Category Archives: Mars Rovers

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

Opportunity Readies for Winter


This will be Opportunity’s seventh winter on Mars since landing in 2004 and it will be doing science by looking at outcrops that contain clay materials.

The winter and study location is called Marathon Valley, “a notch in the raised rim of Endeavour crater. The Marathon Valley is advantageous because of a sun-facing slope. The valley is about 300 meters long, plenty to keep Oppy busy for a while. The shortest day of year on Mars will come in January.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A Curious Selfie


It’s different that’s for sure, I like it!

Here’s the explanation from the MSL site:

This version of a self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at a drilling site called “Buckskin” on lower Mount Sharp is presented as a stereographic projection, which shows the horizon as a circle.

It is a mosaic assembled from the same set of 92 component raw images used for the flatter-horizon version at PIA19807. The component images were taken by Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Aug. 5, 2015, during the 1,065th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars.

Curiosity drilled the hole at Buckskin during Sol 1060 (July 30, 2015). Two patches of pale, powdered rock material pulled from inside Buckskin are visible in this scene, in front of the rover. The patch closer to the rover is where the sample-handling mechanism on Curiosity’s robotic arm dumped collected material that did not pass through a sieve in the mechanism. Sieved sample material was delivered to laboratory instruments inside the rover. The patch farther in front of the rover, roughly triangular in shape, shows where fresh tailings spread downhill from the drilling process. The drilled hole, 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) in diameter, is at the upper point of the tailings.

The rover is facing northeast, looking out over the plains from the crest of a 20-foot (6-meter) hill that it climbed to reach the “Marias Pass” area. The upper levels of Mount Sharp are visible behind the rover, while Gale Crater’s northern rim dominates most of the rest of the horizon.the horizon on the left and right of the mosaic.

MAHLI is mounted at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. For this self-portrait, the rover team positioned the camera lower in relation to the rover body than for any previous full self-portrait of Curiosity. The assembled mosaic does not include the rover’s arm beyond a portion of the upper arm held nearly vertical from the shoulder joint. Shadows from the rest of the arm and the turret of tools at the end of the arm are visible on the ground. With the wrist motions and turret rotations used in pointing the camera for the component images, the arm was positioned out of the shot in the frames or portions of frames used in this mosaic.

MAHLI was built by Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology 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 Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Martian Landscape


The image above is a portion of a beautiful image from the Mars rover Curiosity.

The image portrays a nice mix of geological features on Mount Sharp.

The full image is located here (2.37 MB)

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Here’s the caption released with image:

A southward-looking panorama combining images from both cameras of the Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument on NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover shows diverse geological textures on Mount Sharp.

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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

A Rover’s Wheel


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

Blue Sunset on Mars


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