Opportunity Leaving ‘Tribulation’ Behind

Opportunity took this panorama shot of "Rocheport Ridge" as it left Cape Tribulation. Rocheport is on the southern end of Cape Tribulation. Image:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

You’d have to be an intrepid explorer to investigate something named ‘Cape Tribulation’. Opportunity, NASA’s long-lived rover on Mars’ surface, has been just that. But Opportunity is now leaving Cape Tribulation behind, after being in that area since late 2014, or for about 30 months.

Cape Tribulation is the name given to a segment of crater rim at Endeavour Crater, where Opportunity has been for over 5 1/2 years. During that time, Opportunity reached some important milestones. While there, it surpassed 26 miles in distance travelled, the length of a marathon race. It also reached its highest elevation yet, and in ‘Marathon Valley’, it investigated clay outcrops seen from orbit. Opportunity also had some struggles there, when its flash memory stopped working, meaning all data had to be transmitted every day, or lost.

Sol 3906, January 19, 2015. Summit panorama from Cape Tribulation from the Opportunity Mars Rover. Credit: NASA/Arizona State University.

Before reaching Cape Tribulation 30 months ago, Opportunity investigated other parts of Endeavour Crater called “Cape York,” “Solander Point” and “Murray Ridge.”

Some of the named features at Endeavour Crater. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The rover’s next destination is Perseverance Valley, where it will investigate how it was carved out billions of years ago: by water, by wind, or perhaps flowing material lubricated by water. Before leaving Cape Tribulation, Opportunity captured the panoramic image of Rochefort Ridge, a section of the Endeavour Crater rim marked by grooves on its side.”The degree of erosion at Rocheport is fascinating,” said Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson, of Washington University in St. Louis. “Grooves run perpendicular to the crest line. They may have been carved by water or ice or wind. We want to see as many features like this on the way to Perseverance Valley as we can, for comparison with what we find there.”

Endeavour crater is about 22km in diameter, and Perseverance Valley is about 2 football fields long. The goal at Endeavour is to investigate its segmented rim, where the oldest rocks ever investigated on Mars are exposed. Since the beginning of April, Opportunity has travelled about 98 meters, to a point where Cape Tribulation meets the plain around the crater.

“From the Cape Tribulation departure point, we’ll make a beeline to the head of Perseverance Valley…” – Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson

“From the Cape Tribulation departure point, we’ll make a beeline to the head of Perseverance Valley, then turn left and drive down the full length of the valley, if we can,” Arvidson said. “It’s what you would do if you were an astronaut arriving at a feature like this: Start at the top, looking at the source material, then proceed down the valley, looking at deposits along the way and at the bottom.”

It’s the nature of those deposits that can give vital clues to how Perseverance Valley was formed. Arvidson said, “If it was a debris flow, initiated by a little water, with lots of rocks moving downhill, it should be a jumbled mess. If it was a river cutting a channel, we may see gravel bars, crossbedding, and what’s called a ‘fining upward’ pattern of sediments, with coarsest rocks at the bottom.”

Opportunity, and its sister rover Spirit, arrived at Mars in 2004, with a planned mission length of 90 days. Opportunity has surpassed that by over 12 years, and continues to perform extremely well in the Martian environment.

How to Steal a Space Shuttle

For two days, from October 12 to 13, the shuttle Endeavour will be transported along 12 miles of road on the final leg of its journey to the California Science Center. During that time the orbiter will be the most publicly exposed as it’s ever been, a national treasure on the streets of LA. While this will of course be a well-orchestrated undertaking with the security of not only Endeavour but citizens and spectators being of utmost priority, one might be prompted to speculate: what if someone tried to steal the space shuttle?

And that one, in this instance, was Jalopnik.com‘s Jason Torchinsky. In his latest article, Jason describes in detail a method for snatching a spaceship — and a rather dramatic one at that, worthy of a Bondian supervillian (and requiring a similarly cinematic amount of funds.) However nefarious, fictitious, and unlikely, it’s nevertheless intriguing.

