Friday, July 29, 2016

Confessions of a Martian rock

ChemCam aboard the Curiosity Rover, NASA/JPL image.

When NASA’s Curiosity rover arrived at the Kimberly region of Gale crater, we went to work, looking at the mineral-filled cracks in sandstones on the floor of what was once a deep lake. We used the ChemCam instrument, which sits atop Curiosity and was developed here at Los Alamos National Laboratory, to “zap” rocks on Mars and analyze their chemical make-up. (In less than four years since landing on Mars, ChemCam has analyzed roughly 1,500 rock and soil samples.) Full Story

Do these strange Martian rocks hint at life on the Red Planet?

Curiosity Rover, NASA/JPL image.

It is widely accepted that Mars was once abundant in surface water. But until recently, few would have guessed that the planet was ever oxygen-rich.

“If we could peer onto Mars millions of years ago, we’d see a very wet world,” wrote Nina Lanza, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory who was involved in the analysis. “Yet we didn’t think Mars ever had enough oxygen to concentrate manganese – and that’s why we thought the data from Caribou must have been an error.” (Full Story)

Also in Astronomy

Rover on Mars now picks its own laser targets

Roger Wiens, NASA image.

The instrument is called ChemCam, and it was developed in part by the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. According to the lab, Curiosity now picks “multiple targets” on its own weekly.

“This new capability will give us a chance to analyze even more rock and soil samples on Mars,” Roger Wiens, the principal investigator for ChemCam at Los Alamos, said in a statement. “The science team is not always available to pick samples for analysis. Having a smarter rover that can pick its own samples is completely in line with self-driving cars and other smart technologies being implemented on Earth.” (Full Story)

Tide-triggered tremors give clues for earthquake prediction

1906 San Francisco earthquake, USGS image.

The triggering of small, deep earthquakes along California's San Andreas Fault reveals depth-dependent frictional behavior that may provide insight into patterns signaling when a major quake could be on the horizon.       

The study, which was led by the U.S. Geological Survey and Los Alamos National Laboratory, reports that the deepest part of California’s 800-mile-long San Andreas Fault is weaker than expected. (Full Story)

Record amount pledged during 2016 scholarship fund drive

Los Alamos National Laboratory employees pledged a record $393,419 during the recently completed 2016 Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF) drive.

The drive encourages Laboratory employees, retirees and subcontract personnel to donate to a fund that awards college scholarships to Northern New Mexico students. Additionally, more employees participated in this year’s campaign than in past years. (Full Story)

Also in the Daily Post this week:

Feynman Center For Innovation honors technical trailblazers

Left to right, Duncan McBranch, Terry Wallace, Gary Grider, and Lee Finewood. LANL image.

HPC expert Gary Grider received the 2015 Richard P. Feynman Innovation Prize at a ceremony July 14 for his national leadership in developing cutting-edge HPC strategies and his innovative business partnerships.

“Innovation is a critical part of our mission here at the Laboratory,” said Duncan McBranch, chief technology officer at Los Alamos. “Last year alone, principal investigators here disclosed 71 inventions, and the Lab filed 109 patent applications and 45 new copyright assertions. Innovation means converting these ideas into real-world solutions. (Full Story)

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