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New Mercury Mosaic Available

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This mosaic represents the best geodetic map of Mercury's surface to date. In combining MDIS (Mercury Dual Imaging System) images collected from three MESSENGER flyby's with those from Mariner 10 data from the 1970s, we now have a global mosaic of Mercury covering ~97.72% of the planet's surface.

More information with full resolution images.

Spirit Photographs Her Underbelly, SOL 1925

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


This panorama of images from the Spirit rover, taken on Sol 1925 (June 2, 2009), is helping engineers assess the rover's current state and plan her extraction from the soft soil in the region now called "Troy." The images were taken by Spirit's Microscopic Imager (MI) instrument, mounted on the end of her robotic arm. The MI science investigation is led by Ken Herkenhoff of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff.

This is the first time the MI has been used to assist in planning a rover's escape from an embedding event. The MI isn't intended to take these types of images--it is designed to focus on targets only 6 centimeters (2.4 inches) in front of its optics. As a result, the images in this mosaic are well out of focus. Yet despite the focus and the backlighting of the scene, Joel Hagen (Modesto Jr. College) and colleagues at NASA's Ames Research Center in California were able process the images to bring out the details shown here. The mosaic shows the underside of the rover, the depth to which the wheels are embedded and the terrain itself in sufficient detail to assess the rover's state.


More information on the rovers | Official Press Release

Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Candidate Landing Sites Released

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The USGS and Arizona State University have released THEMIS-derived daytime infrared (IR), nighttime IR, visible, and thermal inertia mosaics of the MSL candidate landing sites, and all mosaics are available for download in ISIS, PNG, and Geo-TIFF formats. The objective of this work is to improve our understanding of the physical characteristics of the surface at the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) candidate landing sites and to aid in the selection of a final landing location. This objective is addressed by using these mosaics to interpret the surface characteristics of these sites and identify potential hazards for lander safety and trafficability. These mosaics are generated in collaboration with Arizona State University (Philip R. Christensen), and their development is funded by the Critical Data Products program through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

New Lunar Orbiter Mosaic

Friday, April 11, 2008

A digital cartographic Lunar Orbiter global mosaic A digital cartographic Lunar Orbiter global mosaic is now available on Map a Planet. This mosaic was constructed using lunar data acquired by Lunar Orbiters III, IV, and V.

Cassini's Closest Visit of Iapetus

Friday, September 7, 2007

Cassini image
On New Year's Eve 2004, Cassini flew past Saturn's intriguing moon Iapetus, capturing the four visible light images that were put together to form this global view.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
On Sept. 10, the Cassini spacecraft performs its closest flyby during the entire mission of the odd moon Iapetus, passing by about 1,640 kilometers (1,000 miles). Iapetus is a world of sharp contrasts. The leading hemisphere is as dark as a freshly-tarred street, and the white, trailing hemisphere resembles freshly-fallen snow. Scientists want to know more about the composition of the dark material that coats Iapetus. They also want to learn more about Iapetus' distinctive walnut shape and the chain of mountains along its equator.

More: NASA Cassini-Huygens Iapetus Flyby

More: NASA - Encountering Iapetus (image right)

HiRISE Camera Returns New View of Dark Pit on Mars

Friday, September 7, 2007

dark  pit on mars
HiRISE image of a dark pit seen on Mars. The pit is a vertical shaft that cuts through lava flow on the flank of the Arsia Mons volcano.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

The High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) has confirmed that a dark pit seen on Mars in an earlier HiRISE image really is a vertical shaft that cuts through lava flow on the flank of the Arsia Mons volcano. Such pits form on similar volcanoes in Hawaii and are called "pit craters."

More: NASA - Dark Pit on Mars' Arsia Mons, with Sunlit Wall

More: UA News - HiRISE Camera Returns New View of Dark Pit on Mars

More: LPL - HiRISE access images, news, and and instrument information

Mars Rovers Survive Dust Storms, Ready for Next Objectives

Friday, September 7, 2007

Two months after sky-darkening dust from severe storms nearly killed NASA's Mars exploration rovers, the solar powered robots are awake and ready to continue their mission. Opportunity's planned descent into the giant Victoria Crater was delayed, but now the rover is preparing to drive into the 800-meter-diameter crater (half-mile-diameter) as early as Sept. 11. Victoria Crater contains an exposed layer of bright rocks that may preserve evidence of interaction between the Martian atmosphere and surface from millions of years ago, when the atmosphere might have been different from today's. Victoria is the biggest crater Opportunity has visited.

Spirit, Opportunity's rover twin, also survived the global dust storms. The rovers are 43 months into missions originally planned to last three months. On Sept. 5, Spirit climbed onto its long-term destination called Home Plate, a plateau of layered bedrock bearing clues to an explosive mixture of lava and water.

