Category Archives: Mars Rovers

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

10 km for Curiosity


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

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.


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.

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.