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3 May 2015

Sol 973-975: Albert, Bigfork, and Charity

  by Ken Herkenhoff MSL is in a good position for contact science observations on an interesting outcrop of sedimentary rock, so the rover will be busy this weekend!  We had to change the timing of the arm activities a bit to optimize the illumination of MAHLI targets, so it was a busy morning for me as SOWG Chair but I’m happy with the way the plan turned out.  On …


27 April 2015

Sol 969-970: Studying Mt. Shields

by Ryan Anderson Our drive on sol 967 covered almost 90 meters, putting us in front of some interesting stratigraphy at “Mt. Shields”, an outcrop along our drive down “Logan’s Run”. In the sol 969-970 plan, we have lots of Mastcam and ChemCam studying the outcrop. On sol 969, Mastcam has a 24×2 stereo mosaic and a 6×3 stereo mosaic of parts of Mt. Shields. Then, on sol 970, ChemCam …


26 April 2015

Sol 966-968: More Driving

  by Ken Herkenhoff The rover drove 32 meters on Sol 964, to a position that gave us a good view of the terrain ahead and outcrops of interest.  So a longer (~90 m) drive is planned for Sol 967 after ChemCam and Mastcam observe nearby targets dubbed “Pablo” and “Pauline” on Sol 966.  Mastcam, Navcam and REMS will also observe the atmosphere.  I’m MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead today, and planned …


23 April 2015

Sols 964-965: Logan’s Run? Or just a short dash…

By Lauren Edgar Although we had planned a drive of up to 48 m towards “Logan’s Run” on Sol 963, the drive ended early after only 17 m due to the detection of a nearby hazard (a large rock).  This was the first time in a while that we were using autonav for driving.  The good news is that the hazard was detected, and the events are understood.  It just means …


22 April 2015

Sol 963: Making a run for it

By Lauren Edgar After cruising through Artist’s Drive, Curiosity set her sights on the next pass, known as “Logan Pass.” However, the science team realized that there’s an interesting outcrop to west of “Logan Pass,” which may help us to understand how these rocks relate to the section that we investigated at the Pahrump Hills.  So we decided to make a run for it, and take a quick trip over …


20 April 2015

Sol 959-961: Daughter of the Sun

by Ryan Anderson The short drive on sol 958 was a success, placing us at the top of a small ridge, facing an outcrop dubbed “Daughter of the Sun”. The plan for sol 959 is to do some ChemCam and Mastcam of targets “Gold” and “Espinoza”, followed by several Mastcam mosaics. The biggest mosaic will be a 26×2 stereo mosaic looking toward Logan Pass. We also have a 7×3 stereo …


16 April 2015

Sol 958: Officially 10k!

by Ryan Anderson The Sol 957 drive went well, and the rover has officially driven 10 kilometers! (Last week I announced that we had reached 10k, but that was 10k measured by how many times the wheels have spun, not how far across the surface of Mars the rover has gone. Now, no matter how you measure it, we’ve gone 10,000 meters!). Unfortunately, we stopped with a ridge in front …


15 April 2015

Sol 957: Fine Views and Limited Downlink

  by Ken Herkenhoff MSL drove about 65 meters on Sol 956, then took some nice images of the path ahead.  As we continue to drive each sol, acquiring images of the terrain around us is important to the science team.  We don’t want to miss anything!  So the Sol 957 plan includes ChemCam RMI and Mastcam images of outcrops to the south and a Mastcam image of the windblown …


14 April 2015

Sol 956: Curiosity to Watch Mercury Transit

by Ryan Anderson With the last portion of the Telegraph Peak sample delivered to SAM and analyzed by APXS, we are ready to keep driving. In the sol 956 plan, there is a quick science block in the morning, to allow the rover to take a couple of Mastcam pictures of nearby boulders called “Waucoba” and Navcam pictures to complete the 360 degree panorama of the area. After that, we …


