Author Topic: Mars Exploration Rovers Update  (Read 138247 times)

Offline Zipi

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I'm trying to learn something at here. ;-)

Offline Downix

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #121 on: 01/29/2010 07:20 PM »
You just got an "aww" here.
chuck - Toilet paper has no real value? Try living with 5 other adults for 6 months in a can with no toilet paper. Man oh man. Toilet paper would be worth it's weight in gold!

Offline Zipi

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #122 on: 01/29/2010 07:29 PM »
You just got an "aww" here.

Well... Sometimes you succeed sometimes you not. I'm not speculating this any further. It works for somebody, but not for hardcore persons with too tight stocing cap.
I'm trying to learn something at here. ;-)

Offline robertross

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #123 on: 01/29/2010 10:45 PM »
You just got an "aww" here.

Well... Sometimes you succeed sometimes you not. I'm not speculating this any further. It works for somebody, but not for hardcore persons with too tight stocing cap.

No, it's good (at least to me). :)

Oh well. Still an awesome feat to make them as robust as that. Another lesson learned: pit stops required on Mars. :)
I miss the space shuttle

Offline iamlucky13

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #124 on: 01/30/2010 08:18 AM »


Download in HD from JPL.

Awesome video! Very personal, as well as with some great animations and clips of the test rover. This is perfect for sharing with less nerdy friends and family.

Offline jacqmans

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #125 on: 03/23/2010 08:10 PM »
News release: 2010-094                                                                       March 23, 2010

NASA Mars Rover Getting Smarter as it Gets Older

The full version of this story with accompanying images is at:
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2010-094&cid=release_2010-094

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, now in its seventh year on Mars, has a new capability to make its own choices about whether to make additional observations of rocks that it spots on arrival at a new location.

Software uploaded this winter is the latest example of NASA taking advantage of the twin Mars rovers' unanticipated longevity for real Martian test drives of advances made in robotic autonomy for future missions.

Now, Opportunity's computer can examine images that the rover takes with its wide-angle navigation camera after a drive, and recognize rocks that meet specified criteria, such as rounded shape or light color. It can then center its narrower-angle panoramic camera on the chosen target and take multiple images through color filters.

"It's a way to get some bonus science," said Tara Estlin of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. She is a rover driver, a senior member of JPL's Artificial Intelligence Group and leader of development for this new software system.

The new system is called Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science, or AEGIS. Without it, follow-up observations depend on first transmitting the post-drive navigation camera images to Earth for ground operators to check for targets of interest to examine on a later day. Because of time and data-volume constraints, the rover team may opt to drive the rover again before potential targets are identified or before examining targets that aren't highest priority.

The first images taken by a Mars rover choosing its own target show a rock about the size of a football, tan in color and layered in texture. It appears to be one of the rocks tossed outward onto the surface when an impact dug a nearby crater. Opportunity pointed its panoramic camera at this unnamed rock after analyzing a wider-angle photo taken by the rover's navigation camera at the end of a drive on March 4. Opportunity decided that this particular rock, out of more than 50 in the navigation camera photo, best met the criteria that researchers had set for a target of interest: large and dark.

"It found exactly the target we would want it to find," Estlin said. "This checkout went just as we had planned, thanks to many people's work, but it's still amazing to see Opportunity performing a new autonomous activity after more than six years on Mars."

Opportunity can use the new software at stopping points along a single day's drive or at the end of the day's drive. This enables it to identify and examine targets of interest that might otherwise be missed.

"We spent years developing this capability on research rovers in the Mars Yard here at JPL," said Estlin. "Six years ago, we never expected that we would get a chance to use it on Opportunity."

The developers anticipate that the software will be useful for narrower field-of-view instruments on future rovers.

Other upgrades to software on Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, since the rovers' first year on Mars have improved other capabilities. These include choosing a route around obstacles and calculating how far to reach out a rover's arm to touch a rock. In 2007, both rovers gained the know-how to examine sets of sky images to determine which ones show clouds or dust devils, and then to transmit only the selected images. The newest software upload takes that a step further, enabling Opportunity to make decisions about acquiring new observations.

