USGS Astrogeology Science Center News http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news News about current and upcoming space missions, USGS gelogic products and historical exhibits en-us <![CDATA[Sol 959-961: Daughter of the Sun]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

Navcam view toward Mount Sharp from the sol 958 end-of-drive location

The short drive on sol 958 was a success, placing us at the top of a small ridge, facing an outcrop dubbed “Daughter of the Sun”. The plan for sol 959 is to do some ChemCam and Mastcam of targets “Gold” and “Espinoza”, followed by several Mastcam mosaics. The biggest mosaic will be a 26x2 stereo mosaic looking toward Logan Pass. We also have a 7x3 stereo mosaic of “Daughter of the Sun” and a 17x1 mosaic of “West Ridge”.

On sol 960 we will do a long drive after which DAN will make some measurements and we will take our standard post-drive images. Then on sol 961 ChemCam will take some calibration measurements and then Mastcam and Navcam will make several atmospheric observations.

Speaking of taking pictures of the sky, we’re starting to get data down from our observation of the Mercury sunset transit. So far all we have are thumbnails, but it looks like the full-resolution images are going to be spectacular!

-Ryan is a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sol 958: Officially 10k!]]> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

HiRISE image showing the rover's current location.

The Sol 957 drive went well, and the rover has officially driven 10 kilometers! (Last week I announced that we had reached 10k, but that was 10k measured by how many times the wheels have spun, not how far across the surface of Mars the rover has gone. Now, no matter how you measure it, we’ve gone 10,000 meters!).

Unfortunately, we stopped with a ridge in front of us, blocking the view. So the plan for sol 958 is to do a short drive to get on top of the ridge so we can see farther to the south, allowing us to plan more effectively for future drives (and enjoy the scenery). Before the drive, we have some ChemCam passive observations of the sky to measure the composition of the atmosphere. There is also a Mastcam mosaic of an outcrop to the east, plus a high-resolution Mastcam observation of the target “Libby”.

After the drive, we will do some standard Navcam and Mastcam imaging so we can do targeted science in our immediate surroundings, plus a ChemCam calibration target observation, and a routine Mastcam “clast survey” image to measure the rocks and pebbles near the rover.

-Ryan is a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Names Approved for Three Features on Mars]]> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Badwater crater, Greeley crater, and Syria Colles. For more information, see the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sol 957: Limited Downlink]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

by Ken Herkenhoff

MSL drove about 65 meters on Sol 956, then took some nice images of the path ahead.  As we continue to drive each sol, acquiring images of the terrain around us is important to the science team.  We don't want to miss anything!  So the Sol 957 plan includes ChemCam RMI and Mastcam images of outcrops to the south and a Mastcam image of the windblown ripple right in front of the rover.  After the drive, the usual imaging to support future planning will be acquired, but we don't expect to receive all of the data in time for tactical planning tomorrow.  The volume of data expected to be relayed to Earth via MRO is smaller than usual on Sol 957, which was the only significant problem I had to deal with today as SOWG Chair.  Sometimes more data are relayed than expected, in which case we'll get additional images of the terrain in the vicinity of the rover. 

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Names Approved for Two Craters on Titan]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Forseti and Beag. For more information, see the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sol 956: Mercury Transit]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

Rear hazcam view of the rover's tracks as we leave Shoshone quad.

With the last portion of the Telegraph Peak sample delivered to SAM and analyzed by APXS, we are ready to keep driving. In the sol 956 plan, there is a quick science block in the morning, to allow the rover to take a couple of Mastcam pictures of nearby boulders called “Waucoba” and Navcam pictures to complete the 360 degree panorama of the area. After that, we have a couple hours of driving, which should take us into a new “quad” on our map of the landing site. After the drive, Curiosity will take standard post-drive images to allow us to make targeted observations in the sol 957 plan.

Later in the day there’s another science block, which will be spent making some ChemCam observations of the onboard calibration targets. Also in that science block, Mastcam will take a 3x2 mosaic in the direction of sunset. The reason for these images is that we have a special observation at sunset: Mastcam will be taking pictures of Mercury as it transits the sun, right before the sun dips below the crater rim. This will be the last chance to watch Mercury pass in front of the sun from Gale crater until 2024! Even without a transit occurring, I always like rover sunset pictures, so I’m looking forward to seeing how these observations turn out!

