TIME space

Water Could Be Forming in the Martian Soil Under Certain Conditions

NASA's Mars Curiosity rover is pictured in this self-portrait where the rover drilled into a sandstone target called "Windjana" on Mars in this handout photo. June 2014.
NASA/Reuters NASA's Mars Curiosity rover is pictured in this self-portrait where the rover drilled into a sandstone target called "Windjana" on Mars in this handout photo. June 2014.

Major requirement for the existence of life? Check

NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered that conditions on Mars are “favorable” to producing briny water in the soil, which could in turn imply that water could form all over the surface of the Red Planet if certain conditions are met.

Scientists found that the soil in the Gale Crater of Mars contained perchlorate, a salt that acts as a kind of anti-freeze by absorbing water vapor from the atmosphere, lowering the freezing temperature of the water.

Curiosity’s latest findings — published as a study in Nature Geosciences — have led NASA scientists to suggest that, during certain cold nights, the temperature and humidity levels are just right for brine to form in the soil, drying out after sunrise.

Liquid water is a requirement for life, the study’s lead author Javier Martin-Torres said. But the data doesn’t mean the rover will unearth E.T. on its next mission.

“Conditions near the surface of present-day Mars are hardly favorable for microbial life as we know it, but the possibility for liquid brine on Mars has wider implications for habitability and geological water-related processes,” he said.

The latest study analyzes the planet’s humidity and temperature for a full Martian year. The data shows that brine should be forming all over the planet, especially at higher altitudes.

“Gale Crater is one of the least likely places on Mars to have conditions for brines to form, compared to sites at higher latitudes or with more shading,” said co-author of the report Alfred McEwen.

Since Curiosity landed on the Martian planet in August 2012, it has found strong evidence to suggest that ancient stream-beds and lakes existed more than three billion years ago. To discover how these environmental conditions evolved, the rover is now examining Mount Sharp, a mountain with sediment layers that lies at the center of the Gale Crater.

TIME Environment

Meet The Man on a Mission to Preserve the World’s Coldest Places

Polar adventurer Eric Larsen spends his life in pursuit of the world’s coldest places. In 2006, he completed the first-ever summer expedition to the North Pole, and in 2010 he completed a world record expedition to the North Pole, the South Pole, and the top of Mt. Everest—all in one year. In 2014, he completed what he believes will be the last unsupported expedition to the geographic North Pole… ever.

Larsen documents each of his adventures, and sees his expeditions as a way to educate the rest of the world about the changing climates of the places he travels to. He hopes to spread the word and raise awareness about these coldest of places, before they are gone for good.

TIME Gadgets

Watch NASA’s Spectacular First GoPro Video Captured on a Spacewalk

"Video like this is the whole reason we built the camera"

GoPro’s community of thrill seekers might have been upstaged permanently by a NASA astronaut who captured stunning footage of a spacewalk using a high definition camera for the very first time.

NASA astronaut Terry Virts strapped on the point-of-view camera last February before venturing out of the International Space Station (ISS) to do some exterior housekeeping on the berthing docks. He and astronaut Barry Wilmore were reconfiguring the ports for the upcoming arrival of commercial crews.

Along the way, they captured two stunning videos, one showing the ISS’ incomparable views of earth and the other floating beneath the station’s underbelly, bristling with panels, cables and dishes.

“This was the first time an astronaut captured HD video of a spacewalk while outside,” NASA public affairs officer Dan Huot told TIME. The GoPro helmet camera used features much higher resolution than the astronauts’ current helmet-cams. “They are small, simple and have great quality,” he said.

The camera used during the space-walk works much like the kind of GoPro you can buy here on Earth, only with a one-touch power up and record function. “This makes it much easier to execute while wearing large gloves,” Huot added.

The footage is quieter and slower than the typical GoPro images of say, roof jumpers or a great white shark lunging toward the camera. But then it’s hard to top the hypnotic movement of a camera in zero gravity, where even a belt buckle, floating into the frame, can be fascinating to watch.

