Category Archives: Mars Rovers

Curiosity Back in Action


The Mars Science Laboratory we call Curiosity is back in action now that Mars is out of opposition. This image was taken on 05 July 2015, Sol 1035.

This is kind of a remarkable picture. I am quite surprised how clean the surfaces are even if the wheels are takng a beating.

Welcome back Curiosity and team!

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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A Rover’s Wheel

curiositywheel

Here is an image of one of the wheels of the Mars rover Curiosity taken on Sol 995 (2015-05-25).

I’ve been watching the surprising amount of wear on the wheels of the rover since last year and I know the Mission Team is too. At least some of the drive planning has taken the wear into account.

As you can see the Martian terrain is tough on “tires”. The good part is the wheels don’t “appear” to be worn too much more than they were six months ago and they are not keeping Curiosity from doing great science. The next Mars rover, called the 2020 Rover (for its launch date) is based on Curiosity, I suspect there will be some changes to the wheels.

By the way: the 2020 Rover is still in the pre-planning stage, you can get an idea of what they are looking at by visiting here. Who knows, perhaps some engineering student reading this will be working on the project.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Blue Sunset on Mars

marsunset

The Curiosity rover took this picture of the Martian sunset. The image was taken on 15 April 2015 from Gale Crater.

The image was taken by the “left-eye” of Curiosity’s Mast Camera on the rovers 956th Martian day. The image has been processed to remove artifacts and was white-balanced. The image does a pretty good job of showing what we would see if we were on the planet and someday perhaps we will.

The Martian atmosphere has fine particles of dust that allow blue light to penetrate the atmosphere than longer wavelengths like yellows and reds which are scattered. This is unlike we see here on Earth where the scattering effect is alomost the other way around. The effect is also more pronounced at sunset than at mid-day. So on Mars blue sunsets are the norm.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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10 km for Curiosity

curiositymap

The HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter gives is this look at the rover Curiosity’s trek since about mid-July 2014. The image shows an area about 2 km / 1.25 miles wide.

We can follow the path though shallow valleys from the Pahrump Hills where it has been for six months towards its next destination: Logan Pass.

The green star marks Curiosity’s location on Sol 957 (16 April 2015) when the rover odometer turned to 10 km / 6.2 miles.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

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Oppy at Athens

Opportunity cChecking out Athens on 25 March 2015. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Opportunity checking out Athens on 25 March 2015. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Seen here with its robotic arm extended studying a rock called “Athens”, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is still actively involved in science even after 3,970 days on Mars!

A couple of weeks before checking out “Athens” the rover took four images with the Pancam of the area called Marathon Valley located on the western rim of Endeavour Crater from its vantage point overlooking the valley.

opportunityvista

The scene spans from east to southeast and the image was taken on 13 March 2015.  The view is very close to the true color.

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Curiosity On the Move

The map covers an area about 300 yards (275 meters) across. North is up. The yellow lines indicate the route driven by Curiosity between Sol 751 (the 751st Martian day of the mission, on Sept. 16, 2014) and Sol 903 (Feb. 19, 2015).  Image and caption: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
The map covers an area about 300 yards (275 meters) across. North is up. The yellow lines indicate the route driven by Curiosity between Sol 751 (the 751st Martian day of the mission, on Sept. 16, 2014) and Sol 903 (Feb. 19, 2015). Image and caption: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

In the last Curiosity post the rover had undergone a fault condition. A “transient short circuit” triggered an on-board fault-protection program to halt activity on 27 February. The mission team took a few days to test and determine the cause. In the meantime a sample from a Telegraph Hill drilling was held for testing. Satisfied the problem has been cleared, the rover continues on and the sample has been delivered to the on-board laboratory.

The plan is drive Curiosity through the Artist’s Drive valley to reach higher layers of Mount Sharp.

The map was made in part from data from the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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Problem with Curiosity

A picture of the drilling section of Curiosity from the rover's MAST cam.  This is a raw image directly from the camera and not white balanced. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
A picture of the drilling section of Curiosity from the rover’s MAST cam. This is a raw image directly from the camera and not white balanced. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A problem has developed with the Mars Science Laboratory also known as Curiosity.

The image above shows the drill section of the rover after it finished drilling into “Telegraph Peak” on 24 February 2015. On 27 February 2015 as the sample was being transferred the sample powder obtained from the drilling process an electrical “irregularity” triggered a fault-protection event. The fault-protection event halted the process because it stopped the arm activity.

Telemetry indicates a transient short circuit occurred prompting the pre-programmed response to the anomolous condition by stopping activity; hopefully sparing the rover further damage. Mission managers are running tests and will continue to work through the problem. In all likelyhood Curiosity will be back to work soon — stay tuned.

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Curiosity’s Selfie

Curiosity's Selfie at the Mojave drill site on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Curiosity’s Selfie at the Mojave drill site on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The other day I was checking out images of Curiosity and thought the rover was pretty clean. Turns out only be parts of the rover are clean. This selfie shows quite a bit of dust build up.

It’s a great picture. You really should have a look at the full image at the Mars Science Laboratory website. Not only will you get a very large image with great detail on the rover, there is also the wonderful terrain.

Curious about how a rover can take a selfie?

The scene combines dozens of images taken during January 2015 by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. The pale “Pahrump Hills” outcrop surrounds the rover, and the upper portion of Mount Sharp is visible on the horizon. Darker ground at upper right and lower left holds ripples of wind-blown sand and dust.

The annotated version above labels several of the sites Curiosity has investigated during three passes up the Pahrump Hills outcrop examining the outcrop at increasing levels of detail. The rover used its sample-collecting drill at “Confidence Hills” as well as at Mojave, and in late February was assessing “Telegraph Peak” as a third drilling site.

The view does not include the rover’s robotic arm. Wrist motions and turret rotations on the arm allowed MAHLI to acquire the mosaic’s component images. The arm was positioned out of the shot in the images, or portions of images, that were used in this mosaic.

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Rover’s Marathon

The remaining distance to complete a Martian marathon by the Opportunity. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
The remaining distance to complete a Martian marathon by the Opportunity. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity continues to set records. Picture it, the little rover begins its mission on Mars and at the start the idea of surviving the first Martian winter was hard to believe. Now 11 years later Opportunity has traveled almost a regulation marathon’s distance.

Incredible.

From NASA:

In February 2015, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is approaching a cumulative driving distance on Mars equal to the length of a marathon race. This map shows the rover’s position relative to where it could surpass that distance.

The map shows the rover’s location as of Feb. 10, 2015, in the context of where it has been since late December 2014 and the “Marathon Valley” science destination ahead. Opportunity is within about 220 yards (200 meters) of completing a marathon. The green band indicates where it could reach the official Olympic marathon-race distance of 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers). The rover’s route might zigzag as the rover team chooses a path toward Marathon Valley, so there is uncertainty about where exactly it will pass marathon distance.

Read the rest at the MER website.

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Martian Landscape

The view from Curiosity of the Martian surface on Sol 896.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
The view from Curiosity of the Martian surface on Sol 896. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity took this image of the Martian landscape a couple of days agon on 12 February 2015.

Currently Curiosity is examining sites inside Gale Crater, recently drilling into a rock at a place called Mojave 2. The drilling technique is changing to suit the fragile rock, using a less heavy handed approach to drilling is paying off.

Click here to read the preliminary results of the sampling.

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