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38

I am Jose Juan Lopez Moreno, co-I (co-investigator) of TGO-NOMAD and I feel obliged to respond to PearsonArtPhoto's answer. There is something real: TGO carries 2 independent instruments with a sensitivity high enough to detect methane with a low limit of 0.05 ppbv. Those independent instruments are led by different and independent teams. They are far from ...


34

There's a lot to unpack here, so let's look at the various discoveries of methane on Mars. The first discovery came from multiple groups in 2003-2004 using first Mars Express, followed by Earth based instruments. The measured amounts were small, and being from Earth, could be tricky to know for sure. Mars Global Surveyor data was studied, and it seemed to ...


11

There are currently (June 2018) two new papers (links may be paywalled): "Organic matter preserved in 3-billion-year-old mudstones at Gale crater, Mars", Eigenbrode et al., Science 360, 1096–1101 (2018) "Background levels of methane in Mars’ atmosphere show strong seasonal variations", Webster et al., Science 360, 1093–1096 (2018) The first is looking for ...


8

Let's turn the question on its head and see what exhaust velocity we need to if Titan's entire (mostly nitrogen) atmosphere were used as a propellant. $\Delta v = v_e log(m_i / m_f)$ Wikipedia tells us that the atmosphere of Titan is about 1.19 times as massive as that of Earth so we get about 6.13e18 kg of atmosphere (propellant) in a total mass of about ...


7

Let's do a Fermi estimate: Rockets bring about 2-5% of their start mass to orbital velocity. To cancel out Titan's orbital velocity, you're looking at two orders of magnitude more fuel and oxidizer than Titan's mass. Earth's atmosphere weighs $10^{18}$ kg, or 1/200,000 of Earth's total mass. Titan's is 1.5 times as dense, so if Titan's atmosphere were ...


6

Wikipedia says of the composition of the lower atmosphere: Because methane condenses out of Titan's atmosphere at high altitudes, its abundance increases as one descends below the tropopause at an altitude of 32 km, leveling off at a value of 4.9% [the rest is mostly nitrogen] between 8 km and the surface. and in a separate article The average ...


5

The reason is because it wasn't part of the science objectives. It is a Discovery Mission, which has a constrained total budget to start with, and what was selected was very close to a build-to-print version of the Phoenix Lander, which is a big selling point in terms of cost as well as flight heritage of the instruments. As easy as it sounds to just add ...


5

Image from the informative presentation Progress on the RRM3 Cryogen Demonstration System The cryocoolers were commercial units, electrically powered Sunpower Cryotel CT 11 watt units. There is a lengthy data sheet here which includes these performance plots. Full disclosure: I had no idea what "lift" is in this context but there's a quote Lift is a ...


5

Would it be possible to pinpoint the source of the Methane with current technology Yes. The purpose of ESA's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter mission is to locate the sources of trace gases, including methane: http://exploration.esa.int/mars/46475-trace-gas-orbiter/ http://exploration.esa.int/mars/48523-trace-gas-orbiter-instruments/ The spacecraft arrived at ...


4

I know Chris Webster (at JPL) well and have discussed the TLS instruments he builds at length. They have more in common with the MIRO instrument on the ESA Rosetta spacecraft (I was a co-investigator on that instrument) than with sector or quadrupole mass spectrometers. Mass spectrometers have relatively poor mass resolution but can measure atoms or ...


3

In part because an actual methane only sensor is hard to build. The standard ones you can buy have a range of things that make them false positive*, and the older hot wire ones need oxygen at a known level to operate. Mars exploration has plenty of instrument results including the positive test for life on Viking where the results are less useful because ...


3

A pressurized space suit is needed when the atmospheric pressure is lower than about 0.3 to 0.4 bar. Pure oxygen is breathed within the suit. So for about 0.07 bar a pressurized suit is mandatory. But a flammable or explosive mixture within the airlock needed to leave and reenter the planet lander should be avoided. So the airlock should be evacuated from ...


3

tl;dr: Except for the signal being 3x larger, at this point nothing new has been learned. The only thing new I can see is that the signal is 3x larger than the previous one recorded by Curiosity, removing any potential lingering doubt about the reality of signal, which at only 7 ppb was close to the error bars. Source Now at 21 ppb (3x larger than the ...


3

Assuming the methane stays in orbit around the Earth as indicated by uhoh, it will then not do much else. Wikipedia has a fairly extensive article about methane in the atmosphere, and it mentions that the primary reaction of methane in the atmosphere is oxidation by hydroxyl radicals. Because the hydroxyl radicals come from water and water in our ...


3

Methane/LOX specific impulse is only slightly better than kerosene/LOX and it's about 25% less dense. In this case I think stretching the first stage would be more likely than fattening it; furthermore it might be possible to use a common-bulkhead tank instead of the separate tanks of the S-IC, (the temperature differential between liquid methane and liquid ...


2

Hydrogen is liquid below 21.15 K and goes solid at 14.01 K. Helium is liquid below 4.15 K and goes solid at 0.95 K under huge pressure of 2.5 MPa. So it should be possible to use gaseous helium to sub cool liquid hydrogen. It is gaseous even below the temperature of solid Hydrogen. Methane boils at 111.65 K and solidifies at 90.7 K. Sub cooling it with ...


2

While a negative δ13C could reasonably be considered possible evidence of either current or past life and perhaps suggest good places to look, it would not be definitive proof. All you know for sure is that some process is separating isotopes, probably some form of kinetic fractionation. Although this can be biological, there are also non-biological ...


2

Since the readings were only taken a couple of days ago, it's too early. From NASA's report: Curiosity's scientists need time to analyze these clues and conduct many more methane observations. They also need time to collaborate with other science teams, including those with the European Space Agency's Trace Gas Orbiter, which has been in its science ...


1

Will the Mars 2020 rover's sensitivity to methane be better than Curiosity's? No, Mars 2020 rover's sensitivity to atmospheric methane will be nonexistent. Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars or SAM with its quadrupole mass spectrometer (QMS), gas chromatograph (GC), and tunable laser spectrometer (TLS) will have no counterparts on the streamlined Mars 2020 ...


1

The atmosphere is thin at 400 km, but it's still there and the ISS is in it. The velocity of a circular orbit at that altitude is about 7700 m/s and escape velocity is the square root of 2 larger than that. So unless the gas was vented at a velocity of 3000 m/s relative to the ISS (which it certainly isn't), it would remain in orbit around the Earth. Over ...


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