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3 March 2017

Sols 1627-1629: Driving again

Good news: the MAHLI cover was successfully opened and the instrument is marked healthy again. That means it’s time to close the cover, and if that’s successful, drive away toward the next stop in the Bagnold Dunes Campaign.


22 February 2017

Sol 1617: Re-attempt the drive

The drive planned for Sol 1616 halted early, apparently because the right rear wheel got stuck between two rocks. The mobility team concluded that it is safe to continue, so the drive planned for Sol 1617 is essentially the same as the previously-planned drive.


22 August 2016

Sols 1439-1440: Target names that start with Q

Our weekend drive halted a little bit early, but everything is looking good and we will continue to drive in today’s plan. We will start off the Sol 1439 plan with ChemCam observations of the layered rock targets “Quibala” and “Quibaxe.” Mastcam will then image Quibala, followed by a whole bunch of mosaics documenting the stratigraphy in the nearby buttes as well as the locations called “Quibaxe,” “Quipungo” and “Quicombo.” …


15 August 2016

Sol 1432: Crossing the sand

The weekend plan went well, so the plan for Sol 1432 is to keep driving! Curiosity will go about 52 meters across a patch of sand, but before that we have a short science block. ChemCam will observe the target “Longa” and Mastcam has two mosaics of the nearby buttes. After the drive, we have post-drive imaging, and some onboard data processing of the MAHLI images of the “Marimba” drill …


11 May 2016

Sols 1339-1340: Two Mars Years!

Happy birthday, Curiosity! As of today, the rover has been on the surface of Mars for two Mars years (almost four Earth years)! To celebrate, we have a new press release discussing our ongoing environmental measurements. These sorts of systematic measurements become more useful the longer the rover is on the surface to collect them, because we can compare how conditions change from year to year. Of course, we had …


23 December 2015

Sol 1202-1213: Holidays on Earth, Busy Days on Mars

Today’s plan is a four sol Holiday plan covering Sol 1202-1205, and it will be followed by some pre-planned activities to take us all the way until Sol 1214 and the new year here on Earth, so there’s a lot to talk about! On Sol 1202, we will first repeat the ChemCam RMI and Mastcam change detection images that we’ve been acquiring of the nearby dunes.  Then the arm will …


17 December 2015

Sols 1196-1197: Aeolian paradise

On Sol 1194 Curiosity drove 47 m around the lee side of “Namib Dune.”  The latest Navcam images reveal many beautiful aeolian features on the slipface and interdune deposits. In today’s 2-sol plan, we’ll continue driving around “Namib Dune.”  On the first sol we’ll use ChemCam to assess the composition and grain size of a ripple.  Then we’ll use Mastcam to image the brink of the dune and its slipface …


15 December 2015

Sols 1194-1195: Driving around “Namib Dune”

Over the weekend Curiosity drove 42 m closer to “Namib Dune, and the view is pretty spectacular.  We’ve received a lot of beautiful Mastcam and Navcam images, which can be found here. In today’s 2-sol plan, we’ll continue driving around the “Namib Dune” to get to the lee side.  It was a pretty straightforward day for me as GSTL, and Ken as the MAHLI/MARDI PUL.  On the first sol Curiosity …


25 November 2015

Sols 1177-1179: Recipe for a successful rover plan

The 28 m drive on Sol 1174 ran successfully and Curiosity is now parked in front of a beautiful sand sheet and sand dune! Today science and engineering teams cooked up a full 3-sol plan, to account for the second half of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  The team started with equal parts Mastcam and ChemCam to analyze the sand and bedrock, and to monitor the movement of sand across the …


26 April 2011

Why Read (Speculative) Fiction?

Today I gave a two-part guest lecture to a bunch of Cornell freshmen. The first part of the lecture was The Science of Red Mars, which you can read about over here. But since this writing seminar (taught by my officemate) might be the only course that some of these students take which involves reading fiction and writing about it, my officemate encouraged me to talk a bit in general about reading fiction, and particularly speculative fiction. I figured that since I already put together the guest lecture I might as well post it here!


4 April 2011

The Science of Red Mars

Have you read the book Red Mars yet? If not, you can download a pdf of it here. It’s a classic hard sci-fi epic about the colonization of Mars, and for my latest post over at Science in my Fiction, I took a look at how the highly accurate depiction of Mars in the book has held up with all the new discoveries in the last 20 years. Head on over and check it out!


5 February 2011

Five Awesome Things about the James Webb Space Telescope

Today I received an email from my adviser containing this – dare I say – awesome video about the James Webb Space Telescope. It also has a surprisingly well-put answer to the age-old question of “Why spend money on NASA when we have so many problems here on earth?” The answer: To make the world a better place you not only have to decrease the suck, you also have to increase the awesome.


17 January 2011

Ask an Astronomer (Live)!

Do you have burning questions of an astronomical nature? Or do people come to you with those sorts of questions? About the zodiac perhaps? Well, my friend, you need to go spend some time on the Ask an Astronomer site that my fellow graduate students at Cornell run. Over the years, we have received thousands of questions from interested people, and those that we think might be of interest to …


7 January 2011

Strange New Worlds

I realized relatively recently that I like planets and I like speculative fiction for basically the same reason: strange new worlds just fire up my imagination.  That’s the topic of my latest post over at Science in my Fiction, where I take a look at some spectacular and bizarre real (or at least realistic) planetary locations that I think would be great settings for some sci-fi. I got a little …


8 December 2010

Math doodles: Snakes on a Plane

Well, I was going to take lots of notes next week at AGU and blog about them, but now I might just end up drawing these awesome math doodles all week:


30 November 2010

Thanksgiving with the Kranzes

Well, I was going to post this on Thanksgiving, but thanks to my own ineptitude, I wasn’t able to get it to embed until today.  In any case, better late than never. Without futher ado, here is an awesome Thanksgiving-themed spoof of Apollo 13 for your viewing pleasure:


21 September 2010

The Science of Starcraft: Supernovae and Gauss Rifles

I’ve got two new posts up at The Science of Starcraft! The first tackles the difference between supernovae and novae. The words are often used interchangeably in sci-fi, but they are (usually) very different phenomena. Plus, I love telling the story of nucleosynthesis and stellar evolution, and this was a good excuse. The second post is sort of a sequel to my previous post about railguns. This time I look …


6 September 2010

The Science of Starcraft: What is a Railgun and How does it Work?

I have a new post up at The Science of Starcraft! This time I tackle rail guns: sci-fi staple and the bane of intro physics students everywhere. To learn how these futuristic guns work in the real world and whether their depiction in Starcraft is accurate, go check out my latest post!


12 August 2010

Can Life Survive in Space?

I’ve got a new post up at The Science of Starcraft! This time I tackle the question of whether unprotected living things could ever survive in the vacuum of space. Go check it out!


31 July 2010

Big Sky Country

Well folks, I’m headed off to Big Sky Country tomorrow (aka Montana)! I’ll start the week at the MSL camera team meeting, where I will get all sorts of cool news about the MastCam, MAHLI and MARDI cameras which I will not be able to share with you.* After that, the lot of us will pack up and head to Glacier National Park to learn about the geology of the …