Curiosity update: Scoop #1 at Ogunquit Beach

1650MH0007000010603117E01_DXXXSol 1651, March 28, 2017, update by USGS scientist Lauren Edgar: Sol 1650 activities completed as expected, so it’s time to start scooping.  Today’s plan is focused on acquiring Scoop #1 and dropping off a portion of the sample to SAM.  This is the first of four intended scoops at this location, aimed at sampling different grain sizes and their composition. The plan begins with a Mastcam mosaic of “Kennebago Divide” to document some possible layering exposed by the wheel scuff on the right side of the workspace.  We’ll also take several Mastcam images for change detection to monitor active sand movement.  Then the arm backbone starts by retracting the arm and a vibe to clean APXS.  After that we’ll take a few… [More at link]

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THEMIS: Rabe Crater dune field in VIS

Rabe Crater dunes in VIS (THEMIS_IOTD_20170329)THEMIS Image of the Day, March 29, 2017. This VIS image was collected simultaneously with yesterday’s IR image. It shows part of the dune field on the floor of Rabe Crater. Scientists compare VIS images with IR ones to help determine the properties of the ground surface. (More on Rabe Crater here.)

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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HiRISE: Plains south of Valles Marineris

ESP_011359_1695This enhanced-color sample reveals the incredible diversity of landforms on some Martian plains that appear bland and uniform at larger scales.

Here we see layers, small channels suggesting water flow, craters, and indurated sand dunes. [More at link]

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Curiosity update: Let the scooping begin!

NLB_543883973EDR_F0620108NCAM00399M_Sol 1650, March 27, 2017, update by USGS scientist Lauren Edgar: Over the weekend, Curiosity bumped to our scooping location at “Ogunquit Beach.”  We have a wheel scuff in the left side of our workspace and a sinuous ripple crest in the right side of the workspace, which according to today’s Geology Science Theme Lead Michelle Minitti is “everything a dune lover could want!” Today’s plan is focused on imaging the ripple crest, the interior of the… [More at link]

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ExoMars 2020: To Oxia Planum… or Mawrth Vallis

Oxia_Planum_texture_mapTwo ancient sites on Mars that hosted an abundance of water in the planet’s early history have been recommended as the final candidates for the landing site of the 2020 ExoMars rover and surface science platform: Oxia Planum and Mawrth Vallis.

A primary technical constraint is that the landing site be at a suitably low level, so that there is sufficient atmosphere to help slow the landing module’s parachute descent. Then, the 120 x 19 km landing ellipse should not contain features that could endanger the landing, the deployment of the surface platform ramps for the rover to exit, and driving of the rover. This means scrutinising the region for steep slopes, loose material and large rocks. (…)

After a two-day meeting with experts from the Mars science community, industry, and ExoMars project, during which the scientific merits of the three sites were presented alongside the preliminary compliance status with the engineering constraints, it was concluded that Mawrth Vallis will be the second site to be evaluated in more detail.

Around a year before launch, the final decision will be taken on which site will become the ExoMars 2020 landing target. [More at links]

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Curiosity: Rocks layered like wafers

1648-mastcam34Sol 1648, March 26, 2017. The Mastcam’s 34mm lens captured a color view looking southwest from its position at Ogunquit Beach. Most of the rocks scattered across the surface show a finely layered, wafer-like structure. A few also show bright mineral veins cutting across the rock’s layers, suggesting at least two geological episodes.

One episode was the original deposition, either in the open air or on a lake bottom, then came a mineralizing process that left bright veins (of sulfate minerals?) in cracks within the rocks. Finally, some process broke up the rocks and tumbled them across the landscape. Click the image (5 MB) for a larger version. (A Navcam view from nearby on Sol 1646 is here; many rocks appear in both images, but from different perspectives.)

Sol 1648 raw images (from all cameras), and Curiosity’s latest location.

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HiRISE: Unusual dunes on a crater floor

tumblr_onfory3LZE1rlz4gso1_1280Unusual dunes on a crater floor. Beautiful Mars series.

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THEMIS: Rabe Crater dunes in infrared

Rabe Crater dunes in infrared (THEMIS_IOTD_20170328)THEMIS Image of the Day, March 28, 2017. This image of Rabe Crater and the region around it was collected using the IR (infrared) camera. The brighter the material, the warmer the surface is. Most dunes on Mars are dark in visible wavelengths and bright in infrared. The majority of large craters in the southern hemisphere contain dunes on the crater floor.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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Opportunity: Geologically fresh crater

1P543663215EFFCXAPP2556L5M1_L2L5L5L7L7Sol 4680, March 24, 2017. A relatively fresh crater from a small meteorite impact lies out on the sands of Meridiani, just west of the Endeavour Crater rim. (False color Pancam  reconstruction by Holger Isenberg.) For a larger version, click the image.

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

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HiRISE: The splitting of the dunes

ESP_012897_1685The mound in the center of this image appears to have blocked the path of the dunes as they marched south (north is to the left in this image) across the scene. Many of these transverse dunes have slipfaces that face south, although in some cases, it’s hard to tell for certain. Smaller dunes run perpendicular to some of the larger-scale dunes, probably indicating a shift in wind directions in this area.

Although it might be hard to tell, this group of dunes is very near the central pit of a 35-kilometer-wide impact crater. Data from other instruments indicate the presence of clay-like materials in the rock… [More at link]

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