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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover discovers what appears to be Mud Cracks on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists used NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover in recent weeks to examine slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges that likely originated as cracks in drying mud.

“Mud cracks are the most likely scenario here,” said Curiosity science team member Nathan Stein. He is a graduate student at Caltech in Pasadena, California, who led the investigation of a site called “Old Soaker,” on lower Mount Sharp, Mars.

If this interpretation holds up, these would be the first mud cracks — technically called desiccation cracks — confirmed by the Curiosity mission.

The network of cracks in this Martian rock slab called "Old Soaker" may have formed from the drying of a mud layer more than 3 billion years ago. The view spans about 3 feet (90 centimeters) left-to-right and combines three images taken by the MAHLI camera on the arm of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The network of cracks in this Martian rock slab called “Old Soaker” may have formed from the drying of a mud layer more than 3 billion years ago. The view spans about 3 feet (90 centimeters) left-to-right and combines three images taken by the MAHLI camera on the arm of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter looks back at the Earth

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – From the most powerful telescope orbiting Mars comes a new view of Earth and its moon, showing continent-size detail on the planet and the relative size of the moon.

The image combines two separate exposures taken on November 20th, 2016, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The images were taken to calibrate HiRISE data, since the reflectance of the moon’s Earth-facing side is well known.

Here is a view of Earth and its moon, as seen from Mars. It combines two images acquired on Nov. 20, 2016, by the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, with brightness adjusted separately for Earth and the moon to show details on both bodies. Relative sizes and distance are correct. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Here is a view of Earth and its moon, as seen from Mars. It combines two images acquired on Nov. 20, 2016, by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, with brightness adjusted separately for Earth and the moon to show details on both bodies. Relative sizes and distance are correct. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter recovering from Protective Status

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, which has been in service at Mars since October 2001, put itself into safe mode — a protective standby status — on December 26th, while remaining in communication with Earth.

The Odyssey project team has diagnosed the cause — an uncertainty aboard the spacecraft about its orientation with regard to Earth and the sun — and is restoring the orbiter to full operations.

Artist's concept of NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter observes thawing Carbon Dioxide creating Channels on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Erosion-carved troughs that grow and branch during multiple Martian years may be infant versions of larger features known as Martian “spiders,” which are radially patterned channels found only in the south polar region of Mars.

Researchers using NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) report the first detection of cumulative growth, from one Martian spring to another, of channels resulting from the same thawing-carbon-dioxide process believed to form the spider-like features.

This sequence of three HiRISE images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the growth of a branching network of troughs carved by thawing carbon dioxide over the span of three Martian years. This process may also form larger radially patterned channel features known as Martian "spiders." (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This sequence of three HiRISE images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the growth of a branching network of troughs carved by thawing carbon dioxide over the span of three Martian years. This process may also form larger radially patterned channel features known as Martian “spiders.” (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover undergoes diagnostic tests on Drill Arm

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is studying its surroundings and monitoring the environment, rather than driving or using its arm for science, while the rover team diagnoses an issue with a motor that moves the rover’s drill.

Curiosity is at a site on lower Mount Sharp selected for what would be the mission’s seventh sample-collection drilling of 2016. The rover team learned December 1st that Curiosity did not complete the commands for drilling. The rover detected a fault in an early step in which the “drill feed” mechanism did not extend the drill to touch the rock target with the bit.

This Dec. 2, 2016, view from the Navigation Camera (Navcam) on the mast of NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover shows rocky ground within view while the rover was working at an intended drilling site called "Precipice" on lower Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This Dec. 2, 2016, view from the Navigation Camera (Navcam) on the mast of NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover shows rocky ground within view while the rover was working at an intended drilling site called “Precipice” on lower Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover discovers smooth Iron-Nickel Meteorite on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Laser-zapping of a globular, golf-ball-size object on Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover confirms that it is an iron-nickel meteorite fallen from the Red Planet’s sky.

Iron-nickel meteorites are a common class of space rocks found on Earth, and previous examples have been seen on Mars, but this one, called “Egg Rock,” is the first on Mars examined with a laser-firing spectrometer. To do so, the rover team used Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument.

