As it prepares for its Mars mission, NASA’s Perseverance rover underwent tests in southern Australia – especially its tools and methods that will look for evidence of microbial life forms.
“The Flinders Mountains are the perfect place to do a lot of research related to Mars because it is a dry, dusty and windy area, which is very arid and therefore a good analog for looking for life on Mars “, says astrobiologist Bonnie Teece, from the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
In an article published in the journal Astrobiology, Teece tells how he replicated the methods that the Perseverance Rover will use to select Martian rocks for analysis of biomarkers – naturally occurring molecules indicating evidence of microbial life.
In Australia, researchers searched for evidence of ancient life on Earth, analyzing different lines of evidence. “If you work with only one line of evidence, it may not be really real – it may be a contaminated artifact or it may look like life, but it is not,” says Teece. “That is why it is so important that the rover has a diverse payload of instruments that can investigate and probe sediments in different ways on Mars to look for the best candidates for life.”
The mission is scheduled to launch between July and August when Earth and Mars are in good positions with each other for the trip. Perseverance is a semiautonomist who will explore the Jezero Crater with high-tech instruments to help identify rocks on the Red Planet.
Your Mastcam-Z cameras have a state-of-the-art zoom feature that will help the mission to convert 3D images more easily. The rover is also equipped with PIXL, an instrument that uses X-rays to reveal the elemental composition of samples visible to the naked eye.
And, completing the analysis tools, is Sherloc, whose main objective is to detect organic compounds sweeping the environment using spectroscopy.
By mimicking these instruments, Teece’s team was able to identify which samples were the most degraded and which were least likely to preserve these organic products. The researchers used analogous tools to identify the rocks on the Flinders land that they later collected manually.
By simply looking at the samples, together with elementary mapping and some organic results, the team was able to gather a comprehensive description of the environments in which the fossils were. “The use of the same technology onboard Perseverance can lead to positive results in the search for signs of microbial life”, believes the astrobiologist.
Researchers Create Microchip With Supercomputer Capability
MIT researchers has developed a “brain on-chip” which is smaller than a piece of confetti and that has tens of thousands of artificial brain synapses, known as memristors.
Not only the MIT develop a neuromorphic chip: Google, Microsoft, Intel, Apple, and Nvidia also these companies have their own machine learning hardware versions.
However, AI brain memristors use Silver. MIT researchers realized they could make each AI synapses either with silver and copper, along with silicon.
The United Arab Emirates Preparing Its First Mission To Mars
Mars is in the sights of Earth. In addition to the USA (with Mars 2020 ) and China (with Tianwen 1 ), another country this year will launch a mission towards the red planet: the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
If all goes well, in February next year the United Arab Emirates will be the fifth nation to successfully orbit Mars, in time for the celebration of the country’s 50th anniversary in December 2021.
According to Omran Sharaf, leader of the Hope mission, the goal is not simply to reach Mars. “It is part of something bigger: accelerating the development of our educational and academic sector” and generating knowledge that can be useful for the country in a future “post-oil” economy, from which most of its revenue currently comes from.
The mission aims to study the atmosphere of Mars, generating a map of its climate system over a Martian year, equivalent to 1.8 terrestrial years. Like Earth, Mars has seasons that influence winds, temperature, condensation and evaporation of ice, etc.
Most of the data we have comes from “one-off” observations, obtained from the equipment on the planet’s surface, which makes it difficult to construct a global climate panorama. To carry out its mission, Hope has three instruments mounted on an “arm”, capable of carrying out multiple measurements simultaneously: a camera sensitive to visible and ultraviolet light and spectrometers sensitive to infrared and ultraviolet light.
Its orbit around Mars lasts 55 hours and was calculated to offer two “points of view”: one where the planet rotates under the spacecraft, and the other where it tracks its speed of rotation, which allows it to observe a point static on the surface.
“This science was the sweet spot for us. We are complementary to other contemporary missions, so we maximize the global benefit that scientists will derive from our mission, which fuels other current areas of research and expands human knowledge as a whole, ”said the officials.
Hope’s launch is scheduled for July 14 this year. The mission will take off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan on an H-2A rocket built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Eye Has Self-cleaning System Similar To Brain, Says Research
Researchers have found that the eyes, as well as the brains of mice, have a self-cleaning system – and they believe this could also be applied to humans.
This type of maintenance is necessary to wash the cells and the residual fluids, and we know that the nervous tissue makes use of a small network of tubes known as the lymph system, similar to the lymphatic system that cleans the waste from the rest of the body.
New tests in mice and rats show that the structures at the back of the eyes – such as the optic nerve and the retina – channel the waste through a network much like the one the brain uses.
“Similar to the brain inside the cranial vault, the internal structures of the eye are contained in a confined space, requiring strict control of fluid homeostasis,” write the researchers in the article published in Science.
One of the main jobs of the system is to eliminate toxic beta-amyloid proteins that have been associated with the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.
Although the research is based on mice and rats, and not on humans, these animals have similar eye configurations to ours – albeit on a more simplified level.
In addition, the discovery of the glymphatic system in the human brain was also inspired by experiments on mice – increasing the chances that, again, this is not just a rodent thing.
“It is the first time that someone has really shown the ocular glymphatic system as an additional pathway for the release of metabolites in the eye and relevant to beta-amyloid,” says neuroscientist Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui, the first researcher to associate protein deposits with Alzheimer’s.
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