Now while we don’t encourage the theft of a space shuttle (or any federal property, for that matter) it’s a fun read… check it out.

Just keep an eye out for any suspicious Swiss skulking along Endeavour’s route…

(Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Fly Over California Alongside a Space Shuttle!

A view of Endeavour and SCA over California from one of NASA’s F/A-18 chase planes (NASA/DFRC)

We’ve shared several videos from Endeavour’s trip to Los Angeles last week, taken by excited spectators along various portions of the flight path, but what was it like for the crews of the two NASA F/A-18 chase planes that accompanied the orbiter and SCA every step of the way?

Watch the video below, and put yourself in the pilot’s seat…

Shared by NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, the video shows footage taken from the viewpoint of one of the chase planes as Endeavour was ferried aboard a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base to Los Angeles International Airport.

Along the way SCA pilots Jeff Moultrie and Bill Rieke, both from NASA’s Johnson Space Center, guided the 747 over such landmarks as the State Capitol in Sacramento, the Golden Gate Bridge at San Francisco, and NASA’s Ames Research Center.

Once over the Los Angeles area Endeavour passed over well-known landmarks like Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood sign, Dodger Stadium, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Malibu Beach and the Santa Monica Pier, and Disneyland.

After several low flybys of the runway — some under 300 feet! — the SCA touched down at LAX on Runway 25L at 12:51 p.m. PDT.

NASA’s four F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, operated by Dryden Flight Research Center, are commonly called chase planes and fill the role of escort aircraft during research missions. They also are used as camera platforms for research missions that must be photographed or videotaped. Two of these chase planes accompanied Endeavour on its flight for such documentation as well as for security.

See more images of the F/A-18s here, and for more photos of Endeavour’s trip to California check out the NASA photographer photo set on Flickr.

Video: Dryden TV

Shuttle Endeavour Lands for the Final Time at Edwards Air Force Base

En route to its final home in Los Angeles, space shuttle Endeavour is taking a victory tour of sorts through the southern part of the US. Yesterday, the shuttle took off from Kennedy Space Center, mounted atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), and landed in Ellington Field near Johnson Space Center in Houston, flying over the Houston area to allow crowds of people to see the unusual spectacle of the shuttle and the 747 aircraft flying together low over the city. Today, the duo made a flyover of Tucson, Arizona, a request of space shuttle commander Mark Kelly so that his wife and former senator Gabrielle Giffords could watch — along with thousands of others in the Tucson area.

@ShuttleCDRKelly posted this picture on Twitter of himself and Gabrielle Giffords watching Endeavour fly over Tucson, Arizona.

Before flying over Houston, Endeavour and the SCA made low passes over NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and Lockheed Martin’s Michoud Assembly Facility on the east side of New Orleans, where the shuttle’s external fuel tanks were built.

Following an overnight stay at Edwards Air Force Base on Thursday, the SCA and Endeavour will salute the surrounding area early Friday, Sept. 21 with a low flyby northbound to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area. Then, the aircraft will travel south, making a pass over NASA’s Ames Research Center, Vandenberg Air Force Base and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory before heading into the Los Angeles area.

Finally, the SCA and Endeavour will land about noon PDT at Los Angeles International Airport, for an arrival ceremony before Endeavour is taken off the SCA and transported to its permanent home at the California Science Center next month.

There is a “Spot The Shuttle” page on NASA’s Flickr stream where people have been uploading their images of the shuttle flying over, so check them out here.

This video shows excited students and faculty at the University of Arizona watching the shuttle fly over campus:

Endeavour Departs Kennedy Forever for California Home

Image caption: Endeavour departs Kennedy Space Center forever on Sept 19 on last flight of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. Credit: Ken Kremer

Under cloudy skies at first light, Space Shuttle Endeavour departed NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida early Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, at about 7:22 a.m. EDT marking the final flight of NASA’s storied shuttle program.

