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.

Dusty Money

A year of dust on a penny aboard the MSL Curiosity. Click for larger.  Image(s) Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A year of dust on a penny aboard the MSL Curiosity. Click for larger. Image(s) Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The Curiosity rover has been on Mars since August 2, 2012 and Mars being a dusty place I thought it was time to see how much dust has been accumulating.

An old American penny is part of the calibration target for the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) located on a “shoulder joint” of the rover’s arm.

pennylocation

The left hand side is the penny on September 10, 2012 and the one on the right is from October 2, 2013.

Although the accumulation could be worse the target is on a vertical surface.  The pictures prove there is no escaping the dust.

malinspaceman

Even the Malin Spaceguy (or spacegal they all look the same to me :mrgreen: ) can’t hide.

Two Moons Pass in the Night

The Curiosity rover had an eye to the sky on 1 Aug 2013 and caught an eclipse of sorts.

The Mastcam instrument took a series of images of the Martian moon Phobos passing directly in front of the other Martian moon, Deimos.

In the press release from NASA/JPL (below), the apparent size of the moons is compared to how we see our moon so and NASA included a pictoral comparison>/a>.

The NASA press release:

PASADENA, Calif. — The larger of the two moons of Mars, Phobos, passes directly in front of the other, Deimos, in a new series of sky-watching images from NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity.

Large craters on Phobos are clearly visible in these images from the surface of Mars. No previous images from missions on the surface caught one moon eclipsing the other.

Continue reading

Opportunity Update

Oportunity approaches a boulder field on sol 3392.  Click for larger. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Oportunity approaches a boulder field on sol 3392. Click for larger. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Here’s one of the very latest images from the Navigation Camera aboard the Opportunity rover.

The image is from Sol 3392 (08 Aug 13). Located on the rim of Endeavor crater at the base of ‘Solander Point’ Opportunity approached this boulder field on 5 August.

In the past day or two Opportunity used its robotic arm to collect a sample from a target called ‘Red Poker” and used the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer on a target for an overnight integration.

Currently the rover is moving towards another target. Could it be that seemingly large boulder in the image?

The energy production (6 Aug 13) was 385 watt-hours, not too bad. The total odometry is 39.2 km (23.7 miles).

The Mars Exploration Rover website.

The Curious Traveler

A depiction of the routes of the Mars Science Laboratory.  Click for larger. Image credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

A depiction of the routes of the Mars Science Laboratory. Click for larger. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

A year on Mars for the rover Curiosity. It hardly seems possible but it’s true.

From NASA (link goes to much larger images at NASA):

The total distance driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity passed the one-mile mark a few days before the first anniversary of the rover’s landing on Mars.
This map traces where Curiosity drove between landing at “Bradbury Landing” on Aug. 5, 2012, PDT, (Aug. 6, 2012 (Universal Time and EDT) and the position reached during the mission’s 351st Martian day, or sol, (Aug. 1, 2013). The Sol 351 leg added 279 feet (85.1 meters) and brought the odometry since landing to about 1.05 miles (1,686 meters).
The mapped area is within Gale Crater and north of the mountain called Mount Sharp in the middle of the crater. After the first use of the drill, the rover’s main science destination will be on the lower reaches of Mount Sharp. For broader-context images of the area, see http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16064 and http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16058.
The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.