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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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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!

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19 March 2011

LPSC 2011: Day 2 – Cryospheres, Carbon, and Methane Skepticism

More on the cryosphere of Mars, along with some speculation about martian carbonates and skepticism about the presence of methane in the martian atmosphere.

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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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7 November 2010

Mars Science Laboratory Instruments: APXS

A long time ago, I started doing a series of posts about the instruments on Mars Science Laboratory, but I only got through the cameras before I got distracted by something shiny on the internet and forgot to finish the series. So, let’s remedy that, starting with APXS. APXS stands for alpha particle x-ray spectrometer, meaning that this instrument bombards its target with helium nuclei (alpha particles) and x-rays, causing …

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21 September 2010

Meteorite Ahead!

There has been a flurry of emails going around among the MER team about a certain rock ahead of the Opportunity rover that looks like it may be yet another meteorite.  It certainly doesn’t look much like the local meridiani rocks, which are the light-toned patches in the photo above. Meteorites are interesting because they provide information about the weathering environment on mars. We know that Mars is all rusty, …

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3 September 2010

Seeing Early 20th Century Russia Like a Rover

Hello folks! Apologies for the lack of posts lately, I had to go get married and go on a honeymoon! But I’m back now, and adjusting to the real world again. As I sifted through my inbox earlier this week, I came across a link to a fascinating collection of photographs. These are color photos of the Russian Empire taken by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. But wait! How could he have …

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4 June 2010

Spirit Rover Discovers Carbonates

Big news from Mars today, Spirit has found evidence for significant amounts of carbonates in the rocks of Gusev crater! Carbonates are really important for two reasons: first of all, Mars has a very thin CO2 atmosphere right now. Too thin for water to remain as a liquid on the surface: it would just boil away and freeze at the same time! But there is lots of evidence that water …

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2 May 2010

Carnival of Space 152

Welcome to The Martian Chronicles and the 152nd edition of the Carnival of Space! As always, we’ve got a great bunch of space-related posts from across the blogosphere, ranging from life on Mars to the age of the universe to Science Ninjas! I’ll get things started with a pair of posts from right here at The Martian Chronicles. A couple weeks ago I went on a cool geology field trip …

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8 March 2010

Hailing Frequencies Open!

Check this out, Star Trek’s Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) at JPL, ready to communicate with the rovers!

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5 March 2010

LPSC 2010 – Day 3: Rover Update, Mafic Mars and Atmospheres

Wednesday started off with a summary of results from the Opportunity rover, given by Steve Squyres. He started off talking about the several iron meteorites discovered in the past year. I thought it was particularly interesting that there are hematite blueberries on top of some of the meteorites: the blueberries are way too big to be lifted by the wind, so that means the meteorite must have been buried and …

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29 January 2010

xkcd Spirit

xkcd (a comic which you should all be reading if you aren’t already) has a nice comic up today about Spirit. Click the image to see the whole thing.

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27 January 2010

So we'll go no more a roving…

With yesterday’s news of Spirit’s defeat at the hands of the sulfury sands of Mars, I was reminded of this poem. It is by Lord Byron, but I first encountered it in one of my favorite short stories in this blog’s namesake, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. The story is entitled “And the Moon be Still as Bright”, and the poem is “So we’ll go no more a-roving”: So, we’ll …

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Spirit is no longer a Rover

In a news conference yesterday, NASA announced that Spirit’s driving days are likely over, but by virtue of remaining stationary, new science possibilities are opened up. Here’s the text from the press release: After six years of unprecedented exploration of the Red Planet, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit no longer will be a fully mobile robot. NASA has designated the once-roving scientific explorer a stationary science platform after efforts during …

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14 January 2010

Time is Running out for Spirit Rover

JPL just released this update on Spirit’s status and it doesn’t look good: The list of remaining maneuvers being considered for extricating Spirit is becoming shorter. Results are being analyzed Wednesday, Jan. 13, from a drive on Sol 2143 (Jan. 12, 2010) using intentionally very slow rotation of the wheels. Earlier drives in the past two weeks using wheel wiggles and slow wheel rotation produced only negligible progress toward extricating …

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30 December 2009

Merry Christmas from Mars!

Emily Lakdawalla over at the planetary society blog posted this cute poem from Unmannedspaceflight that I just had to share. If you want to hear a recording, head over to her blog. by Astro0 (with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore or possibly Henry Livingston Jr.) Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the stars Not a creature was stirring, not even on Mars. The rovers were driven by drivers …

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16 December 2009

AGU 2009 – Day 1

For those not familiar with the conference, the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union is a terrifyingly, overwhelmingly large conference. Each year, something like 16,000 geoscientists descend on San Francisco to share their work. It is also one of the major planetary science conferences, so a lot of new results are first presented here. This year, the first talks that I checked out on Monday were about radar observations …

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17 November 2009

Be a Martian!

Fact #1: As a Mars scientist, I am incredibly spoiled. There are so many missions to Mars right now sending back so much data, that even if they all went silent tomorrow, it would be decades before we managed to look at all the data and figure out what it’s telling us. Fact #2: There are lots of people out there (I’m looking at you, loyal readers!) who would love …

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15 November 2009

Crescent Earth, Water on the Moon, and Free Spirit!

Just a quick post to update you on the latest space news and remind you to keep voting for my article about how MSL is like James Bond. First of all, the Rosetta spacecraft, on its way to a rendezvous with a comet in 2014, swung by Earth the other day, and took some beautiful pictures: Second, NASA held a press conference on friday announcing that the LCROSS mission to …

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6 July 2009

Student Questions about Mars Exploration

A few months ago, a class of 6th graders at JFK Middle School in Hudson, MA contacted the astronomy department at Cornell. They were doing an egg-drop project, modeled after the Mars rovers, and their teacher had them each write questions to Steve Squyres about the rover mission. Steve was out of town (and is always extremely busy), but he suggested that many of the questions could be answered by …

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