“Video like this is the whole reason we built the camera,” Rick Loughery, a spokesperson for GoPro, said. “To be able to share that perspective with the world.”

Read next: A Year in Space

TIME space

Why Apollo 13 Was Called NASA’s Most ‘Successful Failure’

Forty-five years have passed since the flight launched

After losing oxygen and power in its unsuccessful trip to the moon, Apollo 13 still managed to do one thing well: land back on Earth.

April 11 marks the 45th anniversary of the mission’s launch from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center with the goal of landing on the moon. Watch the video above to learn about what’s frequently called NASA’s “successful failure.”

TIME Archaeology

Oldest Neanderthal DNA Ever Found Is Discovered in Skeleton in Italy

The molecules are from 130,000 to 170,000 years ago

Researchers studying a skeleton from a cave in Italy have discovered the oldest Neanderthal DNA ever found.

Scientists have dated the molecules to about 130,000 to 170,000 years ago, according to Live Science. The skeleton was first found in 1993, but a new study evaluating the DNA from a piece of its right shoulder blade suggests that the fossil was a Neanderthal, the closest extinct relative of modern humans.

“We have a nearly complete human fossil skeleton to describe and study in detail. It is a dream,” Fabio Di Vincenzo, the study’s co-author, told Live Science. “His morphology offers a rare glimpse on the earliest phase of the evolutionary history of Neanderthals and on one of the most crucial events in human evolution. He can help us better understand when—and, in particular, how—Neanderthals evolved.”

[Live Science]

TIME space

See a 1970 Explanation of What Happened to Apollo 13

Astronauts Lovell, Haise & Swigert
Cover Credit: CBS NEWS The April 27, 1970, cover of TIME

The ill-fated lunar journey lifted off on April 11, 1970

Forty-five years ago, on April 11, 1970, when Apollo 13 was launched into space, manned missions to the moon were just starting to seem like something that the U.S. had a handle on. The space race had been won. There had been no recent disasters. The technology had already been proven. Discussions of NASA missions were as likely to involve budget bickering as they were grand dreams of exploration.

So what happened to Apollo 13 was, TIME noted a few weeks later, when the astronauts on board had safely returned to earth after their calamitous journey, a reminder of the ever-present danger and bravery involved in space flight.

The mission, with its ruptured oxygen tank and aborted attempt to land on the moon, was also a reminder of just how complicated the science behind such flights can be.

To see TIME’s 1970 illustration explaining how the astronauts made it home safely, roll over the diagram (or, on mobile, click) to zoom:


In order to explain that science, TIME took readers from Commander Jim Lovell’s “understatement of the space age” (“I believe we’ve had a problem here,” he told the ground controllers in Houston), to the loss of oxygen and electricity in the spacecraft, to the decision to use the moon’s gravity to send the ship home:

If the astronauts could use a small burn of the Aquarius descent engine to jog Apollo 13 back into a “free-return” trajectory, the combination of the spacecraft’s velocity and lunar gravity would do the rest, slinging the ship around the moon and hurling it back on a direct course to the earth. Ironically, Apollo had been on a free-return trajectory, but its course was changed in preparation for the lunar landing.

Thus, five hours and 25 minutes after the service-module explosion, the lunar module’s descent engine was fired. Had it not burned, Apollo 13 would have swung around the moon but missed the earth on the return trip by 2,951 miles and gone into a wide-ranging earth orbit, stranding the astronauts. But the lunar module engine performed reliably. With only a 30.7-second burn, it put Apollo 13 on a course that would carry it toward a splashdown in the Indian Ocean. Houston—and the world—breathed easier, but Mission Control knew that the burn was only a stopgap measure. The calculated splashdown area was not only far away from any U.S. recovery ships, but it would also take 74 hours to reach—perhaps longer than the LM’s dwindling supply of water, oxygen and electricity would last.

Still, not everything about Apollo 13 was complicated. The feeling of gratitude that swept the nation when, on April 17, the crew splashed down safely, was strong but simple. “James Lovell added his own benediction when the astronauts first set foot on land en route home,” TIME noted. “Welcomed by gaily-dressed Samoans on Pago-Pago, Lovell said: ‘We do not realize what we have on earth until we leave it.'”

