Oppy’s Selfie

MER Rover Opportunity on Martian day 3609. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity gives us this “selfie”. Okay, so it’s the rover’s shadow, it still counts if you are on Mars because there’s no mirrors.

The image was taken on the 3,609th day on the surface of Mars! That would be 20 March 2014 here on Earth.

Here’s the press release – you can get larger versions at the link too:

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity caught its own silhouette in this late-afternoon image taken by the rover’s rear hazard avoidance camera. This camera is mounted low on the rover and has a wide-angle lens.
The image was taken looking eastward shortly before sunset on the 3,609th Martian day, or sol, of Opportunity’s work on Mars (March 20, 2014). The rover’s shadow falls across a slope called the McClure-Beverlin Escarpment on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, where Opportunity is investigating rock layers for evidence about ancient environments. The scene includes a glimpse into the distance across the 14-mile-wide (22-kilometer-wide) crater.

Curiosity’s Path

Curiosity gives us this amazing lookback after passing Junda. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity gives us this amazing lookback after passing Junda. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, took this image on sol 548 (19 Feb 2014. The rover was looking back after a days drive. We can see Junda on the left and looking to the left we can see the tracks seemingly coming from the from the background highlands.
This scene would be the envy of any sci-fi illustrator.

From JPL:

The rows of rocks just to the right of the fresh wheel tracks in this view are an outcrop called “Junda.” The rows form striations on the ground, a characteristic seen in some images of this area taken from orbit. A panorama made from Navcam images taken during a pause to observe Junda partway through the Sol 548.

For scale, the distance between Curiosity’s parallel wheel tracks is about 9 feet (2.7 meters). This view is looking toward the east-northeast.

Roving for Ten Years

The first color image returned by the rover Spirit in Jan 2004.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

The first color image returned by the rover Spirit in Jan 2004. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

It’s hard to believe but true, this year marks 10-years of roving the red planet. The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit landed on Mars on 4 January 2004 (UTC).

The image above was taken on 6 January 2004 by the rover Spirit. At the time this was the highest resolution image returned from another planet. It is still one of the best images taken.

A month after the image was taken Spirit used the RAT or Rock Abrasion Tool to drill into a rock dubbed Adirondack (on 6 Feb 2004).

In May of 2009 Spirit got stuck in soft soil. The soil consisted of iron sulfate which does not provide very good traction.

Problems with the flash memory were evident a few months later in October. Then in late November and into December problems with the wheels on Spirit began to crop up.

In January 2010 Spirit stopped roving and became a stationary science platform. In addition to the previously mentioned problems during 2009, communications problems were also occurring. The last contact with Spirit was on 22 March 2010, although later unsuccessful attempts were made until May 2011.

Spirit’s mission was ended on 25 May 2011.

The matching rover, Opportunity landed on Mars on 25 January 2004 (UTC) and is still conducting science and yes roving.

Just incredible.  See a complete time-line from NASA.

As an aside:  I meant to publish this back on 05 Jan, but for some reason it never made it on the queue.  Oh it was my fault all right.  Good thing these rovers were a set.  

Look at Curiosity

A close-up of the Curiosity rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Here’s a update to the image of Curiosity’s tracks, it’s the Curiosity rover itself, just a great photo by HiRISE imager aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

For scale the tracks are about 3 meters (10 ft) apart.

This image is part of a larger image which you can see and read the full caption at NASA. I am using one of the available sizes for a desktop too it’s excellent.

 

Curious Tracks on Mars

Rover tracks as seen by the HiRise camera on the MRO. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Rover tracks as seen by the HiRise camera on the MRO. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

From the MSL website:

Two parallel tracks left by the wheels of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover cross rugged ground in this portion of a Dec. 11, 2013, observation by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The rover itself does not appear in this part of the HiRISE observation.

Continue reading

Curiosity Wheel Update

You may remember we had a post about the condition of the wheels on Curiosity back on November 28 (see Curiosity-Update).

A wheel from Curiosity showing wear and tear.  Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A wheel from Curiosity showing wear and tear. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The condition of the wheels also caught the attention of Curiosity’s team back here on Earth (from NASA):

Left-Front Wheel of Curiosity Rover, Approaching Three Miles

The left-front wheel of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows dents and holes in this image taken during the 469th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Nov. 30, 2013). The image was taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera, which is mounted at the end of Curiosity’s robotic arm. By that sol, Curiosity had driven 2.78 miles (4.47 kilometers). An uptick in the pace of wear and tear on the rover’s wheels in the preceding few weeks appears to be correlated with driving over rougher terrain than during earlier months of the mission. Routes to future destinations for the mission may be charted to lessen the amount of travel over such rough terrain.

