Archive for December, 2015

 

Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center

Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center

Europe’s reach for the Moon is loud and proud.

That’s evident in new details following a European Space Agency (ESA) led meeting, an international symposium on “Moon 2020-2030 – A New Era of Coordinated Human and Robotic Exploration.”

The meeting was held December 15-16 at ESA/ESTEC in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

Upshot: The Moon is viewed as a springboard to push the human exploration of the Solar System — with Mars as the horizon goal.

Comeback to the Moon

“A new lunar adventure is rising over Europe’s space exploration horizon,” declares a preliminary summary of the program that brought together over 200 scientists, engineers, astronauts, and space leaders from all over the world.

“ESA is teaming up with international key players to make possible the return of humans to the Earth’s natural satellite by the end of the next decade,” the document provided to Inside Outer Space explains.

In addition, private sector and industry are acting as a catalyst towards “a common and open lunar exploration architecture.”

Intercontinental teams at the meeting joined efforts to design plans for a lunar a space habitat and a combination of robotic and human landings.

Calling it a “comeback to the Moon” ESA envisions a series of human missions to the lunar vicinity, starting in the early 2020s, coordinated and interacting with robotic systems on the ground.

The European Space Agency and Russia are working jointly on the Luna 27 Moon lander. Credit: ESA

The European Space Agency and Russia are working jointly on the Luna 27 Moon lander.
Credit: ESA

Robots will land first, paving the way for human explorers that will set foot on the Moon.

Russian lander

This “rebirth of lunar technology and science,” adds the document, includes Europe supplying a precision-landing and hazard-avoidance system called PILOT.

That system would be onboard the Russian lander, Luna 27, to get the craft down safely near the Moon’s south pole.

A drill to retrieve samples and a communication system are also in the making.

New Moon

A major driver of renewed interest in the Moon is the hunt for lunar resources – in the form frozen volatiles – including water ice – known to be lurking within permanent shadows at the lunar poles.

“Their distribution in different regions is not yet clear. Understanding where they are and its uses are key for a sustainable long-term strategy,” the meeting summary explains.

Inside look at one idea the European Space Agency is exploring to fabricate a lunar habitat. Credit: ESA/ Foster + Partners

Inside look at one idea the European Space Agency is exploring to fabricate a lunar habitat.
Credit: ESA/ Foster + Partners

A “new Moon” awaits the document concludes. “The extreme and unknown landscapes of the south pole, the highlands and the far side of the Moon lie along the road. Some secrets to how life began on Earth more than three billion years ago are well-preserved in these unexplored areas…”

NOTE: An eight-minute video gives an overview of the past, present, and future of Moon exploration, from the lunar cataclysm to the European Space Agency’s vision of what lunar exploration could be. Why is the Moon important for science? What resources does the Moon have? Is there water? Why should we go back and how will we do it?

To view the video, go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe_nuRMH30c

 

Demonstration milestone has re-energized plutonium production in the United States. Credit: DOE/ORNL

Demonstration milestone has re-energized plutonium production in the United States.
Credit: DOE/ORNL

 

The first U.S. production in several decades of plutonium-238 is being energetically spotlighted by NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE).

Researchers at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee have restored a U.S. capability dormant for nearly 30 years.

Roughly the mass of a golf ball, the 50 grams of plutonium-238 means good news for future deep space missions.

 

Next gen orbiters, landers and rovers

“This significant achievement by our teammates at DOE signals a new renaissance in the exploration of our solar system,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington in a DOE press statement.

Radioisotope power system enables exploration by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Radioisotope power system enables exploration by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“Radioisotope power systems are a key tool to power the next generation of planetary orbiters, landers and rovers in our quest to unravel the mysteries of the universe,” Grunsfeld said.

Multi-Mission success

Radioisotope power systems convert heat from the natural radioactive decay of the isotope plutonium-238 into electricity.

For NASA, these systems have powered, for example, the Viking lander missions to Mars, the Voyager spacecraft, and more recently they have energized the now on the prowl Curiosity Mars Rover and the New Horizons spacecraft that sailed past Pluto earlier this year.

The currently available radioisotope power system is called the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG).