The AEGIS software lets scientists change the criteria it used for choosing potential targets. In some environments, rocks that are dark and angular could be higher-priority targets than rocks that are light and rounded, for example.

This new software system has been developed with assistance from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project and with funding from the New Millennium Program, the Mars Technology Program, the JPL Interplanetary Network Development Program, and the Intelligent Systems Program. The New Millennium Program tests advanced technology in space flight. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

More information about the Mars rovers is online at: http://www.nasa.gov/rovers . More information about AEGIS is at: http://scienceandtechnology.jpl.nasa.gov/newsandevents/newsdetails/?NewsID=677 .

- end -

Offline rdale

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #126 on: 04/01/2010 01:34 AM »
Mars rover Spirit misses communications session and may be in hibernation.

Online lbiderman

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #127 on: 04/01/2010 11:23 PM »
Mars rover Spirit misses communications session and may be in hibernation.

Come on kid, you can do it...
« Last Edit: 04/01/2010 11:24 PM by lbiderman »
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Offline jacqmans

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #128 on: 05/20/2010 03:17 AM »
News release: 2010-168B                                                                      May 19, 2010

NASA's Mars Rovers Set Surface Longevity Record

The full version of this story with accompanying images is at:
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2010-168b&cid=release_2010-168b

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project will pass a historic Martian longevity record on Thursday, May 20. The Opportunity rover will surpass the duration record set by NASA's Viking 1 Lander of six years and 116 days operating on the surface of Mars. The effects of favorable weather on the red planet could also help the rovers generate more power.

Opportunity's twin rover, Spirit, began working on Mars three weeks before Opportunity. However, Spirit has been out of communication since March 22. If it awakens from hibernation and resumes communication, that rover will attain the Martian surface longevity record.

Spirit's hibernation was anticipated, based on energy forecasts, as the amount of sunshine hitting the robot's solar panels declined during autumn on Mars' southern hemisphere. Unfortunately, mobility problems prevented rover operators from positioning Spirit with a favorable tilt toward the north, as during the first three winters it experienced. The rovers' fourth winter solstice, the day of the Martian year with the least sunshine at their locations, was Wednesday, May 12 (May 13 Universal time).

"Opportunity, and likely Spirit, surpassing the Viking Lander 1 longevity record is truly remarkable, considering these rovers were designed for only a 90-day mission on the surface of Mars," Callas said. "Passing the solstice means we're over the hump for the cold, dark, winter season."

Unless dust interferes, which is unlikely in the coming months, the solar panels on both rovers should gradually generate more electricity. Operators hope that Spirit will recharge its batteries enough to awaken from hibernation, start communicating and resume science tasks.

Unlike recent operations, Opportunity will not have to rest to regain energy between driving days. The gradual increase in available sunshine will eventually improve the rate of Opportunity's progress across a vast plain toward its long-term destination, the Endeavour Crater.

This month, some of Opportunity's drives have been planned to end at an energy-favorable tilt on the northern face of small Martian plain surface ripples. The positioning sacrifices some distance to regain energy sooner for the next drive. Opportunity's cameras can see a portion of the rim of Endeavour on the horizon, approximately eight miles away, across the plain's ripples of windblown sand.

"The ripples look like waves on the ocean, like we're out in the middle of the ocean with land on the horizon, our destination," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Squyres is the principal investigator for Opportunity and Spirit. "Even though we know we might never get there, Endeavour is the goal that drives our exploration."

The team chose Endeavour as a destination in mid-2008, after Opportunity finished two years examining the smaller Victoria Crater. Since then, the goal became even more alluring when orbital observations found clay minerals exposed at Endeavour. Clay minerals have been found extensively on Mars from orbit, but have not been examined on the surface.

"Those minerals form under wet conditions more neutral than the wet, acidic environment that formed the sulfates we've found with Opportunity," said Squyres. "The clay minerals at Endeavour speak to a time when the chemistry was much friendlier to life than the environments that formed the minerals Opportunity has seen so far. We want to get there to learn their context. Was there flowing water? Were there steam vents? Hot springs? We want to find out."

