Curiosity update: After the drill is before the drill…

FLB_608868950EDR_F0751398FHAZ00302M_-br2Sol 2382, April 19, 2019, update by MSL scientist Susanne Schwenzer: Some days just give me goose bumps. First, looking at yesterday’s plan I realized that we did something really unusual overnight: Wrap up the drill activity on one site and start the drill activities on the next in the same sol. As reported yesterday, we said Good-bye to “Aberlady,” and we turned the rover to “Kilmarie,” our next drill target. The two targets are just 80 centimetres away from each other.

But that was not the only thing that made the day special. On some days we start planning just before the MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) data downlink is due to deliver the data that we need for planning. Today was such a day. Seeing the data arrive, displaying them the moment they show up, and discussing what we see immediately after the data reached us, is one of the most exciting moments of such a… [More at link]

Posted in Reports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stagnant ice deposits in Terra Cimmeria

fig_5[Editor’s note: From a paper by Solmaz Adeli and five co-authors recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.]

Geomorphological evidence of localized stagnant ice deposits in Terra Cimmeria, Mars

• Small debris‐covered stagnant ice deposits (termed valley fill deposits or VFD) are located inside a valleys system in Terra Cimmeria, Mars.
• Morphological properties (convex‐upward morphology, crevasses, and sublimation pits) suggest a current degradational stage of VFD evolution.
• The location of VFD within the ejecta blanket of Middle Amazonian Tarq crater points to impact into shallow ice as likely formation process.

In the last two decades with the increase of high resolution imagery data, more studies report the presence of ice deposits covered by dust and debris on the Martian surface, in both mid‐latitudes. These deposits must have been formed under different atmospheric conditions, since water ice is not stable in the current surface environment.

One of the generally accepted hypotheses for their formation is precipitation induced by variations of Mars’ axial tilt known as obliquity. During high obliquity phases, ice would have sublimated from the poles and re‐deposited in the mid‐latitudes.

Here, we report the presence of small‐scale ice deposits, located on the floor of a valley system in Terra Cimmeria. Although it is clear that these deposits were formed in different climatic conditions, their formation seems to be related to an impact into a shallow subsurface ice layer, redistributing a mixture of ejected material and ice across the region around the impact site.

This study shows the importance of local geological processes, e.g. impact cratering, in investigations of water ice distribution on Mars. Near‐surface ice reservoirs are of high importance in the search for life, and for future human exploration on Mars. [More at link]

Posted in Reports | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

HiRISE: Bedrock on the floor of Kaiser Crater

ESP_058616_1330HiRISE has often imaged inside Kaiser Crater to monitor active sand dunes and gullies. Surrounding these dunes, we often find clean bedrock exposures, because the actively moving sand clears off the dust.

Kaiser Crater is 207 kilometers wide and was named after Frederik Kaiser, a Dutch astronomer (1808—1872).

Posted in Reports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Evolution of the landscape at Endeavour Crater

fig_7[Editor’s note: From a paper by Madison Hughes and five co-authors recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.]

Degradation of Endeavour crater based on orbital and rover‐based observations in combination with landscape evolution modeling

• Landscape evolution modeling indicates Endeavour experienced an early period of fluvial erosion in a semi‐arid environment.
• Since the deposition of the Grasberg and Burns formation rocks, wind erosion has excavated interior deposits and eroded the crater rim.
• Up to ~400 meters of Burns formation rocks have been excavated from the interior of Endeavour crater.

The Opportunity Rover explored the rim of the Noachian age Endeavour crater from 2010 until 2018. Only small segments of its rim are exposed above a regional sulfate‐bearing sandstone unit called the Burns formation. By studying the morphology of these rim segments with orbital data sets and observations from Opportunity, the history of the degradation of the crater was identified.

The nearby Bopolu crater is similar in size to Endeavour, but is younger and fresher. Simulating the erosion of Bopolu to create a crater rim that looks similar to Endeavour’s current rim shows that Endeavour experienced a late Noachian period of fluvial erosion in an arid environment.

