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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity celebrates surpassing Marathon Distance on March 24th, 2015

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – There was no tape draped across a finish line, but NASA is celebrating a win. The agency’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity completed its first Red Planet marathon Tuesday — 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers) – with a finish time of roughly 11 years and two months.

“This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world,” said John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “A first time happens only once.”

Cumulative driving by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity surpassed marathon distance on March 24, 2015, as the rover neared a destination called "Marathon Valley," which is middle ground of this dramatic view from early March. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Cumulative driving by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity surpassed marathon distance on March 24, 2015, as the rover neared a destination called “Marathon Valley,” which is middle ground of this dramatic view from early March. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reformats Mars Rover Opportunity’s onboard Flash Memory

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After avoiding use of the rover’s flash memory for three months, the team operating NASA’s 11-year-old Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reformatted the vehicle’s flash memory banks and resumed storing some data overnight for transmitting later.

The team received confirmation from Mars on March 20th that the reformatting completed successfully. The rover switched to updated software earlier this month that will avoid using one of the seven banks of onboard flash memory.

This view from NASA's Opportunity Mars rover shows part of "Marathon Valley" as seen from an overlook north of the valley. It was taken by the rover's Pancam on March 13, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

This view from NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover shows part of “Marathon Valley” as seen from an overlook north of the valley. It was taken by the rover’s Pancam on March 13, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover uses arm to move sample rock powder to analyzing instrument

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its robotic arm Wednesday, March 11th, to sieve and deliver a rock-powder sample to an onboard instrument. The sample was collected last month before the team temporarily suspended rover arm movement pending analysis of a short circuit.

The Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) analytical instrument inside the rover received the sample powder. This sample comes from a rock target called “Telegraph Peak,” the third target drilled during about six months of investigating the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop on Mount Sharp. With this delivery completed, the rover team plans to drive Curiosity away from Pahrump Hills in coming days.

This area at the base of Mount Sharp on Mars includes a pale outcrop, called "Pahrump Hills," that NASA's Curiosity Mars rover investigated from September 2014 to March 2015, and the "Artist's Drive" route toward higher layers of the mountain. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This area at the base of Mount Sharp on Mars includes a pale outcrop, called “Pahrump Hills,” that NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover investigated from September 2014 to March 2015, and the “Artist’s Drive” route toward higher layers of the mountain. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s InSight mission to Mars examines site for landing

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s next mission to Mars, scheduled to launch one year from today to examine the Red Planet’s deep interior and investigate how rocky planets like Earth evolved, now has one specific site under evaluation as the best place to land and deploy its science instruments.

The mission called InSight — an acronym for “Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport” — is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The launch period runs from March 4th to March 30th, 2016, and will mark the first California launch of an interplanetary mission.

This map shows the single area under continuing evaluation as the InSight mission's Mars landing site, as of a year before the mission's May 2016 launch. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This map shows the single area under continuing evaluation as the InSight mission’s Mars landing site, as of a year before the mission’s May 2016 launch. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover to begin using it’s arm again

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Managers of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover mission expect to approve resumption of rover arm movements as early as next week while continuing analysis of what appears to be an intermittent short circuit in the drill.

A fluctuation in current on February 27th triggered a fault-protection response that immediately halted action by the rover during the mission’s 911th Martian day, or sol.

Since then, the rover team has avoided driving Curiosity or moving the rover’s arm, while engineers have focused on diagnostic tests. Science observations with instruments on the rover’s mast have continued, along with environmental monitoring by its weather station.

This March 4, 2015, image from the Navcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the position in which the rover held its arm for several days after a transient short circuit triggered onboard fault-protection programming to halt arm activities on Feb. 27th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This March 4, 2015, image from the Navcam on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the position in which the rover held its arm for several days after a transient short circuit triggered onboard fault-protection programming to halt arm activities on Feb. 27th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity examines blocky rocks on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity climbed last month to an overlook for surveying “Marathon Valley,” a science destination chosen because spectrometer observations from orbit indicate exposures of clay minerals.