13 April 2015

Sols 953-955: Dumping Telegraph Peak

by Ryan Anderson Our sol 952 drive went well, and we’re very close to crossing over into a new “quad” of the map that was made before landing (meaning we will get a whole new bunch of target names to choose from!). On Saturday the team planned for a lengthy ChemCam focus test on sol 953, where we collect images of the target “Eaton Canyon” at different times of day …


10 April 2015

Sol 952: A Longer Drive and Slippery 10k

  by Ken Herkenhoff MSL drove 18 meters on Sol 951, as planned, putting the rover in position to image the terrain ahead and plan a longer drive on Sol 952.  The total “wheel odometry” for the MSL mission is now over 10 km!  But the total traverse distance is still less than 10 km, because the wheels sometimes slip while driving, and the wheel odometry does not take slippage …


8 April 2015

Sol 950: Taking in the Scenery along Artist’s Drive

  By Lauren Edgar Like most tourists who visit Artist’s Drive on Earth, Curiosity is busy taking lots of photos to document the valley walls of Artist’s Drive on Mars.  We are officially on the road again, and working our way through a very scenic drive.  I’m the Geology Science Theme Lead today, and today’s plan involves a pre-drive science block, a drive for hopefully ~30-40m, and some post-drive imaging …


6 April 2015

Sol 948: Good Morning Mars

  By Lauren Edgar As we started the planning day before sunrise, I was reminded of the first three months of the mission that we spent living on Mars time.   Today is an early “slide sol,” meaning that the planning timeline is shifted 1.5 hours earlier in order to compensate for our downlink and uplink times. Today is also a “tight” planning sol, meaning that the planning timeline is slightly shorter …


8 January 2015

It’s Colder Than Mars Outside- No Really!

Data from the weather station on-board the Curiosity Rover at Gale Crater showed a rather mild afternoon on Mars. Warmer than the area in blue over the NE U.S.!


19 December 2014

Sterilizing for Mars

“Leave no trace.” It’s a central ethic of wilderness exploration. Pack your supplies in, pack your waste out, and leave the natural landscape unspoiled. But when it comes to the newest frontier of exploration—visiting alien worlds to search for evidence of extraterrestrial life—the challenge of avoiding contamination with traces of life from Earth is a huge challenge.


15 December 2014

Dr. G’s #AGU14 Spotlight – The MAVEN Mission to Mars

The AGU 2014 Fall Meeting Public Lecture focused on the NASA MAVEN Mission to Mars. Learn more about the information shared from the earliest stages of this atmospheric-detection mission.


16 October 2013

Making Martian clouds on Earth

If you want to understand the atmosphere of a planet, it helps to think big. That’s just what scientists did recently when they created conditions in the world’s largest cloud chamber mimicking those in the thin veil of gases that surrounds Mars. Experiments by the researchers within the three-story shell of a former nuclear reactor confirmed earlier runs in tabletop setups that have shown how the most common clouds on Mars form.


5 April 2013

A last hurrah of flowing water on Mars

This is not so much a review of a recent paper as a review of a significant paper. “An intense terminal epoch of widespread fluvial activity on early Mars:1. Valley network incision and associated deposits” by Alan Howard, Jeff Moore, and Ross Irwin is the first of a pair of papers published in 2005 that make the case that instead of a gradual transition from warm and wet to cold …


18 February 2013

Remote Sensing and Planetary Processes: An Interview with Dr. Alex Hayes

Dr. Alex Hayes is Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University. Hayes uses spacecraft-based remote sensing to study the properties of planetary surfaces, their interactions with the interior, and if present, atmosphere. Recently, he has focused on studying the coupling of surface, subsurface, and atmospheric processes on Titan and Mars.


7 February 2013

The Mysterious Moving Rocks of Mars

How did the boulders in the picture above end up in clumps and arcs instead of randomly distributed across the surface? That’s the focus of the paper “Possible Mechanism of Boulder Clustering on Mars” by Travis Orloff, Mikhail Kreslavsky, and Eric Asphaug that is currently In Press in the journal Icarus.