Curiosity update: ‘Sample dropoff to CheMin’

1060MH0004230000400447R00_DXXXSol 1061-1063, July 31, 2015, update from USGS scientist Ken Herkenhoff: This morning, the MSL operations team was very happy to see that drilling into Buckskin was successful!  The weekend plan therefore has more arm activities, including transferring the sample to the scoop for inspection.  But first, the ChemCam RMI will take pictures of the new drill hole [image at right] and Mastcam will image a potential location for eventually dumping the sample.  The sample will be sieved and a portion of the fine-grained material dropped into CheMin for mineralogical analysis overnight on Sols 1061-1062.  In parallel, the APXS will analyze the potential sample dump location for comparison with future measurements of the dump pile… [More at link]

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Gullies in no-name crater in Utopia Planitia

ESP_041866_2290This enhanced-color image of gullies in the northern wall of an unnamed crater in Utopia Planitia covers an area of approximately 750 by 1100 meters. The banked, sinuous shape of the gully channels suggest that water was involved in their formation. The source of this water however is a subject of debate. Hypotheses include melting of snow or near-surface ground ice.

Other features also suggest the past (and possibly present) presence of snow or ground ice in this region. For example, the “mantle” deposit on the crater wall displays polygonal fractures. Polygons on Earth are associated with periglacial activity. This refers to processes that occur from the presence of ground ice, which interacts with surface and subsurface materials, as well as the Martian atmosphere as a function of climate and seasons). The mantle itself may be the remains of a dusty snowpack deposited in Mars’ recent past. [More at link]

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Valleys, deltas, and lacustrine sediment in the southwestern Melas Basin, Valles Marineris

image_2Planetary Geomorphology Image of the Month, July 30, 2015: Joel Davis (University College, London, UK). During the last few decades, dry river valley networks and delta fan structures have been found to be increasingly common on ancient terrains on the martian surface (e.g. Goldspiel and Squyres, 1991; Hynek et al., 2010). They are considered to be one of the main lines of evidence that Mars once had Earth-like precipitation and surface runoff (e.g. Hynek and Phillips, 2003). One such location is the south-western Melas basin, part of a collapsed graben structure on the southern wall of Melas Chasma, Valles Marineris – Mars’ equatorial canyon system. The basin likely formed in the early Hesperian period (~ 3.7 – 3.5 Ga), soon after Melas Chasma opened. [More at link]

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THEMIS: Tyrrhena Terra — false color

Tyrrhena Terra false color (THEMIS_IOTD_20150731)THEMIS Image of the Day, July 31, 2015. The THEMIS VIS camera contains 5 filters. The data from different filters can be combined in multiple ways to create a false color image. These false color images may reveal subtle variations of the surface not easily identified in a single band image. Today’s false color image shows a rim of material between two unnamed craters in Tyrrhena Terra.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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HiRISE: New addition to a field of impacts

tumblr_ns4hduQHTx1rlz4gso2_1280A new addition to a field of impacts —The ejecta from this small impact is still fresh, as we can see its dark remains still visible on the light-toned surface. This is within a caldera in Arsia Mons.

Beautiful Mars series.

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Curiosity: Front and back view

FRB_491506753EDR_F0482542FHAZ00401M_Sol 1059, July 30, 2015. Front and rear Hazcams show the rover’s orientation with regard to the Lion outcrop (front view, top) and Marias Pass (rear view, bottom). RRB_491506772EDR_F0482542RHAZ00337M_The layered high area on Curiosity’s right side, seen best in the rear view at left, is Apikuni Mountain.

Sol 1059 raw images (from all cameras), and Curiosity’s latest location map.

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Fresh shallow valley becomes inverted channel

ESP_041144_2200This image shows a portion of a long valley system in northern Arabia Terra. The valley must be relatively young because it cuts through the ejecta of an impact crater that still retains it entire ejecta blanket, indicating the crater is also fairly young and fresh.

The valley is interesting because it transitions to an inverted channel near its end point. Inverted channels form when a valley fills with materials. Later, erosion removes the surrounding terrain leaving behind higher standing and more resistant material that filled the valley. [More at link]

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Curiosity update: ‘GO for drilling!’