Near the overlook, it found blocky rocks so unlike any previously examined on Mars that the rover team has delayed other activities to provide time for a thorough investigation.

This map updates progress that NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is making toward reaching a driving distance equivalent to a marathon footrace. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This map updates progress that NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is making toward reaching a driving distance equivalent to a marathon footrace. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover takes powder sample from rock at Telegraph Peak

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’ Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its drill on Tuesday, February 24th to collect sample powder from inside a rock target called “Telegraph Peak.” The target sits in the upper portion of “Pahrump Hills,” an outcrop the mission has been investigating for five months.

The Pahrump Hills campaign previously drilled at two other sites. The outcrop is an exposure of bedrock that forms the basal layer of Mount Sharp. Curiosity’s extended mission, which began last year after a two-year prime mission, is examining layers of this mountain that are expected to hold records of how ancient wet environments on Mars evolved into drier environments.

This hole, with a diameter slightly smaller than a U.S. dime, was drilled by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover into a rock target called "Telegraph Peak." (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This hole, with a diameter slightly smaller than a U.S. dime, was drilled by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover into a rock target called “Telegraph Peak.” (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity’s distance traveled on Mars nears that of a Marathon Race

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is nearing a location on Mars at which its driving distance will surpass the length of a marathon race.

A drive on February 8th, 2015, put the rover within 220 yards (200 meters) of this marathon accomplishment. An Olympic marathon is 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers).

Opportunity is headed for a portion of the western rim of Endeavour Crater where observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have detected multiple types of clay minerals. These minerals are indicative of an ancient wet environment where water was more neutral rather than harshly acidic.

In February 2015, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is approaching a cumulative driving distance on Mars equal to the length of a marathon race. This map shows the rover's position relative to where it could surpass that distance. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

In February 2015, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is approaching a cumulative driving distance on Mars equal to the length of a marathon race. This map shows the rover’s position relative to where it could surpass that distance. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has made 40,000 trips around Mars since 2006

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter passed a mission milestone of 40,000 orbits on February 7th, 2015, in its ninth year of returning information about the atmosphere, surface and subsurface of Mars, from equatorial to polar latitudes.

The mission’s potent science instruments and extended lifespan have revealed that Mars is a world more dynamic and diverse than was previously realized. Now in its fourth mission extension after a two-year prime mission, the orbiter is investigating seasonal and longer-term changes, including some warm-season flows that are the strongest evidence so far for liquid water on Mars today.

This view of Martian surface features shaped by effects of winds was captured by the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Jan. 4, 2015. The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since March 2006. On Feb. 7, 2015, it completed its 40,000th orbit around Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This view of Martian surface features shaped by effects of winds was captured by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Jan. 4, 2015. The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since March 2006. On Feb. 7, 2015, it completed its 40,000th orbit around Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover examines powder sample taken at Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The second bite of a Martian mountain taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover hints at long-ago effects of water that was more acidic than any evidenced in the rover’s first taste of Mount Sharp, a layered rock record of ancient Martian environments.

The rover used a new, low-percussion-level drilling technique to collect sample powder last week from a rock target called “Mojave 2.”

Curiosity reached the base of Mount Sharp five months ago after two years of examining other sites inside Gale Crater and driving toward the mountain at the crater’s center. The first sample of the mountain’s base layer came from a target called “Confidence Hills,” drilled in September.

Gray cuttings from Curiosity's drilling into a target called "Mohave 2" are visible surrounding the sample-collection hole in this Jan. 31, 2015, image from the rover's MAHLI camera. This site in the "Pahrump Hills" outcrop provided the mission's second drilled sample of Mars' Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Gray cuttings from Curiosity’s drilling into a target called “Mohave 2″ are visible surrounding the sample-collection hole in this Jan. 31, 2015, image from the rover’s MAHLI camera. This site in the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop provided the mission’s second drilled sample of Mars’ Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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