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30 May 2017

Sol 1713: Not enough hours in the sol

Our Tuesday drive placed us perfectly in front of a very interesting outcrop that looked slightly different in color and texture from the typical Murray rocks we’ve been seeing for the last few hundred meters.

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21 May 2017

Planning Sol 1705 – 1706: Rocky Road

Curiosity is continuing to make progress towards Vera Rubin Ridge along the Mt Sharp ascent route.  We planned two sols today, Sol 1705 and Sol 1706.  On our first sol, we will kick off the day with some remote sensing science on the bedrock in front of us, including ChemCam observations of targets ‘Turtle Island’, ‘Stony Brook’, and ‘Dike Peak’.  Turtle Island is typical Murray bedrock, Stony Brook has an …

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2 September 2016

Sols 1450-1453: Communication challenges

Curiosity had a nice ~78 m drive on Sol 1448, which set us up for a lot of great science over the long (4-sol) weekend.  Unfortunately a problem with the Deep Space Network caused an entire Odyssey pass to be lost, so we didn’t receive the workspace images that we would have needed to do contact science.  Without those images we didn’t feel safe moving the arm. But the team …

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20 August 2016

Sol 1436: Smooth sailing

We are making good progress with our drives (we’re already approaching our next drill site!) and the road in front of us is looking pretty smooth. As usual we have a busy weekend planned. Sol 1436 starts off with ChemCam and Mastcam of the layered rock targets “Conda” and “Savungo.” Mastcam then has a mosaic of one of the buttes, and another mosaic of an interesting feature within the Murray …

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9 August 2016

Sol 1426: Bringing in the data at Marimba

Today’s plan is focused on retrieving CheMin data from the overnight analysis of the Marimba drill sample and MAHLI and APXS observations of the drill hole and cuttings.  The plan starts with a short science block for atmospheric monitoring, followed by CheMin data readout.  Then we’ll do a short Mastcam change detection activity before dumping the pre-sieved drill sample.  After we dump the sample, we’ll acquire Mastcam, Navcam and MAHLI …

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8 August 2016

Sol 1421: Determining drill activities at Marimba

On Sol 1420 we planned a full drill hole on the target “Marimba” to characterize the composition of the Murray mudstone in this location.  However, we came in early this morning to find that the drill hole didn’t penetrate very far into this rock target, as seen in the above MAHLI image.  We’re trying to evaluate why this drill hole is different, and what prevented the drill from completing as …

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3 August 2016

Sol 1420: Drilling Marimba

The Sol 1419 activities completed successfully, including cleaning the remaining Oudam sample out of CHIMRA.  So the focus of the Sol 1420 plan is drilling into the Marimba bedrock target.  But first, MAHLI will image the “noseprint” of the APXS contact sensor in the Oudam dump pile and the drill target from various distances.  After the drilling has completed, the drill bit and the new drill hole will be imaged …

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1 August 2016

Sol 1418: Preparing to drill Marimba

Today’s plan was all about setting up for our next drill hole. Originally there was going to be no science block at all, but we ended up with a little bit more power than expected, so we managed to fit in a ChemCam observation of the expected drill target, called “Marimba” along with Mastcam documentation.

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29 July 2016

Sols 1416-1417: Approaching the next drill target

MSL drove another 44 meters on Sol 1414, into an area with larger blocks of bedrock. This looks like a good area to drill into the Murray Formation, so nearby targets were selected and we are planning a short drive to position the vehicle for drilling. But first, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe bedrock targets “Chibia” and “Dondo.” Mastcam will also measure the dust in the atmosphere and take an image of the Sol 1414 ChemCam AEGIS target.

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27 July 2016

Sols 1414-1416: Keep on truckin’

MSL drove over 45 meters on Sol 1412, to a location with lots of bedrock exposed but most of it is coated by dust. So again we decided not to deploy the arm and acquire lots of ChemCam data instead. LIBS observations of targets named “Okahandja,” “Swakopmund,” and “Walvis Bay” will be followed by another long-distance RMI mosaic. Then the Right Mastcam will image the ChemCam targets and acquire a 5-image mosaic of the Murray Buttes. The Left Mastcam will take a 7-image mosaic of the bedrock in front of the rover before the Sol 1414 drive.

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2 July 2015

Sol 1032: Lots of Contact Science!

Phew! Today was a busy day on Mars! Ken and I were both on operations today, picking up where Lauren left off yesterday. Ken was helping with ChemCam science in the geology and mineralogy (GeoMin) theme group, and I was the GeoMin Keeper of the Plan (KOP). We started off the day admiring the beautiful images from the sol 1031 “dog’s-eye view” mosaic of the ledge near the target “Missoula”. …

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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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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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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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1 November 2010

Planets Like Grains of Sand

The other day I came across a press release announcing that nearly one in four sun-like stars could have planets as small as Earth. That’s pretty awesome! But I though it was especially interesting how they came up with this number. Current technology can’t quite see an Earth-sized planet around a sun-like star, so how do you count things that you can’t see? Well, you count everything else and then extrapolate.

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16 September 2010

Gale Crater Geomorphology Paper – Published!

Big news folks! The huge paper that I’ve been working on for the last couple years is finally, unbelievably, published! Even better for you, it is published at the Mars journal, which is an open-access journal. Just head on over and you can download all 53 pages of pure, distilled Science! In case you don’t want to wade through that many pages (and almost as many figures) of Mars geomorphology …

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11 September 2010

Jaded by Mars Organics

So, you may have heard the news making the rounds last week that a new analysis of the Viking data suggests there may actually be organics and (dare I even say it?) life on mars! Yawn. Consider me underwhelmed. The gist of the story is this: A long-standing mystery in Mars science has been why the Viking instruments were unable to detect any organic molecules on Mars, not even at …

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12 August 2010

Molar Tooth Texture

Ok, so remember the weird rock I showed in my Galcier Park geology post? No? Here it is again: This texture is called “molar-tooth” texture, because apparently someone thought it looked like the teeth of elephants. They must have been studying some weird elephants. It’s a very bizarre texture. It cuts across the layers of the rock as if it is related to fractures, but it is often deformed and …

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