Opportunity has post-reformat amnesia event

pia19160-16Mars Exploration Rover Mission Status Report: The team operating NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity learned Thursday that the long-lived rover experienced a brief amnesia event related to its flash memory, the first since a reformatting of that nonvolatile type of memory a week earlier.

The amnesia event did not result in any loss of science data, and Opportunity subsequently continued its activities using tools on its robotic arm to examine a rock target called “Athens.” The rover experienced dozens of similar amnesia events and more serious flash-related resets of the onboard computer prior to 2015, then operated without using flash memory until last week.

“We changed how the rover uses flash memory in an attempt to correct problems the rover had been experiencing,” said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “Although we are a little disappointed at the occurrence of an amnesia event only five days after reformatting, we are not surprised. There is still no clear understanding of what is causing the problems. Only time will tell if we have been successful in mitigating the most serious flash problems.” [More at link]

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Mars scars at landing sites fade, usually

PIA19159A series of observations from Mars orbit show how dark blast zones that were created during the August 2012 landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover have faded inconsistently. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter made the observations on multiple dates from landing to last month. After fading for about two years, the pace of change slowed and some of the scars may have even darkened again.

The images track changes in blast zones at four locations caused by different pieces of Curiosity hardware, such as the heat shield and the descent stage. The four series, each with images from five to seven different dates since landing, are available online at:


“Spacecraft like Curiosity create these dark blast zone patterns where bright dust is blown away by the landing,” said Ingrid Daubar, a HiRISE team scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, who has used similar blast zones to find fresh meteor impact sites on Mars. “We expected to see them fade as the wind moved the dust around during the months and years after landing, but we’ve been surprised to see that the rate of change doesn’t appear to be consistent.” [More at links]

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HiRISE: At the head of a Kasei Valles cataract

ESP_039274_2055On Earth, cataracts represent regions where a river’s gradient increases enough to create so much turbulence, that air gets incorporated into the water body forming a bubbly current sometimes called “whitewater”. This image covers a location that may have acted as a cataract in the Kasei valley region.

This observation samples the bedrock lithologies and gives us a measure of the post-flood erosion and modification history for the floor of Kasei Valles. At high resolution, we can also look for boulders. [More at link]

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JPL readying June test of Mars EDL ‘flying-saucer’

ldsd20140602-16-640x350NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project will be flying a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space from the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, in June.

The public is invited to tune in to an hour-long live, interactive video broadcast from the gallery above a clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where this near-space experimental test vehicle is being prepared for shipment to Hawaii. During the broadcast, the 15-foot-wide, 7,000-pound vehicle is expected to be undergoing a “spin-table” test. The event will be streamed live on www.ustream.tv/NASAJPL2 on March 31, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. PDT. JPL’s Gay Hill will host the program while LDSD team members will answer questions submitted to the Ustream chat box or via Twitter using the #AskNASA hashtag… [More at link]

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THEMIS: Asimov Crater

Asimov Crater (THEMIS_IOTD_20150327)THEMIS Image of the Day, March 27, 2015. Asimov Crater is unique in that the crater floor has been completely filled with material to approximately the crater rim and then a series depressions have occurred near the crater rim.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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HiRISE: Lowest point of Osuga Valles

ESP_039326_1650Osuga Valles lies around 170 kilometers to the south of Eos Chasma, which is at the eastern end of the vast Valles Marineris canyon system.

This is an outflow area, probably the result of ancient and catastrophic flooding. This image shows part of a deep pit at the end of the valley, filled with small hills. [More at link]

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Curiosity: Giving a rock the brush-off

0936MH0004760050303372C00_DXXXSol 936, March 26, 2015. The MAHLI camera records a Garden City veined rock, post-brushing, both from a distance and close up.

Sol 936 raw images (from all cameras), and Curiosity’s latest location map.