1059MH0005090000400393R00_DXXXSol 1060, July 30, 2015, update from USGS scientist Lauren Edgar: It’s another exciting day on Mars!  Curiosity is investigating some high-silica targets at an outcrop named “Lion.”  The team selected the “Buckskin” target to drill, and we successfully completed a mini drilling test yesterday (shown in the MAHLI image [right]).  That means that today we’re going for the FULL drill hole.

Today’s plan is focused on the drilling activity, and a lot of imaging to document the hole.  First we’ll acquire MAHLI images of the intended drill site, then we’ll drill, and then we’ll acquire more MAHLI images after drilling.  The plan also includes Navcam imaging of the workspace, and Mastcam imaging of the target and drill bit.  In addition to drilling, we’re getting CheMin ready to receive sample in an upcoming plan.  Fingers crossed! [More at link]

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HiRISE: Diverse deposits in Melas Chasma

ESP_041134_1720This scene includes chaotic deposits with a wide range of colors. The deposits are distinctive with both unique colors and small-scale textures such as fracture patterns.

These are probably sedimentary rocks, transported and deposited in water or air. The original layers may have been jumbled in a landslide. Dark or reddish sand dunes cover some of the bedrock. [More at link]

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Curiosity update: Drill testing and analyzing ‘Ch-paa-qn’

NRB_491243591EDR_F0482542NCAM00290M_-br2Sol 1059, July 29, 2015, update from USGS scientist Ryan Anderson: Today the main event is a “mini-start hole”, which is the name for a new type of initial drilling test that we are trying out on the target “Buckskin”. This test will drill a small hole in the rock to help determine whether it is safe to go ahead with the full hole.

In addition to that test, we are planning a detailed study of the target “Ch-paa-qn” which means “shining peak” in the native Salish language of northern Montana. This target is an isolated bright patch on the nearby outcrop, and we want to figure out if it is calcium sulfate like the white veins we see nearby, or if it is something else. The plan includes ChemCam active and passive observations of Ch-paa-qn, along with Mastcam multispectral images. [More at link]

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HiRISE: Possible ExoMars landing site, Aram Dorsum

ESP_040881_1880This image is part of a proposed landing site for the ExoMars Rover, planned for launch in 2018. We can see how an upper layers of light toned sediments have been eroded, leaving a lower surface which appears dark. The retreating sediment scarp slopes would be an important target for the rover if it ends up going to Aram Dorsum.

The retreating scarps will be relatively recent compared to the ancient age of the terrain. That means that organic compounds—which is what ExoMars is designed to drill to 2 meters depth and analyze—will not have been exposed… [More at link]

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Opportunity: Rock survey

4092-pancam-rocksSol 4092, July 29, 2015. Rocks scattered across the smooth surface at the head of Marathon Valley appear to have fallen from Swann Hill and other elevated points flanking the valley (click to enlarge). False-color Pancam images by Holger Isenberg.

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

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THEMIS: Oenotria Scopuli — false color

Steep scarp in Oenotria Scopuli (THEMIS_IOTD_20150730)THEMIS Image of the Day, July 30, 2015. The THEMIS VIS camera contains 5 filters. The data from different filters can be combined in multiple ways to create a false color image. These false color images may reveal subtle variations of the surface not easily identified in a single band image. Today’s false color image shows part of Oenotria Scopuli, which is the cliff boundary in the lover half of the image.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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MARCI weather report, July 20-26, 2015

releaseimg_150720_150726Last week, as the southern autumn/ northern spring seasons progressed on Mars, dust storms were kicked-up at mid-to-high southern latitudes. During this time, the northern plains experienced eastward propagating water-ice clouds and dust storms as the seasonal ice cap continued to defrost. Towards the end of the week, an arcuate shaped dust storm developed over northern Utopia…. [More at link, including video]

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Opportunity: Pvt. Reuben Field

4088-9-MISols 4088-89, 4091, July 25, 26, 28, 2015. The Microscopic Imager has been studying a target named Pvt. Reuben Field, commemorating another of the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery. (His name is variously spelled as Reubin and as Fields.)

The rock is part of the wind-swept “pavement” at the head of Marathon Valley. Click the image to enlarge.

1F491372113EFFCNY9P1148R0M1Below: the Hazcam’s view of the site on Sol 4091 (contrast adjusted).

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

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