Launched in 1975, Project Viking consisted of two orbiters, each carrying a stationary lander. Viking Lander 1 was the first successful mission to the surface of Mars, touching down on July 20, 1976. It operated until Nov. 13, 1982, more than two years longer than its twin lander or either of the Viking orbiters.

The record for longest working lifetime by a spacecraft at Mars belongs to a later orbiter: NASA's Mars Global Surveyor operated for more than 9 years after arriving in 1997. NASA's Mars Odyssey, in orbit since in 2001, has been working at Mars longer than any other current mission and is on track to take the Mars longevity record late this year.

Science discoveries by the Mars Exploration Rover have included Opportunity finding the first mineralogical evidence that Mars had liquid water, and Spirit finding evidence for hot springs or steam vents and a past environment of explosive volcanism.

JPL manages the Mars rovers for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information about the rovers, visit http://www.nasa.gov/rovers . The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.



- end -

Offline jacqmans

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #129 on: 07/30/2010 06:25 PM »
RELEASE: 10-182

NASA'S HIBERNATING MARS ROVER MAY NOT CALL HOME

WASHINGTON -- NASA mission controllers have not heard from the Mars
Exploration Rover Spirit since March 22, and the rover is facing its
toughest challenge yet -- trying to survive the harsh Martian winter.


The rover team anticipated Spirit would go into a low-power
"hibernation" mode since the rover was not able to get to a favorable
slope for its fourth Martian winter, which runs from May through
November. The low angle of sunlight during these months limits the
power generated from the rover's solar panels. During hibernation,
the rover suspends communications and other activities so available
energy can be used to recharge and heat batteries, and to keep the
mission clock running.

On July 26, mission managers began using a paging technique called
"sweep and beep" in an effort to communicate with Spirit.

"Instead of just listening, we send commands to the rover to respond
back to us with a communications beep," said John Callas, project
manager for Spirit and Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "If the rover is awake and hears us,
she will send us that beep."

Based on models of Mars' weather and its effect on available power,
mission managers believe that if Spirit responds, it most likely will
be in the next few months. However, there is a very distinct
possibility Spirit may never respond.

"It will be the miracle from Mars if our beloved rover phones home,"
said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program in
Washington. "It's never faced this type of severe condition before --
this is unknown territory."

Because most of the rover's heaters were not being powered this
winter, Spirit is likely experiencing its coldest internal
temperatures yet -- minus 67 degrees Fahrenheit. During three
previous Martian winters, Spirit communicated about once or twice a
week with Earth and used its heaters to stay warm while parked on a
sun-facing slope for the winter. As a result, the heaters were able
to keep internal temperatures above minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spirit is designed to wake up from its hibernation and communicate
with Earth when its battery charge is adequate. But if the batteries
have lost too much power, Spirit's clock may stop and lose track of
time. The rover could still reawaken, but it would not know the time
of day, a situation called a "mission-clock fault." Spirit would
start a new timer to wake up every four hours and listen for a signal
from Earth for 20 minutes of every hour while the sun is up.

The earliest date the rover could generate enough power to send a beep
to Earth was calculated to be around July 23. However, mission
managers don't anticipate the batteries will charge adequately until
late September to mid-October. It may be even later if the rover is
in a mission-clock fault mode. If Spirit does wake up, mission
managers will do a complete health check on the rover's instruments
and electronics.

Based on previous Martian winters, the rover team anticipates the
increasing haziness in the sky over Spirit will offset longer
daylight for the next two months. The amount of solar energy
available to Spirit then will increase until the southern Mars summer
solstice in March 2011. If we haven't heard from it by March, it is
unlikely that we will ever hear from it.

"This has been a long winter for Spirit, and a long wait for us," said
Steve Squyres, the principal investigator for NASA's two rovers who
is based at Cornell University. "Even if we never heard from Spirit
again, I think her scientific legacy would be secure. But we're
hopeful we will hear from her, and we're eager to get back to doing
science with two rovers again."

