The United States Geological Survey recently issued an improved version of the Viking color map of Mars. This 40-year-old data set still provides the prettiest global-scale map of the planet.
Sand Waves in the Desert
or “Pet Peeves and Deciphering Climate Change in the Solar System”
I have a pet peeve: the words dune and ripple are often used interchangeably, although they are quite distinct from one another. So what’s the difference between aeolian dunes and ripples? And why should anybody care?
Curiosity has tested a new driving mode -- backwards -- and achieved their longest single-day drive in three months. And they've committed to driving to the spot formerly known as "KMS-9," marking that commitment by giving it a name, "Kimberley." My route maps show you why Curiosity's views will be shifting, and Ken Herkenhoff's blog posts explain the daily activities.
After more than two months of very slow driving due to concern about the wheels and time spent choosing whether to enter "Dingo Gap" or not, Curiosity has safely crossed the dune and resumed longer drives, achieving 75 meters and crossing the 5-kilometer mark on sol 540.
A few days ago, Curiosity looked westward after sunset and photographed Earth setting toward the mountainous rim of Gale crater.
While continuing to perform regular wheel health assessments, Curiosity took a sharp right turn and headed for Dingo Gap. On sol 533, they performed a "toe dip" that parked the rover atop the dune with a good view down into the valley.
A beautiful Mastcam panorama from sol 528 shows a landscape so much more like Earth than anything we've explored on the Martian surface before.
At long last, on sol 526, Curiosity imaged the part of the weather instrument that was damaged during landing, but no obvious damage is visible, to me anyway. On sol 527 they drove even closer to Dingo Gap, with plans to drive onto the dune in the sol 528 drive.
Over the last few days, Curiosity made steady driving progress to the southwest. For several of those days, an intriguing feature has appeared on the horizon in her images. UPDATE: The Curiosity team has now decided to drive the rover toward the feature, which is now named "Dingo Gap."
In the last month, Curiosity put 222 meters on the odometer in 12 short drives, while regularly assessing the wheels for damage. The rover performed touch-and-go analyses of rocks including Oneida and Kodak, and also took some ChemCam RMI mosaics of rocks near the base of Mount Sharp.
With the New Year upon us, what can we look forward to in 2014? For me, the main event of 2014 is that ESA's Rosetta mission finally -- finally! -- catches up to the comet it has been chasing for a decade. We will lose LADEE, gain two Mars orbiters, and launch Hayabusa2. The year begins with an amazing 24 spacecraft exploring or cruising toward various planetary destinations.
Lots of people ask questions about how the Curiosity mission, and future missions, will forge ahead to begin with looking for evidence of past life on Mars. There is nothing simple or straightforward about looking for life.
Posted by Ken Herkenhoff on 2013/12/19 01:39 CST
Curiosity activities over sols 465 to 487 included monitoring the condition of the wheels; a flight software upgrade; and dumping the Cumberland drill sample. Curiosity put approximately 200 meters on the odometer during this period.
In a Martian first, the Curiosity science team has measured the age of a Martian rock, in two totally different ways. They presented the result at the 2013 meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
I'm returning to the deep dive into the literature that began with articles about lunar basins and then explored the geologic time scales of Earth, Moon, and Mars. Now it's time to catch up to the last decade of Mars research and learn what "phyllosian", "theiikian", and "siderikian" eras are.
An electrical problem frustrated progress on the Curiosity mission this week, but the problem is now understood and the rover back to work.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/11/19 11:03 CST
My brother and I enjoyed watching Reading Rainbow as kids, so it's a delight for me to have had a guest post published on their blog last week. I wrote for them about how kids (with the help of their parents) can follow the adventure of the Curiosity mission through the release of their raw images.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/11/14 11:51 CST
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced today that the geologists on both Mars rover teams -- Opportunity and Curiosity -- have named landmarks at their field sites after the late Bruce Murray.
Posted by Ken Herkenhoff on 2013/11/14 01:56 CST
Having racked up several kilometers in the drive to Mount Sharp, Curiosity paused for a second science stop at an outcrop called "Cooperstown." While there, the rover performed a software upgrade and then lost a few days to a software anomaly. The rover has now resumed normal science operations.
NASA’s shrinking budgets for planetary exploration may force it to decide between continued funding for the Saturn Cassini mission and the continued funding for its Mars missions.