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NASA Mars Opportunity Rover makes it through another Martian Winter

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s senior Mars rover, Opportunity, has just passed the shortest-daylight weeks of the long Martian year with its solar panels in encouragingly clean condition for entering a potential dust-storm season in 2018.

Before dust season will come the 14th Earth-year anniversaries of Mars landings by the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity in January 2004. Their missions were scheduled to last 90 Martian days, or sols, equivalent to about three months.

This enhanced-color view of ground sloping downward to the right in "Perseverance Valley" shows textures that may be due to abrasion by wind-driven sand. The Pancam on NASA's Mars rover Opportunity's imaged this scene in October 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

This enhanced-color view of ground sloping downward to the right in “Perseverance Valley” shows textures that may be due to abrasion by wind-driven sand. The Pancam on NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity’s imaged this scene in October 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover begins climbing Vera Rubin Ridge

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has begun the steep ascent of an iron-oxide-bearing ridge that’s grabbed scientists’ attention since before the car-sized rover’s 2012 landing.

“We’re on the climb now, driving up a route where we can access the layers we’ve studied from below,” said Abigail Fraeman, a Curiosity science-team member at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Researchers used the Mastcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover to gain this detailed view of layers in "Vera Rubin Ridge" from just below the ridge. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Researchers used the Mastcam on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover to gain this detailed view of layers in “Vera Rubin Ridge” from just below the ridge. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s InSight Lander to explore interior of Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster / Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Preparation of NASA’s next spacecraft to Mars, InSight, has ramped up this summer, on course for launch next May from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California — the first interplanetary launch in history from America’s West Coast.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems is assembling and testing the InSight spacecraft in a clean room facility near Denver. “Our team resumed system-level integration and test activities last month,” said Stu Spath, spacecraft program manager at Lockheed Martin. “The lander is completed and instruments have been integrated onto it so that we can complete the final spacecraft testing including acoustics, instrument deployments and thermal balance tests.”

This artist's concept from August 2015 depicts NASA's InSight Mars lander fully deployed for studying the deep interior of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept from August 2015 depicts NASA’s InSight Mars lander fully deployed for studying the deep interior of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity takes panoramic photo from Perseverance Valley

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded a panoramic view before entering the upper end of a fluid-carved valley that descends the inner slope of a large crater’s rim.

The scene includes a broad notch in the crest of the crater’s rim, which may have been a spillway where water or ice or wind flowed over the rim and into the crater. Wheel tracks visible in the area of the notch were left by Opportunity as the rover studied the ground there and took images into the valley below for use in planning its route.

This June 2017 view from the Pancam on NASA's Opportunity Mars rover shows the area just above "Perseverance Valley" on a large crater's rim. A broad notch in the crest of the rim, at right, might have been a spillway for a fluid that carved the valley, out of sight on the other side of the rim. (NASA)

This June 2017 view from the Pancam on NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover shows the area just above “Perseverance Valley” on a large crater’s rim. A broad notch in the crest of the rim, at right, might have been a spillway for a fluid that carved the valley, out of sight on the other side of the rim. (NASA)

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NASA reports Limited Communications between Earth and Mars due to Sun this month

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – This month, movements of the planets will put Mars almost directly behind the sun, from Earth’s perspective, causing curtailed communications between Earth and Mars.

NASA will refrain from sending commands to America’s three Mars orbiters and two Mars rovers during the period from July 22nd to August 1st, 2017.

“Out of caution, we won’t talk to our Mars assets during that period because we expect significant degradation in the communication link, and we don’t want to take a chance that one of our spacecraft would act on a corrupted command,” said Chad Edwards, manager of the Mars Relay Network Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

This diagram illustrates the positions of Mars, Earth and the sun during a period that occurs approximately every 26 months, when Mars passes almost directly behind the sun from Earth's perspective. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This diagram illustrates the positions of Mars, Earth and the sun during a period that occurs approximately every 26 months, when Mars passes almost directly behind the sun from Earth’s perspective. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover starts investigating Mars Ridge containing Hematite

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The car-size NASA rover on a Martian mountain, Curiosity, has begun its long-anticipated study of an iron-bearing ridge forming a distinctive layer on the mountain’s slope.

Since before Curiosity’s landing five years ago next month, this feature has been recognized as one of four unique terrains on lower Mount Sharp and therefore a key mission destination. Curiosity’s science team informally named it “Vera Rubin Ridge” this year, commemorating astronomer Vera Cooper Rubin (1928-2016).

