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Topic: NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity

NASA begins planning new Mars Orbiter with advanced communications and imaging technology

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA is soliciting ideas from U.S. industry for designs of a Mars orbiter for potential launch in the 2020s. The satellite would provide advanced communications and imaging, as well as robotic science exploration, in support of NASA’s Journey to Mars.

The orbiter would substantially increase bandwidth communications and maintain high-resolution imaging capability. It also may use experimental cutting-edge technologies, such as high-power solar electric propulsion or an optical communications package, which could greatly improve transmission speed and capacity over radio frequency systems.

About 1000 Viking Orbiter red- and violet-filter images have been processed to provide global color coverage of Mars at a scale of 1 km/pixel. (NASA/JPL/USGS)

About 1000 Viking Orbiter red- and violet-filter images have been processed to provide global color coverage of Mars at a scale of 1 km/pixel. (NASA/JPL/USGS)

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NASA uses Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headset to create guided tour of Mars

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – What might it look like if you were walking around on Mars? A group of researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, has been working on methods to take this question from the realm of imagination to the mind-bending domain of mixed reality.

As a result, NASA and Microsoft have teamed up to offer the public a guided tour of an area of Mars with astronaut Buzz Aldrin this summer in “Destination: Mars,” an interactive exhibit using the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headset. “Mixed reality” means that virtual elements are merged with the user’s actual environment, creating a world in which real and virtual objects can interact.

Erisa Hines, a driver for the Mars Curiosity rover, based at JPL, also talks to participants in "Destination: Mars." (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Microsoft)

Erisa Hines, a driver for the Mars Curiosity rover, based at JPL, also talks to participants in “Destination: Mars.” (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Microsoft)

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NASA picks Researchers to take part in Curiosity Mars Rover mission

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has selected 28 researchers as participating scientists for the Curiosity Mars rover mission, including six newcomers to the rover’s science team.

The six new additions work in Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Tennessee. Eighty-nine scientists around the world submitted research proposals for using data from Curiosity and becoming participating scientists on the Mars Science Laboratory Project, which built and operates the rover.

Patches of Martian sandstone visible in the lower-left and upper portions of this March 9, 2016, view from the Mast Camera of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover have a knobbly texture due to nodules apparently more resistant to erosion than the host rock in which some are still embedded. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Patches of Martian sandstone visible in the lower-left and upper portions of this March 9, 2016, view from the Mast Camera of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover have a knobbly texture due to nodules apparently more resistant to erosion than the host rock in which some are still embedded. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s InSight Spacecraft set to launch in May 2018 for Mars

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission to study the deep interior of Mars is targeting a new launch window that begins May 5th, 2018, with a Mars landing scheduled for November 26th, 2018.

InSight’s primary goal is to help us understand how rocky planets — including Earth — formed and evolved. The spacecraft had been on track to launch this month until a vacuum leak in its prime science instrument prompted NASA in December to suspend preparations for launch.

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 Curiosity Mars rover continues investigating sand dunes at Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The latest self-portrait from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the car-size mobile laboratory beside a dark dune where it has been scooping and sieving samples of sand.

The new selfie combines 57 images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of Curiosity’s arm on January 19th.

The rover has been investigating a group of active sand dunes for two months, studying how the wind moves and sorts sand particles on Mars. The site is part of Bagnold Dune Field, which lines the northwestern flank of Mars’ Mount Sharp.

This Jan. 19, 2016, self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at "Namib Dune," where the rover's activities included scuffing into the dune with a wheel and scooping samples of sand for laboratory analysis. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This Jan. 19, 2016, self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at “Namib Dune,” where the rover’s activities included scuffing into the dune with a wheel and scooping samples of sand for laboratory analysis. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover samples sand from Namib Dune on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – At its current location for inspecting an active sand dune, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is adding some sample-processing moves not previously used on Mars.

Sand from the second and third samples the rover is scooping from “Namib Dune” will be sorted by grain size with two sieves. The coarser sieve is making its debut, and using it also changes the way the treated sample is dropped into an inlet port for laboratory analysis inside the rover.

Positioning of the rover to grab a bite of the dune posed a challenge, too. Curiosity reached this sampling site, called “Gobabeb,” on January 12th.

This view captures Curiosity's current work area where the rover continues its campaign to study an active sand dune on Mars. This site is part of the Bagnold Dunes, a band of dark sand dunes along the northwestern flank of Mars' Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This view captures Curiosity’s current work area where the rover continues its campaign to study an active sand dune on Mars. This site is part of the Bagnold Dunes, a band of dark sand dunes along the northwestern flank of Mars’ Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover maneuvers to other side of Martian Dune

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, partway through the first up-close study ever conducted of extraterrestrial sand dunes, is providing dramatic views of a dune’s steep face, where cascading sand has sculpted very different textures than the wavy ripples visible on the dune’s windward slope.

Researchers are using Curiosity to examine examples of the Bagnold Dunes, a band of dark sand dunes lining the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp, the layered mountain the rover is climbing.

This view from NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover shows the downwind side of a dune about 13 feet high within the Bagnold Dunes field on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This view from NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover shows the downwind side of a dune about 13 feet high within the Bagnold Dunes field on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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U.S. Department of Energy produces fuel to power NASA’s Deep Space Missions

 

Written by Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The first U.S. production in nearly 30 years of a specialized fuel to power future deep space missions has been completed by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee.

The production of 50 grams of plutonium-238 -roughly the mass of a golf ball – marks the first demonstration in the United States since the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina ceased production in the late 1980s.

This self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013), plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 (May 10, 2013) to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover. (NASA)

This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013), plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 (May 10, 2013) to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover. (NASA)

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NASA scubs InSight Spacecraft launch planned for March 2016

 

Written by Dwayne Brown and Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – After thorough examination, NASA managers have decided to suspend the planned March 2016 launch of the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission. The decision follows unsuccessful attempts to repair a leak in a section of the prime instrument in the science payload.

“Learning about the interior structure of Mars has been a high priority objective for planetary scientists since the Viking era,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “We push the boundaries of space technology with our missions to enable science, but space exploration is unforgiving, and the bottom line is that we’re not ready to launch in the 2016 window. A decision on a path forward will be made in the coming months, but one thing is clear: NASA remains fully committed to the scientific discovery and exploration of Mars.”

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 Curiosity Rover discovery of high concentrations of Silica on Mars puzzles Scientists

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In detective stories, as the plot thickens, an unexpected clue often delivers more questions than answers. In this case, the scene is a mountain on Mars. The clue: the chemical compound silica. Lots of silica. The sleuths: a savvy band of Earthbound researchers whose agent on Mars is NASA’s laser-flashing, one-armed mobile laboratory, Curiosity.

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found much higher concentrations of silica at some sites it has investigated in the past seven months than anywhere else it has visited since landing on Mars 40 months ago.

This May 22, 2015, view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) in NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the "Marias Pass" area where a lower and older geological unit of mudstone -- the pale zone in the center of the image -- lies in contact with an overlying geological unit of sandstone. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This May 22, 2015, view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) in NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the “Marias Pass” area where a lower and older geological unit of mudstone — the pale zone in the center of the image — lies in contact with an overlying geological unit of sandstone. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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