Mars Exploration Rovers
May 02, 2013
Mars Rover Opportunity Back in Action After Glitch
NASA's venerable Mars rover Opportunity has overcome a glitch that put the robot into standby mode late last month, agency officials announced today (May 1).
"The Opportunity rover is back under ground control, executing a sequence of commands sent by the rover team," NASA officials wrote in a mission update today. "Opportunity is no longer in standby automode and has resumed normal operations."
Opportunity apparently put itself into standby automode — in which it maintains power balance but waits for instructions from the ground — on April 22, after sensing a problem during a routine camera check, mission officials said.
April 04, 2013
Mars missions scaled back in April because of sun
It's the Martian version of spring break: Curiosity and Opportunity, along with their spacecraft friends circling overhead, will take it easy this month because of the sun's interference.
For much of April, the sun blocks the line of sight between Earth and Mars. This celestial alignment — called a Mars solar conjunction — makes it difficult for engineers to send instructions or hear from the flotilla in orbit and on the surface.
Such communication blackouts occur every two years when the red planet disappears behind the sun. No new commands are sent since flares and charged particles spewing from the sun can scramble transmission signals and put spacecraft in danger.
March 28, 2013
Why a Mars Comet Impact Would be Awesome
When Jupiter’s tides ripped Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 to shreds, only for the icy chunks to succumb to the intense Jovian gravity, ultimately slamming into the gas giant’s atmosphere, mankind was treated to a rare cosmic spectacle (in human timescales at least). That was the first time in modern history that we saw a comet do battle with a planet… and lose.
But next year, astronomers think there’s a chance — albeit a small one — of a neighboring planet getting punched by an icy interplanetary interloper. However, this planet doesn’t have a generously thick atmosphere to soften the blow. Rather than causing bruises in a dense, molecular hydrogen atmosphere, this comet will pass through the atmosphere like it wasn’t even there and hit the planetary surface like a cosmic pile-driver, ripping into the crust.
What’s more, we’d have robotic eyes on the ground and in orbit should the worst happen.
February 13, 2013
Step into the Twilight Zone: Can Earthlings Adjust to a Longer Day on Mars?
"Mutinous" is not a word frequently used to describe teams of NASA scientists and engineers.
But that's precisely the term employed by Harvard University sleep scientist Charles Czeisler to explain what happened when the group operating the Pathfinder mission's rover in 1997 was required to live indefinitely on Mars time.
"They didn't really have a plan for dealing with the Martian day before they went up, and the rover lasted a lot longer than it was supposed to, so they actually had a mutiny and wanted to shut the thing off because they were so exhausted," he says, drily adding the obvious: "NASA wasn't too happy with that notion."
January 22, 2013
NASA's Veteran Mars Rover Ready to Start 10th Year
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, one of the twin rovers that bounced to airbag-cushioned safe landings on Mars nine years ago this week, is currently examining veined rocks on the rim of an ancient crater.
Opportunity has driven 22.03 miles (35.46 kilometers) since it landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on Jan. 24, 2004, PST (Jan. 25, Universal Time). Its original assignment was to keep working for three months, drive about 2,000 feet (600 meters) and provide the tools for researchers to investigate whether the area's environment had ever been wet. It landed in a backyard-size bowl, Eagle Crater. During those first three months, it transmitted back to Earth evidence that water long ago soaked the ground and flowed across the surface. "What's most important is not how long it has lasted or even how far it has driven, but how much exploration and scientific discovery Opportunity has accomplished," said JPL's John Callas, manager of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project. The project has included both Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, which ceased operations in 2010.
January 18, 2013
NASA Mohawk Guy to Ride With Mars Rover in Obama’s Inaugural Parade
Presidential inaugurations are big deals, and tend to attract high-profile stars like Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen who are eager to rub elbows with the newly inaugurated commander-in-chief. But next week, a very unusual celebrity will be appearing in President Obama’s parade: the NASA scientist known as “Mohawk Guy.”
Bobak Ferdowsi, who earned the love and admiration of nerds everywhere as the vertically coiffed activity lead for NASA’s mission to Mars, will be rolling with his fellow scientists in Obama’s inaugural parade on Jan. 21 and a full-scale model of the Curiosity rover that they safely landed on Mars in August of last year, as well as a life-size replica of the new Orion capsule. And in true Ferdowsi fashion, he’s also planning a new haircut for the event – but all he’s saying right now is that it will be a “surprise.”
January 03, 2013
Mars Rover Anniversary: NASA's 'Spirit,' 'Opportunity' Robots Mark Nine Years On Red Planet
The Huffington Post
As the world rang in the Near Year this this week, NASA was looking forward to a big milestone of its own — nine years and counting on the surface of Mars for an overachieving Red Planet rover mission.
The golf-cart-size Spirit rover landed on Mars on Jan. 3, 2004, PST. Its twin, Opportunity, touched down at another Martian locale three weeks later, joining Spirit on a 90-day quest to search for signs of past water activity on the Red Planet. Together, the two robots make up the Mars Exploration Rover mission, the precursor to the huge Mars rover Curiosity, which arrived at the planet last August.
The two NASA robots found plenty of such evidence, helping scientists confirm that Mars — now a frigid and seemingly bone-dry place — was warmer and wetter billions of years ago. Spirit even stumbled onto an ancient hydrothermal system, where heat energy and liquid water may have created conditions capable of supporting life as we know it.
Both rovers kept on chugging long after their warranties expired. Spirit finally stopped communicating with Earth in March 2010 and was declared dead a year later. Opportunity is still going strong, exploring clay deposits on the rim of Mars' Endeavour Crater.
