Iridescent Clouds on Mars Seen by Curiosity

Laying on a grassy field staring at the cloud formations in the sky and coming up with harebrained ideas about their shapes is a common feature in childhood summers – at least as they’re portrayed in media.  Someday that image might translate to a child laying on a sandy or rocky outcropping, looking up at the sky seeing iridescent, shimmering clouds in the sky.  The biggest differences would be that the child would be looking through a visor, and those clouds would be on Mars.  And Curiosity recently released some stunning images of what they might look like.

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Clever Trick Used to Clean off InSight’s Solar Panels and Boost its Power

Ever have an idea that was so crazy that it just might work? A few weeks ago, members of the InSight Mars team came up with a crazy, counter-intuitive way to try to get dust off the lander’s solar panels: pour *more* dust on the panels.

Yes, that sounds crazy. But yes, it actually worked!

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Ingenuity’s 6th Flight Didn’t Go So Smoothly

When NASA’s Perseverance rover landed in the Jezero crater on February 18th, 2021, it brought with it an interesting little companion that’s been causing quite a stir of late! We are talking, of course, about the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, an experimental flight system designed to demonstrate if aerial systems can work on Mars. Since its inaugural flight on April 19th, the helicopter has been pushing the boundaries of flight on Mars, going farther and faster each time.

In fact, the helicopter managed to establish multiple records in the course of its first five flights, reaching a maximum distance of 266 m (873 ft) in 117 seconds. Unfortunately, things did not go so well for Ingenuity during its sixth and latest flight. Due to a navigation timing error, the helicopter strayed from its flight path, but managed to land safely just a few meters from where it was supposed to.

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Zhurong is Rolling on Mars

China's Zhurong rover on Mars

On May 22nd, 2021, the Zhurong rover – part of Tianwen-1, China’s first mission to Mars – descended from its lander and drove on the Martian surface for the first time. According to the mission’s official social media account, the rover drove down its descent ramp from the Tianwen-1 lander at 10:40 a.m. Beijing time (07:40 p.m. PDT; 10:40 p.m. EDT) and placed its wheels upon the surface of Mars.

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Dunes Trapped in a Crater on Mars Form This Interesting Pattern

Symmetry in nature is pleasing to look at, and even more so when that symmetry is novel.  There’s plenty of it to see on Earth, as biological processes have a penchant for patterns.  But finding it off-world is trickier, and sometimes more striking.  Which is why a picture from HiRISE of some Martian dunes is so spectacular.

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Pictures From China’s Mars Rover Fuel NASA Chief’s Funding Pitch to Congress

China's Zhurong rover on Mars

The first pictures from a Chinese probe on the surface of Mars were released May 19, sparking a plea from NASA’s recently appointed chief for more funding to keep America in the lead on the space frontier.

China’s Zhurong rover, which landed on the Red Planet on May 14, sent back pictures as it sat atop its landing platform on the flat plain of Utopia Planitia. One picture provides a rover’s-eye view of the ramp that the six-wheeled robot will use to roll down onto the surface.

The probe also sent back video clips that were captured by China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter during the lander’s separation.

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Bright Ejecta Reveals a Fresh Crater on Mars

Meteors hit much harder on Mars than they do on the Earth.  Lack of atmosphere obviously contributes to that, but its proximity to the asteroid belt also makes the red planet a more likely target for some gravitationally disturbed rock to run into.  Now that we have a satellite infrastructure consistently monitoring Mars, we are able to capture the aftermath of what happens when it is pummeled by space debris, and the results can be dramatic.

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Mars Helicopter Completes its 4th Flight. 117 Seconds of Airtime

On April 30th, 2021, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter achieved yet another milestone and set new records with its fourth flight on Mars. This time around, the helicopter took off at 12:33 AM Mars Standard Time (10:49 AM EDT; 07:49 AM PDT) and ascended to an altitude of 5 meters (16 feet). It then traveled south for approximately 133 meters (436 feet) and then back in the space of about two minutes (117 seconds).

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One Full Year of Seismic Data Collected by Mars Insight Includes 500 Quakes

The English vocabulary has some words that only make sense from an Earth-bound perspective.  Earthquake is one of those.  Even in some science fiction and fantasy books, where the action takes place somewhere other than Earth, that team is used to denote the ground shaking.  It’s therefore nice to see planetary scientists trying to expand the root word to other planets.  Marsquakes are the most commonly studied, and now thanks to InSight scientists have collected a full year of data on Marsquakes for the first time.

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Dune Fields in Gale Crater Tell the Story of Mars’ Shifting Climate Over Eons

Rocks can tell us a lot about a planet.  On Earth, the study of geology has been around for hundreds of years and has resulted in such scientific findings as the theory of plate tectonics and the discovery of dinosaur fossils.  Geology on Mars has not had as long and storied a history, but with the rovers that have landed on the planet in the last few decades, Martian geology has started to bloom. Curiosity, one of those rovers, has done a particularly good job at documenting the rock formations in its neighborhood of Gale crater.  Now researchers led by a team at Imperial College London have published a paper using data from Curiosity that detail a set of ancient dunes on Mars that provide some insight into the planet’s former habitability.

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