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NASA Field Tests Wi-Fi in Arizona

Sunday, January 25, 2004

NASA has begun field tests, in an Arizona meteor crater, of a mobile Wi-Fi system that could allow astronauts on manned planetary exploration missions to easily deploy wireless data connectivity, similar to the wireless technology used by many people to connect their laptops and other mobile devices to the Internet. Mars explorers might carry wireless-enabled personal computers while on extra-vehicular activities (EVAs) for collecting and exchanging data and information with eachother, the lander, and mission control on Earth.

More: Wired - Wi-Fi Enters the Space Race

Rover Opportunity Lands on Mars

Sunday, January 25, 2004

NASA's second Mars Exploration Rover successfully sent signals to Earth during its bouncy landing and after it came to rest on one of the three side petals of its four-sided lander. Mission engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., received the first signal from Opportunity on the ground at 9:05 p.m. Pacific Standard Time Saturday via the NASA Deep Space Network, which was listening with antennas in California and Australia. Opportunity landed in a region called Meridiani Planum, halfway around the planet from the Gusev Crater site where its twin rover, Spirit, landed three weeks ago. Earlier today, mission managers reported progress in understanding and dealing with communications and computer problems on Spirit.

More: NASA - NASA Hears From Opportunity Rover On Mars

More: NASA - Opportunity Sits In A Small Crater, Near A Bigger One

More: NASA - First Images Of Opportunity Site Show Bizarre Landscape

Historic Lunar Images Revived

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Historic space images taken by NASA's Lunar Orbiters in the 1960s are now available in digital form on the internet. Thanks to modern scanning technology and processing methods developed by the USGS, these important images can now be viewed by everyone at a NASA-funded web site established by the USGS Astrogeology Program in Flagstaff, Arizona where mapping of planets continues to be a primary function.

More: USGS Astro - Lunar Orbiter Digitization Project

Continue reading "Historic Lunar Images Revived"

Spirit Drives to 'Adirondack'

Monday, January 19, 2004

NASA's Spirit rover has successfully driven to its first target on Mars, a football-sized rock that scientists have dubbed Adirondack. The Mars Exploration Rover flight team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., plans to send commands to Spirit early Tuesday to examine Adirondack with a microscope and two instruments that reveal the composition of rocks, said JPL's Dr. Mark Adler, Spirit mission manager. The instruments are the Mössbauer spectrometer and the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.

More: NASA - Spirit Drives to a Rock Called 'Adirondack' for Close Inspection

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rovers Project

Spirit Flexes Its Arm

Friday, January 16, 2004

Mars in Glorious Detail
Mars in Glorious Detail

This close-up look at a patch of martian soil is the sharpest image ever taken of another planet. The picture was captured by the microscopic imager located on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit's instrument deployment device, or "arm." Scientists liken the alien soil to clumpy cocoa powder. The upper left corner of the soil patch is illuminated by direct sunlight and thus appears brighter. The actual size of the patch is about 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) across.

NASA/JPL/Cornell/USGS Astro

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NASA's Spirit rover reached out with its versatile robotic arm early today and examined a patch of fine-grained martian soil with a microscope at the end of the arm. "I'm elated and relieved at how well things are going. We got some great images in our first day of using the microscopic imager on Mars," said USGS Astrogeology's Ken Herkenhoff Herkenhoff is the lead scientist for the microscopic imagers on Spirit and on Spirit's twin Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity.

More: NASA - Spirit Flexes Its Arm to Use Microscope on Mars' Soil

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rovers Project

Spirit Rolls Off the Lander

Thursday, January 15, 2004

image of spirt looking back a the lander package
Spirit Looks Back

This image from the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit's rear hazard identification camera shows the rover's hind view of the lander platform, its nest for the past 12 sols, or martian days. The rover is approximately 1 meter (3 feet) in front of the airbag-cushioned lander, facing northwest. Note the tracks left in the martian soil by the rovers' wheels, all six of which have rolled off the lander. This is the first time the rover has touched martian soil.


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NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit successfully drove off its lander platform and onto the soil of Mars early today. The robot's first picture looking back at the now-empty lander and showing wheel tracks in the soil set off cheers from the robot's flight team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Since Spirit landed inside Mars' Gusev Crater on Jan. 3 (PST and EST; Jan. 4 Universal Time), JPL engineers have put it through a careful sequence of unfolding, standing up, checking its surroundings and other steps leading up to today's drive-off.

More: JPL - Spirit Rolls All Six Wheels onto Martian Soil

NASA's New Focus

Thursday, January 15, 2004

In a move designed to align the agency with the new exploration agenda outlined yesterday by President George W. Bush, NASA Deputy Administrator Frederick D. Gregory announced a comprehensive restructuring of the offices within Headquarters in Washington. The restructuring creates a new Office of Exploration Systems and an Office of Aeronautics. Exploration Systems will set priorities for space vehicle research and direct the identification, development and validation of space flight systems, including the newly proposed "crew exploration vehicle."