The next NASA mission planning to use an MMRTG is NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Two (unfueled) MMRTGs are currently built and in storage at DOE facilities; one is reserved for Mars 2020, and the other could be used on a future mission. Fabrication of the fuel pellets for the Mars 2020 MMRTG — using the existing U.S. supply of plutonium dioxide — is already underway.

NASA’s Radioisotope Power System (RPS) program, managed by NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, is funding the development of new, higher efficiency thermoelectric materials that could be incorporated into a next-generation enhanced MMRTG that would provide about 25 percent more power at the start of a typical mission, and 50 percent more power at the end of a mission.

Artist's view of NASA's nuclear powered New Horizons spacecraft as it passes Pluto and Pluto's largest moon, Charon, last July. Credit: NASA/JHU APL/SwRI/Steve Gribben

Artist’s view of NASA’s nuclear powered New Horizons spacecraft as it passes Pluto and Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, last July.
Credit: NASA/JHU APL/SwRI/Steve Gribben

Increased production

Given “continued coordination,” explains the DOE, both agencies plan to increase production following the recent demonstration milestone success. That increase will being with 300 to 400 grams (about 12 ounces) of plutonium dioxide per year.

After implementing greater automation and scaling up the process, ORNL will produce an average of 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) in subsequent years, the DOE explains.

“Once we automate and scale up the process, the nation will have a long-range capability to produce radioisotope power systems such as those used by NASA for deep space exploration,” said ORNL’s Bob Wham, who leads the project for the lab’s Nuclear Security and Isotope Technology Division.

The reaching of the demonstration milestone at ORNL comes two years after NASA began funding the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy through a roughly $15 million per year effort to revive the department’s capability to make plutonium-238.

For more information, go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=16&v=VRJT6SKwuHg&noredirect=1

Back to the shop. NASA's InSight Mars lander spacecraft in a Lockheed Martin clean room near Denver. Marscraft had been sent to launch site, but its March 2016 liftoff has been called off. Credit: Lockheed Martin Space Systems

Back to the shop. NASA’s InSight Mars lander spacecraft in a Lockheed Martin clean room near Denver. Marscraft had been sent to launch site, but its March 2016 liftoff has been called off.
Credit: Lockheed Martin Space Systems

After thorough examination, NASA managers have decided to call off the planned March 2016 launch of the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission. The decision follows unsuccessful attempts to repair a leak in a section of the prime instrument in the science payload.

A leak that previously had

InSight's robot arm would have deployed sensitive Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) (white object in foreground). Credit: NASA/JPL

InSight’s robot arm would have deployed sensitive Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) (white object in foreground).
Credit: NASA/JPL

prevented the seismometer from retaining vacuum conditions was repaired, and the mission team was hopeful the most recent fix also would be successful. However, during testing on Monday in extreme cold temperature (-49 degrees Fahrenheit/-45 degrees Celsius) the instrument again failed to hold a vacuum.

NASA officials determined there is insufficient time to resolve another leak, and complete the work and thorough testing required to ensure a successful mission.

 

The spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, was delivered to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, on Dec. 16. With the 2016 launch canceled, the spacecraft will be returned from Vandenberg to Lockheed’s facility in Denver.

From Lockheed Martin, a statement on the InSight decision:

“We share NASA’s conviction that the top priority on any mission is to ensure it’s done right, and we stand ready to support the next steps on InSight in any way we can. Our team worked hard to get the InSight spacecraft built, tested and shipped to the launch site on schedule. Although InSight won’t launch in March as planned, we will work closely with NASA, JPL and their partners to map out the path forward for the spacecraft and its important mission. The InSight lander and its advanced scientific instruments are crucial to our understanding of how Mars and other rocky planets in the solar system formed. Like all Mars missions, it will also provide important knowledge and technological advancements to support future space exploration efforts.”

