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 Post subject: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 26 Nov 2011, 13:46 
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All is set for one of the most ambitious space missions ever devised. 25 November 2011

Nasa is about to launch its latest Mars rover, nicknamed Curiosity, from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

At nearly a tonne, the six-wheeled vehicle dwarfs all previous robots sent to the surface of the planet.

The machine carries a suite of sophisticated instruments and tools, including a hammer drill and a laser, to find out whether Mars is, or ever has been, suitable for life.

The US space agency will get its first opportunity to launch the robot - also known as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) - at 10:02 local time (15:02 GMT) on Saturday.

Weather conditions look good on the Space Coast and engineers report no technical issues after replacing a suspect battery in Curiosity's Atlas 5 launch rocket earlier in the week.

Lift-off is just the start for what Nasa hopes will be a multi-year campaign at the Red Planet.

The rover is equipped with a plutonium battery and so should have ample power to keep rolling for more than a decade. It is likely the mechanisms on MSL will wear out long before its energy supply.

"MSL is an incredibly important flagship mission for this agency… as important as Hubble," observed Doug McCuistion, Nasa's Mars exploration programme director.

The organisation has certainly invested a huge amount of money in the project (costed at $2.5bn/£1.6bn), and has had to bear a barrage of criticism for delays and budget overruns.

But Nasa believes the memory of past woes will quickly fade when this exciting mission reaches the surface of Mars in eight-and-a-half-months' time. That is how long the robot will take to cover the 570-million-km cruise distance to the Red Planet after Saturday's launch.

MSL is being aimed at a deep equatorial depression called Gale Crater, which contains a central mountain that rises some 5km above the plain below.

The crater was chosen as the landing site because satellite imagery had suggested it may well be one of the best places on Mars to look for evidence that ancient environments could have supported microbial activity. This included pictures of sediments at the base of the peak that were clearly laid down in the presence of abundant water.

MSL will use its suite of 10 instruments to study the local rock, soil and atmosphere.

"We feel confident that within two years we can achieve a level in the mound that's probably 350m to 400m up," said project scientist John Grotzinger.

"After that, the warranty expires. But pending the interest of science to keep on going, we think the slopes are gentle enough that if you took an appropriately circuitous route you could make it to the top of the mound."

First, though, MSL-Curiosity has to land safely, and the history of Mars exploration is wretched. Of the 40 or so ventures launched since 1960, only about a third have delivered any real level of success.

The US rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which landed in 2004, and the Pathfinder-Sojourner robot, which landed in 1997, all used the very effective technique of wrapping the vehicles in airbags to cushion their impact on the surface.

But Curiosity is too heavy to employ the same system and so will be using a rocket-powered "skycrane" to slow the final moments of descent and to position the rover softly on the crater floor.

It is a novel approach and, should it prove successful, will point the way to ever more massive objects being landed on Mars - a capability that will be important if manned missions are ever to be sent to the Red Planet.

Although predominantly a US venture, MSL-Curiosity has important contributions from Russia, Canada, Spain and France. Europe in particular will be watching Curiosity closely because the rover design will form the template for its proposed joint mission with America in 2018.

That rover - known in Europe as ExoMars - would be the first step in a multi-mission objective to bring Martian rocks back to Earth.

ExoMars would seek out signs of life on, and just below, the surface, and also cache rocks for collection by later spacecraft.

From: BBC

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 Post subject: Re: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 01 Aug 2012, 00:53 
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Entry, Descent and Landing Timeline Activated
Tue, 31 Jul 2012 11:55:42 PM GMT+0100

The Mars Science Laboratory continues its final preparations for entry, descent and landing this upcoming weekend. Yesterday, the flight team completed and confirmed a memory test on the software for the mechanical assembly that controls MSL's descent motor. They also configured the spacecraft for its transition to entry, descent and landing approach mode, and they enabled the spacecraft's hardware pyrotechnic devices. MSL is now under the control of the autonomous entry, descent and landing timeline flight software. The flight team continues to monitor Curiosity's onboard systems and flight trajectory. The spacecraft and ground systems remain in good health, with no significant issues currently being worked.