More: GovExec - NASA reorganizes to align with revamped mission

More: NASA - NASA Announces New Headquarters Management Alignment

President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

President George W. Bush delivers remarks on U.S. Space Policy at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2004.

White House photo by Eric Draper

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The President spoke today at NASA Headquarters about the U.S. Space Policy. He proposes to shift the focus from the shuttle and space station in order to return to the Moon by 2020 and eventually build a lunar base. The President committed the United States to a long-term human and robotic program to explore the solar system, starting with a return to the Moon that will ultimately enable future exploration of Mars and other destinations.

More: Whitehouse - Transcript and photos of speech

Spirit Gets A Travel Itinerary

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

NASA's Spirit has begun pivoting atop its lander platform on Mars, and the robot's human partners have announced plans to send it toward a crater, then toward some hills, during the mission. Determining exactly where the spacecraft landed, in the context of images taken from orbit, has given planners a useful map of the vicinity. After Spirit drives off its lander and examines nearby soil and rocks, the scientists and engineers managing it from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., intend to tell it to head for a crater that is about 250 meters (about 270 yards) northeast of the lander.

More: NASA - Go to that Crater and Turn Right: Spirit Gets a Travel Itinerary

Mars rover scientists smiling despite delay

Thursday, January 8, 2004

Rover looking at the sunset
Mars at an angle

This latest color "postcard from Mars," taken on Sol 5 by the panoramic camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, looks to the north. The apparent slope of the horizon is due to the several-degree tilt of the lander deck. On the left, the circular topographic feature dubbed Sleepy Hollow can be seen along with dark markings that may be surface disturbances caused by the airbag-encased lander as it bounced and rolled to rest. A dust-coated airbag is prominent in the foreground, and a dune-like object that has piqued the interest of the science team with its dark, possibly armored top coating, can be seen on the right.


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The USGS Astrogeology team working on the current Mars project says that minor problems will delay their work, but spirits are still high following the successful landing of Spirit. The rover is not expected to start exploring Gusev Crater until Wednesday, three days later than expected. The air bags used to cushion the rover's landing are blocking the primary ramp, keeping the rover from rolling off the lander. NASA is working to deflate the bags further, but if that fails, the rover can roll off the lander using one of the two other ramps.

More: Arizona Daily Sun - Flag-based USGS team still upbeat despite delay

More: Arizona Daily Sun - Rover hits air-bag snag

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Link: JPL - Mars Exploration Rover Mission

Mars rover scientists ready to get to work

Monday, January 5, 2004

With Spirit landing safely on Mars Saturday night the NASA and the USGS Astrogeology team of scientists at the Pasadena mission headquarters are in high spirits. In a landmark moment, the small space rover landed on the surface of the Red Planet -- beginning what scientists hope to be a time of great discovery. "Our mood couldn't be better," said Lisa Gaddis, chief scientist for the Flagstaff team. "We're now all happily settling down to (hopefully) many weeks of working on Mars."

More: Arizona Daily Sun - Flag scientists ready to work

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Link: JPL - Mars Exploration Rover Mission

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Pathfinder and 2003 Rover Missions

Rover Spirit sends first images

Sunday, January 4, 2004

Image from spirt, looking down at itself for an inspection
View From Above Spirit on Mars

This mosaic image taken by the navigation camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has been reprocessed to project a clear overhead view of the rover on the surface of Mars.


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A traveling robotic geologist from NASA has landed on Mars and returned stunning images of the area around its landing site in Gusev Crater. Mars Exploration Rover Spirit successfully sent a radio signal after the spacecraft had bounced and rolled for several minutes following its initial impact at 11:35 p.m. EST (8:35 p.m. Pacific Standard Time) on January 3. "This is a big night for NASA," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. "We're back. I am very, very proud of this team, and we're on Mars."

More: JPL - Spirit Lands On Mars and Sends Postcards

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Link: JPL - Mars Exploration Rover Mission

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Pathfinder and 2003 Rover Missions

USGS Astrogeology team heads to Pasedena for Mars rover landing

Saturday, January 3, 2004

USGS Astrogeology scientists left Friday and today for California, where they will work on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover project. Spirit is scheduled to land on Mars at 9:35 p.m. Arizona time today, and four of 20 USGS members from Flagstaff who have worked on the mission will arrive at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

More: Arizona Daily Sun - Scientists hope for a soft Martian landing

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Link: JPL - Mars Exploration Rover Mission

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Pathfinder and 2003 Rover Missions