Erosion lowered the crater rim by ~0.3 km, routing ~0.5 km thick section of sediment into the crater interior, where a very shallow lake was likely present. Endeavour was then partially buried by Grasberg and Burns formation rocks. Since then regional winds coming from the east have excavated some of the interior sandstone unit in Endeavour and carved into the interior rim, including Perseverance Valley. [More at link]

Posted in Reports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THEMIS: Bonestell Crater in false color

Bonestell Crater in false color (THEMIS_IOTD_20190419)THEMIS Image of the Day, April 19, 2019. Today’s false-color image shows part of Bonestell Crater. This is a relatively young crater located in Acidalia Planitia.

Dust blown into the crater and the downslope movement of fine materials from the rim are slowly modifying the crater features. This material is responsible for the sand dunes visible at the bottom of the image. Dark blue tones in this false color combination typically indicate basaltic materials.

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.

Explore more THEMIS Images of the Day by geological subject.

Posted in Reports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HiRISE: Pits and depressions to the east of Juventae Chasma

ESP_054794_1760-2Pits and depressions to the east of Juventae Chasma. Juventae Chasma is a large box canyon, located north of Valles Marineris in the Coprates quadrangle and cuts more than 5 kilometers into the plains of Lunae Planum.

HiRISE Picture of the Day archive. [More at links]

Posted in Reports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Mars 2020: Things are stacking up for the spacecraft

PIA23164_hiresFor the past few months, the clean room floor in High Bay 1 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has been covered in parts, components and test equipment for the Mars 2020 spacecraft, scheduled for launch toward the Red Planet in July of 2020. But over the past few weeks, some of these components – the spacecraft-rocket-laden landing system and even the stand-in for the rover (christened “surrogate-rover”) – have seemingly disappeared.

In reality, they are still there, tucked neatly into the entry capsule, as they will be when it’s time for launch. The procedure is known as vehicle stacking and involves a hyper-detailed plan for what goes where and when.

“One of our main jobs is to make sure the rover and all the hardware that is required to get the rover from here on Earth to the surface of Mars fits inside the payload fairing of an Atlas V rocket, which gives us about 15 feet [5 meters] of width to work with,” said David Gruel, assembly, test and launch operations (ATLO) manager for Mars 2020 at JPL.

The first step is to place the rocket-powered descent stage on top of the surrogate rover (the real rover is being integrated and tested in tandem with the spacecraft stack). Then, when all the holes line up and everything is attached, checked and re-checked again, the back shell is lowered over them via gantry crane… [More at link]

Posted in Reports | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

Curiosity update: Goodbye, my fair Aberlady

2375MR0126270011002059E01_DXXX-br2Sol 2381, April 17, 2019, update by MSL scientist Sarah Lamm: Curiosity is finishing up at “Aberlady” and ready to move on to our next drill target. We are preparing to drill a second hole in the clay bearing unit. Reaching this region, and drilling has been a goal since Curiosity landed over 6 years ago (Sol 2369-2371:This is why we came to Gale.) We were already successful drilling once, and now we will attempt to drill for a second time. Anytime we drill, we take a few sols to prepare. Tosol is considered drill… [More at link]

Posted in Reports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

HiRISE: Abstract art in Ius Chasma

ESP_058593_1710Sometimes Mars’ surface is just beautiful as seen through the eyes of HiRISE.

This is one example on the floor of Ius Chasma, part of Valles Marineris. The region has had a complex history of sediment deposition, deformation, erosion, and alteration.

Posted in Reports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

THEMIS: North polar ice cap in false color

North polar layers in false color (THEMIS_IOTD_20190418)THEMIS Image of the Day, April 18, 2019. The polar caps of Mars were deposited over millions of years. Seasonal depositions of ice and dust have created layer upon layer of material. In this false color image the white and orange layered features are the polar cap. The greenish and purplish regions are ice free surfaces.

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.

Explore more THEMIS Images of the Day by geological subject.

Posted in Reports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off