Mars Exploration Rovers
February 4, 2014
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover looks to 'jump' sand dune
The Curiosity Mars rover is to try to drive over a one metre-high dune.
The sand bank is currently blocking the robot's path into a small valley and a route with fewer of the sharp rocks that lately have been making big dents in the vehicle's aluminium wheels.
US space agency engineers will take no risks, however. The rover will be commanded initially to climb only part way up the dune to see how it behaves.
The team is mindful that NASA's Spirit rover was lost in a sand trap in 2009.
And the Opportunity rover, which has just celebrated 10 working years on the planet, very nearly went the same way in 2005 when it became stuck for several weeks in a deep dirt pile later dubbed "Purgatory Dune".
January 31, 2014
The Opportunity Rover Looks Nearly Unrecognizable After 10 Years On Mars
The Opportunity rover recently celebrated 10 years on Mars, even though the mission was only planned for three months. Engineers thought the rover would conk out much sooner, in part because they believed its solar panels would quickly become caked with dust and cut off the robot's power supply. Instead, they found that wind storms actually help to clean the panels.
Over the years, Opportunity has taken several self-portraits — an overhead view of the rover made by combining several images — that give us a good idea of how much dust has accumulated on the solar panels. Compared to its first year on Mars, the rover is looking really dirty today.
January 24, 2014
Bill Nye and Planetary Radio Live Celebrate the Rovers
The Planetary Society
We'll talk about the accomplishments of both Opportunity and her sister, Spirit, and the legacy of these two little explorers that have gone far beyond their creators' dreams.
Society Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist Emily Lakdawalla will present stunning images of Mars, and Director of Projects Bruce Betts will join Mat for a live edition of What's Up. Also returning by popular demand, the great gypsy swing band, Hedgehog Swing!
January 22, 2014
Large international interest in riding with NASA’s next Mars Rover
The next NASA rover to be sent to the surface of Mars has received twice the usual amount of proposals for carrying science and exploration technology instruments. The agency is reviewing a total of 58 submitted proposals, 17 of which came from international partners, ahead of a proposed mission in 2020. Announced at the end of 2012, the next NASA rover will be based on the Curiosity Rover that is currently exploring the surface of Mars.
January 17, 2014
Mystery Rock 'Appears' in Front of Mars Rover
fter a decade of exploring the Martian surface, the scientists overseeing veteran rover Opportunity thought they’d seen it all. That was until a rock mysteriously “appeared” a few feet in front of the six wheeled rover a few days ago.
News of the errant rock was announced by NASA Mars Exploration Rover lead scientist Steve Squyres of Cornell University at a special NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory “10 years of roving Mars” event at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, Calif., on Thursday night. The science star-studded public event was held in celebration of the decade since twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on the red planet in January 2004.
December 18, 2013
An Updated Mars Exploration Family Portrait
The Planetary Society
The Mars Exploration Family Portrait shows every dedicated spacecraft mission to Mars, and now includes India’s Mars Orbiter Mission and NASA's MAVEN. The dates listed are for launch.
October 16, 2013
Millions Of Miles From Shutdown, Mars Rovers Keep Working
The budget negotiations in Washington are not front-page news on Mars. There, millions of miles away, NASA's rovers continue to operate, taking photographs and collecting data as they prepare for the coming Martian winter. The two rovers are taking in data and getting into strategic locations before winter arrives on Mars in a few months.
The scarcity of sunlight shouldn't pose a challenge for Curiosity, whose systems are powered by heat generated by the radioactive decay of plutonium. NASA hopes that the older Opportunity, which powers itself with solar panels, will be aided by its position on a north-facing slope.
October 2, 2013
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter achieves imaging of comet ISON from Mars
The Planetary Society
Yesterday, the much-anticipated comet ISON made its closest pass by Mars. Despite the government shutdown, all NASA spacecraft are still operating normally, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Curiosity, and Opportunity have all attempted imaging over the last several days. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE camera is the first to achieve a positive detection of the somewhat-fainter-than-expected comet in its photos.
September 19, 2013
Could Upcoming Comet Flybys Damage Mars Spacecraft?
Two comets will buzz Mars over the course of the next year, prompting excitement as well as some concern that cometary particles could hit the spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet and exploring its surface.
Three operational spacecraft currently circle Mars: NASA's Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), as well as Europe’s Mars Express. NASA also has two functioning rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity, on the ground on Mars.
All of these spacecraft will have ringside seats as Comet ISON cruises by Mars this year, followed by Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) in 2014.
August 22, 2013
Mars rover Opportunity reaches campsite for Martian winter
NASA's long-lived Opportunity Mars rover has reached the site where it will wait out its sixth Red Planet winter.
Opportunity — which touched down on Mars in January 2004 just after its twin, Spirit, arrived on the planet — is studying rocks at the foot of a location called Solander Point, whose north-facing slope will allow the robot to tilt its solar panels toward the sun during the coming southern Martian winter.
August 1, 2013
Happy New Mars Year!
The Planetary Society
They're too far apart to have a party, but today Curiosity and Opportunity could have rung in the New Mars Year. Today Mars reached a solar longitude of zero degrees and the Sun crossed Mars' equator, heralding the arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern hemisphere. This is the date that Martian climatologists have identified as the zero-point for Mars' calendar. Mars Year 31 was a good one, with Opportunity active at the rim of Endeavour crater and Curiosity arriving at Gale. Mars Year 32 should be even better, as Opportunity rolls up Solander point and maybe even Cape Tribulation, and Curiosity should explore the rocks in the mountain that drew her to Gale in the first place. And there'll be two orbiters arriving (we hope). MAVEN and the Mars Orbiter Mission's capabilities should warm the hearts of the climatologists who care about how one Mars year differs from the next enough to need to make up a calendar to mark their passage!
July 29, 2013
Opportunity rover Days Away from Mars Mountain Quest
Exactly a decade after blasting off for the Red Planet and discovering a wide swath of water altered rocks and minerals in the ensuing years by exploring countless craters large and small, NASA’s intrepid Opportunity rover is just days away from arriving at her next big quest – a Martian mountain named Solander Point that may possess the key chemical ingredients necessary to sustain Martian life forms.
“We are parked 200 meters away from the bench at Solander Point,” Ray Arvidson told Universe Today exclusively. Arvidson is the mission’s deputy principal scientific investigator from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. Furthermore, this area exhibits signatures related to water flow.
Solander Point also represents ‘something completely different’ – the first mountain the intrepid robot will ever climb.
May 2, 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 4, 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.
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