HiRISE: Acheron Catena

tumblr_pjadvwdiuu1rlz4gso1_1280Acheron Catena. Beautiful Mars series. [More at links]

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Mars 2020: Jezero Crater flyover

An animated flyover of the Martian surface explains why Mars’ Jezero Crater, a 28-mile-wide ancient lake-delta system, is the best place for the Mars 2020 rover to find and collect promising samples for a possible future return to Earth. [More at link]

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MARCI weather report, December 3-9, 2018

MARCI-December-5-2018Dust lifting events were slightly more abundant for the northern hemisphere of Mars this past week. Near the beginning of the week, dust storm activity observed over Tempe Terra dipped southward towards Chryse Planitia by the following sol. By mid-week, a cloud of dust had propagated into the eastern canyons of Valles Marineris. Two other pulses of dust storms were spotted along the Acidalia storm-track in the second half of the week. Amazonis Planitia and the Phlegra Montes also experienced a few fleeting dust storms. Further north, the polar hood displayed a mixture of dust and water ice… [More at link, including video]

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THEMIS: Tapestry of dunes in Proctor Crater

Tapestry of dunes in Proctor Crater (THEMIS_IOTD_20181214)THEMIS Image of the Day, December 14, 2018. This VIS image shows part of the extensive dune field on the floor of Proctor Crater. Proctor Crater is located in Noachis Terra.

See more THEMIS Images of the Day by geological subject.

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Curiosity update: Is THIS the red Jura we are looking for?

2256ML0120800040804833E01_DXXX-br2Sol 2258-59, December 13, 2018, update by MSL scientist Michelle Minitti: The drive around to the north side of “Rock Hall” in yesterday’s plan was successful, placing us at a lower tilt and with room in the workspace to place all the piles of sample we drop on the surface (purposely!) in the aftermath of drilling. Yesterday’s observations of Rock Hall gave us confidence that we were at a promising red Jura target for drilling. ChemCam rasters across three different targets on Rock Hall indicated the slab had chemistry and spectral character consistent with red Jura. Mastcam images focused on the slab demonstrated that while it was dusty in flatter areas, and covered with scattered, loose gray and red pebbles in others, the slab had the red, shiny appearance we associate with red Jura. This placed us farther down the path toward drilling red Jura than we had been with any of our previous sites… [More at link]

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HiRISE: InSight lander on Mars

ESP_058005_1845This is a HiRISE image of the NASA InSight lander, plus other pieces of hardware on Mars after its successful landing on 26 November 2018.It looks like the heat shield (upper right) has its dark outside facing down, since it is so bright (saturated, probably a specular reflection).

The lander (middle) disturbed dust over a fair distance and has darkened the surface, as seen previously at the Phoenix and Curiosity landing sites. The bright spot associated with the lander is probably another specular reflection, and there are two smaller bluish extensions that are the solar arrays, plus their shadows.

The backshell attached to the parachute (lower left) may have yet another specular reflection; the streak extending to the south well beyond the parachute is probably a pre-existing dust devil track. The lander is about 6 meters wide when the solar arrays are fully deployed.  [More at link]

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Curiosity report, Sols 2163-2256, by Emily Lakdawalla, The Planetary Society

20181206_2217MH0001630000803045R00_DXXXIt’s been a challenging few months on the Curiosity mission, but the team’s hard work and persistence has saw them recover from a major computer anomaly and make progress on science goals at Vera Rubin ridge. Curiosity has been exploring the ridge since sol 1809, trying to drill into four distinct rock types. The ridge rocks have proven tough to drill, but the work is almost done. With a third successful drill site at Highfield on sol 2224, they’re ready to tackle the last ridge challenge, a drill site in a particularly red-colored rock.

I’ll describe the computer problem first, then give an update on the science operations. But before I do either of those things, just for fun: a video of a herd of dust devils! It’s getting windy in Gale. (…)

The B-side Anomaly

On September 15 (sol 2172), engineers noticed the rover behaving oddly: it was not transmitting any saved science or engineering data, but could transmit engineering data acquired in real time as long as it was communicating with the Deep Space Network or an orbiter. The rover was perfectly healthy, having no issues running any of its vital systems, but had lost access to the part of its memory where it stores data for later retrieval. The data structure of that part of the rover’s memory had become corrupted, and the rover couldn’t access it. This was, clearly, a serious problem for science, but fortunately didn’t threaten the safety of the rover.

Still, the fact that the rover couldn’t store information for later retrieval made it very difficult to troubleshoot the issue. The mission determined that the best course of action was to swap to the backup computer; once they were on the backup, they’d be able to troubleshoot the (formerly) main computer. Curiosity has been operating on its B-side computer for nearly 2000 sols, ever since sol 200, when a serious problem occurred in the A-side computer’s flash memory. It took until sol 772 to recertify the A-side computer for use as a backup to the B-side computer; a software patch now prevents the A-side computer from using half of its flash memory… [More at link]

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HiRISE: Eastern slope of Asimov Crater’s central pit

ESP_057522_1330Asimov is an 84-kilometer diameter crater located in the southern ancient highlands of Mars. It is distinguished from other craters in this region in that it contains both a ring-depression just within the crater rim and a pit near the center.

Gullies have formed along slopes both in the ring-depression and within the central pit. A closeup shows gullies and recurring slope lineae (RSL) along the eastern slope of the pit. These features continue to form seasonally in this region and the HiRISE team monitors this and other sites to look for changes….

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THEMIS: Active dune field in Noachis

Crater dunes in Noachis (THEMIS_IOTD_20181213)THEMIS Image of the Day, December 13, 2018. Today’s VIS image shows sand dunes on the floor of an unnamed crater in Noachis Terra.

These dunes are likely active because they are dark, indicating that they move often enough to shake off the light-toned dust.

Outside the dune field, the soft appearance of the terrain suggests it is mantled with some material, perhaps ice-rich dust.

See more THEMIS Images of the Day by geological subject.

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Weather update from Gale Crater

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