Spirit and its twin, Opportunity, began exploring Mars in January 2004
on missions planned to last three months. Spirit has been nearly
stationary since April 2009, while Opportunity is driving toward a
large crater named Endeavour. Opportunity covered more distance in
2009 than in any prior year. Both rovers have made important
discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been
favorable for supporting microbial life.

NASA's JPL manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's
Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about the rovers, visit:



http://www.nasa.gov/rovers

Online Robotbeat

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #130 on: 07/30/2010 07:47 PM »
Exactly how far away is Opportunity from Endeavor Crater?
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Online eeergo

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #131 on: 07/30/2010 07:53 PM »
Exactly how far away is Opportunity from Endeavor Crater?

There are nice updated maps (up to a few days ago) in UMSF:

http://www.unmannedspaceflight.com/index.php?showtopic=681&view=findpost&p=162233

It appears Opportunity is about halfway between Victoria and Endeavour.

More official, detailed maps at JPL's site: http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/tm-opportunity-all.html
-DaviD-

Online Space Pete

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #132 on: 09/12/2010 01:47 PM »
Opportunity Rover Reaches Halfway Point of Long Trek.

When NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity left Victoria Crater two years ago this month, the rover science team chose Endeavour Crater as the rover's next long-term destination. With a drive of 111 meters (364 feet) on Monday, Sept. 8, Opportunity reached the estimated halfway point of the approximately 19-kilometer (11.8-mile) journey from Victoria to the western rim of Endeavour.

Opportunity completed its three-month prime mission on Mars in April 2004. During its bonus extended operations since then, it spent two years exploring in and around Victoria Crater. Victoria is about 800 meters (half a mile) in diameter. At about 22 kilometers (14 miles) in diameter, Endeavour is about 28 times wider. After the rover science team selected Endeavour as a long-term destination, observations of Endeavour's rim by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter revealed the presence of clay minerals. This finding makes the site an even more compelling science destination. Clay minerals, which form exclusively under wet conditions, have been found extensively on Mars from orbit, but have not been examined on the surface.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more about the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity, see http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.

Source.
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Online Space Pete

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #133 on: 09/21/2010 09:12 PM »
Mars Rover Opportunity Approaching Possible Meteorite.

Images that NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity took at the end of an 81-meter (266-foot) drive on Sept. 16 reveal a dark rock about 31 meters (102 feet) away. The rover's science team has decided to go get a closer look at the toaster-sized rock and determine whether it is an iron meteorite.

"The dark color, rounded texture and the way it is perched on the surface all make it look like an iron meteorite," said science-team member Matt Golombek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Opportunity has found four iron meteorites during the rover's exploration of the Meridiani Planum region of Mars since early 2004. Examination of these rocks has provided information about the Martian atmosphere, as well as the meteorites themselves.

The newfound rock has been given the informal name "OileŠn Ruaidh" (pronounced ay-lan ruah), which is the Gaelic name for an island off the coast of northwestern Ireland. The rock is about 45 centimeters (18 inches) wide from the angle at which it was first seen.

Opportunity has driven 23.3 kilometers (14.5 miles) on Mars. The drive to this rock will take the total combined distance driven by Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, to more than 31 kilometers (19.26 miles).

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004 for what was planned as a three-month mission. For more information about the mission, see http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.

Source (with accompanying image).
Electronic Engineer by day, NASASpaceflight's ISS Editor by night | Read my NASASpaceflight articles here

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #134 on: 09/21/2010 11:36 PM »
Seriously, it looks like Mars is littered with these iron meteorites!

I'd hazard a guess that over a ton of free iron/nickel (not just ore!) has been found since the two rovers have started, all well within the area an unpressurized manned rover could cover in half a day. Irregular ingots, practically ready for secondary industry.
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Offline marsavian

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #135 on: 10/28/2010 07:01 PM »
NASA Trapped Mars Rover Finds Evidence of Subsurface Water

http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/oct/HQ_10-278_Stuck_Spirit.html

PASADENA, Calif. -- The ground where NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit became stuck last year holds evidence that water, perhaps as snow melt, trickled into the subsurface fairly recently and on a continuing basis.

