Curiosity update: Full plan

1251MH0005580010403821C00_DXXXSol 1253-55, February 12, 2016, update from USGS scientist Ken Herkenhoff: The dune sand samples were dumped onto the ground, but it appears that the sample was partly blown by the wind.  There is enough sample left to investigate with various instruments, so the Sol 1253 plan starts with ChemCam passive spectra and Mastcam multispectral observations of the dump piles and brushed spot.  Later that sol, MAHLI will take pictures of the APXS calibration target and both dump piles before the APXS is placed on the pile of sieved sand for a short integration.  After sunset, the APXS will be moved to a bedrock target named “Bergsig” for another short integration, then to the pile of unsieved sand for a long overnight integration…. [More at link]

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Opportunity field report, February 11, 2016

30_degreesSol 4284, February 11, 2016; Rover Field Report by Larry Crumpler, MER Science Team & New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science: Opportunity continues exploring the outcrops here in Marathon Valley on the west rim of the ancient 22-km diameter Endeavour impact crater. The outcrops in front of us show lots of signs of alteration and…

Opportunity the 12 year-old Martian mountain goat! Opportunity is currently sitting at close to 30 degrees of tilt on the south wall of Marathon Valley. Marathon Valley is a trough several 10′s of meters deep that cuts east-west through the rim… [More at link]


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HiRISE: A possible alluvial fan

ESP_044388_2160This image shows the northern rim of a crater in Deuteronilus. At the northern end, we see the crater rim and ridges inside and below that rim. A channel set is entering from the west and passing through a notch in a ridge. Topographically below that notch, overlapping lobes spread over the crater floor.

Fan-shaped lobes likes these are also in the desert southwest of the United States, and are called “alluvial fans.” They are caused when streams that carry sediment in a confined channel open up onto a plain or wide area, and deposit their sediment just outside of the channel mouth.

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ExoMars 2016: Sealing Schiaparelli

ExoMars_160206-LC-AIT-44pe_crop_625wThe finishing touches are being made to the protective heat shield of Schiaparelli before it is joined to the Trace Gas Orbiter. A team of specialists from Airbus Defence and Space (Aquitaine), who arrived in Baikonur last week, have been busy this week placing and sealing the last of the tiles on Schiaparelli’s heat shield and rear cover.

In October this year, as it plummets through the Martian atmosphere towards the surface, Schiaparelli – the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module – will experience very high temperatures, possibly as high as 1850°C. (…)

This week, as the final launch preparation activities for Schiaparelli draw to a close, it was time to place most of the remaining tiles and bond them into position. The final three tiles will be placed after the installation of Schiaparelli on top of the Trace Gas Orbiter. (…) This was the last task to be carried out on Schiaparelli before it is united with the Trace Gas Orbiter to form what is known as the Spacecraft Composite. [More at link]

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HiRISE: Rounded mounds in northern Arabia Terra

ESP_043834_2160These rounded, mysterious mounds occur along the floor of a depression in northern Arabia Terra. The mound surface has many parallel troughs that contain light-toned transverse aeolian (e.g., formed by the wind) ridges oriented perpendicular to the trough walls.

The resolution of this image will help assess the nature and grain size of the sediment that makes up these mounds and whether layering is present, ultimately helping to constrain the environment in which these mounds formed.

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Curiosity update: Dumping sand samples

NLB_508463750EDR_F0522388NCAM00353M_Sol 1251-52, February 11, 2016, update from USGS scientist Ken Herkenhoff: The short Sol 1250 drive completed successfully, placing the rover in position for contact science on the bedrock outcrop of interest.  We’re planning 2 sols today and 3 sols tomorrow to get the rover through the upcoming holiday weekend.  On Sol 1251, ChemCam will observe a bright vein called “Fiskus” and the sieved sand samples will be dumped onto the bedrock.  Mastcam will take stereo images of the dump piles, then… [More at link]

