Curiosity update: Getting ready for the SAM geochronology experiment

NRB_571671286EDR_F0680580NCAM00298M_-br2Sol 1963, February 12, 2018, update by MSL scientist Lauren Edgar: Over the weekend Curiosity drove ~52 m to the northeast to another patch of gray bedrock. The team is interested in characterizing the gray bedrock to determine if we might want to drill here. But before we can think about drilling again, we need to wrap up our analyses of the cached Ogunquit Beach sample. This means that we need to do some SAM preconditioning today, which is a very power-hungry activity. That also means that there’s not a lot of power for other science activities, but we did manage to squeeze in a few contact science activities. I was the SOWG Chair today, and it was exciting to be back to planning nominal sols, which means we’ll plan every day this week. However, it was an early slide sol, so the day kicked off dark and early at 6am.

Today’s one sol plan starts with the SAM preconditioning activity, which heats up a sample cup in order to prepare for solid sample analysis. In the afternoon, we’ll use the DRT to clear a fresh patch of gray bedrock to analyze with MAHLI and APXS at the target “Newmachar,” followed by MAHLI imaging of the target “Yesnaby” to investigate a dark gray vein. We’ll also acquire some additional workspace imaging to… [More at link]

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Opportunity: Closeup on Nueva Vizcaya

4994-mi1P571439949ESFD174P2509L5M1_L2L5L5L7L7Sol 4994, February 10, 2018. The Microscopic Imager moved in on a target dubbed Nueva Vizcaya, and “papered” the outcrop with a set of images. This rock surface appears to be etched and eroded by wind-blown sand particles.

At right is a Sol 4993 false-color Pancam (by Holger Isenberg) with the target area identified. Click either image to enlarge it.

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

 

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THEMIS: Unstable canyon walls

Unstable canyon walls (THEMIS_IOTD_20180213)THEMIS Image of the Day, February 13, 2018. This VIS image of Tithonium Chasma shows the canyon wall at the top of the frame, a series of landslide deposits in the middle, and an eroded mound of materials at the bottom. The mound has been eroded, most likely by wind action.

Tithonium Chasma has numerous large landslide deposits. The resistant material of the plateau surface forms the linear ridges of the canyon wall. Large landslides have changed the walls and floor of the canyon. A landslide is a failure of slope due to gravity. They initiate due to several reasons. A lower layer of poorly cemented/resistant material may have been eroded, undermining the wall above which then collapses; earth quake seismic waves can cause the slope to collapse; and even an impact event near the canyon wall can cause collapse.

As millions of tons of material fall and slide down slope a scalloped cavity forms at the upper part where the slope failure occurred. At the material speeds downhill it will pick up more of the underlying slope, increasing the volume of material entrained into the landslide. Whereas some landslides spread across the canyon floor forming lobate deposits, very large volume slope failures will completely fill the canyon floor in a large complex region of chaotic blocks.

Tithonium Chasma is at the western end of Valles Marineris. Valles Marineris is over 4000 kilometers long, wider than the United States. Tithonium Chasma is almost 810 kilometers long (499 miles), 50 kilometers wide, and over 6 kilometers deep. In comparison, the Grand Canyon in Arizona is about 175 kilometers long, 30 kilometers wide, and only 2 kilometers deep.

The canyons of Valles Marineris were formed by extensive fracturing and pulling apart of the crust during the uplift of the vast Tharsis plateau. Landslides have enlarged the canyon walls and created deposits on the canyon floor. Weathering of the surface and influx of dust and sand have modified the canyon floor.

NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft has spent over 15 years in orbit around Mars, circling the planet more than 71,000 times. It holds the record for longest working spacecraft at Mars. THEMIS, the IR/VIS camera system, has collected data for the entire mission and provides images covering all seasons and lighting conditions.

Over the years many features of interest have received repeated imaging, building up a suite of images covering the entire feature. From the deepest chasma to the tallest volcano, individual dunes inside craters and dune fields that encircle the north pole, channels carved by water and lava, and a variety of other feature, THEMIS has imaged them all.

For the next several months the Image of the Day will focus on the Tharsis volcanoes, the various chasmata of Valles Marineris, and the major dune fields. We hope you enjoy these images!

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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THEMIS: Overlapping landslides in Tithonium Chasma

Overlapping landslides (THEMIS_IOTD_20180212)THEMIS Image of the Day, February 12, 2018. In this VIS image a complex region of multiple overlapping landslide deposits fills most the the frame. The very top layer has the lobate edges and radial surface grooves of a low volume slide. It appears to be the top of a complex layering of materials. It is possible that all the lower layers are landslides as well. Whether the layers formed very close in time of over thousands of years can not be determined in the image.

Tithonium Chasma has numerous large landslide deposits. The resistant material of the plateau surface forms the linear ridges of the canyon wall. Large landslides have changed the walls and floor of the canyon. A landslide is a failure of slope due to gravity. They initiate due to several reasons. A lower layer of poorly cemented/resistant material may have been eroded, undermining the wall above which then collapses; earth quake seismic waves can cause the slope to collapse; and even an impact event near the canyon wall can cause collapse.

As millions of tons of material fall and slide down slope a scalloped cavity forms at the upper part where the slope failure occurred. At the material speeds downhill it will pick up more of the underlying slope, increasing the volume of material entrained into the landslide. Whereas some landslides spread across the canyon floor forming lobate deposits, very large volume slope failures will completely fill the canyon floor in a large complex region of chaotic blocks.

Tithonium Chasma is at the western end of Valles Marineris. Valles Marineris is over 4000 kilometers long, wider than the United States. Tithonium Chasma is almost 810 kilometers long (499 miles), 50 kilometers wide, and over 6 kilometers deep. In comparison, the Grand Canyon in Arizona is about 175 kilometers long, 30 kilometers wide, and only 2 kilometers deep.