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Artist's concept of Mars Science Laboratory entry, descent and landing. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Source: NASA


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 Post subject: Re: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 19 Aug 2012, 14:07 
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This stunning image has captured Curiosity before landing. Another NASA's spacecraft in orbit around Mars (MRO) captured the image from about 300 km above the descending rover. Curiosity parachute (16m wide) is clearly visible over Gale Crater. More about it: www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-232 Explained in a new NASA press conference: http://youtu.be/SJOY7nB1Xno


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 Post subject: Re: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 24 Aug 2012, 10:03 
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One of most advanced and adventurous space programs is about to reach the Red Planet, about 9 months en route. The 900 kg robot named Curiosity (or Mars Science Laboratory) has a size of a small car, the largest and most capable rover ever sent to the surface of Mars. But the destiny of the 2.5 billion dollar space mission is all depends on a breath-taking landing plan, the 7 terrifying minutes th
rough the Mars atmosphere. From the 16 missions to the Mars surface since 1970s only 6 succeeded, about 1 of 3. But in the past decade NASA was successful in all Mars orbiters and landers, so there is a lot of hope. Curiosity will not only explore the past history of this mysterious planet will also look for signs of simple life like Bacteria, if any. While excitement is growing in the world of space fans, the heart beats are peaking at the NASA's JPL control center for the 7 minutes of terror: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/​index.cfm?id=1090
More about the mission: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/


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 Post subject: Re: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 27 Aug 2012, 18:44 
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Instruments

The figure below shows the location of the ten science instruments on the rover. There are four categories of instruments: the remote sensing instruments Mastcam (Mast Camera) and ChemCam (Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy for Chemistry and Microimaging) located on the remote sensing mast; the contact science instruments APXS (Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer) and MAHLI (Mars Hand Lens Imager) located on the end of the robotic arm; the analytical laboratory instruments CheMin (Chemistry and Mineralogy) and SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) located inside the rover body; and the environmental instruments RAD (Radiation Assessment Detector), DAN (Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons), REMS (Rover Environmental Monitoring Station), and MARDI (Mars Descent Imager).

Image

source: http://msl-scicorner.jpl.nasa.gov/Instruments/


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 Post subject: Re: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2012, 08:18 
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Curiosity rover analyses first Martian rock with laser gun
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The Mars rover Curiosity zapped its first rock on Sunday with a high-powered laser gun designed to analyse Martian mineral content. Scientists declared their target practice a success.

The robotic science lab aimed its laser beam at the fist-sized stone. It then shot the rock with 30 pulses over 10 seconds, Nasa said in a statement issued from mission control at its jet propulsion laboratory, near Los Angeles.
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Each pulse delivers more than 1 megawatt of power for about five one-billionths of a second, vaporising a pinhead-sized bit of the rock to create a tiny spark, which is analysed by a small telescope mounted on the instrument.

The ionised glow, which can be observed and recorded from up to 25 feet (7 metres) away, is then split into its component wavelengths by three spectrometers. This gives scientists information about the chemical makeup of the target rock.

The combined system, called the chemistry-and-camera instrument, or ChemCam, is capable of discerning more than 6,000 different wavelengths in the ultraviolet, infrared and visible light spectrum. The ChemCam is designed to take about 14,000 measurements throughout Curiosity's Mars mission.

The purpose of Sunday's initial use of the laser, conducted at about 11am, was "target practice" for the instrument. But scientists will examine the data they receive to determine composition of the rock, which they dubbed "Coronation", Nasa said.

"We got a great spectrum of Coronation – lots of signal," said ChemCam principal investigator Roger Wiens of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where the instrument was developed. "After eight years of building the instrument, it's payoff time."

Curiosity, a one-tonne, six-wheeled vehicle the size of a compact car, landed inside a vast, ancient impact crater near Mars's equator on 6 August after an eight-month, 354m-mile voyage through space. Its two-year mission is aimed at determining whether or not the planet most like Earth could have hosted microbial life.

The rover's primary target is Mount Sharp, a towering mound of layered rock rising from the floor of Gale crater. But mission controllers are gradually testing Curiosity's sophisticated array of instruments before sending it on its first road trip across the Martian landscape.

The $2.5bn Curiosity project marks Nasa's first astrobiology mission since the Viking probes sent to Mars during the 1970s, and is the most advanced robotic science lab sent to another planet.

The technique employed by ChemCam has been used to examine the composition of materials in other extreme environments, such as inside nuclear reactors and on the sea floor.

The technology also has experimental applications in environmental monitoring and cancer detection. But Sunday's exercise, conducted during Curiosity's 13th full day on Mars, was the first use in interplanetary exploration, Nasa said.