See the full 1970 report on Apollo 13, here in the TIME Vault: Apollo’s Return

TIME Pakistan

Teen Activist Malala Yousafzai Gets Her Own Asteroid

Malala Yousafzai after being announced as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in Birmingham, England on October 10, 2014.
Christopher Furlong—Getty Images Malala Yousafzai after being announced as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in Birmingham, England on Oct. 10, 2014.

"If anyone deserves to have an asteroid named after them, she does!"

Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Prize-winning teenage activist, now has an asteroid named in her honor.

The more-than-2-mile-wide asteroid—officially now known as “316201 Malala”—orbits the sun every five-and-a-half years in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Amy Mainzer, the NASA astronomer who discovered the rock, was the one who named it after Yousafzai.

“If anyone deserves to have an asteroid named after them, she does!” Mainzer wrote on Malala Fund Blog.

“My postdoctoral fellow Dr. Carrie Nugent brought to my attention the fact that although many asteroids have been named, very few have been named to honor the contributions of women (and particularly women of color),” Mainzer added.

In October 2012, after Yousafzai blogged about her determination to become a doctor, a Taliban gunman shot her as she boarded a school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Yousafzai, 17, now works with her foundation to empower girls through education.

TIME psychology

Here’s What Happens in the Brain When People Kill

Pulling the trigger is hard—and that's very good
George Frey—Getty Images Pulling the trigger is hard—and that's very good

There's a lot of neuroscience and moral juggling behind the decision to take a life

Evil isn’t easy. Say what you will about history’s monsters, they had to overcome a lot of powerful neural wiring to commit the crimes they did. The human brain is coded for compassion, for guilt, for a kind of empathic pain that causes the person inflicting harm to feel a degree of suffering that is in many ways as intense as what the victim is experiencing. Somehow, that all gets decoupled—and a new study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience brings science a step closer to understanding exactly what goes on in the brain of a killer.

While psychopaths don’t sit still for science and ordinary people can’t be made to think so savagely, nearly anyone can imagine what it would be like to commit the kind of legal homicide that occurs in war. To study how the brain reacts when it confronts such murder made moral, psychologist Pascal Molenberghs of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, recruited 48 subjects and asked them to submit to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which could scan their brains while they watched three different scenarios on video loops.

In one, a soldier would be killing an enemy soldier; in the next, the soldier would be killing a civilian; and in the last, used as a control, the soldier would shoot a weapon but hit no one. In all cases, the subjects saw the scene from the shooter’s point of view. At the end of each loop, they were asked “Who did you shoot?” and were required to press one of three buttons on a keypad indicating soldier, civilian or no one—a way of making certain they knew what they’d done. After the scans, they were also asked to rate on a 1 to 7 scale how guilty they felt in each scenario.

Even before the study, Molenberghs knew that when he read the scans he would focus first on the activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, a region of the forebrain that has long been known to be involved with moral sensitivity, moral judgments and making choices about how to behave. The nearby temporoparietal junction (TPJ) also takes on some of this moral load, processing the sense of agency—the act of doing something deliberately and therefore owning the responsibility for it. That doesn’t always makes much of a difference in the real world—whether you shoot someone on purpose or the gun goes off accidentally, the victim is still dead. But it makes an enormous difference in how you later reckon with what you’ve done.

In Molenbergh’s study, there was consistently greater activity in the lateral portion of the OFC when subjects imagined shooting civilians than when they shot soldiers. There was also more coupling between the OFC and the TPJ—with the OFC effectively saying I feel guilty and the TPJ effectively answering You should. Significantly, the degree of OFC activation also correlated well with how bad the subjects reported they felt on their 1 to 7 scale, with greater activity in the brains of people who reported feeling greater guilt.

