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Mystery Mars haze baffles scientists

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Mystery Mars haze baffles scientists

By Rebecca Morelle
Science Correspondent, BBC News

The plume appeared twice in 2012, and stretched for 1,000km

A mysterious haze high above Mars has left scientists scratching their heads.

The vast plume was initially spotted by amateur astronomers in 2012, and appeared twice before vanishing.

Scientists have now analysed the images and say that say the formation, stretching for more than 1,000km, is larger than any seen before.

Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers believe the plume could be a large cloud or an exceptionally bright aurora.

However, they are unsure how these could have formed in the thin upper reaches of the Martian atmosphere.

“It raises more questions than answers,” said Antonio Garcia Munoz, a planetary scientist from the European Space Agency.

Around the world, a network of amateur astronomers keep their telescopes trained on the Red Planet.

They first spotted the strange plume in March 2012 above Mars’ southern hemisphere.

Damian Peach was one of the first stargazers to capture images of the phenomenon.

He told BBC News: “I noticed this projection sticking out of the side of the planet. To begin with, I thought there was a problem with the telescope or camera.

“But as I checked more of the images, I realised it was a real feature – and it was quite a surprise.”

Damian Peach was one of the first astronomers to image the plume

The vast, bright haze lasted for about 10 days. A month later, it reappeared for the same length of time. But it has not been seen since.

An international team of scientists has now confirmed the finding, but they are struggling to find an explanation.

One theory is that the plume is a cloud of carbon dioxide or water particles.

“We know there are clouds on Mars, but clouds, up to this point, have been observed up to an altitude of 100km,” Dr Garcia Munoz said.

“And we are reporting a plume at 200km, so it is significantly different. At 200km, we shouldn’t see any clouds, the atmosphere is too thin – so the fact we see it for 20 days in total is quite surprising.”

Another explanation is that this is a Martian version of the northern or southern lights.

Dr Garcia Munoz explained: “We know in this region on Mars, there have been auroras reported before. But the intensities we are reporting are much much higher than any auroras seen before on Mars or on Earth.

“It would be 1,000 times stronger than the strongest aurora, and it is difficult to come to terms that Mars has such an intense aurora.”

If either of these theories are right, he said, it would mean our understanding of Mars’ upper atmosphere is wrong.

He hopes that by publishing the paper, other scientists might also come up with explanations.

If they cannot, astronomers will have to wait for the plumes to return.

Close-up observations from telescopes or the spacecraft that are currently in orbit around the Red Planet could help to solve this Martian mystery.

Earth’s biodiversity is helping scientist to design vehicles that will travel through space and land on Mars and other planets. It’s called ‘bio-inspiration’ as this video clip shows.


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Brazil Amazon: Drone to scan for ancient Amazonia

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Brazil Amazon: Drone to scan for ancient Amazonia
By Jonathan Amos
BBC Science Correspondent, San Jose

The drone to be used in the project has a wingspan of about 3m

Scientists are to scan the Amazon forest in Brazil to look for evidence of occupation by ancient civilisations.

A drone will be sent up with a laser instrument to peer through the canopy for earthworks that were constructed thousands of years ago.

The UK-led project is trying to determine how big these communities were, and to what degree they altered the landscape.

The data is likely to inform policies on sustainable forest use today.

Researchers announced the initiative at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose.

It has just won a 1.7m-euro (£1.25m; $1.9m) grant from the European Research Council.

The key quest is to try to understand the scale and activities of populations living in the late pre-Columbian period (the last 3,000 years before the Europeans arrived in the 1490s).

‘Cultural parkland’
The international team will endeavour to find more geoglyphs, which are large geometric patterns left in the ground.

More than 450 of these are known in places where the forest has been cleared.

No-one is really quite sure what these earthen circles, squares and lines represent. Perhaps, they were ceremonial centres. But what is certain is that they are evidence of collective behaviour.

“It’s a hot debate right now in New World archaeology,” said Dr Jose Iriarte from Exeter University, UK.