Before Curiosity embarks on its 4.3-mile (7km) trek to the foot of Mount Sharp, which could take six months, mission controllers plan to send it out on a shorter trip to a location 1,600 feet (500 metres) from its landing site.

source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/ ... rtian-rock


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 Post subject: Re: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2012, 09:45 
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Curiosity rover ramps up for road trip to Glenelg

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Scientists with the Mars mission have chosen Curiosity’s first exploration destination, a little place nicknamed Glenelg (after a village in Scotland) near the base of an alluvial fan of sedimentary rocks, dirt and sand. Alluvial fans are common on Earth as streams flowing from mountains or canyons gradually spread out and deposit rocks and sand in great fans onto the flatter plains below.
Curiosity landed near the base of a similar fan-deposit on Mars; scientists will drive the rover further downhill to where the water might have collected. They’ll be looking for things like salts that are dissolved by water but later precipitate as solids when the water evaporates.

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Glenelg. Notice anything peculiar about it? It’s a palindrome, a word or phrase that reads the same way in either direction. Fun examples include “kayak”, “evil olive”, “tangy gnat”, “radar” and “Oh, cameras are macho”. NASA folks selected Glenelg because the rover will be visiting the area twice – both coming and going – before it turns around and heads to the base of Mt. Sharp. Having a sense of humor makes any job more fun.

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The rover will travel 1,300 feet (400 meters) to the east-southeast of its landing spot to reach Glenelg; its first drilling target will be a section of layered bedrock (likely sedimentary rock deposited by or in water). Prior to departure, the team in charge of ChemCam will zap a 3-inch rock 10 feet away named N165 with a powerful laser. The resulting spark of vaporized rock will be examined with a spectroscope to determine the minerals that make up the rock. The rover will also exercise its wheels in the coming days before moving out.

source: http://astrobob.areavoices.com/2012/08/ ... o-glenelg/


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 Post subject: Re: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 30 Aug 2012, 18:07 
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Orbiter Views NASA's New Mars Rover In Color
PASADENA, Calif. -- The first color image taken from orbit showing NASA's rover Curiosity on Mars includes details of the layered bedrock on the floor of Gale Crater that the rover is beginning to investigate.

Operators of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter added the color view to earlier observations of Curiosity descending on its parachute, and one day after landing.

"The rover appears as double bright spot plus shadows from this perspective, looking at its shadowed side, set in the middle of the blast pattern from the descent stage," said HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen, of the University of Arizona, Tucson. "This image was acquired from an angle looking 30 degrees westward of straight down. We plan to get one in a few days looking more directly down, showing the rover in more detail and completing a stereo pair."

Meanwhile, Curiosity has finished a four-day process transitioning both of its redundant main computers to flight software for driving and using tools on the rover's arm. During the latter part of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft's 36-week flight to Mars and its complicated descent to deliver Curiosity to the Martian surface on Aug. 5, PDT (Aug. 6, EDT and Universal Time), the rover's computers used a version of flight software with many capabilities no longer needed. The new version expands capabilities for work the rover will do now that it is on Mars.

"We have successfully completed the brain transplant," said Curiosity Mission Manager Mike Watkins of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Now we are moving on to a new phase of functional checkouts of the science instruments and preparations for a short test drive."

The first drive, possibly within a week or so, will likely include short forward and reverse segments and a turn. Curiosity has a separate drive motor on each of its six wheels and steering motors on the four corner wheels. Preparation and testing of the motor controllers will precede the first drive.

After the test drive, the planning schedule has an "intermission" before a second testing phase focused on use of the rover's robotic arm. For the intermission, the 400-member science team will have the opportunity to pick a location for Curiosity to drive to before the arm-testing weeks.

"It's fair to say that the scientists, not to mention the rover drivers, are itching to move," said JPL's Ashwin Vasavada, deputy project scientist for Curiosity.

Researchers have been examining images from Curiosity's cameras and HiRISE to identify potential targets to investigate near the rover and on the visible slope of the nearby three-mile-high mound informally named Mount Sharp.

"The science and operations teams are evaluating several potential routes that would take us to Mount Sharp, with perhaps a few waypoints to inspect some of the different terrains we've identified as we map the landing area," Vasavada said. "As we have reported many times before, it's going to take us a good part of our first year to make it to the layered sediments on Mount Sharp."

During a prime mission of nearly two years, researchers will use Curiosity to investigate whether the selected area of Mars has ever offered chemical ingredients for life and other environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life. Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on NASA's Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The landing site inside Gale Crater places the rover within driving distance of layers of Mount Sharp. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter missions for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built Curiosity. HiRISE is operated by the University of Arizona in Tucson. The instrument was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the orbiter.

source: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/displa ... s_ID=40484


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 Post subject: Re: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 30 Aug 2012, 18:27 
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Mars Rover Curiosity in Familiar Ground

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With its seven minutes of terror and a spectacular rocket-assisted landing behind it, the SUV-sized Mars rover Curiosity now finds itself just where scientists wanted it: at the northern edge and rim of Gale Crater. What's remarkable is how familiar the landscape looks.

"You would really be forgiven for thinking that NASA was trying to pull a fast one on you, and we actually put a rover out in the Mojave Desert and took a picture," said project scientist John Grotzinger during a press conference.

Curiosity has begun its expedition near a fan-shaped apron of sediment called an alluvial fan, which likely formed when liquid water spilled down the side of Gale Crater, through a network of valleys, and onto the crater floor. Adjacent to the alluvial fan and quite near the rover, there is also an intriguing, light-colored "high thermal inertia" deposit with rocks that retain heat well. (Click here for a map that shows the locations of the rover and the deposit, and click here for one that shows the alluvial fan. Many of the latest images related to Curiosity's mission are here.)

Visitors to Badwater Basin area in California's Death Valley National Park might see similarities in the images Curiosity has been sending home. The Badwater Basin is dense with alluvial fans like the one in Gale Crater. The alluvial fans in Death Valley are produced by occasional, intense storms that send storm water rushing down canyons in the otherwise arid slopes of the Panamint and Amargosa mountain ranges.

In the image above, captured in 2002 by the Advanced Land Imager on NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite, numerous alluvial fans are visible. Water has transported tan sediment from the mountains (far right), depositing it in the series of fan-shaped patterns near the center of the image.

This part of Death Valley shares other characteristics with Martian landscapes, and the area has long been a favorite for scientists planning for Mars landing sites. Wind, volcanism, and alternating wet and dry conditions have left similar marks on the rocks of both Mars and the Mojave Desert. The dark patch north of the largest alluvial fan has even been called Mars Hill for decades due to similarities to the rocks observed at the Viking 1 landing site from the 1970s. Mars Hill is the toe of an old alluvial fan, comprised of basaltic cobbles and gravels that stick out of the overlying, younger sediments.

The salt pan on the left is another feature that makes this part of Death Valley interesting to Mars researchers. Badwater Basin and Gale Crater are both enclosed basins with no outflows, so the water flowing into them would form temporary lakes and eventually salt flats after the water evaporates.

Of course, there are also major differences between the geology of Death Valley and Gale Crater. "Death Valley is a much younger and more dynamic place than Gale Crater, " explained Aaron Zent, a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center. "The valley floor is still sinking relative to the surrounding ranges, and more and more sediment is brought in, producing a sedimentary sequence that is mostly buried, with just a bit of salt on top. At Gale, the sediments, of whatever origin, are on top of the original crater floor and extensive salts, if present, are on the bottom and buried. If young, they may have been eroded and redistributed by the wind."

source: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/scitech/dis ... ST_ID=2498


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 Post subject: Re: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 06 Sep 2012, 13:38 
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Space image of the Day : Clear Views on Mars

This image comparison shows a view through a Hazard-Avoidance camera on NASA's Curiosity rover before and after the clear dust cover was removed. Both images were taken by a camera at the front of the rover. Mount Sharp, the mission's ultimate destination, looms ahead.


The view on the left, with the dust cover on, is one quarter of full resolution, while the view on the right is full resolution. Full-resolution images taken with the dust cover still on are not available at this time.

The only other instrument on Curiosity with a dust cover is the Mars Hand Lens Imager (or MAHLI), located on the rover's arm. In this case, the dust cover is not removed but will be opened when needed. This way, the instrument is protected from dust that may be generated from other tools on the rover's arm, in addition to wind-blown dust.

source: NASA


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 Post subject: Re: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 08 Sep 2012, 11:23 
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Mars Curiosity rover sends 'sounds, sights and smells' back home

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In the midst of post-landing activities, and before setting off on its first substantial drive, Nasa's Mars rover Curiosity is using the scorch marks of its own landing to study the red planet's surface.