 

The outer solar system as we now recognise it. At the center of the map is the Sun, and close to it the tiny orbits of the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars). Moving outwards and shown in bright blue are the near-circular paths of the giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The orbit of Pluto is shown in white. Staying perpetually beyond Neptune are the trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), in yellow: seventeen TNO orbits are shown here, with the total discovered population at present being over 1,500. Shown in red are the orbits of 22 Centaurs (out of about 400 known objects), and these are essentially giant comets (most are 50-100 kilometers in size, but some are several hundred kilometers in diameter). Because the Centaurs cross the paths of the major planets, their orbits are unstable: some will eventually be ejected from the solar system, but others will be thrown onto trajectories bringing them inwards, therefore posing a danger to civilisation and life on Earth. Credit: Duncan Steel

The outer solar system as we now recognize it. At the center of the map is the Sun, and close to it the tiny orbits of the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars). Moving outwards and shown in bright blue are the near-circular paths of the giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The orbit of Pluto is shown in white. Staying perpetually beyond Neptune are the trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), in yellow: seventeen TNO orbits are shown here, with the total discovered population at present being over 1,500. Shown in red are the orbits of 22 Centaurs (out of about 400 known objects), and these are essentially giant comets (most are 50-100 kilometers in size, but some are several hundred kilometers in diameter). Because the Centaurs cross the paths of the major planets, their orbits are unstable: some will eventually be ejected from the solar system, but others will be thrown onto trajectories bringing them inwards, therefore posing a danger to civilization and life on Earth.
Credit: Duncan Steel

Giant comets could pose danger to life on Earth.

That’s the word from a team of astronomers from Armagh Observatory and the University of Buckingham.

They report that the discovery of hundreds of giant comets in the outer planetary system over the last two decades means that these objects pose a much greater hazard to life than asteroids.

Beware the centaurs

The giant comets — termed centaurs — move on unstable orbits crossing the paths of the massive outer planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The planetary gravitational fields can occasionally deflect these objects in towards the Earth.

The team consists of researchers Bill Napier and Duncan Steel of the University of Buckingham, Mark Bailey and David Asher of Armagh Observatory.

Their work is just out in the December issue of Astronomy & Geophysics (A&G), the journal of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).

 

 

 

Serious hazard

“In the last three decades we have invested a lot of effort in tracking and analyzing the risk of a collision between the Earth and an asteroid,” says Napier in a RAS press statement.

Because they are so distant from the Earth, Centaurs appear as pinpricks of light in even the largest telescopes. Saturn's 200-kilometers in size moon Phoebe, depicted in this image, seems likely to be a Centaur that was captured by that planet's gravity at some time in the past. Until spacecraft are sent to visit other Centaurs, our best idea of what they look like comes from images like this one, obtained by the Cassini space probe orbiting Saturn. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, having flown past Pluto six months ago, has been targeted to conduct an approach to a 45-kilometers wide trans-Neptunian object at the end of 2018. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Because they are so distant from the Earth, Centaurs appear as pinpricks of light in even the largest telescopes. Saturn’s 200-kilometers in size moon Phoebe, depicted in this image, seems likely to be a Centaur that was captured by that planet’s gravity at some time in the past. Until spacecraft are sent to visit other Centaurs, our best idea of what they look like comes from images like this one, obtained by the Cassini space probe orbiting Saturn. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, having flown past Pluto six months ago, has been targeted to conduct an approach to a 45-kilometers wide trans-Neptunian object at the end of 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

“Our work suggests we need to look beyond our immediate neighborhood too, and look out beyond the orbit of Jupiter to find centaurs,” Napier explains. “If we are right, then these distant comets could be a serious hazard, and it’s time to understand them better.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the full research paper at:

http://www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/press/Centaurs/Napier.Centaurs.revSB.pdf

Europe is gathering organizational strenth to shoot for the Moon. Credit: NASA

Europe is gathering organizational strenth to shoot for the Moon.
Credit: NASA

Try and not let the “Mars-now” folks know.

But there is increasing interest in Europe to prioritize the Moon as humankind’s next deep space destination.