“While some researchers think that Amazonia was inhabited by small bands of hunter-gatherers and shifting cultivators who had a minimal impact on the environment, and that the forest we see today is pristine and untouched for thousands of years – mounting evidence is showing this may not be the case.

“This evidence suggests that Amazonia may have been inhabited by large, numerous, complex and hierarchical societies that had a major impact on the environment; what we call the ‘cultural parkland hypothesis’,” he told BBC News.

The Mysterious Amazon © SMG

The drone to be used in the project has a wingspan of about 3m
Dr Iriarte’s project will fly its robotic plane across sample areas of forest.

This vehicle’s lidar instrument should reveal how many more geoglyphs remain hidden beneath still-canopied regions of Amazonia.

While some of the light from the lidar scatters back off the leaves, some is able to penetrate to the ground.

A smart algorithm can then be used to separate the two signals, digitally removing the trees to expose anything unusual beneath.

If candidate geoglyphs are confirmed in follow-up inspections, scientists would then move in to characterise signature changes that have been left in the soils and vegetation by the ancient inhabitants.

These “fingerprints” could then be searched for in satellite images, enabling a much broader swathe of Amazonia to be probed than is possible with just a small unmanned aerial vehicle. The arguments over the scale of occupation and its impacts should then be settled.

In normal airborne imagery only the tops of the trees are visible

The lidar makes a map of the canopy in digital form…

…which can then be removed to leave only that signal of the laser that made it through to the ground

The project is a partnership between agencies and institutions in Europe and, of course, in Brazil.

Mysterious geoglyphs

The expectation is that lessons learned will feed into policies for the management and sustainable use of the Amazon and its resources.

Dr Iriarte said it was not possible to gauge properly what future changes would be acceptable unless there was a fuller understanding of how the forest had been altered in the past.

“We want to see what is the human footprint in the forest and then inform policy, because it may be the case that the very biodiversity that we want to preserve is the result of the past historical manipulation of this forest,” he explained.

Video clip of the amazing amazon.

 

Meteorite is ‘hard drive’ from space

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Meteorite is ‘hard drive’ from space

By Simon Redfern
BBC Science writer

The Esquel meteorite consists of gem-quality crystals embedded in metal.

Researchers have decoded ancient recordings from fragments of an asteroid dating back billions of years to the start of the Solar System.

They found tiny “space magnets” in meteorites which retain a memory of the birth and death of the asteroid’s core.

Like the data recorded on the surface of a computer hard drive, the magnetic signals written in the space rock reveal how Earth’s own metallic core and magnetic field may one day die.

The work appears in Nature journal.

Using a giant X-ray microscope, called a synchrotron, the team was able to read the signals that formed more than four-and-a-half billion years ago, soon after the birth of the Solar System.

The meteorites are pieces of a parent asteroid that originally came from asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter.

They represents the left-over fragments of a planet that failed to form. The magnetic recording within it traps a signal of the precise moments when an iron-rich core formed in the asteroid as well as when it froze, killing its magnetic field.

The new picture of metallic core solidification in the asteroid provide clues about the magnetic field and iron-rich core of Earth.

Core values

“Ideas about how the Earth’s core evolved through [our planet’s] history are really changing at the moment,” lead researcher Dr Richard Harrison, from the University of Cambridge, told BBC News.

“We believe that Earth’s magnetic field is linked to core solidification. Earth’s solid inner core may have started to form at very interesting time in terms of the evolution of life on Earth.

“By studying an asteroid we get to see this in fast forward. We can see the start of core solidification in the magnetic records as well as its end, and start to think about how these processes work on Earth.”

Magnetic field The Earth’s magnetic field will likely die off when the core completely freezes

The meteorites studied by the team originally fell to Earth in Argentina, and are composed of gem-quality crystals enclosed in a metallic matrix of iron and nickel.

Tiny particles, smaller than one thousandth the width of a human hair, trapped within the metal have retained the magnetic signature of the parent asteroid from its birth in the early Solar System.

