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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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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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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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2 October 2010

The 4th MSL Landing Site Workshop: Day 3 – Final Discussion

We wrapped up the landing site workshop on wednesday afternoon by revisiting each of the four sites and discussing them in turn. Unfortunately, the way that we did this was very disappointing, and made for a frustrating afternoon. The discussion was centered around a word document that was projected up on the screen in the room. Over lunch, the meeting leaders had conferred and listed what they thought were the …

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29 September 2010

The 4th MSL Landing Site Workshop: Day 2 – Holden Crater

The second site that we discussed yesterday was Holden Crater. Ross Irwin gave the first, overview presentation. Holden is a 155 kilometer crater that formed right in the middle of a huge drainage system that spans from the Argyre basin to the northern plains, and at Holden you would land on a bunch of coalescing alluvial fans on the western crater floor and then drive southeast to access some nice …

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24 September 2010

The 4th MSL Landing Site Workshop

Well folks, I’m off to Pasadena to help the Mars community decide where to send its next rover. Long-time readers will recall that i’ve been to a couple of these things before and they’re always fascinating. I was going to post a reminder of what the four finalist sites are, with pros and cons and all that, but it turns out I don’t have to! My friend Lisa Grossman, a …

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6 March 2010

LPSC 2010 – Day 4: Mars Oceans, Titan Lakes, Astrobiology and Asteroids

Thursday started off with a couple of talks about the possibility of oceans on Mars. The first one, given by Gaetano DiAchille looked at possible locations of deltas all over Mars to try to figure out the water level of a past ocean. Deltas form when a river hits a standing body of water and drops its sediment, so they are a reliable marker of the water level. DiAchille found …

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5 November 2009

LCROSS preliminary results

Hey remember when we bombed the moon? Here’s an interesting article about some preliminary results from LCROSS. I was especially surprised when they said that there may be mercury at the impact site. They say they’re seeing spectral lines that could be produced by iron, magnesium or mercury, but then the article goes on as if mercury is the likeliest candidate! I’m skeptical. Fe and Mg are common in lunar …

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7 October 2009

To the Moon! Zoom, Bang!

As I write this, there is a NASA spacecraft on an unstoppable collision course with the moon. Early on Friday morning it will impact a crater near the moon’s south pole at 9000 km/hr, causing an explosion that will excavate 350 tons of lunar rocks, blasting them up into space and leaving a 66 foot-wide crater. Of course, this is all intentional. The LCROSS mission will use the upper stage …

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8 June 2009

Big Picture: Mercury MESSENGER

If you’re not already following the Boston Globe’s Big Picture blog, you should be. They always have spectacular photos, often of current events, but also quite often of space-related stuff! Today’s post is about the MESSENGER mission to Mercury. Go check it out.

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