That was clearly evident given an international symposium held December 15-16 on “Moon 2020-2030 – A New Era of Coordinated Human and Robotic Exploration,” staged at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ESTEC in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

Exploration telepresence

An active participant and organizer of the meeting was U.S. astronomer Dan Lester, a consultant and telerobotics expert. He provided Inside Outer Space some post-meeting, personal observations:

“The meeting was quite good. Lots of excitement about Moon-related efforts,” Lester said. “One big takeaway message — at least for me — was that exploration telepresence is no longer an off-the-wall idea, but one that seemed to be threaded throughout the conference. This conference seemed to accept that it was a new way of doing exploration.”

The European Space Agency is exploring the promise of 3D printing to enable construction of lunar habitats. Credit: ESA/ Foster + Partners

The European Space Agency is exploring the promise of 3D printing to enable construction of lunar habitats.
Credit: ESA/ Foster + Partners

Lester advised that a strong recommendation that will be coming out of the meeting is that real analog studies will be necessary to understand how to do operations on the Moon.

Not analog operations at a Moon-like site which can be hugely expensive, just for travel, but analog operations where geologists use a real rover robot, perhaps just in a rockyard, with vision, dexterity/haptics and low latency control to do real-time field geology,” he said.

One other theme that was clear from the meeting, there is a load of important science that still needs to be done on the Moon. “That was a regular reminder at this meeting,” Lester said.

Wanted: coordinated prospecting program

Also bullish on the European meeting and a U.S. meeting organizer is Clive Neal, professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

“The meeting was excellent with over 200 people attending with 28 countries represented,” Neal told Inside Outer Space.

Neal said that take home messages were numerous.

“We keep talking about lunar resources, but we still need to demonstrate they can be used…they are, in fact, reserves. So ground truth verification of deposit size, composition, form, and homogeneity requires a coordinated prospecting program. A successful program would then clearly demonstrate that lunar resources can enable solar system exploration,” Neal said.

NASA sidelined

Technology development was highlighted in the meeting, Neal said, in terms of precision landing, robotic sample return, and cryogenic sampling, caching, return, and curation.

Inside look at one idea the European Space Agency is exploring to fabricate a lunar habitat. Credit: ESA/ Foster + Partners

Inside look at one idea the European Space Agency is exploring to fabricate a lunar habitat.
Credit: ESA/ Foster + Partners

 

“Significant investments in the latter are required and starting to be made,” Neal said.

Quantifying the benefits from government investment in space exploration is critical for convincing both governments and the private sector to invest in such endeavors, Neal said.

In other meeting news, Neal said, it was evident that partnerships — especially between ESA and Russia — are maturing rapidly.

“NASA appears to be sidelined in this endeavor, which is alarming but a product of our current space policy,” Neal concluded.

 

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1197, December 19, 2015. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1197, December 19, 2015.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Landing on Mars in August 2012, NASA’s Curiosity rover has driven closer to and imaged the lee side of Namib Dune, “and they reveal a lot of great details about the dune morphology,” reports Lauren Edgar, a research geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Today, Sunday, is a day without planning to allow Earth and Mars schedules to sync back up, Edgar notes. The rover has entered Sol 1199.

Curiosity’s camera system count is now over 290,000 images of the surrounding Mars landscape.

 

Slated activity is dumping the “Greenhorn” post-sieve sample and then analyzing it with both the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and the robot’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).

Another Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1197, December 19, 2015 Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Another Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 1197, December 19, 2015
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The plan calls for Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) viewing of targets “Duineveld” and “Spitzkop” to study the grain size and morphology of different parts of the dune’s slipface, Edgar explains.

Mastcam imaging of several targets for change detection is built into the plan.

On the schedule is testing of software for autonomous target selection, and using Mastcam and Navcam to monitor the Martian atmosphere.

Curiosity's robotic arm busy at work, shown in this Navcam Left B image, taken on Sol 1198 December 20, 2015. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity’s robotic arm busy at work, shown in this Navcam Left B image, taken on Sol 1198 December 20, 2015.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Dates of planned rover activities are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Edgar adds: “We’ll be in the same location for a little while, so hopefully we’ll have the chance to observe some sand movement!”