-Ryan is a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Digital image mosaic and topographic map of the moon released]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Digital versions of the Image Mosaic and Topographic Map of the Moon have been released. The USGS Scientific Investigations Map 3316 (SIM3316) highlights both the LROC Team's global WAC mosaic and three of the LOLA Team's digital elevation models. For each map, lunar names (nomenclature) were carefully placed by our production team at the Astrogeology Science Center. In the coming month, the two layouts will be sent off for printing and hardcopies will be made available from Astrogeology and the USGS Store. To print your own copy (and eventually find hardcopies), please visit:

http://pubs.usgs.gov/sim/3316/

These maps were made possible by NASA, the  Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team, and the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter team. Funding was provided by by NASA's Planetary Geology and Geophysics Cartography Program.

Further reading on products see:

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<![CDATA[Sols 953-955: Dumping Telegraph Peak]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

Curiosity's arm above the pile of dumped Telegraph Peak powder

Our sol 952 drive went well, and we’re very close to crossing over into a new “quad” of the map that was made before landing (meaning we will get a whole new bunch of target names to choose from!). On Saturday the team planned for a lengthy ChemCam focus test on sol 953, where we collect images of the target “Eaton Canyon” at different times of day to check the influence of temperature. We also planned a nice big 20x2 Mastcam mosaic of “Mount Saint Mary”. On sol 954, we delivered some of the “Telegraph Peak” drill sample that we have been carrying with us to the SAM instrument, and dumped the rest out on the ground to be analyzed by APXS overnight.

Today we are planning for sol 955. We have Mastcam and a ChemCam RMI of the “Eaton Canyon” target again, as well as Mastcam and passive ChemCam of the dump pile. Mastcam also has a small mosaic in the expected drive direction and a larger 10x1 mosaic of “Tucki Mountain.” Then, shortly after sunrise on sol 956 Navcam will be taking an atmospheric measurement movie and Mastcam will measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere by looking at the sun.

 

-Ryan is a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sol 952: Longer drive]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

by Ken Herkenhoff

MSL drove 18 meters on Sol 951, as planned, putting the rover in position to image the terrain ahead and plan a longer drive on Sol 952.  The total "wheel odometry" for the MSL mission is now over 10 km!  But the total traverse distance is still less than 10 km, because the wheels sometimes slip while driving, and the wheel odometry does not take slippage into account.  So we're not quite ready to celebrate like the Mars Exploration project did when Opportunity recently completed the first extraterrestrial marathon

The focus of scientific observation planning has been to get good images of the terrain as we continue driving, and before the Sol 952 drive the ChemCam RMI and Mastcam stereo cameras will image various targets near and far.  Almost 100 meters of driving is planned, with the rover initially going to the right around the ripples shown here.  After the drive, in addition to the normal images of the terrain near the rover, the Left Mastcam will acquire a full 360-degree panorama.  It was an easy day for me as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead, with only the normal post-drive images in the plan.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[New Mars Education Website]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 http://skywalker.cochise.edu/wellerr/mars-x/list.htm.]]> <![CDATA[Sol 951: 10k]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 by Ryan Anderson

Curiosity catches a glimpse of Mt. Sharp from the sol 950 end-of-drive location

We are continuing our driving tour of Artist’s Drive, and we should be reaching the 10k mark on Curiosity’s odometer in the sol 951 plan! The rover will start off the day with a targeted science block full of Mastcam observations. We are planning two Mastcam mosaics looking at the layers in the valley walls on either side of us, plus a routine “clast survey” image to document the soil and gravel at our feet, plus an observation of a portion of Mt. Sharp that is visible in the distance (which we have given the name “Tip Top Mountain”, even though we can’t see the top of the mountain from where we are), and a Mastcam image of the target “Joshua Tree.” It won’t be a purely Mastcam-filled block though: ChemCam has two long-distance Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) observations, also of “Tip Top Mountain” and “Joshua Tree.”

