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10 March 2017

Sols 1634-1635: Back to nominal MAHLI planning

Curiosity drove about 29 meters toward the south on Sol 1632, and is in a good position for weekend activities.

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5 March 2016

Sols 1273-1274: Driving up to the Naukluft Plateau

We are planning only 2 sols today because tactical operations will transition to nominal next week (working all 5 weekdays). On Sol 1273, Mastcam will acquire a multispectral image of the contact between the Murray and Stimson geologic units.  This set of images, taken using all of the Mastcam filters, will be acquired just after noon, when the illumination of the contact should be better than in previous images.  Then …

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4 January 2016

Sol 1214: Catching up after the holidays

While the science team took a break from operations over the holidays, we sent up plenty of commands to keep Curiosity busy over Sols 1205-1213.  Curiosity acquired a number of change detection and environmental monitoring observations over the holidays, and we’re just starting to assess all of the great data that was returned. In today’s plan we’ll wrap up our investigation at this particular location (on the lee side of …

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23 October 2015

Sols 1143-1145: Last observations at Greenhorn and driving away

After a successful investigation focused on alteration zones around fractures, it’s time to move on.  We’re still chewing on data from the “Greenhorn” and “Big Sky” drill samples, but we can wrap up a few last observations in this area and drive away in today’s 3-sol plan. On the first sol, we’ll acquire MAHLI images on the pre-sieve dump pile and the nearby target “Vandalia,” with overnight APXS on the …

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20 October 2015

Sol 1140: Zapping the drill hole wall

The ChemCam RMI images of the drill hole planned yesterday were successfully acquired and received, and were used today to plan 2 parallel LIBS rasters down the hole.  The additional LIBS raster should be useful in measuring variations in chemistry among individual sand grains and in detecting thin veins.  ChemCam and Mastcam will also observe a target dubbed “Marshall” to see whether silica enrichment extends along other fractures near the …

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21 May 2015

Sol 991: Taking the high road

By Lauren Edgar After assessing a few different drive paths to deal with the challenging terrain, the team decided to drive uphill to avoid crossing the ripples near Jocko Butte.  On Sol 990, Curiosity drove 53 m back towards Mt. Shields, which puts our total odometry at 10,749 m.   The goal of today’s plan is to climb uphill towards an interesting geologic contact.  It’s the same contact that we would …

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31 March 2015

Martian Chronicles is Back!

Good news everyone: this blog is coming out of retirement! For a while now, I and two other USGS scientists on the Curiosity team, Ken Herkenhoff and Lauren Edgar, have been posting brief updates on what the Curiosity rover is up to, over at the USGS Astrogeology website. Now, through the wonders of the internet (and some behind the scenes work by the USGS and AGU webmasters) those updates will …

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17 May 2011

5th Mars Science Laboratory Landing Site Workshop Info

Hi folks, I don’t have much time to write a full post since I have some last minute changes to make to my talk before tomorrow morning, but I wanted to share some info about the workshop for those who want to play along at home. First, if you’re on the Twitter, there are several people at the meeting or following it online, using the hashtag #MSLsite. Speaking of following …

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29 April 2011

Gale Crater Videos

Yesterday I participated in a telecon about Gale Crater, one of the potential landing sites for MSL. It’s a fascinating place to talk about and would make for a spectacular mission. Ok, this is true for all four finalist landing sites, but the scenery at Gale, with its 5km tall mountain of layered rocks would be particularly great. One of the presenters at yesterday’s telecon, Dawn Sumner, posted two very nice videos on YouTube covering much of what she talked about. The videos also serve to show off a very-cool new open-source 3D visualization and GIS tool called Crusta being developed by a student at UC Davis.

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22 April 2011

New CO2 Reservoir Discovered on Mars

If you’ve followed Mars science for long, you know that the question of where the atmosphere went is a major one. Evidence points to liquid water on the surface of Mars, and that’s only possible if the atmospheric pressure is high enough and the surface temperature is warm enough. Adding CO2 to the atmosphere would increase both temperature and pressure, so a lot of scientists have been looking for carbonate rocks that might be trapping the CO2 that used to be in the atmosphere.

