The period of Mars solar conjunction has just begun, which means that a host of scientists and engineers whose day jobs entail interaction with the five active Mars spacecraft are getting a five-week break from the daily grind of operations.
Mars Exploration Rover principal investigator Steve Squyres announced on National Public Radio's Science Friday show the next goal for Opportunity, and it's a long, long, long way away: a huge crater about 12 kilometers southeast of its current location, which the team is referring to internally as "Endeavour."
I have posted several times about the amazing photo captured by HiRISE of Phoenix under its parachute as it descended. There have been two common questions I've received about the photo: was there any color data taken, and what more can I tell you about how hard it was to take the photo? I've got answers to both questions for you today.
A majority of the people who work in planetary geology are usually associated with one or maybe two missions, doing all their research on the results from one instrument on one mission. But there are a few people whose expertise cuts across many space missions, and an even smaller number of people who seem to work on almost everything. Randy Kirk is one of those people.
The HiRISE instrument on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter really is a spy camera in space. Check out this sequence of nine images from the HiRISE archives, which Doug Ellison pulled together into an animation covering more than a year of Spirit's mission.
Last week Mars Climate Sounder collected its 20 millionth sounding at Mars. Mars Climate Sounder is scanning without problems, collecting science observations of the atmosphere of Mars. Mars Climate Sounder has now been observing Mars for over 17 months (three quarters of a Mars year and also approximately three quarters of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter primary science mission).
Both Spirit and Opportunity are still suffering under incredibly dark skies, but, amazingly, they are both "power-positive," meaning that they are managing to produce enough power from the limited amount of sunlight to keep the batteries fully charged.
Today's set of image releases from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE team included this one, of a fairly bland-looking lava plain to the northeast of Arsia Mons. Bland, that is, except for a black spot in the center.
Two months after the start of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's primary science phase, the Mars Climate Sounder instrument has already acquired more than four million soundings, building toward a vast data set on the three-dimensional structure of Mars' atmosphere over the full Martian year of the orbiter's nominal mission.
It's easy to forget that Mars is another such world with cloudy weather and seasonally varying climate. This lovely image release from the CRISM instrument on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter brings that point home.