Category Archives: Mars Rovers

Martian Dust Devil


The rover Opportunity looks back at its tracks leading up the north-facing slope of “Knudsen Ridge,” which forms part of the southern edge of “Marathon Valley” and saw the very well formed dust devil.  Click the image for a larger version.

Opportunity took the image using its navigation camera (Navcam) on March 31, 2016, during the 4,332nd Sol (Martian day).

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Knudsen Ridge


The Mars rover Opportunity used it’s PanCam to take this picture, actually a series of images taken on 29 and 30 October 2014 which is the 4,182nd and 4,183rd Martian day (sol) on Mars!  The view is of Knudsen Ridge on the southern edge of the Marathon Valley.

By February 2016, the rover ascended slopes of about 30 degrees onto the flank of Knudsen Ridge, headed for targets of “red zone” material to examine there.  A 30 degree slope, pretty good for the old rover.

Marathon Valley cuts generally east-west through the western rim of Endeavour Crater. The valley’s name refers to the distance Opportunity drove from its 2004 landing site to arrival at this location in 2014. The valley was a high-priority destination for the rover mission because observations from orbit detected clay minerals there.

By the way, Knudsen Ridge is an informal name chosen by the Opportunity science team to honor the memory of Danish astrophysicist and planetary scientist Jens Martin Knudsen (1930-2005), a founding member of the team.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

Selfie Time


Another of Curiosity selfie, this one combines 57 images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of Curiosity’s arm on Jan. 19. The image was taken in part of the Bagnold Dune Field, which lines the northwestern flank of Mars’ Mount Sharp.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

It’s the Summer Solstice!


On Mars that is.

This image is from the Rear Hazcam on the Mars Science Laboratory or Curiosity.  The image was taken on 03 January 2016 at 09:38:26 UTC (according to NASA).

Those light-colored (white) lines are kind of strange, probably made by the wheels of the rover.

Incidentally, the Martian Autumnal equinox occurs on 04 July 2016,  the same day as the Juno spacecraft “arrives” at Jupiter.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Under Curiosity


Here’s a look underneath the Curiosity rover on Mars.   This is a raw image so it is just as the camera saw it, meaning no processing and it hardly needs any, very nice.  The rover seems to be fairly clean considering the environment, however, looks can be very deceiving especially in that light.

The page with the image also has a very informative caption:

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 November 29, 2015, Sol 1178 of the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, at 13:49:13 UTC.

When this image was obtained, the focus motor count position was 12582. 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.

There is a large version of the image at JPL’s Mars Science Laboratory site should you want to have a nice desktop version.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Bagnold Dunes



A look at Bagnold dunes on Mars.  The dunes are in the dark area of terrain in about the center of the image.  This is a color adjusted image, meaning that it is a good approximation of what we’d see in Earth lighting.

Is the dark material the same as what is what looks almost like a pond in the lower part of the image?  I wonder how they can drive by that without looking at a sample.   Then again if I was deciding what to look at we’d probably would not have traveled much more that a hundred meters from the landing site because I’d have to look at everything.

Curiosity will visit examples of the Bagnold Dunes on the rover’s route to higher layers of Mount Sharp. The informal name for the dune field is a tribute to British military engineer Ralph Bagnold (1896-1990), a pioneer in the study of how winds move sand particles of dunes on Earth. The dune field is evident as a dark band in orbital images of the area inside Gale Crater where Curiosity has been active since landing in 2012, such as a traverse map at PIA20162.

Dunes are larger than wind-blown ripples of sand or dust that Curiosity and other rovers have visited previously.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity’s Look at Mount Sharp


Click the image for a larger version.  In case you don’t read the press release below, this image is adjusted to “Earth light”, or how this would appear if it were on Earth.

The press release:

This view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows a site with a network of prominent mineral veins below a cap rock ridge on lower Mount Sharp.

Researchers used the rover in March 2015 to examine the structure and composition of the crisscrossing veins at the “Garden City” site in the center of this scene. For geologists, the vein complex offers a three-dimensional exposure of mineralized fractures in a geological setting called the Pahrump section of the Lower Murray Formation. Curiosity spent several months examining sites in the Pahrump section below this site, before arriving at Garden City.

Mineral veins such as these form where fluids move through fractured rocks, depositing minerals in the fractures and affecting chemistry of the surrounding rock. In this case, the veins have been more resistant to erosion than the surrounding host rock.

The component images of this mosaic view were taken by the left-eye camera of Mastcam on March 27, 2015, during the 938th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars. The scene is presented with a color adjustment that approximates white balancing, to resemble how the rocks would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth.

For scale, the cap rock scarp is about 3 feet (1 meter) tall.

Mount Sharp


What a great view.  I tired to find a “true color” version of this without success.

The press release

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover drilled its eighth hole on Mars, and its fifth since reaching Mount Sharp one year ago. The drilling of the hole 2.6-inches (65 millimeters) deep in a rock the team labeled “Big Sky” is part of a multi-day, multi-step sequence that will result in the analysis of the Martian rock’s ingredients in the rover’s two onboard laboratories. 
“With Big Sky, we found the ordinary sandstone rock we were looking for,” said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada. “It also happens to be relatively near sandstone that looks as though it has been altered by fluids — likely groundwater with other dissolved chemicals. We are hoping to drill that rock next, compare the results, and understand what changes have taken place.”
The analyses of the Big Sky rock-powder samples by CheMin and SAM will occur over the next week. Meanwhile, the team will be turning the rover’s attention and its wheels towards the second rock, where the sample analysis process will begin anew.

Read the rest at JPL’s Curiosity site.

Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


Curiosity’s View


Large-scale crossbedding in the sandstone of this ridge on a lower slope of Mars’ Mount Sharp is common in petrified sand dunes.

The scene combines multiple images taken with both cameras of the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Curiosity on Aug. 27, 2015, during the 1,087th Martian day, or sol of the rover’s work on Mars. It spans from east, at left, to south-southwest. Figure 1 includes a scale bar of 200 centimeters (about 6.6 feet).

Sets of bedding laminations lie at angles to each other. Such crossbedding is common in wind-deposited sandstone of the U.S. Southwest. An example from Utah is pictured at

The sandstone in the image from Mars is part of the Stimson unit on Mount Sharp. The color of the Mastcam mosaic has been approximately white-balanced to resemble how the scene would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth. The component images in the center and upper portion of the mosaic are from Mastcam’s right-eye camera, which is equipped with a 100-millimeter-focal-length telephoto lens. Images used in the foreground and at far left and right were taken with Mastcam’s left-eye camera, using a wider-angle, 34-millimeter lens. – Caption from NASA

Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS