NASA Gives a Detailed Analysis of all the Landing Debris Perseverance Has Found on Mars

A recent blog by Dr. Justin Maki, Imaging Scientist and the Deputy Principal Investigator on the Perseverance rover Mastcam-Z camera, provides a detailed account about the debris the entry, descent, and landing (EDL) system left scattered around the Martian surface while delivering the Perseverance rover to Jezero Crater. This blog highlights how much hardware goes into sending our brave, robotic explorers to the Red Planet while discussing the importance of imaging such debris.

Continue reading “NASA Gives a Detailed Analysis of all the Landing Debris Perseverance Has Found on Mars”

Amazing View of How Dust Storms Grow on Mars

Two snapshots, about two weeks apart, of a 3D simulation of the 2018 Global Dust Storm performed with the NASA Ames Mars Global Climate Model. The storm began as a regional storm in Acidalia then moved eastward, triggering more dust lifting along the way (in Arabia, Sabaea, Hellas etc.). As the storm grew larger and became global, intense dust lifting events occurred in the Tharsis region, injecting dust at high altitudes. Credit: Tanguy Bertrand / Alex Kling / NASA Ames Research Center

In 2018, Mars experienced one of its global dust storms, a phenomenon seen nowhere else. As science would have it, there were no fewer than six spacecraft in orbit around Mars at the time, and two surface rovers. This was an unprecedented opportunity to watch and study the storm.

Continue reading “Amazing View of How Dust Storms Grow on Mars”

It’s Been Exactly One Year Since Opportunity Sent This Final Message Home – on its 5,111th Martian Day

Opportunity's final image before the global dust storm ended the rover's mission on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

Opportunity’s final message home is not much to look at on its own. If you’re old enough to remember film cameras, it looks like the final exposure on a roll of film, developed but partly missing. It’s a suitable epitaph for Opportunity’s mission.

Continue reading “It’s Been Exactly One Year Since Opportunity Sent This Final Message Home – on its 5,111th Martian Day”

NASA Senior Engineer Kobie Boykins talks About Exploring Mars. And I was There to See it!

Kobie Boykins and myself, holding replicas of the wheels used on the Sojourner and Opportunity rover. Credit: Carla Jack

As part of National Geographic Live, Chief Engineer Kobie Boykins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has been touring the world of late. As part of the program’s goal of having featured speakers share their behind-the-scenes stories, Boykins has been showcasing the accomplishments of NASA’s Mars robotic exploration programs – of which he played a major role.

This week, his tour brought him to my hometown, where he delivered a presentation to a packed house at the Royal Theatre here in of Victoria, BC. Titled “Exploring Mars”, Boykins shared personal stories of what it was like to be an integral part of the team that created the Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity and Mars 2020 rovers. I had the honor of attending the event, and being able to do a little Q&A with him after the show.

Continue reading “NASA Senior Engineer Kobie Boykins talks About Exploring Mars. And I was There to See it!”

This is the Final Photograph from Opportunity

Opportunity's final image. Image Credit: NASA/JPL
Opportunity's final image. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

Sad.

But beautiful.

NASA has shared Opportunity’s final photograph from the surface of Mars. The rover’s final resting place is in Endeavour Crater, and barring any statistically unlikely event, it will sit there for centuries, millennia, or even longer. And instead of a tombstone, we have this final image.

Continue reading “This is the Final Photograph from Opportunity”

Curiosity Crashed, but it’s Working Fine Again. NASA Won’t Have to Send Astronauts to Turn it off and Back on Again.

This low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin" on lower Mount Sharp. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

In 2012, NASA’s Curiosity rover landed in the Gale Crater on Mars and began exploring for clues about the planet’s past and subsequent evolution. Since 2014, it has been investigating Mount Sharp (aka. Aeolis Mons) – the central peak within Mars’ Gale Crater – in the hopes of learning more about Mars’ warm, watery past (and maybe find signs of past life!)

On February 15th of this year (Sol 2320), Curiosity gave mission controllers a bit of a scare when it suffered a technical glitch and automatically entered safe mode. Luckily, as of Thursday, Feb. 28th, Curiosity’s science team reported that after getting the rover back online and running a series of checks, the rover is in good shape and ready to resume normal science operations.

Continue reading “Curiosity Crashed, but it’s Working Fine Again. NASA Won’t Have to Send Astronauts to Turn it off and Back on Again.”

Still no Word from Opportunity

Opportunity rover looks south from the top of Perseverance Valley along the rim of Endeavour Crater on Mars in this partial self portrait including the rover deck and solar panels. Perseverance Valley descends from the right and terminates down near the crater floor. This navcam camera photo mosaic was assembled from raw images taken on Sol 4736 (20 May 2017) and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Opportunity rover looks south from the top of Perseverance Valley along the rim of Endeavour Crater on Mars in this partial self portrait including the rover deck and solar panels. Perseverance Valley descends from the right and terminates down near the crater floor. This navcam camera photo mosaic was assembled from raw images taken on Sol 4736 (20 May 2017) and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Could this be the end of the Opportunity rover? There’s been no signal from the rover since last summer, when a massive global dust storm descended on it. But even though the craft has been silent and unreachable for six-and-a-half months, NASA hasn’t given up.

When Opportunity landed at Meridiani Planum on Mars in January 2004, it’s planned mission length was only 90 days. Since that day, which seems so long ago now, 15 years have passed, and over one billion people have been born on Earth. Six months ago, the rover stopped working, maybe for good. So by every measure, Opportunity has been a stunning success.

Continue reading “Still no Word from Opportunity”

NASA Spots Opportunity as the Dust Storm Clears. Still No Word From Her Though

NASA's Opportunity rover appears as a blip in the center of this square. This image taken by HiRISE, a high-resolution camera onboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, shows the dust storm over Perseverance Valley has substantially cleared. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

A new image produced by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has located the Opportunity rover on Mars. As expected, the rover was spotted on theĀ  slopes of the Perseverance Valley, where it went into hibernation mode about 100 days ago when the planet-covering dust storm darkened skies above the region.

Continue reading “NASA Spots Opportunity as the Dust Storm Clears. Still No Word From Her Though”