The 100 ton Endeavour was secured atop NASA’s specially modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft for the cross-country ferry flight to California and Los Angeles International Airport.

The farewell flight went off without a hitch following two days of weather related delays. The shuttle & 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) Jumbo Jet were in tip top shape.

Image caption: Endeavour’s Final Takeoff atop modified Boeing 747 from the Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 19 to California home. Credit: Ken Kremer – www.kenkremer.com

Hordes of local spectators and excited tourists from several continents caught a magnificent last glimpse of the piggybacked pair as they flew two looping north-south farewells over the Florida Space Coast making a low pass over nearby beaches, Patrick Air Force Base, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, and the shuttle landing runway at Kennedy before leaving the area to a mix of emotions both happy and sad.

Then all of a sudden after some 25 minutes, the dynamic duo disappeared without warning into the hazy clouds, flying on a north east heading and across the Florida panhandle.

After making low-level passes over NASA’s Stennis Space Center in southwest Mississippi and the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Endeavour touched down at the Johnson Space Center at about 10:40 a.m. at Houston’s Ellington Field for a curtailed overnight stay.

Image caption: Endeavour departs Kennedy Space Center on Sept 19 on last flight accompanied by T-38 training jet. Credit: Ken Kremer

21 years after rolling out from the Palmdale assembly facility in California where she was constructed, Endeavour landed at Edwards Air Force Base at 3:50 p.m. EDT today, Sept. 20.

Early Friday morning (Sept. 21), Endeavour and the SCA will take flight on a victory lap initially heading north for low level passes over Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area including the Golden Gate bridge – akin to the April 2012 flight of Enterprise over NYC. Then the pair will turn south and pass over NASA’s Ames Research Center, Vandenberg Air Force Base and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory before heading into the Los Angeles area and landing at Los Angeles International Airport.

In October, Endeavour will be towed over 2 days through the streets of Inglewood and Los Angelos to begin a new mission inspiring future explorers at her permanent new home at the California Science Center.

Endeavour was NASA’s youngest orbiter and flew 25 missions and traveled 122,883,151 miles during 299 days in space.

NASA’s trio of shuttle orbiters were forcibly retired in July 2011 following the successful STS-135 mission to the International Space Station.

Ken Kremer

Image caption: Endeavour prepares for final takeoff from the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC. Credit: Brent Houston

Image caption: STS-130 astronaut Kay Hire greets space enthusiasts at the shuttle landing strip during the flyaway of Endeavour. Credit: Klaus Krueger

Ken Kremer with Space Shuttle Endeavour and the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) at the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center for final flyaway departure in September 2012 reporting for Universe Today. Credit: Brent Houston

Endeavour Poised for Final Takeoff on Sept. 19

Image caption: Endeavour atop the 747 SCA exits the Mate-Demate Device at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

Everyone is hoping that the third time will be the charm to get the final flight of NASA’s three decade long shuttle program underway. See my gallery of shuttle Endeavour photos departing the gantry like Mate-Demate Device at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF).

Hordes of tourists from across the globe have descended on the Florida Space Coast to catch a glimpse of space history as Endeavour takes flight for the final time.

Space Shuttle Endeavour is poised for an early morning takeoff from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at first light on Wednesday, Sept. 19 following a two day delay due to poor weather conditions en route for the first leg of her cross country journey to California.

Image caption: Endeavour mated to NASA Boeing 747 at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

In the meantime, local crowds of KSC workers and enthusiastic tourists are unexpectedly enjoying a few last bonus days of up close looks at NASA’s youngest shuttle orbiter atop a 747 Jumbo Jet known as the SCA or Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

Endeavour awaits her departure orders firmly bolted on top of a specially modified 747 after being towed on Friday from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the shuttle landing strip. The orbiter weighs nearly 200,000 pounds or 100 tons.