Stratified soil layers with different compositions close to the surface led the rover science team to propose that thin films of water may have entered the ground from frost or snow. The seepage could have happened during cyclical climate changes during periods when Mars tilted farther on its axis. The water may have moved down into the sand, carrying soluble minerals deeper than less-soluble ones. Spin-axis tilt varies over timescales of hundreds of thousands of years.

The relatively insoluble minerals near the surface include what is thought to be hematite, silica and gypsum. Ferric sulfates, which are more soluble, appear to have been dissolved and carried down by water. None of these minerals is exposed at the surface, which is covered by wind-blown sand and dust.

"The lack of exposures at the surface indicates the preferential dissolution of ferric sulfates must be a relatively recent and ongoing process since wind has been systematically stripping soil and altering landscapes in the region Spirit has been examining," said Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, deputy principal investigator for the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

Analysis of these findings appears in a report in the Journal of Geophysical Research published by Arvidson and 36 co-authors about Spirit's operations from late 2007 until just before the rover stopped communicating in March.

The twin Mars rovers finished their three-month prime missions in April 2004, then kept exploring in bonus missions. One of Spirit's six wheels quit working in 2006.

In April 2009, Spirit's left wheels broke through a crust at a site called "Troy" and churned into soft sand. A second wheel stopped working seven months later. Spirit could not obtain a position slanting its solar panels toward the sun for the winter, as it had for previous winters. Engineers anticipated it would enter a low-power, silent hibernation mode, and the rover stopped communicating March 22. Spring begins next month at Spirit's site, and NASA is using the Deep Space Network and the Mars Odyssey orbiter to listen if the rover reawakens.

Researchers took advantage of Spirit's months at Troy last year to examine in great detail soil layers the wheels had exposed, and also neighboring surfaces. Spirit made 13 inches of progress in its last 10 backward drives before energy levels fell too low for further driving in February. Those drives exposed a new area of soil for possible examination if Spirit does awaken and its robotic arm is still usable.

"With insufficient solar energy during the winter, Spirit goes into a deep-sleep hibernation mode where all rover systems are turned off, including the radio and survival heaters," said John Callas, project manager for Spirit and Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif. "All available solar array energy goes into charging the batteries and keeping the mission clock running."

The rover is expected to have experienced temperatures colder than it has ever before, and it may not survive. If Spirit does get back to work, the top priority is a multi-month study that can be done without driving the rover. The study would measure the rotation of Mars through the Doppler signature of the stationary rover's radio signal with enough precision to gain new information about the planet's core. The rover Opportunity has been making steady progress toward a large crater, Endeavour, which is now approximately 5 miles away.

Spirit, Opportunity, and other NASA Mars missions have found evidence of wet Martian environments billions of years ago that were possibly favorable for life. The Phoenix Mars Lander in 2008 and observations by orbiters since 2002 have identified buried layers of water ice at high and middle latitudes and frozen water in polar ice caps. These newest Spirit findings contribute to an accumulating set of clues that Mars may still have small amounts of liquid water at some periods during ongoing climate cycles.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the rovers for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
« Last Edit: 10/28/2010 07:03 PM by marsavian »

Offline jacqmans

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #136 on: 11/09/2010 06:23 PM »
Sensor on Mars Rover to Measure Radiation Environment

The full version of this story with accompanying images is at:
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2010-376&cid=release_2010-376

About eight months before the NASA rover Curiosity touches down on Mars in August 2012, the mission's science measurements will begin much closer to Earth.

The Mars Science Laboratory mission's Radiation Assessment Detector, or RAD, will monitor naturally occurring radiation that can be unhealthful if absorbed by living organisms. It will do so on the surface of Mars, where there has never before been such an instrument, as well as during the trip between Mars and Earth.

RAD's measurements on Mars will help fulfill the mission's key goals of assessing whether Curiosity's landing region on Mars has had conditions favorable for life and for preserving evidence about life. This instrument also will do an additional job. Unlike any of the nine others in this robotic mission's science payload, RAD has a special task and funding from the part of NASA that is planning human exploration beyond Earth orbit. It will aid design of human missions by reducing uncertainty about how much shielding from radiation future astronauts will need. The measurements between Earth and Mars, as well as the measurements on Mars, will serve that purpose.