“We’re taking ancient magnetic field measurements in nano-scale materials to the highest ever resolution in order to piece together the magnetic history of asteroids – it’s like a cosmic archaeological mission,” said Dr James Bryson, the paper’s lead author.

“Since asteroids are much smaller than Earth, they cooled much more quickly, so these processes occur on a shorter timescales, enabling us to study the whole process of core solidification.”

Don’t panic
Prof Wyn William, from the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the study, commented: “To be able to get a time stamp on these recordings, to get a cooling rate and the time of solidification, is fantastic. It’s a very nice piece of work.”

The key to the long-lived stability of the recording is the atomic-scale structure of the iron-nickel particles that grew slowly in the asteroid core and survived in the meteorites.

Scientists have attempted to synthesise the same iron-nickel structures in the lab, without widespread success so far. But their remarkable magnetic properties rival those of rare earth magnets, a key component of wind turbines and electric cars.

They may yet prove a route to making cheap, strong magnets without the need for scarce rare earth metals.

Making a final comment on the results, Dr Harrison said: “In our meteorites we’ve been able to capture both the beginning and end of core freezing, which will help us understand how these processes affected the Earth in the past and provide a possible glimpse of what might happen in the future.”

The Earth’s magnetic field will likely die off when the core completely freezes, and Earth will no longer be protected from the Sun’s radiation.

“There’s no need to panic” said Dr Harrison. “The core won’t completely freeze for billions of years, and chances are, the Sun will get us first.”


France has a team of official UFO hunters

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France has a team of official UFO hunters

By BBC Reporter Chris Bockman
Toulouse, France

France has a team of UFO hunters.

Thousands of UFO sightings are reported every year but not many countries are willing to spend money investigating them – there is just one dedicated state-run team left in Europe. Is France onto something?

You don’t need a time machine when you visit the French Space Centre headquarters in Toulouse – it’s already a throwback to the 1970s. Green lawns sweep on to wide boulevards with stout long rectangular office blocks on either side.

It’s almost Soviet-style in the heart of southern France. There are few signs of life even though 1,500 people, most of them civil servants, work in boxy offices along narrow unappealing corridors.

France has the biggest space agency in Europe – the result of the 1960s space race and President Charles de Gaulle’s grand determination to keep France independent of the US by building its own satellites, rocket launchers and providing elite space research.

An offshoot of all that – France is the only country in Europe to maintain a full-time state-run UFO (unidentified flying objects) department. There used to be one in the UK and another in Denmark but they closed down years ago due to budget cuts.

France’s UFO unit consists of four staff, and about a dozen volunteers who get their expenses paid to go on site and look into reports of strange sightings in the skies.

A drawing from the files at the French UFO department

The team is called Geipan. That’s a French acronym for Study Group and Information on Non-Identified Aerospace Phenomenon.

Its boss is Xavier Passot. Surrounded by dozens of books on UFOs, and stacks of documents, he tells me his mission is to be as transparent as possible about strange sightings and to follow up on each one that his team receives.

They publish their results on their website which gets 30,000 hits a month. The team receives, on average, two UFO sightings a day. The department insists an 11-page form is filled out for each one. The idea is to provide details including photographs where possible but also weed out jokers and time-wasters.

If someone claims to have seen strange lights in the skies, the UFO team might go online to see whether the observation took place on a flight path – it can trace commercial air traffic going back more than a week.

The team also has access to military flight paths and is in touch with the air force and air traffic controllers.

Sometimes if its staff are really intrigued by photos they have seen or if there have been several witnesses to the same sighting, they will call the local police to ask whether they can be considered credible.

They might even check with neighbours to see whether they were out drinking that night or perhaps smoking something other than cigarettes.

Passot says many of the people who get in touch are smokers, puffing away outside bars or their own homes at night, gazing at the stars.

One of the boxy offices houses yellowing archives going back to the 1950s. The papers I look at contain eerie accounts of strange things encountered in the skies by fighter pilots on routine reconnaissance missions.