Liftoff of Endeavour from the SLF at KSC was originally planned for Monday, Sep 17 with a stop along the way at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. But those carefully laid plans were derailed when a low pressure front materialized in the northern Gulf of Mexico generating a swatch of thunderstorms.

Image caption: Endeavour atop the SCA at Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC on Sept. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

Managers could not find a safe path to Houston and twice scrubbed Endeavour’s takeoff.

With the weather delays, the cross country ferry flight has the feel of a space shuttle launch.

NASA plans to take the final takeoff decision down to the wire, following the last weather briefing at 5 a.m. on Wednesday.

Along the way from Kennedy to Johnson, the pair will conduct several low-level flyovers of NASA centers along the flight path at about 1500 feet at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans before landing at Ellington Field near JSC.

Image caption: Endeavour atop the 747 SCA exits the Mate-Demate Device at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

At roughly 7:15 a.m. on Sept. 19, the SCA and Endeavour will depart Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility and perform a flyover of various areas and beaches of the Space Coast, including Kennedy, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base for 20 minutes for more.

Endeavour and the SCA will take a lengthy fly around victory lap around the Los Angeles area before landing at LAX at about 11.a.m PDT on Sept 21.

The orbiter will be towed along a 12 mile path through the streets of Inglewood and LA to the California Science Center. Eventually she will be displayed vertically, in launch configuration.

Endeavour flew 25 missions and traveled 122,883,151 miles during 299 days in space.

Ken Kremer

Image caption: Endeavour atop the SCA at Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC on Sept. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

Shuttle Endeavour mated to Jumbo Jet for Final Flight

Image caption: Endeavour mated to Boeing 747 in the Mate-Demate device at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 14 for Final Ferry Flight to California on Sep. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

Space Shuttle Endeavour was joined to the 747 Jumbo carrier jet that will carry her majestically on Sept 17 on her final flight to the California Science Center – her permanent new home at the in Los Angeles. Enjoy my photos from onsite at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

On Friday (Sept. 14), Endeavour was towed a few miles in the predawn darkness from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB ) to the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) and the specially modified 747 known as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, or SCA.

In a day long process, Endeavour departed the VAB at 5:04 a.m. and was hauled into the gantry-like Mate-Demate device, hoisted and then lowered onto the awaiting 747 Jumbo Jet. The pair were joined at about 2:41 p.m.

Image caption: Endeavour towed past waiting Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 14 for Final Ferry Flight to California on Sep. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

Final work to hard mate NASA’s youngest orbiter to the SCA Jumbo Jet known as NASA 905 is due to be completed by Sunday.

The 747 crew will fly perform multiple, crowd pleasing low flyovers of the Florida space coast region, the KSC Visitor complex and the beaches – giving every spectator a thrilling front row seat to this exciting but bittersweet moment in space history as the shuttle takes flight for the very final time.

Image caption: Endeavour towed out of the Vehicle Assembly Building on the way to the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 14 for Final Ferry Flight to California on Sep. 17. Venus shines to the left. Credit: Ken Kremer – www.kenkremer.com

Everyone involved felt a strong mix of emotions from pride in the tremendous accomplishments of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program to the sad and bittersweet feeling that comes with the retirement of all 3 orbiters barely one third of the way into their design lifetime. All three shuttles could easily have flown tens of millions more miles but for lack of money and political support from Washington D.C.

Image caption: Endeavour mated on top of NASA SCA at Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 14 for Final Ferry Flight to California on Sep. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

Altogether Endeavour flew 25 missions and traveled 122,883,151 miles during 299 days in space.

