Posts tagged Mars

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NASA spacecraft healthy after comet encounter.

NASA preparing for comet encounter this weekend
Comet Siding Spring will be making its closest pass to Mars this Sunday, bringing with it a wealth of information about the formation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
Siding Spring - named after the Australian observatory which first identified it - comes from the Oort Cloud, material left over from the formation of the solar system. It’s thought that the comet has come straight from the Oort cloud, making it the first time it has passed this close to the sun, giving scientists a unique opportunity to observe it and gather data as it passes only 87,000 miles (139,500km) from the surface of Mars. That’s less than half the distance between the Earth and the Moon, and close enough for NASA to decide to ‘hide’ satellites currently orbiting Mars to avoid the trail of debris. Their orbits have been altered just enough to ensure they will all be passing behind Mars at the time the worst of the comet dust is passing, while allowing them to still observe as much of the comet encounter as possible.
NASA has been hard at work repurposing a wide range of spacecraft for this comet encounter, with Mars satellites like the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) - which normally faces down towards Mars - being turned skywards to capture the event. Instruments on Martian soil are also being used to gather data, with cameras on the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers being adjusted to observe the comet.
Images of the comet will be posted in the days and weeks to come, at mars.nasa.gov/comets/sidingspring.
Read more space stories at 8 Bit Future.

NASA preparing for comet encounter this weekend

Comet Siding Spring will be making its closest pass to Mars this Sunday, bringing with it a wealth of information about the formation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

Siding Spring - named after the Australian observatory which first identified it - comes from the Oort Cloud, material left over from the formation of the solar system. It’s thought that the comet has come straight from the Oort cloud, making it the first time it has passed this close to the sun, giving scientists a unique opportunity to observe it and gather data as it passes only 87,000 miles (139,500km) from the surface of Mars. That’s less than half the distance between the Earth and the Moon, and close enough for NASA to decide to ‘hide’ satellites currently orbiting Mars to avoid the trail of debris. Their orbits have been altered just enough to ensure they will all be passing behind Mars at the time the worst of the comet dust is passing, while allowing them to still observe as much of the comet encounter as possible.

NASA has been hard at work repurposing a wide range of spacecraft for this comet encounter, with Mars satellites like the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) - which normally faces down towards Mars - being turned skywards to capture the event. Instruments on Martian soil are also being used to gather data, with cameras on the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers being adjusted to observe the comet.

Images of the comet will be posted in the days and weeks to come, at mars.nasa.gov/comets/sidingspring.

Read more space stories at 8 Bit Future.

Payload announced for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover

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NASA has announced the seven instruments which were chosen out of a pool of 58 proposals to be included on NASA’s next Mars rover.

Opportunity rover seen from orbit.
The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught this view of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity on Feb. 14, 2014. The red arrow points to Opportunity at the center of the image. Blue arrows point to tracks left by the rover since it entered the area seen here, in October 2013. The scene covers a patch of ground about one-quarter mile (about 400 meters) wide. North is toward the top. The location is the “Murray Ridge” section of the western rim of Endeavour Crater.

Opportunity rover seen from orbit.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught this view of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity on Feb. 14, 2014. The red arrow points to Opportunity at the center of the image. Blue arrows point to tracks left by the rover since it entered the area seen here, in October 2013. The scene covers a patch of ground about one-quarter mile (about 400 meters) wide. North is toward the top. The location is the “Murray Ridge” section of the western rim of Endeavour Crater.

Martian rock mystery solved.
Last month NASA’s Opportunity rover team spotted a rock which suddenly appeared next to the Mars rover. The mystery has since been solved, with the finding that it had been kicked there by the rovers tyres.

"Once we moved Opportunity a short distance away… we could see directly uphill an overturned rock that has the same unusual appearance," said mission investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University. “We drove over it. We can see the track. That’s where Pinnacle Island came from.”

Martian rock mystery solved.

Last month NASA’s Opportunity rover team spotted a rock which suddenly appeared next to the Mars rover. The mystery has since been solved, with the finding that it had been kicked there by the rovers tyres.

"Once we moved Opportunity a short distance away… we could see directly uphill an overturned rock that has the same unusual appearance," said mission investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University. “We drove over it. We can see the track. That’s where Pinnacle Island came from.”

Curiosity sees Earth and the moon.
This view of the twilight sky and Martian horizon taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes Earth as the brightest point of light in the night sky. Earth is a little left of center in the image, and our moon is just below Earth.
Researchers used the left eye camera of Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) to capture this scene about 80 minutes after sunset on the 529th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Jan. 31, 2014). The image has been processed to remove effects of cosmic rays.
A human observer with normal vision, if standing on Mars, could easily see Earth and the moon as two distinct, bright “evening stars.”
The full sized images are available here.

Curiosity sees Earth and the moon.

This view of the twilight sky and Martian horizon taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes Earth as the brightest point of light in the night sky. Earth is a little left of center in the image, and our moon is just below Earth.

Researchers used the left eye camera of Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) to capture this scene about 80 minutes after sunset on the 529th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Jan. 31, 2014). The image has been processed to remove effects of cosmic rays.

A human observer with normal vision, if standing on Mars, could easily see Earth and the moon as two distinct, bright “evening stars.”

The full sized images are available here.

Mars rover reaches 10 years in operation

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NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity took this self portrait earlier this month. Today it celebrates 10 years of operation on the red planet, having arrived on the surface three weeks after the rover Spirit.

Mystery rock appears near Mars rover

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NASA has revealed that a rock the size of a “jelly-doughnut” has appeared next to the Opportunity rover on Mars. There are two theories for how it got there:

Video: The Evolution Of Mars.

This is a concept video by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland of how the Martian atmosphere and landscape may have changed in the past 4 billion years.

All going to plan, NASA will launch MAVEN this Monday, to find out whether the theories of change are correct. MAVEN will orbit Mars with a suite of instruments that will scan the upper atmosphere for proof of the existence of a much richer ancient atmosphere above the Red Planet.

The spacecraft will arrive at the Red Planet on Sept. 22, 2014, and slip into an elliptical orbit ranging from a low of 93 miles above the surface to a high of 3,728 miles. It also will take five “deep dips” during the course of the mission, flying as low as 77 miles in altitude and providing a cross-section of the top of the atmosphere