More: NASA - Mars Rovers Survive Dust Storms, Ready for Next Objectives

More: NASA Podcast - Opportunity knocks -- on a Martian crater

Rovers get back to work

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

After six weeks of hunkering down during raging dust storms that limited solar power, both of NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have resumed driving. Opportunity advanced 13.38 meters (44 feet) toward the edge of Victoria Crater on Aug. 21. Mission controllers were taking advantage of gradual clearing of dust from the sky while also taking precautions against buildup of dust settling onto the rover.

No new storms have been lifting dust into the air near either solar-powered rover in the past two weeks. Skies are gradually brightening above both Spirit and Opportunity. "The clearing could take months," said rover Project Scientist Bruce Banerdt. "There is a lot of very fine material suspended high in the atmosphere." As that material does settle out of the air, the powdery dust is accumulating on surfaces such as the rovers' solar panels and instruments. More dust on the solar panels lessens the panels' capacity for converting sunlight to electricity, even while more sunlight is getting through the clearer atmosphere.

More: NASA - Rovers Resume Driving

Phoenix Launch Delayed

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

From the NASA Phoenix Mission site:

The launch of the Phoenix spacecraft has been rescheduled to Aug. 4. Due to the forecast for severe weather in the vicinity of the launch pad on Tuesday afternoon, the Delta II launch team was unable to complete fueling of the rocket's second stage. The two available launch times on Aug. 4 are 5:26:34 and 6:02:59 a.m. EDT.

The Phoenix Mars lander's assignment is to dig through the Martian soil and ice in the arctic region and use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples it retrieves.

Both rocket and spacecraft have been undergoing final preparation at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

For more information about the Phoenix mission, visit:

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Update: Mars Rovers Braving Severe Dust Storms

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Artist's Concept of Rover on Mars
Artist's Concept of Rover on Mars (credit: Maas Digital LLC)

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity sent signals Monday morning, July 23, indicating its power situation improved slightly during the days when it obeyed commands to refrain from communicating with Earth in order to conserve power.

Dust storms on Mars in recent weeks have darkened skies over both Opportunity and its twin, Spirit. Last week Opportunity was commanded to go into a very low-power state and to communicate only once every three days. Next scheduled transmission will be Thursday, July 26, though controllers may command Opportunity to send information on Tuesday, July 24. "The outlook for both Opportunity and Spirit depends on the weather, which makes it unpredictable, " said JPL's John Callas, project manager for both rovers. "If the weather holds where it is now or gets better, the rovers will be OK. If it gets worse, the situation becomes more complex ".

Read the Full Story from NASA.

Dust Storm Affects Mars Rovers

Friday, July 6, 2007

NASA - A giant dust storm brewing for more than a week on Mars has become worse and is affecting surface operations of the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Because the rovers depend on solar energy for survival, and the dust is partially blocking the sun, the storm is being watched closely by the rover scientists and engineers. Opportunity's entry into Victoria Crater is delayed for at least several days.

The storm, the most severe storm yet to hit the rovers, is expected to continue for at least another week. Opportunity is perched near "Duck Bay" as it readies to descend into Victoria Crater, but operations were scaled back on Saturday, June 30, to conserve power.

More: NASA - Dust Delays Mars Crater Entry

HiRISE images produced by Cartrite using Isis

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Check out Cartrite's HiRISE Mosaic Images he produced using the Isis3 software package.

HiRISE Releases public PDS data on new Web Site

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

HiRISE Website
New HiRISE Website

HiRISE has just released hundreds of reprocessed images to the Planetary Data System. These are images that have been previously unreleased through their Web site, and are now part of the HiRISE PDS catalog.

The HiRISE Website features a drastic redesign, with some new features to really enhance your browsing experience.


NASA's Next Mars Lander Heads for Florida

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

phoenix  lander
Artist's concept of Phoenix lander. Image credit: NASA/JPL
A U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft carried NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander spacecraft Monday, May 7, from Colorado to Florida, where Phoenix will start a much longer trip in August.

After launch, Phoenix will land on a Martian arctic plain next spring. It will use a robotic digging arm and other instruments to determine whether the soil environment just beneath the surface could have been a favorable habitat for microbial life. Studies from orbit suggest that within arm's reach of the surface, the soil holds frozen water.

More: NASA Mission News - NASA's Next Mars Spacecraft Crosses the Mississippi

Cassini searching for seas on Titan

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Cassini to Confirm if 'Caspian Sea' is Liquid-Filled

For Cassini's next flyby of Titan on May 12, 2007, the radar instrument was originally pointing north of where it is now pointed. Due to the discovery of probable large seas on Titan, Cassini's quick-thinking team repointed the radar instrument south, so it could fly over a large, expansive dark area dubbed the "Caspian Sea." This flyby will confirm whether it is liquid-filled. This area on Titan's north pole stretches 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) and is only slightly smaller than Earth's Caspian Sea.

The presence of seas on Titan reinforces the idea that Titan's surface must be re-supplying methane to its atmosphere.

More: NASA Cassini-Huygens Mission - Titan Flyby, May 12, 2007