December 04, 2012
Opportunity Rover Finds Mars Minerals That Formed in Life-Friendly Water
While attention has been focused on the Mars rover Curiosity, NASA’s other active Mars rover, Opportunity, has quietly been going about its business and may have stumbled across an intriguing new geologic puzzle. Opportunity has begun examining ancient clays on Mars that would have formed in the presence of water with neutral acidity, a condition favorable for life as we know it.
“This is our first glimpse ever at an ancient Mars where conditions would be suitable for life,” said astronomer Steve Squyres of Cornell University, the lead scientist for Opportunity’s mission, here at the American Geophysical Union conference on December 4, 2012
August 08, 2012
Ustream Mars Curiosity broadcast numbers beat primetime CNN, company says
The live stream of NASA's Curiosity rover landing garnered more interest than primetime Sunday television, Ustream says. A spokesperson told Mashable that 3.2 million people in total had checked the stream at some point during the landing, with a peak of 500,000 people watching at the same time. That's higher than the estimated viewing numbers for CNN during Sunday primetime, which came in at 426,000, or MSNBC, which had an audience of 365,000 viewers over age two. Ustream's peak audience was lower only than that of Fox, which had an audience of 803,000.
"More people tuned in to watch the NASA Mars landing coverage on Ustream than many of the top cable news networks during Sunday primetime," says Ustream's Tony Riggins.
Nuclear generator powers Curiosity Mars mission
When the Curiosity rover touched down on Mars yesterday, a specially designed nuclear generator kicked into action.
Previous Mars missions have relied on solar panels to power the rovers, but exploration was slowed down by dust build-up on the solar panels or short winters days with little sunlight. The Curiosity Rover, which is as big as a large car, is also significantly larger and ten times heavier than previous Martian rovers.
Enter the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, or MMRTP, an energy source that relies on the heat generated by decaying plutonium dioxide to run Curiosity. It’s designed to run at least one Martian year, which is almost two Earth years.
August 05, 2012
Is exploring Mars worth the investment?
Los Angeles Times
NASA's Curiosity rover, slated to land next week, is the centerpiece of a $2.5-billion project. Some argue for rolling back spending, but proponents say knowing our celestial neighbor is in the nation's best interest. Saturn has its famous rings and Jupiter is the granddaddy of the solar system, but no planet has entranced earthlings quite like Mars.
Humans have launched 40 spacecraft to the Red Planet, lured by the prospect that life might once have existed in what is now dry rocks and sand. The latest machine to make the journey isNASA'sMars Science Laboratory, a hulking, souped-up lab-on-wheels that will plunge toward the Martian surface next week.
But even as excitement builds, some wonder: Is Mars exploration a good investment?
August 04, 2012
His other car is on Mars
On Earth, Scott Maxwell drives his red Prius without paying much attention to the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance. He's lived in the same neighborhood of Pasadena for 18 years, after all.
When he's driving on Mars, though, every rock he encounters is a new discovery, a step toward humanity's knowledge of the planet he hopes to visit some day.
Maxwell has the dream job of driving rovers on Mars, and he's gearing up to take control of the biggest and most sophisticated one yet: Curiosity. He's one of about a dozen people at NASA tasked with steering the $2.6 billion vehicle from more than 100 million miles away.
"It's a priceless national asset that happens to be sitting on the surface of another planet," Maxwell says of the rover, which is set to land on Mars at 1:31 a.m. ET Monday. "You better take that damn seriously."
May 25, 2012
Dark Shadows on Mars: Scene from Durable NASA Rover
Like a tourist waiting for just the right lighting to snap a favorite shot during a stay at the Grand Canyon, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has used a low sun angle for a memorable view of a large Martian crater.
The resulting view catches a shadow of the rover in the foreground and the giant basin in the distance. Opportunity is perched on the western rim of Endeavour Crater looking eastward. The crater spans about 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter. Opportunity has been studying the edge of Endeavour Crater since arriving there in August 2011.
The scene is presented in false color to emphasize differences in materials such as dark dunes on the crater floor. This gives portions of the image an aqua tint.
January 24, 2012
Opportunity’s eight years on Mars: A story of science and endurance
Eight years ago today (January 25, 2004), the Mars Exploration Rover -B (MER -B) slammed into the Martian atmosphere and executed a successful Entry, Descent, and Landing on the Red Planet – beginning what was supposed to be 90 days of science operations on the surface of Mars. Eight years and 2,922 Earth-days later, Opportunity continues its mission of exploration of the Martian surface, unlocking the mysteries of Mars and serving as a symbol of endurance while paving the way for future human missions to the Red Planet.
January 07, 2012
NASA Rover Takes 'Winter Vacation' to Power Solar Panel
NASA has sent its Mars Rover, Opportunity, on its first winter working vacation since the solar-powered vehicle began exploring the red planet’s surface several years ago.
Similar to humans who travel to sunny locations during the winter, the robotic rover will spend the next several months literally soaking up sunlight. The U.S. space agency, NASA, says it positioned Opportunity with its solar panel angled toward the Sun to make sure the rover will have enough power to last for the duration of the long Martian winter.
Mission scientists say it was not necessary for Opportunity to be kept in a Sun-facing position the previous four Martian winters because its landing site just south of the planet's equator gets relatively strong sunlight year-round. They decided to use the maneuver this year because the rover’s solar panels were caked with an unusually thick coating of dust.
Additional Articles in this Category