BTW, we are having something of an ice storm here. Power is still on for the moment, the wires are getting bigger all the while though and a slug of rain is about to hit again and that will add to the fun. I have no place to go thankfully.

Curiosity Update

A NAV_LEFT_B image from Curiostiy on Sol 465.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A NAV_LEFT_B image from Curiostiy on Sol 465. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Curiosity rover has resumed operations on the Martian surface. The the voltage drop of 17 Nov. that halted Curiosity’s operations was diagnosed (see Curious Troubles).

The “likely” cause of the voltage drop was determined to be an internal short in Curiosity’s Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator. The design is robust and the short apparently does not affect operation of the power source or the rover. These systems are on other spacecraft, Cassini for example and the shorts don’t seem to result in a loss of capability. Putting those two things together mission managers decided to resume operations.

Interestingly after the decision to resume science activities was made engineers learned the voltage level drop had reversed and is back at the pre-drop level of 17 Nov.

The image is from the left Navcam on Curiosity of Sol 465 (26 November 2013). Makes me wonder about how much mileage they are going to get out of the wheels, that one looks more  beat up than I would have thought.  Perhaps the wear could simply be from the way Curiosity landed, I’m not sure.

Curious Troubles

One of the latest images of 17 November from Curiosity. Taken with the left NavCam.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

One of the latest images of 17 November from Curiosity. Taken with the left NavCam. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The MSL rover Curiosity has suspended scientific operations for a few days to take a look at an electrical issue detected on 17 Nov.

A voltage drop of about 7 volts (~ 11 to ~ 4 volts) was detected on Curiosity’s 450th Martian day. The The possibility of a “soft short” is being investigated. A “soft short” partially conducts electricity differing from a “hard” short that occurs when two wires touch that shouldn’t.

Jim Erickison of JPL says: The vehicle is safe and stable, fully capable of operating in its present condition, but we are taking the precaution of investigating what may be a soft short.” so far, analysis has shown a voltage change had occurred intermittently three times prior to the current event.

The press release reminded me about the “soft short” on landing day involving the explosive-release deployment devices. That reduced the bus voltage to the 11 volts mentioned here from an original 16 volts.

It sounds like in total, the voltage has dropped from 16 volts to 4 volts. While Curiosity can operate, hopefully the mission managers can get this sorted out before another 50 to 75 percent voltage drop happens. I have to think the mission team will get to the bottom of things if at all possible, even from around 261,518,000 km / 162500000 miles.

Getting to the bottom of the problem is one thing, mitigating it is quite another — good luck!

Murray Ridge

The rover Opportunity's view of Murray Ridge. Credit: Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

The rover Opportunity’s view of Murray Ridge. Credit: Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

Here is a landscape of Endeavour Crater as seen by the intrepid rover Opportunity on 03 October 2013. Yes Opportunity is alive and well and the Pancam is working wonderfully!  Actually this is a collection of images taken between 03 and 08 October.  Those dates correspond to Martian day number 3,446 and 3,451 of Opportunity’s time on Mars!

Murray Ridge is so named by the rover team in memoriam of Bruce Murray (1931-2013). Mr. Murray was a former director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a member of the science teams to the earliest Mars missions.

Read the full description and get larger versions of the image here.

One of the best parts of this image isn’t readily apparent. Examination of the full-sized version shows a distant ridge (probably the other side of Endeavour crater but I don’t know that for sure) with a couple of distinct craters in it. Have a look.

Cooperstown

The Martian version of Cooperstown.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Martian version of Cooperstown. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Cooperstown around these parts is the home of the (American) National Baseball Hall of Fame.  The Curiosity rover returns this image of Cooperstown on Mars. I wonder if the World Series just completed (YAY Red Sox!!) had anything to do with the naming of the feature.

From JPL

The low ridge that appears as a dark band below the horizon in the center of this scene is a Martian outcrop called “Cooperstown,” a possible site for contact inspection with tools on the robotic arm of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity. The ridge extends roughly 100 feet (about 30 meters) from left to right, and it is about 260 feet (about 80 meters) away from the location from which Curiosity captured this view.

The image combines portions of two frames taken by the Navigation Camera (Navcam) on Curiosity on the 437th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission inside Gale Crater on Mars (Oct. 28, 2013).

Curiosity had just completed the mission’s first use of two-sol autonomous driving. It resumed autonomous driving on Sol 437 where it had left off driving on Sol 436 (Oct. 27, 2013). In autonomous driving, the rover itself chooses the best route to reach designated waypoints, using onboard analysis of stereo images that it takes during pauses in the drive. The combined two-sol drive that brought Curiosity to this vantage point, for seeing Cooperstown, covered about 410 feet (125 meters).

The left edge of the scene is toward south-southwest, with an edge of Mount Sharp on the horizon; the right edge is toward the west, with part of the rim of Gale Crater on the horizon.