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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover has to change course on Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover climbed a hill Thursday to approach an alternative site for investigating a geological boundary, after a comparable site proved hard to reach.

The drive of about 72 feet (22 meters) up slopes as steep as 21 degrees brought Curiosity close to a target area where two distinctive types of bedrock meet. The rover science team wants to examine an outcrop that contains the contact between the pale rock unit the mission analyzed lower on Mount Sharp and a darker, bedded rock unit that the mission has not yet examined up close.

This May 10, 2015, view from Curiosity's Mastcam shows terrain judged difficult for traversing between the rover and an outcrop in the middle distance where a pale rock unit meets a darker rock unit above it. The rover team decided not to approach this outcrop and identified an alternative. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This May 10, 2015, view from Curiosity’s Mastcam shows terrain judged difficult for traversing between the rover and an outcrop in the middle distance where a pale rock unit meets a darker rock unit above it. The rover team decided not to approach this outcrop and identified an alternative. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover captures image of Sunset on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The sun dips to a Martian horizon in a blue-tinged sky in images sent home to Earth this week from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover.

Curiosity used its Mast Camera (Mastcam) to record the sunset during an evening of skywatching on April 15th, 2015.

The imaging was done between dust storms, but some dust remained suspended high in the atmosphere. The sunset observations help researchers assess the vertical distribution of dust in the atmosphere.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of the sun setting at the close of the mission's 956th Martian day, or sol (April 15th, 2015), from the rover's location in Gale Crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of the sun setting at the close of the mission’s 956th Martian day, or sol (April 15th, 2015), from the rover’s location in Gale Crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover takes timeout to investigate Valley on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Researchers slightly detoured NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover from the mission’s planned path in recent days for a closer look at a hillside site where an ancient valley had been carved out and refilled.

The rover made observations and measurements there to address questions about how the channel formed and filled. Then it resumed driving up Mount Sharp, where the mission is studying the rock layers. The layers reveal chapters in how environmental conditions and the potential to support microbial life changed in Mars’ early history.

This April 16th, 2015, panorama from the Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows a detailed view toward two areas on lower Mount Sharp chosen for close-up inspection in subsequent weeks: "Mount Shields" and "Logan Pass." (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This April 16th, 2015, panorama from the Mast Camera on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows a detailed view toward two areas on lower Mount Sharp chosen for close-up inspection in subsequent weeks: “Mount Shields” and “Logan Pass.” (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA monitors increased Traffic orbiting Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has beefed up a process of traffic monitoring, communication and maneuver planning to ensure that Mars orbiters do not approach each other too closely.

Last year’s addition of two new spacecraft orbiting Mars brought the census of active Mars orbiters to five, the most ever. NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission joined the 2003 Mars Express from ESA (the European Space Agency) and two from NASA: the 2001 Mars Odyssey and the 2006 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

This graphic depicts the relative shapes and distances from Mars for five active orbiter missions plus the planet's two natural satellites. It illustrates the potential for intersections of the spacecraft orbits. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This graphic depicts the relative shapes and distances from Mars for five active orbiter missions plus the planet’s two natural satellites. It illustrates the potential for intersections of the spacecraft orbits. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover takes image of Rock Spire in “Spirit of St. Louis” Crater on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An elongated crater called “Spirit of St. Louis,” with a rock spire in it, dominates a recent scene from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity.

Opportunity completed its 4,000th Martian day, or sol, of work on Mars on April 26th, 2015. The rover has been exploring Mars since early 2004.

This scene from late March 2015 shows a shallow crater called Spirit of St. Louis, about 110 feet (34 meters) long and about 80 feet (24 meters) wide, with a floor slightly darker than surrounding terrain.

An elongated crater called “Spirit of St. Louis,” with a rock spire in it, dominates a recent scene from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spots Curiosity Rover on the slope of Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A view from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on April 8th, 2015, catches sight of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover passing through a valley called “Artist’s Drive” on the lower slope of Mount Sharp.

The image from the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera shows the rover’s position after a drive of about 75 feet (23 meters) during the 949th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars.

Mars image from the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Mars image from the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover heads towards next observation point on Mars, Logan Pass

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is continuing science observations while on the move this month. On April 16th, the mission passed 10 kilometers (6.214 miles) of total driving since its 2012 landing, including about a fifth of a mile (310 meters) so far this month.

The rover is trekking through a series of shallow valleys between the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop, which it investigated for six months, and the next science destination, “Logan Pass,” which is still about 200 yards, or meters, ahead toward the southwest.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover used its Navigation Camera (Navcam) to capture this scene toward the west just after completing a drive that took the mission's total driving distance on Mars past 10 kilometers (6.214 miles). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its Navigation Camera (Navcam) to capture this scene toward the west just after completing a drive that took the mission’s total driving distance on Mars past 10 kilometers (6.214 miles). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover measurements of Weather, Soil reveals possibility of Liquid Brine on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Martian weather and soil conditions that NASA’s Curiosity rover has measured, together with a type of salt found in Martian soil, could put liquid brine in the soil at night.

Perchlorate identified in Martian soil by the Curiosity mission, and previously by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander mission, has properties of absorbing water vapor from the atmosphere and lowering the freezing temperature of water. This has been proposed for years as a mechanism for possible existence of transient liquid brines at higher latitudes on modern Mars, despite the Red Planet’s cold and dry conditions.

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover includes temperature and humidity sensors mounted on the rover's mast. One of the REMS booms extends to the left from the mast in this view. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes temperature and humidity sensors mounted on the rover’s mast. One of the REMS booms extends to the left from the mast in this view. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover examines Martian Atmosphere to learn about it’s past

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover is using a new experiment to better understand the history of the Martian atmosphere by analyzing xenon.

While NASA’s Curiosity rover concluded its detailed examination of the rock layers of the “Pahrump Hills” in Gale Crater on Mars this winter, some members of the rover team were busy analyzing the Martian atmosphere for xenon, a heavy noble gas.

Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) experiment analyzed xenon in the planet’s atmosphere. Since noble gases are chemically inert and do not react with other substances in the air or on the ground, they are excellent tracers of the history of the atmosphere.

A Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) team member at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland prepares the SAM testbed for an experiment. This test copy of SAM is inside a chamber that can model the pressure and temperature environment that SAM sees inside NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars. (NASA/GSFC)

A Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) team member at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland prepares the SAM testbed for an experiment. This test copy of SAM is inside a chamber that can model the pressure and temperature environment that SAM sees inside NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter returns to full operation after computer swap

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, at Mars since 2006, made an unplanned switch on Wednesday from one main computer to a redundant one onboard, triggering a hiatus in planned activities.

Sensing the computer swap, the orbiter put itself into a precautionary safe standby mode. It remained healthy, in communication and fully powered. The mission’s operations team expects the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to resume full duty within a few days, including communication relays and science observations.

Artist concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL)

Artist concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL)

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