It's been two weeks since comet Siding Spring passed close by Mars, and six of the seven Mars spacecraft have now checked in with quick looks at their images of the encounter. I round up all the results.
At the Geological Society of America conference this week, Curiosity scientists dug into the geology of Gale crater and shared puzzling results about the nature of the rocks that the rover has found there.
Curiosity spent a total of four weeks at Confidence Hills, feeding samples to SAM and CheMin several times. On two weekends during this period, the rover's activities were interrupted by faults with the robotic arm. Curiosity drove away from Confidence Hills on sol 780, and is ready to observe comet Siding Spring over the weekend.
The biggest news on Curiosity of late is that the rover has drilled her fourth full drill hole on Mars! Drilling happened at a site called "Confidence Hills" on sol 759. But before she did that, she took a long series of amazing photos of rock formations at Jubilee Pass, Panamint Butte, and Upheaval Dome.
A lot has happened behind the scenes on the Curiosity mission in the last few weeks. The mission received a pretty negative review from a panel convened to assess the relative quality of seven different proposed extended planetary science missions. Then, just a week later, the mission announced big news: they have arrived at Mount Sharp.
Shooting video of a lumpy moon crossing the Sun and turning it into a giant googly eye is not a new activity for Curiosity, but I get a fresh thrill each time I see one of these sequences downlinked from the rover.
The Mars gremlins really had it in for Curiosity this month. A computer glitch and slippery sand conspired to delay the rover's progress toward Mount Sharp. And shifting rocks proved unsafe for drilling. The rover will continue driving toward Mount Sharp, departing Bonanza King without drilling, skirting Hidden Valley along a plateau to its north.
Now that a Tiger Team has assessed the nature and causes of damage to Curiosity's wheels, I can finally answer your frequently-asked questions about what wheel damage means for the mission, and why it wasn't anticipated.
On Wednesday's "Virtually Speaking Science" podcast, The Planetary Society’s Emily Lakdawalla and Space.com contributor Rod Pyle look back at the first two years of the Curiosity Rover’s mission on Mars, and look ahead to the future of Mars exploration. NBC News science editor Alan Boyle is the host for the show, which airs at 5pm Pacific / midnight UTC.