Settling down to begin regular science activities on the floor of 150km-wide Gale Crater, Curiosity's operators have been testing the nuclear-powered vehicle's many science instruments, its driving capabilities, as well as its radio transmission abilities. Following short test drives last week, and the first extension of its robotic arm, more of the rover's instruments have been turned on and found to be working perfectly.

Curiosity team members proudly presented on Monday an sample image taken by one of the rover's main scientific cameras. The colour camera, equipped with a 100mm focal length lens to zoom in on fascinating features, clearly reveals layered terrain up to 16km from the landing site. Curiosity is due to be driven around 10 metres to take another image of the same distant location, allowing a stereo picture of the hills to be created.

These images of the foothills of Mount Sharp, at the centre of Gale Crater, immediately threw up a geological puzzle. They clearly consist of layered material, but while the lower strata within them are close to horizontal, upper layers are inclined. This suggests that the top strata were preferentially deposited in one direction, but identifying the process responsible, which could be volcanic or wind-driven, for example, may have to wait until Curiosity can visit the hills.

Landing on 6 August, the rover descent stage's powerful rockets scoured patches of the surface while hovering over the landing spot, dislodging surface dust and possibly altering the surface material. On Monday, Curiosity was manoeuvred to park over one of these greyish scour features, which can even be seen from orbit.

This unusual parking spot was chosen so that the rover's Russian-led Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument can bombard the soil under the rover with neutrons to measure the amount of hydrogen there, as a proxy for water and water ice.

This is likely to be one of the few places that Curiosity will visit where the surface won't be covered by a layer of dust. The rover's laser-equipped ChemCam instrument will also probe the scour marks to determine their composition.

The rover's operators have gradually been increasing the rate at which data is sent back to Earth. More than 7 gigabits of data have already been transmitted. The fastest way for Curiosity to send data is via the three spacecraft currently operating in orbit around Mars: the Nasa satellites Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the European Space Agency's Mars Express.

The fastest rates are achieved via MRO: when passing over the rover, Curiosity and the satellite also communicate via a second test communications channel, which allows the speed at which science data is broadcast to be increased to up to 2 megabits per second when conditions are good.

One of the rover's unique instruments – the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) – has set about sniffing the makeup of Mars's atmosphere. Unexpected traces of methane – a possible signature of life – in first sample of gas caused great excitement back on Earth … until it was realised that a small amount of gas from Earth had been carried to Mars inside the instrument.

One of the experiment's aims is to double-check measurements made by the Viking landers in 1976, measure isotope ratios in the atmosphere and attempt to detect methane. The latter is known to exist on Mars but its origin is currently a mystery.

The rover will leave its landing site for good this week, first travelling at least 100 metres away so that it can sample surface material unaffected by its landing. It will then head for a spot named Glenelg, chosen as a target as it's the meeting point of three types of terrain.

The ultimate goal for Curiosity will be the foothills of Mount Sharp where the layered terrain has been glimpsed, but it is unlikely to arrive for at least another year.

The Curiosity team has also played from Mars an audio message delivered by Nasa administrator Charles Bolden. Echoing Soviet broadcasts of the Internationale from the moon, this will be followed later on Tuesday by music recorded by will.i.am.

In the words of Dave Lavery, Nasa Curiosity programme executive, with photographs, SAM data and audio signals being sent to Earth, for the first time we have "the sounds, the sights, and the smells of Mars".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/ ... mells-mars


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 Post subject: Re: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 12 Sep 2012, 08:00 
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NASA Mars Rover Curiosity's Arm Wields Camera Well

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September 10, 2012

PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's Mars rover Curiosity stepped through activities on Sept. 7, 8 and 9 designed to check and characterize precision movements by the rover's robotic arm and use of tools on the arm.

The activities confirmed good health and usefulness of Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, and used that camera to check arm placement during several positioning activities.

MAHLI took an image with its reclosable dust cover open for the first time on Mars, confirming sharp imaging capability that had been obscured by a thin film of dust on the cover during previous use of the camera. It took images of cameras at the top of Curiosity's mast, of the underbelly of the rover and of MAHLI's own calibration target, among other pointings.

"Wow, seeing these images after all the tremendous hard work that has gone into making them possible is a profoundly emotional moment," said MAHLI Principal Investigator Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. "It is so exciting to see the camera returning beautiful, sharp images from Mars."

Selected MAHLI images, with captions, are available at: http://1.usa.gov/PecY9c . Raw versions of all MAHLI images are available along with raw images from the other cameras on Curiosity at: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/ .

