Curiosity: Parked on the ridge, looking around

1877-navcamSol 1877, November 16, 2017. After driving southwest about 20 meters (66 feet), Curiosity turned its Navcam on the surroundings, portraying Mt. Sharp high in the background, with mesas and buttes lower down. At right edge is the far-distant inner rim of Gale Crater. Click the image to enlarge it.

Sol 1877 raw images (from all cameras), and Curiosity’s latest location.

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HiRISE: Faults and pitted mounds in Utopia Planitia

tumblr_oze11kjVBr1rlz4gso1_1280Faults and pitted mounds in Utopia Planitia. This is the summit of a high massif. Beautiful Mars series.

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Opportunity: The course ahead

4911-navcamSol 4911, November 17, 2017. As Opportunity’s scientists continue their survey of the troughs and channels in Perseverance Valley, they are driving the rover downhill. Side trips and brief upslope forays may occur as they study the bumps in the valley. But the rover’s overall course is leading down the inside rim of Endurance Crater to the floor, seen in the distance at the top of the late afternoon Navcam composite above. (Note Opportunity’s tiny shadow at top right.) Click the image to enlarge it.

In other Opportunity news, the latest JPL mission update notes that wind has cleared some dust off the solar panels. [More at link]

Opportunity raw images, its latest mission status, location map, and atmospheric opacity, known as tau.

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THEMIS: Glacial terrain in Moreux Crater

Glacial terrain in Moreux Crater (THEMIS_IOTD_20171117)THEMIS Image of the Day, November 17, 2017. This image of Moreux Crater shows part of the central peak at the top of the frame, deposits of material from the crater rim at the bottom of the frame and sand dunes on the crater floor between the two. The part of the peak with a pitted surface texture has been interpreted to be created by glacial flows, as has the deposits seen near the crater rim with the linear and pitted surface morphology. Moreux Crater is located in northern Arabia Terra and has a diameter of 138 kilometers (86 miles).

NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft has spent over 15 years in orbit around Mars, circling the planet more than 69,000 times. It holds the record for longest working spacecraft at Mars. THEMIS, the IR/VIS camera system, has collected data for the entire mission and provides images covering all seasons and lighting conditions.

Over the years many features of interest have received repeated imaging, building up a suite of images covering the entire feature. From the deepest chasma to the tallest volcano, individual dunes inside craters and dune fields that encircle the north pole, channels carved by water and lava, and a variety of other feature, THEMIS has imaged them all.

For the next several months the Image of the Day will focus on the Tharsis volcanoes, the various chasmata of Valles Marineris, and the major dunes fields. We hope you enjoy these images!

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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Opportunity: La Bajada in the rear view mirror

4910-pancamBSol 4910, November 16, 2017. Three Pancam frames (two in false color by Holger Isenberg) look back up slope toward the La Bajada area in Perseverance Valley. Note the rover wheel tracks. Scientists are using Opportunity to examine the ends of the “islands” — places of higher ground — in the valley. They are hoping to determine the valley’s origin (likely water-carved) and its subsequent evolution. Click the image to enlarge it.

Opportunity raw images, its latest mission status, location map, and atmospheric opacity, known as tau.

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Trace Gas Orbiter: Crossing Phobos’ orbit while aerobraking

Trace_Gas_Orbiter_aerobraking

[Editor’s note: See update.]

Here are the facts about the Phobos orbit crossing today [November 16].

The orbit crossing is not a Phobos flyby. In fact, we did our best to ensure that Phobos would be at the farthest possible point away from TGO when we cross the moon’s orbit. The moon will basically be on the other side of Mars when our spacecraft crosses its orbit.

This results in two crossings today: one around 14:30 UT and a second at 20:00 UT (15:30 and 21:00 CET, respectively). On each crossing of Phobos’ orbit, TGO will ‘miss’ the Phobos orbit by 23 km (and 120 minutes) and 10 km (and 200 minutes), respectively.

Note that the diameter of Phobos is about 20 km, so these passes by the orbit are very, very close!

Over the last few days, we adapted the phase of our orbit to ensure maximum ‘outphasing’ of Phobos and TGO, so today there is actually nothing for the flight control team to do but watch and monitor.

The crossing is taking place around apocentre (point of farthest approach to Mars); remember that our pericentre (point of closest approach) remains on the order of 100 km from the martian surface, actually in the atmosphere, which is how we are obtaining the aerobraking effect. [More at link]

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HiRISE: A small, well-preserved impact crater

tumblr_oze0z3ib871rlz4gso1_1280A small, well-preserved impact crater in Hellas Planitia. Beautiful Mars series.

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Curiosity update: Last drive before Thanksgiving

1873ML0098010020703411E01_DXXX-br2Sol 1877-78, November 15, 2017, update by MSL scientist Abigail Fraeman: The star of tosol’s plan was a drive that will likely be our last drive before the Thanksgiving holiday. The science team has a lot of activities we’d like to do that require Curiosity to stay in a single location for several days, so the Earth days that the ops team has off for Thanksgiving will be a perfect time for the rover to get some really good science done without needing input from the ground. As the surface properties scientist (SPS) on shift today, I worked closely with the rover planners to pick a drive target that had the highest likelihood of leaving the rover in a good, stable position while still giving us an exciting workspace for future contact science. In the end, we decided to try to head for an area where we see two different colors of rocks – the typical tan rocks that have been present throughout our time on the ridge as well as some grayer rocks that appear to be unique to the upper part of the ridge. Although it’s hard to tell for certain from afar, I’m hopeful this area will be a great place for Curiosity to sit and do science while we humans on the ground enjoy our turkey dinners! [More at link]

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HRSC: Fracture swarms on Mars

Sirenum_Fossae_perspective_viewThese striking features on Mars were caused by the planet’s crust stretching apart in response to ancient volcanic activity.

The fractures in the Sirenum Fossae region in the southern hemisphere were imaged by ESA’s Mars Express in March. They extend for thousands of kilometres in length, far beyond the boundaries of this image.

The fractures divide the crust into blocks: the movement along a pair of faults causes the centre section to drop down into ‘graben’ several kilometres wide and a few hundred metres deep. Elevated blocks of crust remain between the graben when there is a parallel series of fault, as seen in this scene.

The Sirenum Fossae are part of a larger radial fracture pattern around the Arsia Mons volcano in the Tharsis region, which is situated some 1800 km to the northeast. [More at link]

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THEMIS: Dunes on floor of Moreux Crater

Dunes on floor of Moreux Crater (THEMIS_IOTD_20171115)THEMIS Image of the Day, November 16, 2017. This image of Moreux Crater shows part of the central peak and sand dunes on the crater floor surrounding the peak. The crater rim is at the bottom right of this image. The lower elevations of the central peak are visible at the top left corner of the image. The part of the peak with a pitted surface texture has been interpreted to be created by glacial flows. Moreux Crater is located in northern Arabia Terra and has a diameter of 138 kilometers (86 miles).

NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft has spent over 15 years in orbit around Mars, circling the planet more than 69,000 times. It holds the record for longest working spacecraft at Mars. THEMIS, the IR/VIS camera system, has collected data for the entire mission and provides images covering all seasons and lighting conditions.

Over the years many features of interest have received repeated imaging, building up a suite of images covering the entire feature. From the deepest chasma to the tallest volcano, individual dunes inside craters and dune fields that encircle the north pole, channels carved by water and lava, and a variety of other feature, THEMIS has imaged them all.

For the next several months the Image of the Day will focus on the Tharsis volcanoes, the various chasmata of Valles Marineris, and the major dunes fields. We hope you enjoy these images!

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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