Category Archives: Mars

Snapshots from Mars

A whole bunch of photographs rom Mars have bee posted by NASA, here. I thought the following one was pretty cool because it shows how accommodating the Martians are, cleaning the dust off the lens and all.

This image comparison shows a view through a Hazard-Avoidance camera on NASA's Curiosity rover before and after the clear dust cover was removed. Both images were taken by a camera at the front of the rover. Mount Sharp, the mission's ultimate destination, looms ahead. The view on the left, with the dust cover on, is one quarter of full resolution, while the view on the right is full resolution. Full-resolution images taken with the dust cover still on are not available at this time. The only other instrument on Curiosity with a dust cover is the Mars Hand Lens Imager (or MAHLI), located on the rover's arm. In this case, the dust cover is not removed but will be opened when needed. This way, the instrument is protected from dust that may be generated from other tools on the rover's arm, in addition to wind-blown dust. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Curiosity Cruises Ever Closer

This just in:

Curiosity Closes in on its New ‘Home’
Sat, 04 Aug 2012 06:20:24 PM CDT

With Mars looming ever larger in front of it, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft and its Curiosity rover are in the final stages of preparing for entry, descent and landing on the Red Planet at 10:31 p.m. PDT Aug. 5 (1:31 a.m. EDT Aug. 6). Curiosity remains in good health with all systems operating as expected. Today, the flight team uplinked and confirmed commands to make minor corrections to the spacecraft’s navigation reference point parameters. This afternoon, as part of the onboard sequence of autonomous activities leading to the landing, catalyst bed heaters are being turned on to prepare the eight Mars Lander Engines that are part of MSL’s descent propulsion system. As of 2:25 p.m. PDT (5:25 p.m. EDT), MSL was approximately 261,000 miles (420,039 kilometers) from Mars, closing in at a little more than 8,000 mph (about 3,600 meters per second).

Mars is tugging on NASA Rover Curiosity

Caption from NASA: "This artist's scoreboard displays a fictional game between Mars and Earth, with Mars in the lead. It refers to the success rate of sending missions to Mars, both as orbiters and landers. Of the previous 39 missions targeted for Mars from around the world, 15 have been successes and 24 failures. For baseball fans, that's a batting average of .385."
NASA acknowledges the fact that most missions to Mars fail. The rocket goes off course or crashes, or the device lands broken, or works for a while then stops.

According to the latest press release, which has some interesting photos including the one shown here,

The gravitational tug of Mars is now pulling NASA’s car-size geochemistry laboratory, Curiosity, in for a suspenseful landing in less than 40 hours.

“After flying more than eight months and 350 million miles since launch, the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is now right on target to fly through the eye of the needle that is our target at the top of the Mars atmosphere,” said Mission Manager Arthur Amador of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The spacecraft is healthy and on course for delivering the mission’s Curiosity rover close to a Martian mountain at 10:31 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5 PDT (1:31 a.m. Monday, Aug. 6 EDT). That’s the time a signal confirming safe landing could reach Earth, give or take about a minute for the spacecraft’s adjustments to sense changeable atmospheric conditions.

Follow Curiosity on Twitter here.

Here’s the latest video on the mission:

Even better than science!

… well, not really, but …

No matter how interesting the big expensive science NASA does is, or how important the work is to understanding our planet and solar system or figuring out important problems, nothing is as cool as seeing your own house on a satellite photograph, as it were:

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recorded a scene on Jan. 29, 2012, that includes the first color image from orbit showing the three-petal lander of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit mission. Spirit drove off that lander platform in January 2004 and spent most of its six-year working life in a range of hills about two miles to the east.

Another recent image from HiRISE, taken on Jan. 26, 2012, shows NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander and its surroundings on far-northern Mars after that spacecraft’s second Martian arctic winter. Phoenix exceeded its planned mission life in 2008, ending its work as solar energy waned during approach of its first Mars winter.

Here’s the Spirit Lander:

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Click to see a much larger image for context.

And here’s a picture of the Phoenix Mars Lander.

These photos were taken by HiRISE, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

More details here.

A Penny for your Thoughts (about Mars Exploration)

This August, Mars Science Robot Curiosity will land on the surface of the Angry Red Planet equipped with a Penny to tell how big things are.

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The camera at the end of the robotic arm on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has its own calibration target, a smartphone-size plaque that looks like an eye chart supplemented with color chips and an attached penny.

When Curiosity lands on Mars in August, researchers will use this calibration target to test performance of the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI. MAHLI’s close-up inspections of Martian rocks and soil will show details so tiny, the calibration target includes reference lines finer than a human hair. This camera is not limited to close-ups, though. It can focus on any target from about a finger’s-width away to the horizon.

Full press release

Happy Birthday Opportunity!

Can you imagine driving around on roadless terrain with a four wheel drive vehicle for eight years and not ever changing a tire, getting a tuneup, adjusting the suspension, replacing the hydraulics or brakes, or doing any other service whatsoever on your vehicle? I’ve actually done that, and I’m here to tell you, you can’t do that!

But Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has, in fact, done it.

Opportunity was tasked to took around on the Martian surface for three months. The Space Robot landed on Mars on January 25th, 2004. During the last eight years, Opportunity has traveled great distances, taken amazing photographs, and done all kinds of science.

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Opportunity’s Eighth Anniversary View From ‘Greeley Haven’
This mosaic of images taken in mid-January 2012 shows the windswept vista northward (left) to northeastward (right) from the location where NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is spending its fifth Martian winter, an outcrop informally named “Greeley Haven.”

Opportunity’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam) took the component images as part of full-circle view being assembled from Greeley Haven.

The view includes sand ripples and other wind-sculpted features in the foreground and mid-field. The northern edge of the the “Cape York” segment of the rim of Endeavour Crater forms an arc across the upper half of the scene.

Opportunity landed on Mars on Jan. 25, 2004, Universal Time and EST (Jan. 24, PST). It has driven 21.4 miles (34.4 kilometers) as of its eighth anniversary on the planet. In late 2011, the rover team drove Opportunity up onto Greeley Haven to take advantage of the outcrop’s sun-facing slope to boost output from the rover’s dusty solar panels during the Martian winter.

The image combines exposures taken through Pancam filters centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet). The view is presented in approximate true color. This “natural color” is the rover team’s best estimate of what the scene would look like if humans were there and able to see it with their own eyes.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.
Continue reading Happy Birthday Opportunity!