Well, this week a new article in Science reveals that there is a huge amount of CO2 trapped as dry ice near the South Pole!

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16 April 2011

Dreaming of Easy-to-Use Data

Some thoughts on how difficult it is to use multiple different types of data in planetary science, how easy it could be, and two free programs that are important first steps in making easy-to-use data a reality.

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16 March 2011

LPSC 2011 – Day 1: Cryospheres and Making Moons

Greetings from Texas, loyal readers! As you may have noticed, this year’s Lunar and Planetary Science Conference came and went with barely a peep here on the blog. This is because, unlike some members of the planetary science community, I do need to sleep occasionally, and I spent almost all of my time at LPSC either in sessions or working on my never-ending paper. Yeah, remember the one that I …

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15 February 2011

Waiting for Tempel 1

It sounds like it might be a little while longer before we get nice high-res images from last night’s flyby of comet Tempel 1. As usual, Emily at the Planetary Society blog has the scoop: The good news is that they have all their images, and according to Stardust’s navigation team, they all have the comet centered in the field of view. The bad news is that for reasons as …

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14 February 2011

Stardust NExT’s Date with a Comet

Apparently NASA has a rule that the comet Tempel 1 can only be visited on holidays. Back in 2005, on the 4th of July, the Deep Impact spacecraft flew by Tempel 1 and smashed an 816 pound copper bullet into the comet. And now this Valentine’s Day the Stardust spacecraft is taking a look at the aftermath.

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3 February 2011

Planets, Planets Everywhere!

For there is a single general space, a single vast immensity which we may freely call Void; in it are innumerable globes like this one on which we live and grow. – Giordano Bruno, 1584 It’s looking more and more like Bruno was right. Yesterday the Kepler Space Telescope released its second batch of data, revealing an astounding 1235 new exoplanet candidates! For the uninitiated, Kepler is a space telescope …

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24 January 2011

Rhea’s “Breathable” Atmosphere

Yesterday I came across this article, proclaiming to the world that “Saturn’s icy moon Rhea has an oxygen and carbon dioxide atmosphere that is very similar to Earth’s. Even better, the carbon dioxide suggests there’s life – and that possibly humans could breathe the air.”

Say what? Ok. There’s so much badness packed into those two lede sentences that I feel dirty just reprinting them here.

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12 January 2011

Teacher Webinar: Rovers and Career Advice

Yesterday I had the opportunity to give my first ever “webinar” to a group of teachers and some of their students, and thanks to the miracle of the internet, the whole thing is recorded so you can watch it too! Shoshe Cole, another Mars graduate student here at Cornell gave the first presentation, focusing mostly on general Mars background info and the current Mars Exploration Rovers. My presentation starts at just shy of 1 hour into the recording, and I talked about Mars Science Laboratory and my involvement in the mission through ChemCam work and landing site selection.

We also both included some career advice for the teachers to pass onto their students, so if you or someone you know are interested in a career in planetary science (or science more generally), you might want to take a look!

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3 January 2011

AGU 2010 – Days 3 and 4: Exoplanets, Impact Basins and Alteration

Now that it’s a New Year, it’s time I wrapped up my AGU 2010 recaps. This post covers Wednesday and Thursday, with lots of good stuff about super-earth exoplanets, impacts on the Moon and Mars, and lasers on Venus!

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19 December 2010

AGU 2010 – Day 2: Shoemaker Lecture and Icy Moons

My massive summary of the Day 2 AGU planetary sciences talks, starting with the Shoemaker Lecture, and then covering Titan, Enceladus and other icy moons. Hydrocarbon volcanoes and icy geysers and hidden oceans, oh my!

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15 December 2010

AGU 2010: Day 1 – Astrobiology, Volcanoes, and More!

Planetary highlights from Day 1 of the Fall 2010 AGU conference: astrobiology, explosive volcanism, planetary atmospheres and lots of methane!

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