For what it’s worth and for those who suspect there’s conspiracy afoot, Passot tells me he has never covered up a UFO sighting.

I take a look at some amazing photos of strange lights and circular forms caught on camera. One, taken by a motorist, of a white ring shape above Marseille is particularly grabbing (the image at the top of this page). But the team figured that one out – it wasn’t invaders from Mars, just the reflection of a small interior overhead light in the car.

In fact, the department can explain away nearly all these phenomena and, believe it or not, the most common culprits are Chinese lanterns sent up at night during parties. The investigators often telephone the local town hall to ask if, perhaps, there had been a wedding going on at the time.

Balloons and kites floating in the skies also get mistaken for alien craft, and space debris and falling meteorites giving off strange lights are more common than one might think.

But there are around 400 UFO sightings going back to the 1970s that the French team cannot explain. One, an alleged flying saucer landing near Aix-en-Provence in 1981, they take very seriously – there were landing marks and multiple witnesses.

So are there really little green men? Well, the jury’s out on the colour but there are many working here, as well as others around the world, who are convinced there is some life out there.

And does the use of French taxpayers’ money on UFO research make sense, particularly in these times of budgetary constraint?

That probably depends on whether you just saw an alien and, in the words of those Ghostbusters, who you gonna call?

Do you believe in UFO’s and Aliens?

Here’s a clip that interviews 2 people who claim to have been abducted by Alines.

Here’s some more people who believe aliens exist.


Halloween playlist.

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Halloween is almost here.

Jersey Devil

The night when demons and witches, monsters and crytids come out to play.

Trick or treat?

Real or not.

Check out the playlist and decide for yourself.

There are more than 40 great stories in this playlist including the Jersey Devil, Mothman (Winged Creatures), el Chupacabra, Ghostly Creatures, Goat Man, and many more.

 
Halloween Playlist from Animal X. Scary stuff my darlings…. watch, if you dare….

Click on the Playlist dropdown menu at the top of the video to select which scary story you’d like to watch….


 

What do you think of these Halloween stories. Log in and leave a comment.

Here’s some information about the origins of Halloween

Alien Big Cat

Halloween or Hallowe’en (/ˌhæləˈwn, ˈn, ˌhɑːl/; a contraction of “All Hallows‘ Evening“),[6] also known as Allhalloween,[7] All Hallows’ Eve,[8] or All Saints’ Eve,[9] is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It initiates the triduum of Allhallowtide,[10] the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers.[11] Within Allhallowtide, the traditional focus of All Hallows’ Eve revolves around the theme of using “humor and ridicule to confront the power of death.”[12]

Beast of Gevaudan

According to many scholars, All Hallows’ Eve is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals,[13][14] with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic Samhain.[8][15][16] Other scholars maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has solely Christian roots.[17][18]

Typical festive Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related “guising“), attending costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfiresapple bobbing, visiting haunted house attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular,[19][20][21] although in other locations, these solemn customs are less pronounced in favor of a more commercialized and secularized celebration.[22][23][24] Because many Western Christian denominations encourage, although no longer require, abstinence from meat on All Hallows’ Eve,[25][26] the tradition of eating certain vegetarian foods for this vigil day developed, including the consumption of apples, colcannonciderpotato pancakes, and soul cakes.[26][27][28]

India’s Mars satellite ‘Mangalyaan’ sends first images

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India’s Mars satellite ‘Mangalyaan’ sends first images

 

The first image of Mars taken by the Indian orbiter

India’s space agency has released its first picture of Mars, taken by its satellite which entered orbit around the Red Planet.

“The view is nice up here,” tweeted @isro. A handful of images have been sent by the Mangalyaan probe so far.

Part of its mission is to study the Martian atmosphere for signs of life.

It is the first time a maiden voyage to Mars has entered orbit successfully and it is the cheapest. Nasa’s latest Maven mission cost almost 10 times as much.

Media in India have hailed the venture as a “historic achievement”.