The camera's calibration target includes a 1909 Lincoln penny that Edgett purchased for this purpose. "We're seeing the penny in the foreground and, looking past it, a setting I'm sure the people who minted these coins never imagined," Edgett said.

The penny is a nod to geologists' tradition of placing a coin or other object of known scale as a size reference in close-up photographs of rocks, and it gives the public a familiar object for perceiving size easily when it will be viewed by MAHLI on Mars.

"The folks who drive the rover's arm and turret have taken a 220-pound arm through some very complex tai chi, to center a penny in an image that's only a few centimeters across," said MAHLI Deputy Principal Investigator Aileen Yingst of the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute. "They make the impossible look easy."

The arm characterization activities, including more imaging by MAHLI, will continue for a few days before Curiosity resumes driving toward a mid-term science destination area called Glenelg. In that area, the rover may use its scoop to collect a soil sample, and later its drill to collect a sample of powder from inside a rock.

Curiosity is five weeks into a two-year prime mission on Mars. It will use 10 science instruments to assess whether the selected study area ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-282


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 Post subject: Re: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 13 Sep 2012, 14:09 
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Mars Rover Curiosity Arm Tests Nearly Complete

September 12, 2012

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Curiosity team has almost finished robotic arm tests in preparation for the rover to touch and examine its first Martian rock.

Tests with the 7-foot (2.1-meter) arm have allowed the mission team to gain confidence in the arm's precise maneuvering in Martian temperature and gravity conditions. During these activities, Curiosity has remained at a site it reached by its most recent drive on Sept. 5. The team will resume driving the rover this week and use its cameras to seek the first rock to touch with instruments on the arm.

"We're about to drive some more and try to find the right rock to begin doing contact science with the arm," said Jennifer Trosper, Curiosity mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Two science instruments -- a camera called Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) that can take close-up, color images and a tool called Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) that determines the elemental composition of a target rock -- have passed preparatory tests at the rover's current location. The instruments are mounted on a turret at the end of the arm and can be placed in contact with target rocks.

Curiosity's Canadian-made APXS had taken atmospheric readings earlier, but its first use on a solid target on Mars was this week on a calibration target brought from Earth. X-ray detectors work best cold, but even the daytime APXS tests produced clean data for identifying elements in the target.

"The spectrum peaks are so narrow, we're getting excellent resolution, just as good as we saw in tests on Earth under ideal conditions," said APXS principal investigator Ralf Gellert of the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada. "The good news is that we can now make high-resolution measurements even at high noon to support quick decisions about whether a sample is worthwhile for further investigations."

The adjustable-focus MAHLI camera this week has produced sharp images of objects near and far.

"Honestly, seeing those images with Curiosity's wheels in the foreground and Mount Sharp in the background simply makes me cry," said MAHLI principal investigator Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego. "I know we're just getting started, but it's already been an incredible journey."

MAHLI is also aiding evaluation of the arm's ability to position its tools and instruments. Curiosity moved the arm to predetermined "teach points" on Sept. 11, including points above each of three inlet ports where it will later drop samples of soil and powdered rock into analytical instruments inside the rover. Images from the MAHLI camera confirmed the placements. Photos taken before and after opening the inlet cover for the chemistry and mineralogy (CheMin) analytical instrument also confirmed good operation of the cover.

"Seeing that inlet cover open heightens our anticipation of getting the first solid sample into CheMin in the coming weeks," said CheMin principal investigator David Blake of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

A test last week that checked X-rays passing through an empty sample cell in CheMin worked well. It confirmed the instrument beneath the inlet opening is ready to start analyzing soil and rock samples.

Curiosity is five weeks into a 2-year prime mission on Mars. It will use 10 science instruments to assess whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

For more about Curiosity, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl . You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .


http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?r ... 2012-288#1


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 Post subject: Re: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 17 Sep 2012, 18:45 
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Joined: 12 Jul 2012, 18:52
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It's an eclipse... but not as we know it: Curiosity rover captures amazing photograph of Martian moon moving across the face of the sun
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The sight of a solar eclipse is a reasonably common one - we have all seen many pictures of the moon passing between the Earth and the sun.


But this image is strikingly different to most pictures of an eclipse - because it was taken on Mars.


The object appearing to take a 'bite' out of the sun's light is not our moon, but Phobos, one of the two moons orbiting Mars.