“Our Vera Rubin Ridge campaign has begun,” said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “Curiosity is driving parallel to the ridge, below it, observing it from different angles as we work our way toward a safe route to the top of the ridge.”

This early 2017 look ahead from the Mastcam of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover includes four geological layers to be examined by the mission, and higher reaches of Mount Sharp beyond the planned study area. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This early 2017 look ahead from the Mastcam of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes four geological layers to be examined by the mission, and higher reaches of Mount Sharp beyond the planned study area. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Pathfinder Lander ignited 20 years of Mars Exploration

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft approached its destination on July 4th, 1997, no NASA mission had successfully reached the Red Planet in more than 20 years.

Even the mission team anxiously awaiting confirmation that the spacecraft survived its innovative, bouncy landing could not anticipate the magnitude of the pivot about to shape the Space Age.

In the 20 years since Pathfinder’s touchdown, eight other NASA landers and orbiters have arrived successfully, and not a day has passed without the United States having at least one active robot on Mars or in orbit around Mars.

This portion of a classic 1997 panorama from the IMP camera on the mast of NASA's Mars Pathfinder lander includes "Twin Peaks" on the horizon, and the Sojourner rover next to a rock called "Yogi." (NASA/JPL)

This portion of a classic 1997 panorama from the IMP camera on the mast of NASA’s Mars Pathfinder lander includes “Twin Peaks” on the horizon, and the Sojourner rover next to a rock called “Yogi.” (NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft to take close up look at Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

 

Written by DC Agle / Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Just days after celebrating its first anniversary in Jupiter orbit, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will fly directly over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, the gas giant’s iconic, 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm. This will be humanity’s first up-close and personal view of the gigantic feature — a storm monitored since 1830 and possibly existing for more than 350 years.

“Jupiter’s mysterious Great Red Spot is probably the best-known feature of Jupiter,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “This monumental storm has raged on the solar system’s biggest planet for centuries. Now, Juno and her cloud-penetrating science instruments will dive in to see how deep the roots of this storm go, and help us understand how this giant storm works and what makes it so special.”

This true color mosaic of Jupiter was constructed from images taken by the narrow angle camera onboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft on December 29, 2000, during its closest approach to the giant planet at a distance of approximately 10 million kilometers (6.2 million miles). (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

This true color mosaic of Jupiter was constructed from images taken by the narrow angle camera onboard NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on December 29, 2000, during its closest approach to the giant planet at a distance of approximately 10 million kilometers (6.2 million miles). (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover examines Ancient Lake on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A long-lasting lake on ancient Mars provided stable environmental conditions that differed significantly from one part of the lake to another, according to a comprehensive look at findings from the first three-and-a-half years of NASA’s Curiosity rover mission.

Different conditions favorable for different types of microbes existed simultaneously in the same lake.

Previous work had revealed the presence of a lake more than three billion years ago in Mars’ Gale Crater. This study defines the chemical conditions that existed in the lake and uses Curiosity’s powerful payload to determine that the lake was stratified.

This evenly layered rock imaged in 2014 by the Mastcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows a pattern typical of a lake-floor sedimentary deposit near where flowing water entered a lake. Shallow and deep parts of an ancient Martian lake left different clues in mudstone formed from lakebed deposits. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This evenly layered rock imaged in 2014 by the Mastcam on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows a pattern typical of a lake-floor sedimentary deposit near where flowing water entered a lake. Shallow and deep parts of an ancient Martian lake left different clues in mudstone formed from lakebed deposits. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover bedrock analysis reveals Ancient Mars had wet environment for a long time

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Pale “halos” around fractures in bedrock analyzed by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover contain copious silica, indicating that ancient Mars had liquid water for a long time.

“The concentration of silica is very high at the centerlines of these halos,” said Jens Frydenvang, a rover-team scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. “What we’re seeing is that silica appears to have migrated between very old sedimentary bedrock and into younger overlying rocks.”

Frydenvang is the lead author of a report about these findings published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Pale zones called "halos" border bedrock fractures visible in this 2015 image from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. Measurements overlaid on the image offer a sense of scale for the size of these fractures. The rover team determined that the halos are rich in silica, a clue to the duration of wet environmental conditions long ago. The location is on the lower slope of Mars' Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Pale zones called “halos” border bedrock fractures visible in this 2015 image from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Measurements overlaid on the image offer a sense of scale for the size of these fractures. The rover team determined that the halos are rich in silica, a clue to the duration of wet environmental conditions long ago. The location is on the lower slope of Mars’ Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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