The Hindu newspaper reported that the probe had “beamed back about 10 pictures of the Red Planet’s surface which show some craters”.

Officials were quoted by the newspaper as saying the pictures were of “good quality”.

line
Analysis – Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent
India’s space programme has succeeded at the first attempt where others have failed – by sending an operational mission to Mars.

It is, without doubt, a considerable achievement. This is a mission that has been budgeted at 4.5bn rupees ($74m), which, by Western standards, is staggeringly cheap.

The American Maven orbiter that arrived at the Red Planet on Monday is costing almost 10 times as much.

Back in June, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi even quipped that India’s real-life Martian adventure was costing less than the make-believe Hollywood film Gravity.

Why India’s Mars mission is so cheap – and thrilling

Applause broke in the control room out as the news came through that the probe had entered Mars’s orbit

Reports said the camera was the first of the instruments being carried by the satellite to be switched on, a few hours after it entered into orbit.

India’s 1,350kg (2,970lb) robotic spacecraft, which undertook a 10-month-long 200-million-km journey, is equipped with five instruments.

They include a thermal imaging spectrometer to map the surface and mineral wealth of the planet, and a sensor to track methane – a possible sign of life – and other components of the atmosphere.

India has become the fourth nation or geo-bloc to put a satellite into orbit around Mars, and the first from Asia.

Only the US, Russia and Europe have previously sent missions to Mars.

Here’s a series of clips about the universe and what it looks like through some of the world’s biggest telescopes….


The Ore Fish, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Monster?

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The Ore Fish, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Monster?

Is the Ore fish San Francisco’s Golden Gate Monster as filmed by Bill and Bob Clark and featured in Animal X Natural Mystery Unit episode Monsters of the Deep? Could the mystery at last be solved?

This 18-foot-long (5.5 meters) oarfish was found off a beach in Southern California and is being held by staff from the Catalina Island Marine Institute.

 

They saw and video taped the monster on a number of occasions. In fact 9 times they have seen it. The footage Bill & Bob shot is controversial. Many people think it’s a monster but others think it’s just a flock of birds.

Here’s their story.

Now some people are suggesting it could have been a school of Ore fish especially in the light of two ore fish being washed up on Californian beaches.

This from CNN. By Alan Duke.

(CNN) — Marine biologists have a mystery to solve: Why have the carcasses of two rare oarfish washed up on Southern California shores within a week?

Sightings of the huge deep-sea creatures — dead or alive — are unusual, because they typically swim thousands of feet below the surface.
A dead 14-foot-long oarfish came ashore in Oceanside, California, on Friday afternoon, according to an Oceanside police dispatcher. A representative of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was called to haul the serpent-like fish away for study, she said.
A group of third-graders on a beach study trip made the discovery, according to CNN affiliate KGTV.
The incident is especially puzzling because of the discovery made five days earlier by a marine science instructor while snorkeling off Catalina Island. Jasmine Santana was about 15 feet underwater when she found an 18-foot-long oarfish floating nearby. “I was first a little scared,” said Santana, who has been working for Catalina Island Marine Institute since January. “But when I realized it was an oarfish, I knew it was harmless.”

It took Santana 15 minutes to drag the dead fish ashore, where 14 others helped lift the 400-pound carcass out of the water.
“I was really amazed. It was like seeing something in a dream,” said Mark Waddington, the senior captain of Catalina Island Marine Institute’s sailing school vessel the “Tole Mour” who gave Santana a hand. “It’s the first time I ever witnessed an oarfish this big.”

 

Bill Kerr Host of Animal X Natural Mystery Unit Dies aged 92

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Sad day for Animal X Fans

It is with great sadness of heart that I hear of the death of actor-entertainer Bill Kerr.

I have known Bill for close on 20 years. Working with him on many projects.

Bill began his career on stage at the age of about 6 months. His mother was a Music Hall (Vaudeville) performer at the time and he played a baby and he has been entertaining ever since.

