Category Archives: Mars Rovers

Selfie In an Epic Dust Storm

The rover Curiosity took this “selfie” in the midst of an epic dust storm. Despite some of the reporting on the storm, it is nothing new, certainly not “apocalyptic”. Such storms may not be common but they are not rare.

Nothing has been heard from the MER Opportunity; this is not unexpected and does not necessarily mean the little rover is done for. That said, I would suspect the power levels on the rover are minimal at best. We will have to wait for the storm to end before we know the fate of Opportunity for sure.

Original caption from NASA: A self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover’s location in Gale Crater.

Self-portraits are created using images taken by Curiosity’s Mars Hands Lens Imager (MAHLI). MAHLI was built by Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project’s Curiosity rover.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Martian Dust Storm

The planet Mars is becoming shrouded in dust. I mentioned the other day the rover Curiosity seemed to be in pretty good shape as far as dust coverage goes or at least did not have as much dust coverage as I thought it would.

The situation for Curiosity may change as a dust storm becomes prevalent both in storm density and duration. The rover Opportunity (indicated with the blue dot in the center of the image) seems to be obscured now and power levels could be impacted, we’ll have to wait and see.

Typically the southern summer warms the environment and the dust and sends the particles high into the mostly carbon dioxide atmosphere. As the particles rise in the atmosphere they in turn create more wind and so on, a feedback loop. Exactly how this works is not known – yet. It could be the dust particles absorb enough heat from the Sun to remain boyent or it could be the seasonal variation of methane plays a part; or it could be something completely different and unrelated. Time will tell.

The current storm was detected on 01 June 2018 and is still going on and could continue for weeks or months. That seems like a long time but on Mars it happens, maybe not often, but it a well observed phenomenon. The image shown was taken on 06 June 2018 courtesy of Malin Space Science Systems. The map was produced by the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, which Malin Space Science Systems produced and operates.

Drilling on Mars

Curiosity is back to drilling (see earlier video).

Here’s a nice image from Curiosity thanks to: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Not as much dust build up as I expected.

Here’s the original caption:
The drill bit of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover over one of the sample inlets on the rover’s deck. The inlets lead to Curiosity’s onboard laboratories. This image was taken on Sol 2068 by the rover’s Mast Camera (Mastcam).

Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates the Mastcam. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project’s Curiosity rover.

Mount Sharp

Clay on Mars is pretty exciting, if we ever do a sample return or put a human up there, this is he place. Curiosity is a great start!

NASA — This mosaic taken by NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover looks uphill at Mount Sharp, which Curiosity has been climbing. Spanning the center of the image is an area with clay-bearing rocks that scientists are eager to explore; it could shed additional light on the role of water in creating Mount Sharp. The mosaic was assembled from dozens of images taken by Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam). It was taken on Sol 1931 back in January.

Mount Sharp stands in the middle of Gale Crater, which is 96 miles (154 kilometers) in diameter. This mound, which Curiosity has been climbing since 2014, likely formed in the presence of water at various points of time in Mars ancient history. That makes it an ideal place to study how water influenced the habitability of Mars billions of years ago.

The scene has been white-balanced so the colors of the rock materials resemble how they would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth.

Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates the Mastcam. NASA s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project s Curiosity rover.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A New Drilling Technique for Curiosity

Good job kudos to the Curiosity mission team for a nice work-around for the drill.

Don’t think Curiosity has been “kicking the can around” not amounting to anything, no need to fear.

Here’s a good example of what has been going on. Don’t be fooled by scale this is not a huge feature.

NASA — NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity acquired this image using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, on March 18, 2018, Sol 1996 of the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, at 19:00:00 UTC.

When this image was obtained, the focus motor count position was 13010. This number indicates the internal position of the MAHLI lens at the time the image was acquired. This count also tells whether the dust cover was open or closed. Values between 0 and 6000 mean the dust cover was closed; values between 12500 and 16000 occur when the cover is open. For close-up images, the motor count can in some cases be used to estimate the distance between the MAHLI lens and target. For example, in-focus images obtained with the dust cover open for which the lens was 2.5 cm from the target have a motor count near 15270. If the lens is 5 cm from the target, the motor count is near 14360; if 7 cm, 13980; 10 cm, 13635; 15 cm, 13325; 20 cm, 13155; 25 cm, 13050; 30 cm, 12970. These correspond to image scales, in micrometers per pixel, of about 16, 25, 32, 42, 60, 77, 95, and 113.