This picture was taken from the surface of Mars by the Curiosity rover and shows the moon Phobos moving across the face of the sun

The extraordinary photograph was taken by the NASA rover Curiosity, which is currently making its way across the surface of the Red Planet.


It captures a moment during a partial eclipse, with Phobos just jutting into Mars's view of the sun.
But while Mars may be a little further away from the sun than we are here on Earth, it would still be damaging to look directly into its light.


If Curiosity pointed its regular lens straight at the sun, it could have been destroyed.
Image

This is Curiosity's Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer, one of the many devices used by the rover to record Mars's landscape

So instead the rover used a neutral density filter, cutting down the sun's intensity by a factor of 1,000, according to NBC News.


Curiosity took hundreds of images during the partial eclipse, and is set to take more during another eclipse involving Deimos, Mars's other moon.


However, most have not yet been beamed back to Earth, given the limitations on the rover's ability to transmit data.


When Curiosity does get round to sending all the pictures to home base, they can be cut together to compose a film of the whole eclipse.

source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ ... ds-newsxml


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 Post subject: Re: Curiosity - Nasa ready to launch Mars rover
PostPosted: 08 Oct 2012, 20:49 
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NASA Mars Curiosity Rover Prepares to Study Martian Soil
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October 04, 2012

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Curiosity rover is in a position on Mars where scientists and engineers can begin preparing the rover to take its first scoop of soil for analysis.

Curiosity is the centerpiece of the two-year Mars Science Laboratory mission. The rover's ability to put soil samples into analytical instruments is central to assessing whether its present location on Mars, called Gale Crater, ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. Mineral analysis can reveal past environmental conditions. Chemical analysis can check for ingredients necessary for life.

"We now have reached an important phase that will get the first solid samples into the analytical instruments in about two weeks," said Mission Manager Michael Watkins of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Curiosity has been so well-behaved that we have made great progress during the first two months of the mission."

The rover's preparatory operations will involve testing its robotic scooping capabilities to collect and process soil samples. Later, it also will use a hammering drill to collect powdered samples from rocks. To begin preparations for a first scoop, the rover used one of its wheels Wednesday to scuff the soil to expose fresh material.

Next, the rover twice will scoop up some soil, shake it thoroughly inside the sample-processing chambers to scrub the internal surfaces, then discard the sample. Curiosity will scoop and shake a third measure of soil and place it in an observation tray for inspection by cameras mounted on the rover's mast. A portion of the third sample will be delivered to the mineral-identifying chemistry and mineralogy (CheMin) instrument inside the rover. From a fourth scoopful, samples will be delivered to both CheMin and to the sample analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, which identifies chemical ingredients.

"We're going to take a close look at the particle size distribution in the soil here to be sure it's what we want," said Daniel Limonadi of JPL, lead systems engineer for Curiosity's surface sampling and science system. "We are being very careful with this first time using the scoop on Mars."

The rinse-and-discard cycles serve a quality-assurance purpose similar to a common practice in geochemical laboratory analysis on Earth.

"It is standard to run a split of your sample through first and dump it out, to clean out any residue from a previous sample," said JPL's Joel Hurowitz, a sampling system scientist on the Curiosity team. "We want to be sure the first sample we analyze is unambiguously Martian, so we take these steps to remove any residual material from Earth that might be on the walls of our sample handling system."

Rocknest is the name of the area of soil Curiosity will test and analyze. The rover pulled up to the windblown, sandy and dusty location Oct. 2. The Rocknest patch is about 8 feet by 16 feet (2.5 meters by 5 meters). The area provides plenty of area for scooping several times. Diverse rocks nearby provide targets for investigation with the instruments on Curiosity's mast during the weeks the rover is stationed at Rocknest for this first scooping campaign.

Curiosity's motorized, clamshell-shaped scoop is 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) wide, 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) long, and can sample to a depth of about 1.4 inches (3.5 centimeters). It is part of the collection and handling Martian rock analysis (CHIMRA) device on a turret of tools at the end of the rover's arm. CHIMRA also includes a series of chambers and labyrinths for sorting, sieving and portioning samples collected by the scoop or by the arm's percussive drill.

Following the work at Rocknest, the rover team plans to drive Curiosity about 100 yards (about 100 meters) eastward into the Glenelg area and select a rock as the first target for use of its drill.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project and built Curiosity.

For more about Curiosity, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl or http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl

Source: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?r ... 2012-312#1


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