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HiRISE: Pitted landforms, southern Hellas Planitia

ESP_038821_1235This image is of a portion of the Southern plains region within Hellas, the largest impact basin on Mars, with a diameter of about 2300 kilometers (1400 miles). There are three main phenomena apparent in this image. First, the faint dark streaks that criss-cross the terrain are dust devil tracks that clear the bright dust along their way. Second, the subtle overall bumpy “basketball” texture of the surface is formed by repeated seasonal freezing and thawing of the ice-rich regolith and is common at higher latitudes. Third… [More at link]

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Curiosity update: ‘Veinfest’

0935MH0001700000303355R00_DXXXSol 937-938, March 25, 2015, update from USGS scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Interest in the dark and bright veins continues to be high, so the Sol 937 plan is dominated by observations of these features.  But first, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe the unsieved Telegraph Peak drill sample dump pile. Ryan is ChemCam science uplink lead today, and I helped him plan ChemCam rasters on the dump pile and.. [More at link]

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THEMIS: Gullies

Gullies in Noachis Terra (THEMIS_IOTD_20150326)THEMIS Image of the Day, March 26, 2015. Today’s VIS image shows gullies on the inner rim of an unnamed crater in Noachis Terra.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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MARCI weather report: March 16-22, 2015

releaseimg_150316_150322Dust-lifting in the southern high latitudes of Cimmeria-Promethei developed into a large regional dust storm over the course of the week. The storm propagated eastward from Cimmeria into Sirenum obscuring the surface up to ~50°S latitude. By the end of the week, all southern longitudes from ~68°S latitude and southward were obscured by atmospheric dust to varying degrees. In the northern hemisphere, local storms were observed in Amazonis, northern Alba Patera, Chryse, Tempe, Deuteronilus… [More at link, including video]

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Jezero Crater records two water-related events

PrintResearchers from Brown University have completed a new analysis of an ancient Martian lake system in Jezero Crater, near the planet’s equator. The study finds that the onslaught of water that filled the crater was one of at least two separate periods of water activity in the region surrounding Jezero.

“We can say that this one really well-exposed location makes a strong case for at least two periods of water-related activity in Mars’ history,” said Tim Goudge, a graduate student at Brown who led the work. “That tells us something really interesting about how early Mars operated.” The study is in press in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

The ancient lake at Jezero crater was first identified in 2005 by Caleb Fassett, a former Brown graduate student now a professor at Mount Holyoke College. Fassett identified two channels on the northern and western sides of the crater that appear to have supplied it with water. That water eventually overtopped the crater wall on the southern side and flowed out through a third large channel. It’s not clear how long the system was active, but seems to have dried out around 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago. [More at links]

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Curiosity: By day and by night at Garden City

935-GCSol 935, March 24, 2015. The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) has taken a composite image of the veins in part of the Garden City outcrop by daylight. (Click on the image to load a larger version in a new browser tab.) MAHLI also imaged the right-hand section of the above outcrop at night using an onboard LED; colors are as imaged:

0935MH0001700000303351R00_DXXXSol 935 raw images (from all cameras), and Curiosity’s latest location map.

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HiRISE: Possible fluvial features in Golden Crater

ESP_039405_1575This observation shows an interesting crater floor with what appear to be inverted channels, rounded lobe-like landforms, and light-toned layered deposits along the southern portion of the crater wall.

High resolution can help study the layers, with an enhanced-color image showing us any variations in composition between those light-toned layers and the darker-toned surfaces. [More at link]

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Opportunity: Approaching Athens

3969-navcamSol 3969, March 25, 2015. Opportunity’s next target is a light-toned outcrop dubbed Athens, seen here in a two-frame Navcam composite. Note the faint darkening across the closer part of the outcrop, which may indicate chemical changes in the rock, perhaps from water. The ground-level view is provided by the front Hazcam (below; contrast much adjusted).

1F480546588EFFCMQ3P1211R0M1Opportunity raw images, its latest mission status, a location map. and atmospheric opacity, known as tau.

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