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NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover finishes second year on the Red Planet

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s most advanced roving laboratory on Mars celebrates its second anniversary since landing inside the Red Planet’s Gale Crater on August 5th, 2012, PDT (August 6th, 2012, EDT).

During its first year of operations, the Curiosity rover fulfilled its major science goal of determining whether Mars ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

Clay-bearing sedimentary rocks on the crater floor in an area called Yellowknife Bay yielded evidence of a lake bed environment billions of years ago that offered fresh water, all of the key elemental ingredients for life, and a chemical source of energy for microbes, if any existed there.

This image from the Navigation Camera on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows wheel tracks printed by the rover as it drove on the sandy floor of a lowland called "Hidden Valley" on the route toward Mount Sharp. The image was taken on Aug. 4, 2014.

This image from the Navigation Camera on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows wheel tracks printed by the rover as it drove on the sandy floor of a lowland called “Hidden Valley” on the route toward Mount Sharp. The image was taken on Aug. 4, 2014.

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover moves toward bedrock outcrop at Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As it approaches the second anniversary of its landing on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity rover is also approaching its first close look at bedrock that is part of Mount Sharp, the layered mountain in the middle of Mars’ Gale Crater.

The mission made important discoveries during its first year by finding evidence of ancient lake and river environments. During its second year, it has been driving toward long-term science destinations on lower slopes of Mount Sharp.

This full-circle panorama of the landscape surrounding NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on July 31, 2014, offers a view into sandy lower terrain called "Hidden Valley," which is on the planned route ahead. It combines several images from Curiosity's Navigation Camera. South is at the center. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This full-circle panorama of the landscape surrounding NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on July 31, 2014, offers a view into sandy lower terrain called “Hidden Valley,” which is on the planned route ahead. It combines several images from Curiosity’s Navigation Camera. South is at the center. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA says Rosetta Spacecraft discovers target Comet’s center made of two parts

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As the European Space Agency’s spacecraft Rosetta is slowly approaching its destination, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the comet is again proving to be full of surprises.

New images obtained by OSIRIS, the onboard scientific imaging system, confirm the body’s peculiar shape hinted at in earlier pictures. Comet 67P is obviously different from other comets visited so far.

The images show that comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has a two-part shape. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

The images show that comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has a two-part shape. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover catches Flash images from ChemCam laser firing on Martian Rock

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Flashes appear on a baseball-size Martian rock in a series of images taken Saturday, July 12th by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the arm of NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover. The flashes occurred while the rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument fired multiple laser shots to investigate the rock’s composition.

ChemCam’s laser has zapped more than 600 rock and soil targets on Mars since Curiosity landed in the planet’s Gale Crater in August 2012.

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover drives out of area mapped as safe for it’s 2012 Landing

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA Mars rover Curiosity has driven out of the ellipse, approximately 4 miles wide and 12 miles long (7 kilometers by 20 kilometers), that was mapped as safe terrain for its 2012 landing inside Gale Crater.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter photographed the rover on June 27th at the end of a drive that put Curiosity right on the ellipse boundary.

This June 27, 2014, image from the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on the rover's landing-ellipse boundary, which is superimposed on the image. The 12-mile-wide ellipse was mapped as safe terrain for its 2012 landing inside Gale Crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This June 27, 2014, image from the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on the rover’s landing-ellipse boundary, which is superimposed on the image. The 12-mile-wide ellipse was mapped as safe terrain for its 2012 landing inside Gale Crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity explores aluminum mineral rich area on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – With its solar panels their cleanest in years, NASA’s decade-old Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is inspecting a section of crater-rim ridgeline chosen as a priority target due to evidence of a water-related mineral.

Orbital observations of the site by another NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, found a spectrum with the signature of aluminum bound to oxygen and hydrogen. Researchers regard that signature as a marker for a mineral called montmorillonite, which is in a class of clay minerals called smectites.

This scene from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity catches "Pillinger Point," on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, in the foreground. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

This scene from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity catches “Pillinger Point,” on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, in the foreground. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA’s Curiosity Rover completes first Martian Year on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover will complete a Martian year — 687 Earth days — on June 24th, having accomplished the mission’s main goal of determining whether Mars once offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

One of Curiosity’s first major findings after landing on the Red Planet in August 2012 was an ancient riverbed at its landing site. Nearby, at an area known as Yellowknife Bay, the mission met its main goal of determining whether the Martian Gale Crater ever was habitable for simple life forms.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover used the camera at the end of its arm in April and May 2014 to take dozens of component images combined into this self-portrait where the rover drilled into a sandstone target called "Windjana." (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used the camera at the end of its arm in April and May 2014 to take dozens of component images combined into this self-portrait where the rover drilled into a sandstone target called “Windjana.” (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover captures images of the planet Mercury passing in front of the Sun

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has imaged the planet Mercury passing in front of the sun, visible as a faint darkening that moves across the face of the sun.

This is the first transit of the sun by a planet observed from any planet other than Earth, and also the first imaging of Mercury from Mars.

Mercury fills only about one-sixth of one pixel as seen from such great distance, so the darkening does not have a distinct shape, but its position follows Mercury’s expected path based on orbital calculations.

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter discovers large new Crater on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Researchers have discovered on the Red Planet the largest fresh meteor-impact crater ever firmly documented with before-and-after images. The images were captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The crater spans half the length of a football field and first appeared in March 2012. The impact that created it likely was preceded by an explosion in the Martian sky caused by intense friction between an incoming asteroid and the planet’s atmosphere.

This is the largest fresh impact crater anywhere ever clearly confirmed from before-and-after images. It is 159 feet across. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This is the largest fresh impact crater anywhere ever clearly confirmed from before-and-after images. It is 159 feet across. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA begins construction on 2016 Mars Lander, named InSight

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA and its international partners now have the go-ahead to begin construction on a new Mars lander, after it completed a successful Mission Critical Design Review on Friday.

NASA’s Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission will pierce beneath the Martian surface to study its interior. The mission will investigate how Earth-like planets formed and developed their layered inner structure of core, mantle and crust, and will collect information about those interior zones using instruments never before used on Mars.

This artist's concept depicts the stationary NASA Mars lander known by the acronym InSight at work studying the interior of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept depicts the stationary NASA Mars lander known by the acronym InSight at work studying the interior of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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