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Mars

In the past year or so, scientists have discovered more evidence for liquid water under the surface of Mars. They've found complex organic compounds — the building blocks of life. And they've found that methane levels in Mars' atmosphere vary with the seasons.

"Each of these things adds up to say that the probability of finding life on a world that's not our own is going up," says NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "And Mars, I think, is that best opportunity in our own solar system to find life on another world."

European Space Agency & Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research for OSIRIS Team

In our solar system family, Mars is Earth's next-of-kin, the next-door relative that has captivated humans for millennia. The attraction is sure to grow with Monday's arrival of a NASA lander named InSight.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Stargazers can see Mars at its best this weekend. The sun, Earth and Mars directly align in what scientists call “Mars opposition” beginning Friday, with the red planet being the closest it’s been in 15 years on Tuesday.

Updated at 7:37 a.m. ET Friday

Every two years or so, the sun, Earth and Mars line up — and that's what is happening now. It's a celestial orientation known as Mars opposition. Leaving aside any significance this might have for astrologers, from an astronomical point of view there's one thing you can say for sure about this Mars opposition: Mars will be brighter in the night sky than it's been for 15 years.

An Italian team of scientists says it has strong evidence of a subsurface lake of liquid water on Mars. It's a discovery that adds to the speculation that there could once have been life on Mars — and raises the possibility that it might be there still today, since liquid water is an essential ingredient for life.

Wikimedia Commons

Six years after last landing on Mars, NASA is sending a robotic geologist to dig deeper than ever before to take the planet's temperature.

Aquarius Program at FIU / USF Research & Innovation

Sixty feet beneath the water’s surface in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary sits one of the world’s three undersea research laboratories.

And as you read this, the Aquarius Reef Base is home to an international crew of researchers, including Dominic D’Agostino, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida Health Morsani College of Medicine.

Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

(Originally aired Sept. 27, 2016)

Few states have as close a tie to the U.S. space program than Florida, so it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s a growing number of would-be rocket scientists at the University of South Florida.

Need more office space? How about outer space?

NASA opened its astronaut-application website Monday. It’s accepting applications through Feb. 18.

Scientists have caught Mars crying salty tears.

Photos from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show dark streaks flowing down Martian slopes. The streaks appear in sunny spots or when the weather is warm, and they fade when the temperature drops.

Signs of water currents and sediments are seen in the latest photos NASA's Curiosity rover sent home from Mars, the space agency said Monday. The images suggest "ancient Mars maintained a climate that could have produced long-lasting lakes," NASA says.

In the huge Gale Crater where Curiosity has been exploring, the water and sediment flow might have been massive enough to build a mountain — the 3-mile-high Mount Sharp — NASA researchers say. But they acknowledge that they're still working to solve the mystery of how the mountain formed in a crater.

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft conducted a 33-minute burn of its six main engines to ease into an orbit around Mars after a nearly yearlong, 442 million-mile voyage from Earth. The probe's mission is to study the red planet's atmosphere.

This month, NASA revealed new details of the plan to send humans to Mars by 2030. It's an elaborate and expensive mission, involving a giant deep-space rocket, and roping an asteroid into the moon's orbit to use as a stepping stone to Mars.

But there are still some serious questions about a manned expedition to Mars. Namely, is it safe? That's where astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly come in. The Kelly brothers are identical twins, and the only siblings ever to both fly in space.

NASA's Ambitious Plan To Send Humans To Mars

Apr 21, 2014

The nation’s space agency is gearing up to put humans on Mars within the next two decades. NASA is testing a supersonic lander that can carry heavy loads, and just signed a 20-year lease on a launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center.

Mike Gazarik is associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and he tells Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson that going to Mars is part of Americans’ pioneering spirit, and will also have benefits for life on Earth.