Bill was known for his varied roles in productions like Hancock’s Half hour a BBC radio show back in the 50’s; classic war films The Dam Busters and Gallipoli; A Year of Living Dangerously, Storm Boy, and many others. He worked alongside some of the biggest names in the Movie business including Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver.

Ten years ago at the age of 82, Bill was the star of a 10 one-hour series for Discovery in the US, called Animal X Natural Mystery Unit. It has since been seen in almost every country around the world and Bill has a worldwide fan base of young viewers.

Bill loved Animal X. He said it was the best fun he had ever had.

In the studio he would love ‘hamming it up’. He would say “how was that take Mike? Too much garlic, or do you want a little more?” Meaning of course did I want him to ham it up more or tone it down a bit.

He was a cool dude. He loved to work. Stories. He had so many stories about the different people he’d worked with. From getting drunk with Mel Gibson during the filming of A Year of Living Dangerously to conspiring with Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan (the Goons).

Last year at the age of 92 he was still working. Filming a series of classic poems for YouTube called From My Mothers Knee. Most of which were recited from memory.

His last performance was the poem the Highwayman Comes Riding

Another poem was Laska

During the filming he said “I can remember these poems, which I learnt 80 years ago, but I can’t tell you what I had for breakfast” he would laugh.

Bill was a great man, a kind, funny and generous soul, who never had a bad word to say about anyone and he knew them all.

He was the Sinatra of narrators.

He was a mate and I will miss you Bill.


The Sex Tree

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The Sex Tree

Ever heard of the Sex Tree aka the coco de mar… another Natural Mystery.

It only exists in a small vally on the islands of Praslin and Curieuse in the Republic of the Seychelles, off the east coast of Africa.

The coco de mar or sea coconut or double coconut (Lodoicea maldivica), is a palm tree and the sole member of the genus Lodoicea. It formerly also was found on the small islets of St Pierre, Chauve-Souris and Ile Ronde (Round Island), all located near Praslin, but has become extinct there. The name of the genus, Lodoicea, is derived from Lodoicus, the Latinised form of Louis, in honour of King Louis XV of France.

The best place to see the coco de mar is in the Vallee de Mai on Praslin island. This lush tropical vally was once thought by Gordon of Khartoum to be the biblical Garden of Eden.

Coco de Mar – the double coconut

He not only believed that it was the Garden of Eden, he tried he’s hardest to prove it. He believed the Coco de Mai was the biblical tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eating its fruit caused Adam and Eve to be banished from the garden. The tree is one of the most endangered in the world. It once covered almost the whole of the island.

It’s the trees fruit with its erotic shape which was its downfall. The nuts were highly prized when found washed up on Indian Ocean shore lines and in the thirteenth century were worth as much as four thousand gold florins.

No one knew where they were coming from. When their location in the Seychelles was finally discovered, most of the forests were raised to the ground in an attempt to maintain their value.

Coco de Mar catkin

Their resemblance to the human body is also present in the male tree. Its catkin has a similarity to the male sex organ. There’s no wonder that this exotic and intriguing tree some of which live for over 1000 years has its own legend.

 

 

Check out the video


Nasa ‘flying saucer’ tests Mars tech

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By Mike Wall, Senior Writer www.space.com

This artist’s concept shows the test vehicle for NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), designed to test landing technologies for future Mars missions. A balloon will lift the vehicle to high altitudes, where a rocket will take it even higher, to the top of the stratosphere, at several times the speed of sound.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A saucer-shaped vehicle that could help NASA land big payloads on the surface of Mars is about to take to the skies for the first time.

NASA hopes to launch its Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle — which the agency has dubbed its own “flying saucer” — Thursday (June 5) from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. The balloon-aided liftoff was originally scheduled for today (June 3), but the weather did not cooperate.

“After years of imagination, engineering and hard work, we soon will get to see our Keiki o ka honua, our ‘boy from Earth,’ show us its stuff,” LDSD project manager Mark Adler, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. [NASA’s Inflatable Flying Saucer for Mars Landings (Photos)]

 

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