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Blog Archive


Curiosity in context: Not exactly "Viking on wheels," but close

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/21 06:51 CST

As I was beginning my research for my two magazine articles on the Curiosity rover's upcoming mission to Mars, I needed to figure out for myself how exactly this gigantic, ungainly machine fit in to the context of past Martian missions.

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In their own words

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/16 08:42 CDT

While doing my daily reading today I was struck by the awesomeness of two recent blog posts. Both were composed not by professional bloggers like me but by professional space explorers, one a scientist and the other an engineer.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Closes in on Endeavour as Team Bids Farewell to Spirit

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2011/07/31 11:24 CDT

Opportunity seemed to sail with the wind behind her back toward the western rim of Endeavour Crater this month as the Mars Exploration Rover team shifted gears in preparation for a whole new adventure, taking time out only to bid a final farewell both privately and publicly to Spirit.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Roves Back into Record Books, Spirit is Honored

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2011/06/30 12:00 CDT

Opportunity 'burned up' the Meridiani Plains in June as it raced toward its much-anticipated next destination and the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission cruised into the 90th month of what was originally to have been a 90-day tour.

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In Memory of Spirit, and Why Cuteness Matters

Posted by Melissa Rice on 2011/06/15 02:21 CDT

An analysis of "cuteness," and why it matters when talking about science.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Mission Declared Over, Opportunity Roves Closer to Endeavour

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2011/05/31 12:00 CDT

The Mars Exploration mission suffered the loss of Spirit and shifted to one-rover operations in May, but Opportunity carried on, blasting across the plains of Meridiani to within 2 miles (3.5 kilometers) of its next major destination and discovery.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: NASA Ends Spirit Mission

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2011/05/26 12:00 CDT

The intensified effort to recover Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Spirit came to an end early Wednesday morning Pacific time and NASA has now transitioned the mission to a single-rover operation focused on Spirit's still-active twin, Opportunity.

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A picture of Spirit that's too poetical for words

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/25 01:25 CDT

Yesterday, I remarked that despite the declaration of her death we'll be seeing Spirit frequently over the next few years, as long as Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is still monitoring her landing site with its HiRISE camera. I said that Spirit is a lump that's relatively easy to spot because of her dark shadow. Well, Spirit's managed to make herself even easier to spot than that.

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Sad news for Spirit: It's All Over But the Crying

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/24 03:05 CDT

Alicia Chang reported today that, according to project manager John Callas, the last attempt to uplink a command to the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit will be made tomorrow. NASA will cease listening for signals from Spirit on Tuesday.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Recovery Attempt Continues, Opportunity Sprints to Endeavour

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2011/04/30 12:00 CDT

As Opportunity drove her little robot heart out, breaking the 28-kilometer mark on her odometer, and driving the longest backward drive ever, April proved to be another month of exhilarating highs for the Mars Exploration Rover mission and one extended low with only silence from Spirit, despite intensified efforts by her Earth crew to establish contact.

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What's up in the solar system in April 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/31 03:59 CDT

April 2011 will see MESSENGER begin the science phase of its orbital mission at Mercury, and should, I think, also see the start of Dawn's approach observations of Vesta. At Mars, Opportunity is back on the road again, rolling inexorably toward Endeavour. At Saturn, Cassini will continue its focus on Saturn and Titan science.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit's Silence Haunts, Opportunity Roves on to Endeavour

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2011/03/31 12:00 CDT

The Mars Exploration Rover mission experienced a month of highs tempered by one haunting low as it neared completion of its 87th month of a three-month tour this month. While Opportunity wrapped up its work at the youngest, freshest crater the rovers have explored to date, Spirit remained silent as the point of maximum sunshine for the Martian year came and went, further dimming once high hopes that the rover would phone home and rove on as summer settled on the southern hemisphere of Mars.

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LPSC 2011: Day 3: Moon, Mars, and Venus

Posted by Ted Stryk on 2011/03/10 11:11 CST

Wednesday morning included some interesting conversations. Notably, I spoke with Pamela Gay, who is responsible for the MoonZoo citizen science program and who is presently working on developing a site through which the public will be able to help search for potential Kuiper belt objects for the New Horizons mission to encounter after the Pluto flyby.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Efforts to Recover Spirit Expand as Opportunity Wraps Up Work at Santa Maria

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2011/02/28 11:00 CST

The Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission emerged from its third solar conjunction this month and, as March roars in, is embarking on its 86th month on the Red Planet. While Opportunity roved away from a surface target it had been studying at Santa Maria Crater and on to an intriguing blue boulder, JPL engineers on Earth stepped up their efforts to recover Spirit, which has been silent, ostensibly in hibernation mode, since late March, nearly one year ago.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Mission Celebrates 7 Years of Exploration

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2011/01/31 11:00 CST

Seven years ago this month, Spirit bounced down onto the surface of the Red Planet, rolled to a stop upright, and beeped home, ready to roll. Three weeks later, Opportunity not only bounced down safely and right into a small crater, but opened its "eyes" to see what the Mars Exploration Rovers had been sent to find signs that water had once flowed there.

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"A genuinely weird experience": A video of Steve Squyres explaining a photo of Steve Squyres

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/01/12 10:09 CST

In a lovely talk, in his uncommonly engaging way, Steve Squyres presents the portrait of him that now hangs in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery.

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Mars Exploration Rover Update: Spirit Silent Still, Opportunity Savors Santa Maria, We Flashback on 2010

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2010/12/31 11:00 CST

The Mars Exploration Rovers are wrapping up another year of exploring their seventh -- having experienced both the best of times and the worst of times: Spirit continued a 10-month struggle to endure its coldest, harshest Martian winter yet; Opportunity set a new record for driving despite an arthritic front wheel and a broken shoulder, putting more miles on her rocker bogie in 2010 than in any other single year.

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Door 17 in the 2010 advent calendar

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/12/17 10:16 CST

Time to open the seventeenth door in the advent calendar. Where in the solar system are these strange promontories?

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Mission Looks Back in Honor to Apollo 12, and Drives Exploration Onward

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2010/11/30 11:00 CST

The Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) forged on in November, their 83rd month of an expedition originally planned for three months: Spirit remained silent at Gusev Crater presumably still re-charging her batteries, as Opportunity roved through a field of craters pressing on toward Endeavour Crater, quietly claiming title along the way to being the first roving robot to drive 25 kilometers on Mars.

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Rover news; Earth-size exoplanets; Future of Russian space

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/11/01 03:50 CDT

Just a linky post here.

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