The dark, smooth-surfaced rock at the center of this Oct. 30, 2016, image from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover was examined with laser pulses and confirmed to be an iron-nickel meteorite. It is about the size of a golf ball. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The dark, smooth-surfaced rock at the center of this Oct. 30, 2016, image from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover was examined with laser pulses and confirmed to be an iron-nickel meteorite. It is about the size of a golf ball. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter finds area where Schiaparelli Lander crashed on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The most powerful telescope orbiting Mars is providing new details of the scene near the Martian equator where Europe’s Schiaparelli test lander hit the surface last week.

An October 25th observation using the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows three impact locations within about 0.9 mile (1.5 kilometers) of each other.

The scene shown by HiRISE includes three locations where hardware reached the ground. A dark, roughly circular feature is interpreted as where the lander itself struck.

This Oct. 25, 2016, image from the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the area where the Europe's Schiaparelli test lander struck Mars, with magnified insets of three sites where spacecraft components hit the ground. It adds detail not seen in earlier imaging of the site. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This Oct. 25, 2016, image from the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the area where the Europe’s Schiaparelli test lander struck Mars, with magnified insets of three sites where spacecraft components hit the ground. It adds detail not seen in earlier imaging of the site. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft sees what could be Clouds on Pluto

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The next target for NASA’s New Horizons mission — which made a historic flight past Pluto in July 2015 — apparently bears a colorful resemblance to its famous, main destination.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope data suggests that 2014 MU69, a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) about a billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, is as red, if not redder, than Pluto. This is the first hint at the surface properties of the far-flung object that New Horizons will survey on January 1st, 2019.

Pluto's present, hazy atmosphere is almost entirely free of clouds. However, scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission have identified some cloud candidates -- suggestive of possible, rare condensation clouds -- in images taken during the spacecraft's July 2015 flight through the Pluto system. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Center)

Pluto’s present, hazy atmosphere is almost entirely free of clouds. However, scientists from NASA’s New Horizons mission have identified some cloud candidates — suggestive of possible, rare condensation clouds — in images taken during the spacecraft’s July 2015 flight through the Pluto system. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Center)

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NASA’s Opportunity Rover to examine Gully on Mars that may have been created by Water

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover will drive down a gully carved long ago by a fluid that might have been water, according to the latest plans for the 12-year-old mission. No Mars rover has done that before.

The longest-active rover on Mars also will, for the first time, visit the interior of the crater it has worked beside for the last five years. These activities are part of a two-year extended mission that began October 1st, the newest in a series of extensions going back to the end of Opportunity’s prime mission in April 2004.

Opportunity launched on July 7th, 2003 and landed on Mars on January 24th, 2004 (PST), on a planned mission of 90 Martian days, which is equivalent to 92.4 Earth days.

This scene from NASA's Mars rover Opportunity shows "Wharton Ridge," which forms part of the southern wall of "Marathon Valley" on the rim of Endeavour Crater. The ridge's name honors the memory of astrobiologist Robert A. Wharton (1951-2012). The scene is presented in approximately true color. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)

This scene from NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity shows “Wharton Ridge,” which forms part of the southern wall of “Marathon Valley” on the rim of Endeavour Crater. The ridge’s name honors the memory of astrobiologist Robert A. Wharton (1951-2012). The scene is presented in approximately true color. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA Study finds patterns in the occurrence of Global Dust Storms on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Global dust storms on Mars could soon become more predictable — which would be a boon for future astronauts there — if the next one follows a pattern suggested by those in the past.

A published prediction, based on this pattern, points to Mars experiencing a global dust storm in the next few months. “Mars will reach the midpoint of its current dust storm season on October 29th of this year. Based on the historical pattern we found, we believe it is very likely that a global dust storm will begin within a few weeks or months of this date,” James Shirley, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Two 2001 images from the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter show a dramatic change in the planet's appearance when haze raised by dust-storm activity in the south became globally distributed. The images were taken about a month apart. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Two 2001 images from the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor orbiter show a dramatic change in the planet’s appearance when haze raised by dust-storm activity in the south became globally distributed. The images were taken about a month apart. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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