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10 November 2015

Sol 1160-1161: Brandberg

The 68-meter drive planned for Sol 1158 completed as planned, placing the rover near a dark, circular feature named “Brandberg.”  The tactical operations team studied the images of Brandberg and discussed the value of contact science observations in this area, ultimately deciding to drive on toward the Bagnold Dunes.  But before leaving, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe targets “Hoba” and “Gibeon” on the Brandberg feature, which appears to be a …


31 October 2015

Sols 1148-1152: Driving and Contact Science

Apologies for the lack of an update on Wednesday this week! Lauren and I were both in a training class, and Ken was traveling so none of us were able to post here. That means that today’s post covers five sols of planning!  The sol 1148 plan started off with a Mastcam observation of the target McLeod and a 10×1 mosaic to patch a gap in the mosaic from sol …


29 October 2015

The amazing Tonzang landslides in Burma – NASA images

NASA EO-1 images have revealed the extent of the amazing Tonzang landslides in Burma, which occurred earlier this year. The largest landslide is 5.9 km long


26 October 2015

Sol 1146-1147: A View of Meeteetse

The weekend drive was successful, placing us nicely on an overlook of the “Meeteetse” area. The focus for Sol 1146 is to get some good color stereo images of the whole area, including “Big Sky,” “Greenhorn,” and “Meeteetse”. Mastcam will take a 16×3 mosaic of the Meeteetse area, plus a 12×1 right-eye mosaic of some nearby resistant ridges. It will also measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere by …


23 October 2015

Severe Hurricane Patricia Approaching Mexico Coast

Hurricane Patricia continues to maintain category 5 level, and hurricane hunters have measured the lowest pressure ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. The hot waters from El Nino are probably playing a role here, and it now looks nearly certain that Patricia will cause severe flooding and destruction, with a deadly storm surge as it makes landfall tonight. Astronaut Scott Kelly (on the ISS) sent back this view of Patricia from low Earth …


14 October 2015

The Hubble Telescope View of Jupiter is Amazing

From NASA: New imagery from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is revealing details never before seen on Jupiter. High-resolution maps and spinning globes (rendered in the 4k Ultra HD format) are the first products to come from a program to study the solar system’s outer planets each year using Hubble. The observations are designed to capture a broad range of features, including winds, clouds, storms and atmospheric chemistry. These annual studies …


28 September 2015

Why Running Water on Mars is a HUGE Discovery

On Earth, where you find water, you find life, so today’s announcement from NASA of flowing water on Mars is far more important than you might imagine. The photos from the Mar’s rovers look almost like the high desert of the American West, but remember  that Mars has only 1/100th of our atmosphere, and the temperature is well below zero most of the time. However, and this is key- when we …


15 September 2015

Arctic Sea Ice Reaches 4th Lowest Extent on Record

The summer sea ice melt has ended in the High Arctic, and the ice pack melted back to the 4th lowest extent on the satellite record. From the Nat. Snow Ice Data Center: On September 11, 2015, sea ice extent dropped to 4.41 million square kilometers (1.70 million square miles), the fourth lowest minimum in the satellite record. This appears to be the lowest extent of the year. In response to …


14 August 2015

Sols 1075-1077: Time for SAM!

We had another successful drive on sol 1074, putting us in a good position for the weekend! The main activity for the weekend is using the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument to analyze some of the recent drill sample that we collected. SAM activities will take up all of sol 1075. On sol 1076, we will use MAHLI to check on the health of our wheels, and SAM will …


20 July 2015

Deep Space Climate Observatory Snaps Earth from a Million Miles Out

Forty-six years ago today I set beside my Great Grandmother, who walked to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) behind a covered wagon, and listened to Armstrong and Aldrin land on the Moon. While the photos of the Moon from the Apollo astronauts were dramatic, it was the pictures they took looking back at Earth that changed the way we think about our planet. Today, we got another one of those photos …


17 July 2015

Sols 1046-1047: Wheel imaging

  The 8.5-meter Sol 1044 drive completed as planned, leaving the rover in a relatively flat and smooth area that is suitable for imaging of the wheels.  Wheel imaging is done periodically to assess wear, and it’s time to acquire new data, so the Sol 1046 includes 5 sets of MAHLI, Mastcam, and MARDI images separated by short rover bumps to allow the entire surfaces of the wheels to be …


16 July 2015

Neil deGrasse Tyson & Stephen Colbert Talk About Pluto

What happens when two of the best science communicators eat a Klondike Bar and talk about Pluto. Watch and see. Oh, and yes I called Colbert a great science communicator, and here is why.


15 July 2015

NASA: June 2015 ties with 1998 as Hottest On Record

As greenhouse gases rise, we get more record hot months, but they are even more likely during an El Nino. Just like 1998, we have a strong one developing now. So far, this year is the warmest ever (Last year is currently the record holder), and 2015 has already seen a the hottest ever March and May, with January and February coming in as second hottest ever. Below is a …


13 July 2015

This is Why You Have Not Seen A Bunch of Images of Pluto This Weekend

July 14, 2015 is going to be an important date in the history book of space exploration. At about 7:50 AM Tuesday, New York time,  the New Horizons probe will pass about 12,500 km from Pluto, and the most sophisticated set of instruments ever put in deep space will record high resolution images of the dwarf planet. Images of Pluto will be recorded in visible and infrared light, while other …


Sols 1041-1043: Busy weekend planned

The rover bumped back 33 cm on Sol 1039, placing all 6 wheels on firm ground and allowing contact science on the bright rocks near the top of the slope in front of the vehicle. So the weekend plan is a full one, including both contact science and a drive back toward the southwest.  First, on Sol 1041, ChemCam will passively (no laser) acquire spectra of the sky and a rock …


9 July 2015

Best Image Ever of Pluto and Charon

New Horizons will get closer every day from now until July 14.


7 July 2015

Sols 1037-1038: Familiar Terrain

  By Lauren Edgar Over the weekend holiday plan, Curiosity drove back to our location on Sol 992. Previous DAN and ChemCam data from this site showed some interesting results, so we want to investigate this region in more detail.  The front Hazcam image above shows our wheel tracks from the last time we were here, and some of the bright outcrop that we want to study further. Today’s two-sol …


28 June 2015

Sols 1027-1029: Resuming tactical operations

  Mars has passed through solar conjunction, and reliable communication with the spacecraft at Mars is possible again.  As planning started this morning, we were still waiting for more data to be relayed by the orbiters to confirm that MSL is ready to resume science planning, but proceeded with tactical planning so that we would be ready when the data arrived.  The Sol 1027 plan starts with Mastcam observations of …


6 June 2015

Amazing Greenland

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Greenland twice, and it is truly a place of amazing beauty. A friend who lives just a couple of blocks away from me here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland just got back from the 2015 operation Ice Bridge mission where the video below is from. Ice Bridge is filling in data on the changes in the ice sheets to cover the loss of …


31 May 2015

Sol 1000-1002: Photometry

  by Ken Herkenhoff We’re planning 3 sols of MSL activities today, starting with Sol 1000!  As we continue to prepare for solar conjunction, arm motion is allowed in this plan, but no contact science.  The plan starts with ChemCam and Mastcam observations of a platy rock called “Newland” and a Navcam search for dust devils.  Then the first of several Mastcam/Navcam photometry observations is planned.  The goal of these …