The OFC and TPJ weren’t alone in this moral processing. Another region, known as the fusiform gyrus, was more active when subjects imagined themselves killing civilians—a telling finding since that portion of the brain is involved in analyzing faces, suggesting that the subjects were studying the expressions of their imaginary victims and, in so doing, humanizing them. When subjects were killing soldiers, there was greater activity in a region called the lingual gyrus, which is involved in the much more dispassionate business of spatial reasoning—just the kind of thing you need when you’re going about the colder business of killing someone you feel justified killing.

Soldiers and psychopaths are, of course, two different emotional species. But among people who kill legally and those who kill criminally or promiscuously, the same brain regions are surely involved, even if they operate in different ways. In all of us it’s clear that murder’s neural roots and moral roots are deeply entangled. Learning to untangle them a bit could one day help psychologists and criminologists predict who will kill—and stop them before they do.

Read next: What Binge Drinking During Adolescence Does to the Brain

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TIME psychology

Why Narcissists Will Live Long if They Avoid Risky Business

Loving the view: Looking great does not necessarily mean living well
Dougal Waters; Getty Images Loving the view: Looking great does not necessarily mean living well

A strange mix of living well and taking risks adds one more puzzle to the narcissistic personality

If you’re shopping for a personality disorder to call your own, you might want to avoid becoming a narcissist. It’s true that you’ll be confident, charismatic, extroverted and irresistible, but only until people discover that you’re also arrogant, self-absorbed, insensitive and unlovable. Now, one more contradiction in the narcissistic personality has been revealed. Even as narcissists take better care of themselves than nonnarcissists do — eating well and exercising regularly — they’re also likelier to engage in risky behaviors that could kill them before they can take advantage of those good habits.

That’s the conclusion of a new study by psychologist Erin Hill of West Chester University in Pennsylvania. Like most researchers studying narcissism, Hill knew there is much more nuance to the disorder than there seems to be. Narcissists are cocky, yes, but they’re hungry too — for recognition, applause, approval, validation. Their profound sense of insecurity also bumps up against a paradoxical sense of indestructibility — a belief that they are immune to the kinds of dangers most other people take pains to avoid.

To test the self-enhancing and self-destructive crosscurrents in the narcissistic temperament, Hill recruited 365 undergraduate students and asked them to take the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), a 40-item questionnaire that is considered the best available tool to diagnose the condition. NPI scores can range from a theoretical low of zero to a theoretical high of 40, but in the U.S. the average is about 15.5. The students in Hill’s study averaged a bit higher — 18.25 for males and 16.04 for females — which is typical for a population of young people who have yet to be chastened by setbacks in life.

Hill next asked her subjects to answer a number of questions about how they live — in both good ways and bad. In the first category, she asked them how many fruits and vegetables they eat per week, how consistently they maintain a healthy eating pattern overall, how often they exercise and whether they regularly practice safe sex. In the second category, she asked them if they smoke, how often and how much they drink, whether they use marijuana or other drugs, and whether they engage in reckless driving behaviors like texting behind the wheel or not wearing a seat belt.

MORE: How Do You Spot a Narcissist? Just Ask

The results were a mix of reasonably good news and very bad news. Narcissism did not seem to be linked to increased smoking, use of drugs other than pot or a greater likelihood of practicing unsafe sex — suggesting that some health messages are getting through even to people who typically think they’re above such concerns. But high NPI scores were significantly related to more drinking—as well as more binge drinking — greater marijuana use and reckless driving.

When it came to healthy behaviors, narcissists weren’t any likelier to eat more fruits and veggies than other people, but they were likelier to maintain a healthy diet over all. They were also significantly more inclined to play sports or otherwise exercise regularly.

Those good habits, while commendable, were not necessarily well motivated, Hill concluded — perhaps little more than part of the narcissist’s deep need to be the prettiest person in any room. If that means going to the gym and saying no to dessert, fine.

The happy news for the trim and toned narcissists is that good health habits can stick for life, while bad risk behaviors do tend to decline over time, as even the hopelessly self-adoring eventually discover that they’re not invulnerable to harm. Narcissism as a whole, however, is a much harder thing to shake — which leads to the final paradox of the narcissistic personality. All that working out and eating well may be perfectly fine, but it does you little good if the people you were trying to impress have long since quit having anything to do with you.

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