NASA launches mission to explore why Earth supports life and other planets don’t

Devdiscourse News Desk | Svalbard | Updated: 11-05-2022 23:15 IST | Created: 11-05-2022 23:15 IST
NASA launches mission to explore why Earth supports life and other planets don’t
Image Credit: Twitter (@NASA_Wallops)
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  • Norway

A sounding rocket carrying NASA's Endurance mission launched today to investigate Earth's life-supporting secret - why does our planet support life, when other planets like Venus and Mars don't? The rocket launched from Ny-Ålesund in Svalbard, Norway on May 11, 2022, at 3:31 a.m. local time.

"The flight was a splendid success. Everything deployed just as it should (8 booms, 1 hinged sensor, and 2 sprung-loaded caps that all had to come out in time). We got fabulous data all through the flight, though it will be a while before we can really dig into it to see if we achieved our science objective or not. After 6 years of hard graft, watching Endurance take flight was a dream come true," said Glyn Collinson, the mission's principal investigator in a statement.

Earth's twin planet - Venus - was once much wetter than it is today, but it dried out for reasons scientists still don't fully understand. Figuring out why could pinpoint a key difference from Earth - and reveal a hidden ingredient for a habitable planet, NASA says.

According to NASA, the Endurance mission will attempt to measure Earth's global electric potential - how much Earth's electric field "tugs" at electrically charged particles in our air? This electric potential is expected to be very weak, making it difficult to measure - and one reason Earth can support life.

The mission will measure electrons escaping from Earth's atmosphere. These electrons escape Earth at a specific, predictable speed, but they should be slowed ever so slightly by Earth's global electric potential.

More information about NASA's Endurance mission is available here.

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