"No one has fully characterized the radiation environment on the surface of another planet. If we want to send humans there, we need to do that," said RAD Principal Investigator Don Hassler of the Boulder, Colo., branch of the Southwest Research Institute.

Whether the first destination for human exploration beyond the moon is an asteroid or Mars, the travelers will need protection from the radiation environment in interplanetary space. Hassler said, "The measurements we get during the cruise from Earth to Mars will help map the distribution of radiation throughout the solar system and be useful in mission design for wherever we send astronauts."

RAD will monitor high-energy atomic and subatomic particles coming from the sun, from distant supernovas and from other sources. These particles constitute the radiation that could be harmful to any microbes near the surface of Mars or to astronauts on a Mars mission. Galactic cosmic rays, coming from supernova explosions and other events extremely far from our own solar system, are a variable shower of charged particles. In addition, the sun itself spews electrons, protons and heavier ions in "solar particle events" fed by solar flares and ejections of matter from the sun's corona. Astronauts might need to move into havens with extra shielding on an interplanetary spacecraft or on Mars during solar particle events.

Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere provide effective shielding for our home planet against the possible deadly effects of galactic cosmic rays and solar particle events. Mars, though, lacks a global magnetic field and has only about one percent as much atmosphere as Earth. Just to find high-enough radiation levels on Earth for checking and calibrating RAD, the instrument team needed to put it inside major particle-accelerator research facilities in the United States, Europe, Japan and South Africa.

An instrument on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, which reached Mars in 2001, assessed radiation levels above the Martian atmosphere. Current estimates of the radiation environment at the planet's surface rely on modeling of how the thin atmosphere affects the energetic particles, but uncertainty in the modeling remains large. "A single energetic particle hitting the top of the atmosphere can break up into many particles -- a cascade of lower-energy particles that might be more damaging to life than a single high-energy particle," Hassler noted.

The 1.7-kilogram (3.8-pound) RAD instrument has an upward-pointing, wide-angle telescope with detectors for charged particles with masses up to that of iron. It can also detect secondary neutrons coming from both the Mars atmosphere above and Mars surface material below. Hassler's international RAD team includes experts in instrument design, astronaut safety, atmospheric science, geology and other fields.

Southwest Research Institute, in Boulder and in San Antonio, Texas, and Christian Albrechts University, in Kiel, Germany, built RAD with funding from the NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and Germany's national aerospace research center: Deutschen Zentrum fŁr Luft- und Raumfahrt. The team assembling and testing the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., installed RAD onto Curiosity last month for the late-2011 launch.

RAD measurements during the trip from Earth to Mars will enable correlations with instruments on other spacecraft that monitor solar particle events and galactic cosmic rays in Earth's neighborhood, then will yield data about the radiation environment farther from Earth.

Once on Mars, the rover's prime mission will last a full Martian year -- nearly two Earth years. A one-time set of measurements by RAD would not suffice for determining the radiation environment on the surface, because radiation levels vary on time frames both longer than a year and shorter than an hour. Operational planning for Curiosity anticipates that RAD will record measurements for 15 minutes of every hour throughout the prime mission.

Radiation levels probably make the surface of modern Mars inhospitable for microbial life. The measurements from RAD will feed calculations of how deeply a possible future robot on a life-detection mission might need to dig or drill to reach a microbial safe zone. For assessing whether the surface radiation environment could have been hospitable for microbes in Mars' distant past, researchers will combine RAD's measurements with estimates of how the activity of the sun and the atmosphere of Mars have changed in the past few billion years.

"The primary science goal of Curiosity is to determine whether its landing site is, or ever was, a habitable environment, a place friendly to life," said JPL's Ashwin Vasavada, deputy project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory. "That involves looking both for conditions that would support life as well as for those that would be hazardous to life or its chemical predecessors. Natural, high-energy radiation is just such a hazard, and RAD will give us the first look at the present level of this radiation and help us to better estimate radiation levels throughout Mars' history."

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information about the mission, see http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ .

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

- end -

Offline jacqmans

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #137 on: 11/19/2010 08:26 AM »
NASA Mars Rover Images Honor Apollo 12

The full version of this story with accompanying images is at:
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2010-388&cid=release_2010-388

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has visited and photographed two craters informally named for the spacecraft that carried men to the moon 41 years ago this week.

Opportunity drove past "Yankee Clipper" crater on Nov. 4 and reached "Intrepid crater" on Nov. 9. For NASA's Apollo 12, the second mission to put humans onto the moon, the command and service module was called Yankee Clipper, piloted by Dick Gordon, and the lunar module was named Intrepid, piloted by Alan Bean and commanded by the late Pete Conrad. The Intrepid landed on the moon with Bean and Conrad on Nov. 19, 1969, while Yankee Clipper orbited overhead. Their landing came a mere four months after Apollo 11's first lunar landing.

This week, Bean wrote to the Mars Exploration Rover team: "I just talked with Dick Gordon about the wonderful honor you have bestowed upon our Apollo 12 spacecraft. Forty-one years ago today, we were approaching the moon in Yankee Clipper with Intrepid in tow. We were excited to have the opportunity to perform some important exploration of a place in the universe other than planet Earth where humans had not gone before. We were anxious to give it our best effort. You and your team have that same opportunity. Give it your best effort."

Rover science team member James Rice, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., suggested using the Apollo 12 names. He was applying the rover team's convention of using names of historic ships of exploration for the informal names of craters that Opportunity sees in the Meridian Planum region of Mars.

"The Apollo missions were so inspiring when I was young, I remember all the dates. When we were approaching these craters, I realized we were getting close to the Nov. 19 anniversary for Apollo 12," Rice said. He sent Bean and Gordon photographs that Opportunity took of the two craters.

The images are available online at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA13593 and http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA13596. Intrepid crater is about 20 meters (66 feet) in diameter. Yankee Clipper crater is about half that width.

After a two-day stop to photograph the rocks exposed at Intrepid, Opportunity continued on a long-term trek toward Endeavour crater, a highly eroded crater about 1,000 times wider than Intrepid. Endeavour's name comes from the ship of James Cook's first Pacific voyage.

During a drive of 116.9 meters (383.5 feet) on Nov. 14, Opportunity's "odometer" passed 25 kilometers (15.53 miles). That is more than 40 times the driving-distance goal set for Opportunity to accomplish during its original three-month prime mission in 2004.

Mars Exploration Project Manager John Callas, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., said, "Importantly, it's not how far the rovers have gone but how much exploration and science discovery they have accomplished on behalf of all humankind."

At the beginning of Opportunity's mission, the rover landed inside "Eagle crater," about the same size as Intrepid crater. The team's name for that landing-site crater paid tribute to the lunar module of Apollo 11, the first human landing on the moon. Opportunity spent two months inside Eagle crater, where it found multiple lines of evidence for a wet environment in the area's ancient past.

The rover team is checking regularly for Opportunity's twin, Spirit, in case the increasing daily solar energy available at Spirit's location enables the rover to reawaken and resume communication. No signal from Spirit has been received since March 22. Spring began last week in the southern hemisphere of Mars.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rovers for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information about the rovers, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/rovers .


Offline jacqmans

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #138 on: 01/21/2011 02:22 PM »
Jan. 20, 2011

Mars Sliding Behind Sun After Rover Anniversary

The full version of this story with accompanying images is at:
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-022&cid=release_2011-022

PASADENA, Calif. -- The team operating NASA's Mars rover Opportunity will temporarily suspend commanding for 16 days after the rover's seventh anniversary next week, but the rover will stay busy.

For the fourth time since Opportunity landed on Mars on Jan. 25, 2004, Universal Time (Jan. 24, Pacific Time), the planets' orbits will put Mars almost directly behind the sun from Earth's perspective.

During the days surrounding such an alignment, called a solar conjunction, the sun can disrupt radio transmissions between Earth and Mars. To avoid the chance of a command being corrupted by the sun and harming a spacecraft, NASA temporarily refrains from sending commands from Earth to Mars spacecraft in orbit and on the surface. This year, the commanding moratorium will be Jan. 27 to Feb. 11 for Opportunity, with similar periods for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey orbiter.

