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Tapped Out: How Will Cities Secure Their Water Future?

Today, global demands for food, energy, and shelter are putting unprecedented pressure on the resources of the planet. Water is at the heart of this crisis. In fact, more than half of the world’s cities are already experiencing water shortages on a recurring basis – based on findings from a study that I published, along…

Phoenix and LA Spar Over Colorado River Water

In a recent volley between Phoenix and Los Angeles, newspapers in those two arid cities pointed fingers at each other over who has the least sustainable water supply. In the L.A. Times, opinion writer William deBuys asserted: If cities were stocks, you’d want to short Phoenix. Of course, it’s an easy city to pick on. The…

Will Modern Phoenix Outlast the Prehistorical Hohokam?

    Darell Duppa, a late nineteenth century pioneer of the American Southwest, may barely warrant a historical footnote, but he left one memorable legacy: he named the capital city of the state of Arizona. With a classical education and five languages under his belt, Duppa was no typical Western pioneer.  He drank and gambled,…

“Martian Summer” Is Like Space Camp–With Custom Watches and Drugs.

by Rachel Kaufman “The story begins two months before the launch of the Phoenix Mars Lander. One year before the landing. It takes ten months to fly at 74,000 mph to arrive on Mars. It’s far. The subject of the story is a Martian photographer. “Don’t call me that,” Peter Smith, the world’s greatest Martian…

NASA to Broadcast Mars Lander Descent

Curiosity, as compared with the Mars rover Spirit. —Image courtesy NASA/JPL No matter where you stand on the future of human space flight, if you want to visit other worlds, you are probably a fan of robotic exploration. Still, there’re a lot of hurdles to putting even a robot on another planet: budget, scientific squabbling,…

Springtime for Phoenix, Summer on Triton

Update: Even as I was typing this, the HiRISE team was posting a brand-new picture of a Martian avalanche! Check it out below … Spring is in bloom on Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, melting snows, coaxing out budding leaves on trees, and otherwise making its mark on the landscape. On northern Mars, spring has been revving…

NASA to Check Whether Phoenix Survived the Winter

No, Arizona, the space agency will not be making a visit to your lovely but likely unharmed state capital. Instead, scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are hoping against hope that the Phoenix Mars Lander might have somehow made it through harsh winter conditions at its final resting place in the Martian arctic. Phoenix amid…

Phoenix, Gone But Not Forgotten

Great stars don’t die, they just fade away. It’s been almost two months since NASA lost contact with the Phoenix Mars Lander, which had been studying icy soils near the red planet’s north pole. The lander’s surface stereo imager made a mosaic to show the craft from a few feet in the air—that black spot…

Will the Phoenix Rise Again?

Late last night the Mars Phoenix Lander put itself to sleep after experiencing a malfunction brought on by its deteriorating power supply. The craft also unexpectedly switched over to its backup electronics and shut off one of its batteries. The news was surely a disappointment, but not entirely a surprise, for NASA engineers, who had…

Let It Snow [on Mars]

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has seen snow falling on the red planet! One of the probe’s atmospheric instruments detected ice crystals coming from clouds about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers ) above, although the flakes seem to have vaporized before they reached the ground. —Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Canadian Space Agency This probably isn’t a huge…