be made of cells. Cells are the fundamental part of all living. There are three types of cells, plant cells, animal cells, and bacteria cells. Often times cells are organized as followed, tissues then organ then organ systems then organisms. The next characteristic is a need for materials. Living things take what they need from the environment. Often times, living things need water, minerals, and air, all of which are taken from the environment. The fourth characteristic is that they have to be homeostatic. Homeostatic means that internally living things stay about the same despite environmental changes. Living things expend a great deal of energy to maintain homeostasis. The fourth characteristic is that all living things can respond to stimuli. Stimulus is anything that causes living things to react. There are two types of reactions to stimulus. Positive reaction moves towards the stimulus. Negative reaction moves away from stimulus. The fifth characteristic is that they can reproduce. Reproduction is the process by which organisms produce offspring of their own kind. There are two types of reproduction. Sexual reproduction, which requires two parents, and asexual reproduction, which requires one parent. The sixth characteristic is that they can grow. It has to develop from a lower simpler to a high or more complex form. Such as for humans: Embryo-Newborn-Child-Adolescent-Adult The seventh characteristic is that it has to be able to adapt. To adapt is to add modifications that make an organism suited to its way of life. They have to evolve. Evolution is the process by which characteristics of species change through time. The final characteristic is they have to respire. Respiration is the releasing of energy stored in the chemical bonds of sugar.
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Above i s a diagram of a animal cell. One of the fundemental cells of life.

Life on other planets


There's a variety of ways to discover life on Mars. Thus far we have been able to launch probes, landers, and rovers looking for evidence of life on Mars. Probes are able to take visual pictures from the air, but often times the method is unsuccessful. This is due to the fact that the life we are most likely to find is to small to see. Landers are unable to move, thus handicapping its ability to research. It is only able to analyze a small area, as compared to its rover counterpart. In my opinion, the rover is the most useful. It is able to take tests samples and analyze them, then move on to another area and repeat. We are able to use the pictures and data to determine if the terrain is able to support life. If you wish to learn more about rovers, I recommend reading some of the paragraphs above. Also if you are interested in the subject, I recommend checking out the YouTube link below. It will take you to a video talking about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. That video is part one of a collaboration of multiple Youtubers to answer 10 unanswered questions .
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This is a picture of Curiosity performing test on a rock face.