Since I last checked in with Curiosity, the rover has been steadily driving southward, heading directly toward the Bagnold dune field. They are looking for a place to drill into the Stimson sandstone unit, but have been distracted by intriguing pale haloes around frock fractures. Despite a rough road, the wheels are not showing significant increase in damage.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) Context Camera (CTX) is almost a silent star at Mars. The latest MRO data release brought the total number of available CTX images to over 70,000, covering well over 90% of the Red Planet at a stunning resolution of 6 meters per pixel.
Opportunity drove farther into Marathon Valley in August, dug into what appears to be a water-altered rock, and took a lot of picture postcards in what is turning out to be a distinctively different site from any that the mission has found since the robot field geologist landed in 2004.
How and why does Curiosity take self-portraits? A look at some of the people and stories behind Curiosity's "selfies" on the occasion of the official release of the sol 1065 belly pan self-portrait at Buckskin, below Marias Pass, Mars.
Since my last update, Curiosity has driven back and forth repeatedly across a section of rocks below Marias pass. The rover finally drilled at a spot named Buckskin on sol 1060, marking the drill's return to operations after suffering a short on sol 911. Now the rover is driving up into Marias Pass and onto the Washboard or Stimson unit.
Mars 2020, NASA’s next and yet-to-be-named Mars rover, will be the first mission to collect and prepare samples of the martian surface for return to Earth. The rover's engineering team has proposed a new sampling caching strategy that differs from previous concepts in some interesting ways.
After three weeks of being in a communications blackout on the other side of the Sun during the Earth-Mars solar conjunction, Opportunity phoned home, reporting that she is healthy and ready to continue her mission.
It’s been an eventful few weeks for Curiosity on Mars. From sols 981 to 986, Curiosity’s human pilots tried and failed to drive the rover southward; but, retracing their steps to Logan's Run, they quickly found a way up and into a beautiful geological amphitheater named Marias Pass, where they will stay throughout Mars solar conjunction. They also returned ChemCam to normal operations.
Opportunity spent a mostly merry month of May on Mars touring Spirit of St. Louis Crater, stopping at science targets named in honor of Charles Lindbergh and the incredible flight he took 88 years ago.