Vignettes from dozens of LPSC talks: GRAIL and LADEE at the Moon; ice and craters and conglomerates and organics and gullies on Mars; polar deposits and volatile elements on Mercury; tectonics on Enceladus; and more, until my brain was so full I could barely speak.
In a series of drives, Curiosity flew past the "striated terrain" that outcropped at Kylie, and is now negotiating her way around some rockier territory as she makes her way south toward the enticing outcrops of Kimberley.
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.
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.
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.
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.