After the science block, the plan is to do a short drive to a location that gives us a nice long-distance view to help with drive planning. After the drive (and passing the 10k mark!), we will have our standard post-drive imaging so that tomorrow we can do targeted science again. There is also a post-drive Navcam movie to search for clouds and measure the wind direction overhead. 

-Ryan is a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sol 950: Taking in the Scenery along Artist’s Drive]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 949 Navcam Artists Drive

 

By Lauren Edgar

Like most tourists who visit Artist’s Drive on Earth, Curiosity is busy taking lots of photos to document the valley walls of Artist’s Drive on Mars.  We are officially on the road again, and working our way through a very scenic drive. 

I’m the Geology Science Theme Lead today, and today’s plan involves a pre-drive science block, a drive for hopefully ~30-40m, and some post-drive imaging for targeting.  Unfortunately we have to be on a bit of a diet in terms of the total data volume that we can acquire.  Back at Garden City we acquired a lot of really great data, and now we need to trim down so that we don’t acquire more data than we can downlink in a reasonable amount of time.  The plan includes several large Mastcam mosaics to look at the stratigraphy exposed on the northwest and southeast valley walls, and post-drive Navcam mosaics to help select targets in the Sol 951 plan.  We’ll also acquire Mastcam imaging to monitor atmospheric opacity.  Tomorrow’s plan looks fairly similar to today – we’ll continue to drive and study the valley walls, taking time to appreciate the views along the way. 

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sol 949: Leaving Garden City]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 948 Front Hazcam Garden City

By Lauren Edgar

After an extensive study of the veins at Garden City, it’s finally time to continue on our path down Artist’s Drive. We’ve collected a lot of really great data, including MAHLI images like this one from Sol 946, which will help us to determine the history of fluid flow through these rocks.

Today’s plan includes one last Mastcam multispectral observation on a bright block at Garden City, and a Navcam dust devil search prior to driving away.  The drive will start by turning around so that DAN can make a measurement over the vein-rich area.  After a drive of ~20 m, we’ll acquire images to be used to select targets in the Sol 950 plan.  It’s really exciting to be driving again, and we’re looking forward to checking out the stratigraphy exposed in the valley walls along the way!

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[Sol 948: Good Morning Mars]]> Mon, 06 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 946 Mastcam image of Kern Peak 

By Lauren Edgar

As we started the planning day before sunrise, I was reminded of the first three months of the mission that we spent living on Mars time.   Today is an early “slide sol,” meaning that the planning timeline is shifted 1.5 hours earlier in order to compensate for our downlink and uplink times. Today is also a “tight” planning sol, meaning that the planning timeline is slightly shorter today.  On top of that, we have a very complex set of activities planned for today!

Despite these restrictions, we certainly didn’t hold back on any science, and we developed a plan that uses almost the entire payload.  I was the Geology Science Theme Lead today, and the goal today is to wrap up contact science on the veins at Garden City.  The plan includes ChemCam observations on a dark vein and a plate that looks like it broke off from a vein, followed by Mastcam documentation.  Then we’ll acquire a large MAHLI mosaic to assess the morphology of one of the prominent veins, seen in this Mastcam image from Sol 946.  In the evening we’ll do a short APXS integration on the target “Amboy,” and then a longer overnight integration on the target “Kern_Peak” (“Kern_Peak” is the flat plate near the middle of this Mastcam image).  The plan also includes another CheMin analysis of the Telegraph Peak sample, as well as a SAM GC diagnostic activity, in addition to standard DAN, RAD and REMS observations.  I guess Curiosity doesn’t have much time to sleep either…

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of MSL science team.


Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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<![CDATA[I C Ceres Celebration!]]> Mon, 06 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700 After more than seven years cruising at stunning speeds, Dawn has arrived at the dwarf planet Ceres. As the Dawn mission begins its exploration, it's time to celebrate!

Join us at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center, 2255 N. Gemini Dr., Building 3 Conference Room (http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/about/visitors)

Saturday, May 9, 2015, 12:00 - 3:00 PM

Fun hands-on activites for kids. Presentations by local scientists. Live broadcast of NASA TV. 

Download the flyer!

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