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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter takes image revealing that the Nucleus of Comet Siding Spring is Small

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured views of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring while that visitor sped past Mars on Sunday (October 19th), yielding information about its nucleus.

The images are the highest-resolution views ever acquired of a comet coming from the Oort Cloud at the fringes of the solar system.

These images were taken of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 19, 2014, during the comet's close flyby of Mars and the spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

These images were taken of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 19, 2014, during the comet’s close flyby of Mars and the spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey Orbiter observes Comet Siding Spring as it passes Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The longest-lived robot ever sent to Mars came through its latest challenge in good health, reporting home on schedule after sheltering behind Mars from possible comet dust.

NASA’s Mars Odyssey was out of communications with Earth, as planned, while conducting observations of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring on Sunday, October 19th, as the comet flew near Mars.

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

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

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NASA’s Opportunity Rover takes picture of ‘Wdowiak Ridge’ on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The latest fieldwork site for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which has been examining a series of Martian craters since 2004, is on the slope of a prominent hill jutting out of the rim of a large crater and bearing its own much smaller crater. It’s called “Wdowiak Ridge.”

“Wdowiak Ridge sticks out like a sore thumb. We want to understand why this ridge is located off the primary rim of Endeavour Crater and how it fits into the geologic story of this region,” said Opportunity science-team member Jim Rice of the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona.

This vista from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows "Wdowiak Ridge," from left foreground to center, as part of a northward look with the rover's tracks visible at right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ)

This vista from NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows “Wdowiak Ridge,” from left foreground to center, as part of a northward look with the rover’s tracks visible at right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ)

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NASA reports Rosetta Spacecraft to release Philae Lander to Comet’s surface November 12th

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission will deploy its lander, Philae, to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12th.

Rosetta is an international mission spearheaded by the European Space Agency with support and instruments provided by NASA.

Philae’s landing site, currently known as Site J, is located on the smaller of the comet’s two “lobes,” with a backup site on the larger lobe. The sites were selected just six weeks after Rosetta’s August 6th arrival at the comet, following the spacecraft’s 10-year journey through the solar system.

Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko chosen for the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko chosen for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover takes first drill sample from Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has collected its first taste of the layered mountain whose scientific allure drew the mission to choose this part of Mars as a landing site.

Late Wednesday, September 24th, the rover’s hammering drill chewed about 2.6 inches (6.7 centimeters) deep into a basal-layer outcrop on Mount Sharp and collected a powdered-rock sample. Data and images received early Thursday at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, confirmed success of this operation. The powder collected by the drilling is temporarily held within the sample-handling mechanism on the rover’s arm.

This image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the first sample-collection hole drilled in Mount Sharp, the layered mountain that is the science destination of the rover's extended mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the first sample-collection hole drilled in Mount Sharp, the layered mountain that is the science destination of the rover’s extended mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover reaches Mount Sharp inside Gale Crater

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has reached the Red Planet’s Mount Sharp, a Mount-Rainier-size mountain at the center of the vast Gale Crater and the rover mission’s long-term prime destination.

“Curiosity now will begin a new chapter from an already outstanding introduction to the world,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “After a historic and innovative landing along with its successful science discoveries, the scientific sequel is upon us.”

This image from NASA's Mars Curiosity rover shows the "Amargosa Valley," on the slopes leading up to Mount Sharp on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This image from NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover shows the “Amargosa Valley,” on the slopes leading up to Mount Sharp on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA reports Mars Opportunity Rover to perform flash memory reformat

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An increasing frequency of computer resets on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has prompted the rover team to make plans to reformat the rover’s flash memory.

The resets, including a dozen this month, interfere with the rover’s planned science activities, even though recovery from each incident is completed within a day or two.

Flash memory retains data even when power is off. It is the type used for storing photos and songs on smart phones or digital cameras, among many other uses.

NASA's Mars rover Opportunity captured this view southward just after completing a 338-foot (103-meter) southward drive, in reverse, on Aug. 10, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity captured this view southward just after completing a 338-foot (103-meter) southward drive, in reverse, on Aug. 10, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Mars Curiosity rover will not drill rock “Bonanza King” because of instablity

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Evaluation of a pale, flat Martian rock as the potential next drilling target for NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover determined that the rock was not stable enough for safe drilling.

The rock, called “Bonanza King,” moved slightly during the mini-drill activity on Wednesday, at an early stage of this test, when the percussion drill impacted the rock a few times to make an indentation.

This image from the front Hazcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the rover's drill in place during a test of whether the rock beneath it, "Bonanza King," would be an acceptable target for drilling to collect a sample. Subsequent analysis showed the rock budged during the Aug. 19, 2014, test. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This image from the front Hazcam on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the rover’s drill in place during a test of whether the rock beneath it, “Bonanza King,” would be an acceptable target for drilling to collect a sample. Subsequent analysis showed the rock budged during the Aug. 19, 2014, test. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover gets ready to drill it’s fourth rock on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The team operating NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has chosen a rock that looks like a pale paving stone as the mission’s fourth drilling target, if it passes engineers’ evaluation.

They call it “Bonanza King.”

It is not at the “Pahrump Hills” site the team anticipated the rover might reach by mid-August. Unexpected challenges while driving in sand prompted the mission to reverse course last week after entering a valley where ripples of sand fill the floor and extend onto sloping margins.

In this image from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover looking up the ramp at the northeastern end of "Hidden Valley," a pale outcrop including drilling target "Bonanza King" is at the center of the scene. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

In this image from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover looking up the ramp at the northeastern end of “Hidden Valley,” a pale outcrop including drilling target “Bonanza King” is at the center of the scene. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft adjusts orbit in lieu of Comet Siding Spring Flyby

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft has successfully adjusted the timing of its orbit around Mars as a defensive precaution for a comet’s close flyby of Mars on October 19th, 2014.

The orbiter fired thrusters for five and a half seconds on Tuesday, August 5th. The maneuver was calculated to place the orbiter behind Mars during the half hour on the flyby date when dust particles released from comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring are most likely to reach Mars.

NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft passes above Mars' south pole in this artist's concept illustration. (NASA/JPL)

NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft passes above Mars’ south pole in this artist’s concept illustration. (NASA/JPL)

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