Downlinks from Mars spacecraft will continue during the conjunction period, though at a much reduced rate. Mars-to-Earth communication does not present risk to spacecraft safety, even if transmissions are corrupted by the sun.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will scale back its observations of Mars during the conjunction period due to reduced capability to download data to Earth and a limit on how much can be stored onboard.

Opportunity will continue sending data daily to the Odyssey orbiter for relay to Earth. "Overall, we expect to receive a smaller volume of daily data from Opportunity and none at all during the deepest four days of conjunction," said Alfonso Herrera, a rover mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The rover team has developed a set of commands to be sent to Opportunity in advance so that the rover can continue science activities during the command moratorium.

"The goal is to characterize the materials in an area that shows up with a mineralogical signal, as seen from orbit, that's different from anywhere else Opportunity has been," said JPL's Bruce Banerdt, project scientist for Opportunity and its rover twin, Spirit. The area is at the southeastern edge of a crater called "Santa Maria," which Opportunity approached from the west last month.

Drives last week brought Opportunity to the position where it will spend the conjunction period. From that position, the rover's robotic arm can reach an outcrop target called "Luis de Torres." The rover's Moessbauer spectrometer will be placed onto the target for several days during the conjunction to assess the types of minerals present. The instrument uses a small amount of radioactive cobalt-57 to elicit information from the target. With a half-life of less than a year, the cobalt has substantially depleted during Opportunity's seven years on Mars, so readings lasting several days are necessary now to be equivalent to much shorter readings when the mission was newer.

Opportunity will also make atmospheric measurements during the conjunction period. After conjunction, it will spend several more days investigating Santa Maria crater before resuming a long-term trek toward Endurance crater, which is about 22 kilometers (14 miles) in diameter and, at its closest edge, about 6 kilometers (4 miles) from Santa Maria.

Opportunity's drives to the southeastern edge of Santa Maria brought the total distance driven by the rover during its seventh year on Mars to 7.4 kilometers (4.6 miles), which is more than in any previous year. The rover's total odometry for its seventh anniversary is 26.7 kilometers (16.6 miles).

Opportunity and Spirit, which landed three weeks apart, successfully completed their three-month prime missions in April 2004, then began 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's most recent communication was on March 22, 2010. On the possibility that Spirit may yet awaken from a low-power hibernation status, NASA engineers continue to listen for a signal from that rover.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.


Offline jacqmans

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers Update
« Reply #139 on: 03/09/2011 05:27 PM »
Color View from Orbit Shows Mars Rover Beside Crater

The full version of this story with accompanying images is at:
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-072&cid=release_2011-072

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has nearly completed its three-month examination of a crater informally named "Santa Maria," but before the rover resumes its overland trek, an orbiting camera has provided a color image of Opportunity beside Santa Maria.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter acquired the image on March 1, while Opportunity was extending its robotic arm to take close-up photos of a rock called "Ruiz Garcia." From orbit, the tracks Opportunity made as it approached the crater from the west are clearly visible. Santa Maria crater is about 90 meters (295 feet) in diameter.

The HiRISE image is at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA13803 . March 1 corresponded to the 2,524th Martian day, or sol, of Opportunity's work on Mars. A raw image from Opportunity's front hazard-avoidance camera from the same day, showing the arm extended to Ruiz Garcia, is at http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/all/1/f/2524/1F352255948EFFB1F5P1110L0M1.HTML . To complete the scale of imaging, a raw image taken by Opportunity's microscopic imager that day, showing textural detail of the rock, is at http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/all/1/m/2524/1M352254519EFFB1F5P2935M2M1.HTML .

Opportunity completed its three-month prime mission on Mars in April 2004 and has been working in bonus extended missions since then. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which arrived at Mars on March 10, 2006, has also completed its prime mission and is operating in an extended mission.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is operated by the University of Arizona, Tucson. The instrument was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Exploration Rover projects for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, and built Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is NASA's industry partner for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter project and built that spacecraft.


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