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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover takes samples from Mars Sand Dune

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As it drives uphill from a band of rippled sand dunes, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is toting a fistful of dark sand for onboard analysis that will complete the rover’s investigation of those dunes.

From early February to early April, the rover examined four sites near a linear dune for comparison with what it found in late 2015 and early 2016 during its investigation of crescent-shaped dunes. This two-phase campaign is the first close-up study of active dunes anywhere other than Earth.

This view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows two scales of ripples, plus other textures, in an area where the mission examined a linear-shaped dune in the Bagnold dune field on lower Mount Sharp in March and April 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows two scales of ripples, plus other textures, in an area where the mission examined a linear-shaped dune in the Bagnold dune field on lower Mount Sharp in March and April 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter takes image of Opportunity Rover’s landing Platform in Eagle Crater

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new observation from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captures the landing platform that the rover Opportunity left behind in Eagle Crater more than 13 years and 27 miles (or 44 kilometers) ago.

A series of bounces and tumbles after initial touchdown plunked the airbag-cushioned lander into the crater, a mere 72 feet (22 meters) across, on January 25th, 2004, Universal Time (January 24th, PST).

The scene includes Eagle Crater and Opportunity’s nearby parachute and backshell, from the April 10th, 2017, observation by MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera.

The bright landing platform left behind by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in 2004 is visible inside Eagle Crater, at upper right in this April 8, 2017, observation by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

The bright landing platform left behind by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in 2004 is visible inside Eagle Crater, at upper right in this April 8, 2017, observation by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover leaves Cape Tribulation heading for Perseverance Valley on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s senior Mars rover, Opportunity, is departing “Cape Tribulation,” a crater-rim segment it has explored since late 2014, southbound for its next destination, “Perseverance Valley.”

The rover team plans observations in the valley to determine what type of fluid activity carved it billions of years ago: water, wind, or flowing debris lubricated by water.

A color panorama of a ridge called “Rocheport” provides both a parting souvenir of Cape Tribulation and also possible help for understanding the valley ahead. The view was assembled from multiple images taken by Opportunity’s panoramic camera.

A grooved ridge called "Rocheport" on the rim of Mars' Endeavour Crater spans this scene from the Pancam on NASA's Mars rover Opportunity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

A grooved ridge called “Rocheport” on the rim of Mars’ Endeavour Crater spans this scene from the Pancam on NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter accomplished it’s 50,000th Orbit of Mars this week

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The most data-productive spacecraft yet at Mars swept past its 50,000th orbit this week, continuing to compile the most sharp-eyed global coverage ever accomplished by a camera at the Red Planet.

In addition, the spacecraft — NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) — recently aided preparations for NASA’s next mission to Mars, the InSight lander. Insight will launch next year on a mission to study the planet’s deep interior. Meanwhile, the orbiter continues diverse science observations of Mars and communications-relay service for two active Mars rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity.

In early 2017, after more than a decade of observing Mars, the Context Camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) surpassed 99 percent coverage of the entire planet. This mosaic shows that global coverage. (NASA)

In early 2017, after more than a decade of observing Mars, the Context Camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) surpassed 99 percent coverage of the entire planet. This mosaic shows that global coverage. (NASA)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has Wheel with Two Tread Breaks

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A routine check of the aluminum wheels on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has found two small breaks on the rover’s left middle wheel-the latest sign of wear and tear as the rover continues its journey, now approaching the 10-mile (16 kilometer) mark.

The mission’s first and second breaks in raised treads, called grousers, appeared in a March 19th image check of the wheels, documenting that these breaks occurred after the last check, on January 27th.

Two of the raised treads, called grousers, on the left middle wheel of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover broke during the first quarter of 2017, including the one seen partially detached at the top of the wheel in this image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the rover's arm. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Two of the raised treads, called grousers, on the left middle wheel of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover broke during the first quarter of 2017, including the one seen partially detached at the top of the wheel in this image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the rover’s arm. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover’s observes Dust Devils on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On Mars, wind rules. Wind has been shaping the Red Planet’s landscapes for billions of years and continues to do so today. Studies using both a NASA orbiter and a rover reveal its effects on scales grand to tiny on the strangely structured landscapes within Gale Crater.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, on the lower slope of Mount Sharp — a layered mountain inside the crater — has begun a second campaign of investigating active sand dunes on the mountain’s northwestern flank. The rover also has been observing whirlwinds carrying dust and checking how far the wind moves grains of sand in a single day’s time.