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THEMIS: Kasei Valles

Flood-smoothened Kasei Valles (THEMIS_IOTD_20160212)THEMIS Image of the Day, February 12, 2016. This VIS image shows a very small portion of Kasei Valles. There are several streamlined islands near the center of the image. The wider part of the island is to the left and the narrowing of the ‘tail’ it to the right, indicating that the flow of the liquid that formed these islands ran from west to east. These features are located near the region where Kasei Valles empties into Chryse Planitia.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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HiRISE: Wind at work

ESP_044000_1750Wind is one of the most active forces shaping Mars’ surface in today’s climate. The wind has carved the features we call “yardangs,” one of many in this scene, and deposited sand on the floor of shallow channels between them.

On the sand, the wind forms ripples and small dunes. In Mars’ thin atmosphere, light is not scattered much, so the shadows cast by the yardangs are sharp and dark. (Note: The cutout is not map-projected, so approximate north is down). [More at link]

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Curiosity update: Bumping for contact science

NLB_508377456EDR_F0522262NCAM00352M_Sol 1250, February 10, 2016, update from USGS scientist Ken Herkenhoff: The Sol 1249 drive went well, leaving the rover in an area with many nice outcrops of bright bedrock.  A large outcrop, partly visible at the left side of the image above, was chosen as the target for dumping the sand sample and examining it this weekend.  So, after ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the bedrock target “Kuiseb,” the vehicle will back up, turn a bit to the left, then drive forward to get the large outcrop into the arm workspace… [More at link]

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THEMIS: Lonar Crater

Lonar Crater (THEMIS_IOTD_20160211)THEMIS Image of the Day, February 11, 2016. This VIS image shows Lonar Crater. This is a fairly pristine crater, with a steep slope on the interior of the rim and little to no deposition of material on the floor. The rim is dissected by gullies, but this is the extent of modification visible at this resolution.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.


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HiRISE: Inverted terrain in Eridania Basin

ESP_043946_1415The Eridania Basin is thought to have once contained a large sea. This image shows the Gorgonum Basin, which lies along the eastern edge of Eridania.

Along this eastern boundary, the terrain is being eroded away to expose light-toned altered material, including clays. There are also linear ridges and inverted channels. The channels and ridges are now inverted because they are composed of material that is harder than their surroundings (e.g., cements) so as erosion removes the softer materials, the harder rocks within the channels and ridges remain. [More at link]

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Curiosity: Viewing northwest, southeast

1249-navcam-nSol 1249, February 10, 2016. Two Navcam composites show the view toward the northwest (above) and southeast of the rover. To the northwest, the view is toward the Naukluft Plateau, to the right of High Dune (at left). In the southeast view, the two dunes frame a barely-glimpsed Mt. Sharp. Click to enlarge.

Sol 1249 raw images (from all cameras), and Curiosity’s latest location.


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MARCI weather report, February 1-7, 2016

releaseimg_160201_160207The aphelion cloud-belt, composed of diffuse water-ice aerosols, prevailed over the mid-to-low latitudes of the red planet last week. Looking to the southern highlands, a couple local scale dust storms were observed over Syria / Solis and northern Aonia. Focusing on the plains of the northern hemisphere, storm activity was uneventful…. [More at link, including video]

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HiRISE: Flow-like features near Kasei Valles

tumblr_o1ryv8Fg9R1rlz4gso1_1280Flow-like features near Kasei Valles. Beautiful Mars series.

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Curiosity update: 12 kilometers and counting

NLB_508288764EDR_F0521722NCAM00282M_Sol 1249, February 9, 2016, update from USGS scientist Ken Herkenhoff: The rover has traversed over 12 km since landing, and another drive is planned for Sol 1249.  The tactical planning team decided to forgo targeted remote science observations before the drive to allow more time for driving.  The goal is to get the vehicle to a location that will allow the remaining dune sample to be dumped and examined in detail this weekend, and this will require more drive time than originally planned.  With only a few science… [More at link]

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