Ken Kremer

Image caption: Endeavour gently lowered on top of NASA SCA with Ken Kremer on hand at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 14 for Final Ferry Flight to California on Sep. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

Editor’s note: Visit John O’Connor’s NASATech website for panoramic views of Endeavour’s mating:
http://nasatech.net/EndeavourMDM3_120914/

http://nasatech.net/EndeavourMDM4_120914/

http://nasatech.net/EndeavourMDM5_120914/

Weekly Space Hangout – Sep. 13, 2012

The Weekly Space Hangout is back from Summer hiatus, with a mountain of space news. This week we tackle:

Host: Fraser Cain

Panel: Jason Major, Dr. Nicole Gugliucci, Dr. Pamela Gay

We record the Weekly Space Hangout every Thursday at 10 am Pacific / 1 pm Eastern. Watch us live on Google+, ask your questions to the gathered space journalists.

Here’s a link to next week’s episode so you can put it in your calendar.

Endeavour to Take to the Skies One Last Time

One of NASA’s 747 SCAs carries Endeavour from Edwards to Kennedy in 2008 following its landing at Edwards to conclude shuttle mission STS-126. (NASA)

Endeavour, mounted atop NASA’s modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), will become the last Space Shuttle orbiter to soar aloft when it departs Monday, Sept. 17, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a three-day flight to Los Angeles International Airport.

In cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration, the SCA is scheduled to conduct low-level flyovers at about 1,500 feet above many locations along the planned flight path, including Cape Canaveral, Stennis Space Center, New Orleans and stopovers in both Houston and Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Read more about NASA’s SCA: “The World’s Greatest Piggy Back Ride”

Flyovers of Sacramento and San Francisco are also planned before landing at LAX on the 20th.

After arrival at LAX, Endeavour will be demated from the SCA and spend a few weeks at a United Airlines hangar undergoing preparations for transport and display. The orbiter then will travel through Inglewood and Los Angeles city streets on a 12-mile journey from the airport to the California Science Center, arriving on the evening of Oct. 13.

See a map of Endeavour’s planned route across LA here.

Beginning Oct. 30, the shuttle will be on permanent display in the science center’s Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion, beginning its new mission commemorating past achievements in human spaceflight and educating and inspiring future generations of explorers.

On August 16 Endeavour was moved from KSC’s Orbiter Processing Facility 2 to the Vehicle Assembly Building, where it’s being housed temporarily until its departure on the 17th. (Photo above at right; read more here.)

On May 16, 2011, Endeavour launched on its final mission, STS-134:

Completed in July 1990, Endeavour (OV-105) was the last shuttle orbiter to be constructed for NASA. Endeavour completed 25 missions, spent 299 days in orbit, and orbited Earth 4,671 times while traveling 122,883,151 miles.

On Twitter and along Endeavour’s route? NASA encourages people to share their shuttle sightings using the hashtags #spottheshuttle and #OV105, Endeavour’s orbiter vehicle designation.

Read more and find the full flight itinerary on the NASA news release.

Opportunity Gets a View From The Edge

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The rover Opportunity captured a view into Endeavour crater as a low Sun cast a long shadow in this image, acquired back on March 9.

Endeavour is a large crater — 14 miles (22 km) wide, it’s about the same area as the city of Seattle. Opportunity arrived at its edge in August of 2011 after several years of driving across the Meridiani Plains.

Opportunity is currently the only operational manmade object on the surface of Mars… or any other planet besides Earth, for that matter. It’s a distinction it will hold until the arrival of Mars Science Laboratory at Gale Crater this August.

From the NASA news release by JPL’s Guy Webster:

The scene is presented in false color to emphasize differences in materials such as dark dunes on the crater floor. This gives portions of the image an aqua tint.

Opportunity took most of the component images on March 9, 2012, while the solar-powered rover was spending several weeks at one location to preserve energy during the Martian winter. It has since resumed driving and is currently investigating a patch of windblown Martian dust near its winter haven.

Opportunity and its rover twin, Spirit, completed their three-month prime missions on Mars in April 2004. Both rovers continued for years of bonus, extended missions. Both have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. Spirit stopped communicating in 2010. Since landing in the Meridiani region of Mars in January 2004, Opportunity has driven 21.4 miles (34.4 kilometers).

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State University