Most images acquired by MAHLI in daylight use the sun as an illumination source. However, in some cases, MAHLI’s two groups of white light LEDs and one group of longwave ultraviolet (UV) LEDs might be used to illuminate targets. When Curiosity acquired this image, the group 1 white light LEDs were off, the group 2 white light LEDs were off, and the ultraviolet (UV) LEDS were off.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Oppy’s Selfie

A “selfie” of the rover Opportunity on its 5000th day on Mars – taken with the Microscopic Imager!

NASA – This self-portrait of NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover shows the vehicle at a site called “Perseverance Valley” on the slopes of Endeavour Crater. It was taken with the rover’s Microscopic Imager to celebrate the 5000th Martian Day, or sol, of the rover’s mission.

The Microscopic Imager is a fixed-focus camera mounted at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. Because it was designed for close inspection of rocks, soils and other targets at a distance of around 2.7 inches (7 cm), the rover is out of focus.

The rover’s self-portrait view is made by stitching together multiple images take on Sol 5,000 and 5,006 of the mission. Wrist motions and turret rotations on the arm allowed the Microscopic Imager to acquire the mosaic’s component images. The resulting mosaic does not include the rover’s arm.

This simulation from planning software used to write commands for the rover shows the motion of the robotic arm, and an inset view of the Microscopic Imager.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Martian Sunrise by Oppy

A few days ago I mentioned that the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity (Oppy) is reaching another milestone, that of 5000 days on Mars and still returning science. Go Oppy!!

The image above is the Sun rising on day 4,999 or 15 February, clicking the image should open a larger version in a new window.

Here’s the caption — NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded the dawn of the rover’s 4,999th Martian day, or sol, with its Panoramic Camera (Pancam) on Feb. 15, 2018, yielding this processed, approximately true-color scene.

The view looks across Endeavour Crater, which is about 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter, from the inner slope of the crater’s western rim. Opportunity has driven a little over 28.02 miles (45.1 kilometers) since it landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars in January, 2004, for what was planned as a 90-sol mission. A sol lasts about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day.

This view combines three separate Pancam exposures taken through filters centered on wavelengths of 601 microns (red), 535 microns (green) and 482 microns (blue). It was processed at Texas A&M University to correct for some of the oversaturation and glare, though it still includes some artifacts from pointing a camera with a dusty lens at the Sun. The processing includes radiometric correction, interpolation to fill in gaps in the data caused by saturation due to Sun’s brightness, and warping the red and blue images to undo the effects of time passing between each of the exposures through different filters.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ./Texas A&M

Perseverance Valley on Mars

Perseverance Valley on Mars as seen from the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity! I can hardly believe the rover has been on Mars for a bit over 11 years landing in January 2004 and it is still delivering science. Amazing.


This late-afternoon view from the front Hazard Avoidance Camera on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows a pattern of rock stripes on the ground, a surprise to scientists on the rover team. Approaching the 5,000th Martian day or sol, of what was planned as a 90-sol mission, Opportunity is still providing new discoveries.

This image was taken inside “Perseverance Valley,” on the inboard slope of the western rim of Endeavour Crater, on Sol 4958 (Jan. 4, 2018). Both this view and one taken the same sol by the rover’s Navigation Camera look downhill toward the northeast from about one-third of the way down the valley, which extends about the length of two football fields from the crest of the rim toward the crater floor.

The lighting, with the Sun at a low angle, emphasizes the ground texture, shaped into stripes defined by rock fragments. The stripes are aligned with the downhill direction. The rock to the upper right of the rover’s robotic arm is about 2 inches (5 centimeters) wide and about 3 feet (1 meter) from the centerline of the rover’s two front wheels.

This striped pattern resembles features seen on Earth, including on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, that are formed by cycles of freezing and thawing of ground moistened by melting ice or snow. There, fine-grained fraction of the soil expands as it freezes, and this lifts the rock fragments up and to the sides. If such a process formed this pattern in Perseverance Valley, those conditions might have been present locally during a period within the past few million years when Mars’ spin axis was at a greater tilt than it is now, and some of the water ice now at the poles was redistributed to lower latitudes. Other hypotheses for how these features formed are also under consideration, including high-velocity slope winds.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

For more information about Opportunity, Visit and

Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech