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[Names Approved for Two Features on Mars: Talas and Navua Valles]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Talas (a crater), and Navua Valles. For more information, see the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[LIFT - Load Image from Footprint Toolbar for ArcMap]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700 The ArcMap 10.2 Python Addin called Load Image from Footprint Toolbar (LIFT, v0.2) was just released for testing. This simple ArcMap add-in loads one or more images from a footprint vector polygon file which has a text field with the image's local path and filename in the field.  To download and installation instructions see: http://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=c3ca06f5282f4a5fbff84761c3ea2041

Footprints can be found from PDS Imaging Node's PILOT download page or the PDS GeoScience Node's Orbital Data Explorer (ODE) under "Additional Tools". For ODE footpritnts I recommend the *_c0a.zip downloads which have the footprints in a -180 to 180 longitude system (e.g. page for Mars or direct to CTX footprints).

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<![CDATA[Sol 1057-1058: Getting Ready to Drill Buckskin]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700

The “bump” over the weekend was successful, so we are right where we want to be to attempt drilling at “Buckskin” in the “Lion” area. I was on duty as ChemCam sPUL (science payload uplink lead) today, and it was a fun day to be on duty. Sometimes it can be stressful trying to make sure that all the settings are correct and that the instrument will be safe, but today everything was easy and I got to spend more time on the fun stuff like choosing targets and their names!

The sol 1057 plan starts off with a Mastcam observation of some disturbed soil at the target “Calamity” followed by ChemCam observations of “Blind Gulch”, “Sorrel Springs”, and “Buffalo Basin”. Mastcam also has a 4x5 stereo observation of the Lion area and some “tau” observations of the amount of dust in the atmosphere. Once all that is done, we will brush a spot on “Buckskin”, observe it with MAHLI, and then place APXS on it for an overnight measurement of its composition.

After a busy sol 1057, sol 1058 is pretty calm: it is mostly dedicated to weather monitoring with REMS, plus MARDI will take an image of the ground underneath us.

By Ryan Anderson

-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 1055-1056: Closing in on High-Silica Targets]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700 The "Lion" area shown here has interesting high-silica rocks

The main priority in today’s plan is to nudge the rover a bit closer to the target “Buckskin”, which is in the area where we have discovered rocks high in silica and hydrogen. But before we do that, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe the targets “Marent”, “Pilcher”, and “Twinkle”, all of which may also have high silica. Navcam will also search for dust devils and do some atmospheric monitoring. On sol 1056, the rover will execute a short ~70 cm drive, followed by standard post-drive imaging to prepare for contact science on some of these interesting rocks next week.

While the Curiosity team was putting together this weekend plan, we were also keeping an eye on the amazing images of Pluto coming down from New Horizons! The solar system is a weird and wonderful place!

By Ryan Anderson

-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[Name Approved for Crater on Ceres: Kait]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Kait for a small crater on Ceres. For more information, see the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sols 1051-1054: Approaching "Lion"]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700

After driving just over 20 meters, the rover stopped 4.4 meters short of the Sol 1049 drive goal because the vehicle pitch exceeded the 15-degree limit set by the rover drivers.  So another 6.4-meter drive toward the bright outcrop of interest, dubbed "Lion," was planned for Sol 1051.  That  drive completed successfully, providing a good view of the outcrop.  ChemCam and Mastcam observed the sand ripple "Agency" and bedrock target "Mullan" before the Sol 1051 drive.  Now that the Lion outcrop is within LIBS range, ChemCam and Mastcam observations of it are planned for Sol 1053, specifically targets named "Sorrel Springs" and "Buckskin."  A nearby rock called "Hewolf" will also be observed before the rover drives closer to the Lion outcrop.  Hopefully the rover will be in position for contact science on the outcrop this weekend.  The Sol 1054 plan is much less complex, with a Navcam search for clouds above the rover and ChemCam calibration activities.  The vehicle should be recharged and ready for a busy weekend plan!

by Ken Herkenhoff

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 Ten Features on Titan]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. ]]> <![CDATA[Sols 1048-1050: Test drill and drive]]> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

The Sol 1046 wheel imaging completed nominally, and the rover is a little over 1 meter from its previous location.  So the outcrop to the right of the vehicle is still close enough for ChemCam LIBS measurements, and I helped select new targets again today.  The Sol 1048 plan includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations of "Pinto," "Palomino," and "Burnt Point" plus a Navcam search for clouds toward the north.  Then the arm will be deployed for drill testing and CHIMRA maintenance activities in preparation for the next drill activity.  We are interested in sampling the bright rocks east of the rover, but the Elk and Lamoose targets are not suitable for drilling, so on Sol 1049 we plan to drive toward a nearby bright outcrop of what looks like the same material.  We're hoping that we will be able to sample that material with the drill.  Early on the morning of Sol 1050, Mastcam, Navcam, and ChemCam will observe the Sun and sky to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, search for clouds, and look for changes in atmospheric chemistry.  Another full weekend plan!

by Ken Herkenhoff

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[Sols 1046-1047: Wheel imaging]]> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

The 8.5-meter Sol 1044 drive completed as planned, leaving the rover in a relatively flat and smooth area that is suitable for imaging of the wheels.  Wheel imaging is done periodically to assess wear, and it's time to acquire new data, so the Sol 1046 includes 5 sets of MAHLI, Mastcam, and MARDI images separated by short rover bumps to allow the entire surfaces of the wheels to be viewed. 

Today I helped pick targets on a nearby outcrop for ChemCam observations.  The team selected a target dubbed "Mustang" near the left side of this image for a 10-spot LIBS raster (plus a Right Mastcam color image), to be acquired before the wheel imaging on Sol 1046.  After the wheel imaging is complete, the usual post-drive images will be acquired, along with additional Navcam stereo images of the outcrop and a Mastcam observation of the Sun. 

On Sol 1047, Mastcam will acquire a mosaic of the outcrop to the right of the rover, and ChemCam will make some calibration measurements.  The Left Navcam will then search for dust devils and, during evening twilight, MARDI will take an image of the ground near the left front wheel. 

by Ken Herkenhoff

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 1044-1045: Finishing the Drive]]> Mon, 13 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700

The drive over the weekend stopped a bit early (~17 meters instead of the intended ~25 meters) because the software that the rover uses to monitor its drive progress was being extra cautious. The rover is fine, and in the sol 1044 plan we will keep driving.

Before the drive, ChemCam has observations of targets of varying textures named “Edith”, “Sheffer”, and “Finley”. Mastcam will take some documentation images of the same targets, along with a stereo mosaic of some interesting layered rocks and a complementary 4x3 mosaic of the nearby “Apikuni Mountain” area.

After the drive, we will take routine post-drive images, and then on sol 1045 ChemCam has some calibration measurements and Navcam has some cloud monitoring observations. On both sols, Mastcam will also continue its sun-spot monitoring campaign, and REMS, RAD, and DAN will do their routine measurements.

Meanwhile, many of us on the rover team are eagerly waiting along with the rest of the world to see the results of the historic New Horizons Pluto flyby that is happening right now. The pictures that New Horizons has sent back already are weird and fascinating, and everyone is looking forward to seeing more!

By Ryan Anderson

-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[First 17 Names Approved for Features on Ceres]]> Mon, 13 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Asari, Coniraya, Gaue, Dantu, Ezinu, Fejokoo, Haulani, Kerwan, Nawish, Occator, Kirnis, Rongo, Sintana, Toharu, Urvara, Yalode, and Zadeni. For more information, see the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sols 1041-1043: Busy weekend planned]]> Fri, 10 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700
The rover bumped back 33 cm on Sol 1039, placing all 6 wheels on firm ground and allowing contact science on the bright rocks near the top of the slope in front of the vehicle.  So the weekend plan is a full one, including both contact science and a drive back toward the southwest.  First, on Sol 1041, ChemCam will passively (no laser) acquire spectra of the sky and a rock dubbed "Monarch" before firing its laser at "Frog" and "Mosquito."  Mastcam will then take pictures of these rock targets as well as "Elk" and "Lamoose."  Later that afternoon, the arm will be deployed to take MAHLI images of Lamoose, Mosquito, and the REMS UV sensor, then place the APXS on Lamoose for an overnight integration.  The drive, with DAN measurements along the way, is planned for Sol 1042.  In addition to the usual post-drive imaging, Mastcam will again look for spots on the "back" side of the Sun.  Overnight, SAM will complete a calibration activity.  On Sol 1043, ChemCam will take some calibration data, Navcam will search for clouds near the northern horizon, and Mastcam will take another pair of Sun images.  Finally, late that night, CheMin will perform its own calibration activity.  So the science team is very busy today, with activities planned for every science instrument on the rover!

by Ken Herkenhoff

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[Online Exhibit - 2015: The Year of the Dwarf Planets]]> Fri, 10 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Just in Time for the July 14 New Horizons Spacecraft Flyby of Pluto: 2015: The Year of the Dwarf Planets Online Exhibit

The NASA/USGS Regional Planetary Information Facility and USGS Astrogeology Science Center are proud to announce an online animated timeline celebrating our expanding knowledge of Ceres and Pluto, the first worlds designated as dwarf planets and the first dwarf planets to be visited by spacecraft. The timeline spans more than 250 years of astronomy and spaceflight discovery. To explore "2015: The Year of the Dwarf Planets," please follow this link.

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<![CDATA[Name Approved for a Feature on Mars: Moa Valles]]> Fri, 10 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Moa Valles

The IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature has approved the name Moa Valles for a feature on Mars. For more information, see the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]>
<![CDATA[Sols 1039-1040: Livin' on the Edge]]> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0700

 

I'm MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead today, and was ready this morning to plan lots of MAHLI imaging of the bright rocks on the slope the rover first climbed on Sol 991.  But the data received after the 5.5-meter drive on Sol 1037 showed that the left front wheel is perched right at the top of a small scarp at the top of the slope.  After examining all the data, the rover planners determined that the rover position is not safe for arm activities, as arm motion could cause the front wheels to slip down the slope, putting the arm and its instruments at risk.  So all of the contact science activities were removed from the plan, and remote sensing observations added.  On Sol 1039, ChemCam and Mastcam will take a look at targets dubbed "Pistol," "Mary," Shepard," and "Dublin Gulch," and Navcam will search for dust devils.  Then the rover will drive backward just a bit to get the wheels on solid ground and allow contact science this weekend (planning is currently restricted, so we are planning 2 sols today).  On Sol 1038, Mastcam will take pictures of the Sun to look for sunspots on the side of the Sun that can't be seen from Earth now.  Because I had little to do in support of MAHLI planning today, I helped a bit in planning the post-drive Navcam mosaics that we'll need to target observations in the next plan. 

by Ken Herkenhoff

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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