The canyons of Valles Marineris were formed by extensive fracturing and pulling apart of the crust during the uplift of the vast Tharsis plateau. Landslides have enlarged the canyon walls and created deposits on the canyon floor. Weathering of the surface and influx of dust and sand have modified the canyon floor.

NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft has spent over 15 years in orbit around Mars, circling the planet more than 71,000 times. It holds the record for longest working spacecraft at Mars. THEMIS, the IR/VIS camera system, has collected data for the entire mission and provides images covering all seasons and lighting conditions.

Over the years many features of interest have received repeated imaging, building up a suite of images covering the entire feature. From the deepest chasma to the tallest volcano, individual dunes inside craters and dune fields that encircle the north pole, channels carved by water and lava, and a variety of other feature, THEMIS has imaged them all.

For the next several months the Image of the Day will focus on the Tharsis volcanoes, the various chasmata of Valles Marineris, and the major dune fields. We hope you enjoy these images!

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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Curiosity update: Final call

1955MH0001630000704369R00_DXXX-br2Sol 1961-62, February 9, 2018, update by MSL scientist Rachel Kronyak: Today we planned for a weekend of activities at the same location we’ve been at all week. While we’re ready and eager to see some new terrain, we had no shortage of interesting science targets to fill our plan.

On the first sol of the weekend plan (Sol 1961), we have a nice long science block that we’ve filled with a suite of ChemCam observations: LIBS measurements on bedrock targets “Glenfinnan” and “Skara Brae,” a long-distance RMI image of the lower slopes of Mount Sharp, and a passive measurement of “Bloodstone Hill.” We’ll take a Mastcam image to document the LIBS targets and an additional Mastcam image for change detection. When we’re at a single location for an extended period of time, we like to take repeat Mastcam images of the same target area across multiple sols. This allows us to compare the images and look for any changes or movement in the field of view. Finally, we’ll take a Navcam movie to look for dust devils… [More at link]

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HiRISE: Etched terrain in Meridiani Planum

tumblr_p3w3jxA1oV1rlz4gso2_1280Etched terrain in Meridiani Planum. Meridiani Planum is a plain located 2 degrees south of Mars’ equator, and the region itself is home to the rover Opportunity. (Altitude: 271 km.)

Beautiful Mars series.

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter preps aging hardware, instruments for extended operation

pia22215-16-640x350NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has begun extra stargazing to help the space agency accomplish advances in Mars exploration over the next decade.

The spacecraft already has worked more than double its planned mission life since launch in 2005. NASA plans to keep using it past the mid-2020s. Increased reliance on a star tracker, and less on aging gyroscopes, is one way the mission is adapting to extend its longevity. Another step is wringing more useful life from batteries. The mission’s extended service provides data relay from assets on Mars’ surface and observations with its science instruments, despite some degradation in capabilities.

“We know we’re a critical element for the Mars Program to support other missions for the long haul, so we’re finding ways to extend the spacecraft’s life,” said MRO Project Manager Dan Johnston of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “In flight operations, our emphasis is on minimizing risk to the spacecraft while carrying out an ambitious scientific and programmatic plan.” JPL partners with Lockheed Martin Space, Denver, in operating the spacecraft.

(…)

MRO continues to investigate Mars with all six of the orbiter’s science instruments, a decade after what was initially planned as a two-year science mission to be followed by a two-year relay mission. More than 1,200 scientific publications have been based on MRO observations. Teams operating the two instruments named most often in research papers — the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera and the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) mineral-mapper — are dealing with challenges but are ready to continue providing valuable observations.

For example, some HiRISE images taken in 2017 and early 2018 show slight blurring not seen earlier in the mission. The cause is under investigation. The percentage of full-resolution images with blurring peaked at 70 percent last October, at about the time when Mars was at the point in its orbit farthest from the Sun. The percentage has since declined to less than 20 percent. Even before the first blurred images were seen, observations with HiRISE commonly used a technique that covers more ground area at half the resolution. This still provides higher resolution than any other camera orbiting Mars — about 2 feet (60 centimeters) per pixel — and little blurring has appeared in the resulting images… [More at link]

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Curiosity: Southern view from the ridge-top

1959-navcamSol 1959, February 8, 2018. Three Navcam frames show the southern horizon, from Mt. Sharp at left to the western buttes on the right. In between are the layered sediments that are Curiosity’s eventual goal. Closer to the camera lies the Clay Unit (“Phyllosilicate Valley”), and in the immediate foreground are the sediments on top of Vera Rubin Ridge. Click the image to enlarge it.

Sol 1959 raw images (from all cameras), and Curiosity’s latest location.

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Opportunity: Checking out the North Wall

4993-navcam1P571439949ESFD174P2509L5M1_L2L5L5L7L7Sol 4993, February 9, 2018. With a short drive, Opportunity is parked next to the outcrop dubbed the North Wall. This is one of the features that delineate the Perseverance Valley channel.

Above is a three-frame Navcam composite, at right is a false-color Pancam image (by Holger Isenberg) showing the part of North Wall which lies within the instrument arm’s workplane. Click either image to enlarge it.

For other images showing the North Wall and surroundings, see here and here.

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

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HiRISE: Crater tadpoles

ESP_053222_2150This impact crater looks amusingly like a tadpole because of the valley that was carved by water that used to fill it. When the water level inside the crater increased, it breached the crater wall, flowed outward and formed a valley. Sometimes, the water may flow in the opposite direction, like from a channel into a crater.

It is often difficult to differentiate between inlet and outlet channels, but water always flows downhill. In this particular case, we can infer that water is flowing outward because we have the necessary terrain-height information… [More at link]

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