This image shows a dust-carrying whirlwind, called a dust devil, scooting across ground inside Gale Crater, as observed on the local summer afternoon of NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover's 1,597th Martian day, or sol (Feb. 1, 2017). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/TAMU)

This image shows a dust-carrying whirlwind, called a dust devil, scooting across ground inside Gale Crater, as observed on the local summer afternoon of NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover’s 1,597th Martian day, or sol (Feb. 1, 2017). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/TAMU)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data used to evaluate landing sites for 2020 Mars Rover

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – At an international workshop this week about where NASA’s next Mars rover should land, most of the information comes from a prolific spacecraft that’s been orbiting Mars since 2006.

Observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the basis for evaluating eight candidate landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover mission. The landing site workshop this week in Monrovia, California, will narrow the Mars 2020 candidate list to four or fewer sites. MRO observations have been used to identify, characterize and certify past landing sites and are also in use to assess possible sites for future human-crew missions.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been observing Mars since 2006, enabling it to document many types of changes, such as the way winds alter the appearance of this recent impact site. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been observing Mars since 2006, enabling it to document many types of changes, such as the way winds alter the appearance of this recent impact site. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity’s latest data adds to puzzle of liquid water on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Mars scientists are wrestling with a problem. Ample evidence says ancient Mars was sometimes wet, with water flowing and pooling on the planet’s surface. Yet, the ancient sun was about one-third less warm and climate modelers struggle to produce scenarios that get the surface of Mars warm enough for keeping water unfrozen.

A leading theory is to have a thicker carbon-dioxide atmosphere forming a greenhouse-gas blanket, helping to warm the surface of ancient Mars. However, according to a new analysis of data from NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, Mars had far too little carbon dioxide about 3.5 billion years ago to provide enough greenhouse-effect warming to thaw water ice.

Bedrock at this site added to a puzzle about ancient Mars by indicating that a lake was present, but that little carbon dioxide was in the air to help keep a lake unfrozen. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Bedrock at this site added to a puzzle about ancient Mars by indicating that a lake was present, but that little carbon dioxide was in the air to help keep a lake unfrozen. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images reveal network of intersecting ridges on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Thin, blade-like walls, some as tall as a 16-story building, dominate a previously undocumented network of intersecting ridges on Mars, found in images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The simplest explanation for these impressive ridges is that lava flowed into pre-existing fractures in the ground and later resisted erosion better than material around them.

A new survey of polygon-forming ridges on Mars examines this network in the Medusae Fossae region straddling the planet’s equator and similar-looking networks in other regions of the Red Planet.

This view from the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows part of an area on Mars where narrow rock ridges, some as tall as a 16-story building, intersect at angles forming corners of polygons. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This view from the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows part of an area on Mars where narrow rock ridges, some as tall as a 16-story building, intersect at angles forming corners of polygons. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover discovers what appears to be Mud Cracks on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists used NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover in recent weeks to examine slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges that likely originated as cracks in drying mud.

“Mud cracks are the most likely scenario here,” said Curiosity science team member Nathan Stein. He is a graduate student at Caltech in Pasadena, California, who led the investigation of a site called “Old Soaker,” on lower Mount Sharp, Mars.

If this interpretation holds up, these would be the first mud cracks — technically called desiccation cracks — confirmed by the Curiosity mission.

The network of cracks in this Martian rock slab called "Old Soaker" may have formed from the drying of a mud layer more than 3 billion years ago. The view spans about 3 feet (90 centimeters) left-to-right and combines three images taken by the MAHLI camera on the arm of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The network of cracks in this Martian rock slab called “Old Soaker” may have formed from the drying of a mud layer more than 3 billion years ago. The view spans about 3 feet (90 centimeters) left-to-right and combines three images taken by the MAHLI camera on the arm of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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