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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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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.” …

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17 August 2016

Sol 1433: Butte-iful scenery

Yestersol’s drive went nicely, so today the plan looks quite similar, with a remote sensing block followed by another 50 meters of driving! The Sol 1433 plan starts with ChemCam and Mastcam of the target “Klein Klipneus.” After that, Mastcam has a couple of mosaics to continue admiring the scenery (a.k.a. studying the stratigraphy of the Murray Buttes). Then Curiosity will drive and collect post-drive imaging, followed by an untargeted …

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23 March 2016

Sol 1291: Another curveball

Mars is certainly keeping us on our toes this week, and reminding us how challenging it can be to do remote operations on another planet.  We use two satellites in orbit around Mars to relay data: Mars Odyssey (ODY) and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).  On Sol 1290, the ODY pass relayed data that showed the rover status was healthy.  However, the MRO pass was not received due to an …

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5 May 2015

Sols 976-977: Onward to Jocko Butte

by Ryan Anderson With our weekend contact science done, it’s time to hit the road again. The sol 976 plan includes some final Mastcam mosaics of the interesting outcrops that we have been studying, plus a Mastcam multispectral observation of the target “Albert” that ChemCam zapped over the weekend. After that, we will drive about 60 m, to a location west of “Jocko Butte”. After the drive we have post-drive …

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15 April 2015

Sol 957: Fine Views and Limited Downlink

  by Ken Herkenhoff MSL drove about 65 meters on Sol 956, then took some nice images of the path ahead.  As we continue to drive each sol, acquiring images of the terrain around us is important to the science team.  We don’t want to miss anything!  So the Sol 957 plan includes ChemCam RMI and Mastcam images of outcrops to the south and a Mastcam image of the windblown …

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16 May 2011

Utah Mars Analogs

Greetings from Los Angeles! I’m in California this week for the 5th and final MSL Landing Site Workshop. Since that is sure to provide some tasty blog-fodder, I thought I should sit down and write about my trip to Utah two weeks ago.

Why did I go to Utah? Because the latest MSL camera team meeting was held in Moab, and I was hoping to give a brief presentation about some work I’ve been doing on the side (in all my copious free time) with the calibration data for the Mastcams. Unfortunately, I can’t write about what happened at the business part of the meeting because then I would have to kill you. Or more likely Mike Malin would kill me. It turned out there wasn’t time for me or my adviser to give our presentations, but it was still a great trip because after the “sit in a room all day and watch powerpoint presentations” part of the meeting, came the field trip!

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15 February 2011

Latest Stardust NExT Images

Images are still trickling down from the successful flyby of comet Tempel 1 last night. Here is the latest image: You can start to see some details in this one! I was amused to see that the NASA website listing the new images claims that this was taken from a distance of 587.8 trillion miles away! If something looks wrong about that number to you, you’re right. That’s equivalent to …

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20 January 2011

The Winds of Saturn are Blowing

Wow! That’s a big storm! And it’s even more dramatic to see a storm like this on Saturn, which is usually pretty uniform in color. This thing is really stirring up the atmosphere.

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9 December 2010

Hell on Earth (and Io)

If you don’t follow the Boston Globe’s photoblog The Big Picture, you’re really missing out. The topics range widely from current events to pictures of saturn, and the photos are of course always stunning. Yesterday was an especially awesome set of photos from the indonesian sulfur mine Kawah Ijen. The photos were taken at night, and sulfur has the interesting quality that it burns blue, resulting in some spectacular and otherworldly scenes of fire and brimstone.

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1 December 2010

Phobos on the Limb

I love pictures of a planet’s limb (jargon for the horizon of a planet seen from space). In the typical overhead views of planets that we get most of the time, it’s easy to forget that we’re looking at another planet from outer space. On the other hand, when you can see the terrain stretching off into the distance, and the darkness of space above it, it somehow seems more …

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19 November 2010

Hartley 2: Snowball Fight!

Remember those awesome pictures of Hartley 2 from EPOXI? Well, those were the low-res camera. The high-resolution camera on the Deep Impact spacecraft is a bit blurry, so it took some time for the scientists on the mission to process the data, but they have finally released high-resolution photos and there’s a big surprise: Hartley 2 is surrounded by a swarm of fluffy cometary “snowballs”. For more info and pictures, …

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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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7 August 2010

The Geology of Glacier National Park: Part 1

Well, the field trip is over and I am happy to say that I was not eaten by any bears. They seemed much more interested in the huckleberries. I am also happy to say that I know a little bit more about the geology of Glacier National Park (and about how to interpret sedimentary geology in general) than I did before I left. The park is famous for its large-scale …

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27 July 2010

MSL Roves!

I’m a little late on this, but I thought I should share the news: MSL now has a good head and neck on its shoulders, and has officially “roved”. Last week, engineers at JPL installed the “Remote Sensing Mast”, bringing MSL’s total height up to nearly seven feet tall (2 meters). Also, MSL drove for the first time in the clean-room where it is being assembled! Here is a 3D …

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24 July 2010

HP dv6t Select Edition Notebook Review: First Impressions

Please excuse me while I geek out about my new laptop… My work now involves some really significant number crunching, to the point that I was regularly using all the CPU and RAM of my previous laptop, and was then struggling to get anything else done while the calculations were running. And then they would crash. It also helps that I will soon need to renew the license on one …

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18 May 2010

Big Pictures: Space Shuttle and Mount St. Helens

The Big Picture has been on a roll lately, with two sets of particular interest to planetary and space-types. First, is the feature on the final launch of the space shuttle Atlantis last week: Second, today is the 30th anniversary of the explosive eruption of Mount St. Helens, and there are some amazing photos that show the devastating power of a volcanic eruption:

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15 February 2010

Shuttle Silhouette

Sorry for the lack of updates in the past week. Things are a bit busy right now as I try to crunch numbers in time to finish a poster for a conference and finish a fellowship renewal (luckily they rely on the same results). Meanwhile, enjoy this excellent photo of the space shuttle taken from the ISS.

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25 January 2010

Model Mars Landscapes!

Check out these spectacular new photos of Mars! It certainly looks like the rovers have stumbled upon some more interesting terrain! The only catch is, these aren’t pictures of Mars at all, they are photographs of models made of, among other things, paprika, chili powder, and charcoal. They are the work of Matthew Albanese, and you need to go check out some of his other photographs. There are steel-wool tornadoes, …

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12 January 2010

How to cure the Avatar Blues

I was innocently browsing through my twitter list yesterday when I came across this article on CNN. The gist of it is that many people are experiencing depression after watching Avatar because the fictional world depicted is so beautiful and amazing that life back here on earth seems drab and boring. Many people have responded to this story with shock and derision, and this definitely hints at some pre-existing issues …

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