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]

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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]

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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.

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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.

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Curiosity update: Lucky number 3

2377MR0126370011002078E01_DXXX-br2Sol 2380, April 16, 2019, update by MSL scientist Brittney Cooper: Yesterday’s discussions with the science team focused on determining which target in the vicinity of “Aberlady” will become the focus of the next drill campaign: target 2, or target 3 (pictured in the Sol 2379 Mission Update). In the end, target 3 was recommended by rover planners for its flatter texture, as an APXS raster of both targets showed there wasn’t a large difference in composition between the two. Once formally included in plan activities, target 3 will be given a proper name consistent with those being used in the “Glen Torridon” region.

Tosol begins with a MAHLI open cover image of the Aberlady sample dump pile (shown above) and then an arm retract to get it out of the way for a Mastcam multispectral observation of the dump pile that follows. Next, a Navcam dust devil survey and suprahorizon movie are included to monitor clouds and… [More at link]

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MARCI weather report, April 8-14, 2019

MARCI-April-12-2019Weather patterns were fairly typical across Mars this past week. Looking to the northern hemisphere, a couple of dust storms dipped southward towards southern Acidalia. Neighboring these events, a local-scale storm occurred over Tempe Terra near the beginning of the week. Focusing on the other side of the red planet, numerous transient dust storms, associated with the developing seasonal south polar hood, passed over the high southern latitudes. Moving our attention towards the tropics, some short-lived dust activity was spotted over Syria Planum at the end of the week… [More at link, including video]

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HiRISE: Landslides in Cerberus Fossae

ESP_058571_1965Cerberus Fossae is a steep-sided set of troughs cutting volcanic plains to the east of Elysium Mons. Steep slopes on Mars have active landslides (also called “mass wasting”), and here we see evidence for two types of activity.

First, the light bluish boulders on the slope appear to originate at a layer of bedrock (also light blue) near the top of the section. Second, the dark thin lines are recurring slope lineae, probably also due to mass wasting, but composed of finer-grained materials. [More at link]

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THEMIS: Not white, not rock

Pollack Crater in false color (THEMIS_IOTD_20190417)THEMIS Image of the Day, April 17, 2019. This VIS image shows part of the floor of Pollack Crater. First imaged by Mariner 9, the high contrast between the crater floor and the bright feature, led to the informal name “white rock” for the bright floor feature. More recent images have shown that the floor of Pollack Crater is darker then normal in that part of the crater, which has produced the high contrast.

THEMIS infrared images of the feature indicate a composition produced by wind deposition, rather than water. Additionally, the deposit does not appear to be solid rock. The deposit is most likely a combination of dust and a more solid material. Taken together, the Mariner 9 image of white rock didn’t hold up under careful study, it’s not white and it’s not rock!

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.

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Curiosity: Scoping out a hillside

2379-rmiSol 2379, April 16, 2019. Curiosity’s Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) shot a five-frame composite of a hillside with layered rocks that lies south of the rover.  Below is a two-frame Navcam composite from Sol 2376 showing Mt. Sharp and the terrain in front; the approximate location of the RMI composite is outlined by the yellow box. Both images enlarge when clicked; (clicking is necessary to see the yellow outline box.)

Sol 2379 raw images (from all cameras).

2376-navcam-sharp

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Curiosity: Peering into Aberlady drill hole

2378MH0007740010900199C00_DXXXSol 2378, April 15, 2019. The rover’s Mars Hand-Lens Imager (MAHLI) peered into the Aberlady drill hole and saw tailings inside and out. In addition, it recorded the light-toned layer partway down the hole. Its composition — gypsum? — and origin remain so far undetermined. Some of the white flecks among the tailings and on the rock surface are likely bits of this layer. Click the image to enlarge it.

Sol 2378 raw images (from all cameras).

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