The Earth straddling the limb of the Moon, as seen from above Compton crater. Center of the Earth in this view is 4.04°N, 12.44°W, just off the coast of Liberia. The large tan area in the upper right is the Sahara desert, and just beyond is Saudia Arabia. The Atlantic and Pacific coasts of South America are visible to the left. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

The Earth straddling the limb of the Moon, as seen from above Compton crater. Center of the Earth in this view is 4.04°N, 12.44°W, just off the coast of Liberia. The large tan area in the upper right is the Sahara desert, and just beyond is Saudia Arabia. The Atlantic and Pacific coasts of South America are visible to the left.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter circling Earth’s Moon has been used to produce a gorgeous image of our home planet.

Using the spacecraft’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), imagery provides an interesting perspective of both Earthrises and Earthsets — something someone standing on the Moon wouldn’t be able to.

LROC is operated by Arizona State University (ASU).

No simple selfie

According to an ASU press statement, the images from the Moon of Earth are no simple space selfie.

The maneuver of LRO involved the spacecraft rolling 67 degrees to the side and then slewing with the direction of travel to maximize the width of the horizon — while traveling faster than 3,580 miles per hour.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) now circling the Moon. Credit: NASA/GSFC

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) now circling the Moon.
Credit: NASA/GSFC

 

Hardly static

Mark Robinson, a professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration is the principal investigator for the LROC.

The Earth may not move across the lunar sky, Robinson says, but the view is hardly static.

“Future astronauts will see continents rotate in and out of view, and the ever-changing pattern of clouds will always catch one’s eye — at least for those on the lunar side that faces Earth,” Robinson said.

NOTE: Find more images and technical explanations on the LROC website at:

http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/posts/895

Courtesy: CubeSat for Disclosure

Courtesy: CubeSat for Disclosure

It is a growth industry…the popularity and proliferation of CubeSats. They carry out all manner of duties, from testing laser communications hardware to imaging the Earth.

Now add one more task for a CubeSat – keeping an eye out for visiting ET.

The effort is called “CubeSat for Disclosure” and a fundraising campaign in underway to build the low Earth orbiting satellite. The campaign is via Indiegogo, the website that “empowers people to activate the global community to make ideas happen.”

Empowering individuals

According to the proposal team, the project aims to use a low orbit satellite, controlled by individuals, to study potential objects that emit high energy radiation.

Credit: CubeSat for Disclosure

Credit: CubeSat for Disclosure

“Maybe we’ll get data readings and pictures of solar-flare caused auroras. Maybe we’ll capture images of some very interesting meteors. And maybe we’ll actually capture a verifiable craft. All we can do is try, and by doing this our way, we can open-source the data to you, the individuals,” the project site notes.

Satellite instruments

The CubeSat for Disclosure would be capable of measuring the radiation in the environment of the satellite, equipped to detect high energy particles, radiation, and other phenomenon. Two cameras with parabolic lenses would provide a clear 360 degree view around our satellite.

The team leaders would like to have the CubeSat carry a mini-radar, if possible. “Regardless of radar, our radiation detection and imagery will give us enough to verify high energy emitting objects in space.”

Credit: UFODATA Project

Credit: UFODATA Project

 

 

Real-time data collection

Saluting the CubeSat for Disclosure initiative is Mark Rodeghier, President and Scientific Director of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies in Chicago, Illinois. He’s also a leader in the UFODATA Project, detailed here:

What are UFOs? New Scientific Study Launched

http://www.leonarddavid.com/what-are-ufos-new-scientific-study-launched/

“I only know what they’ve put on their fundraising website, but overall, I personally, as does the UFODATA project, support any serious effort at identifying and then measuring physical data about UFOS in real-time,” Rodeghier told Inside Outer Space.

“Science normally benefits from multiple approaches to the same problem, as there is no guarantee which research method will be the most successful, and the same is true for research into UFOs,” Rodeghier said. “Whether UFOs appear often enough in space to make such an effort practical is unknown, but we won’t know until someone looks.”

NOTE: For more information on the CubeSat for Disclosure campaign, go to:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cubesat-for-disclosure-low-earth-orbit-satellite#/updates

 

 

Curiosity Mastcam Left Sol 1194 on December 16, 2015. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Left Sol 1194 on December 16, 2015.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

Curiosity on Mars has entered Sol 1196 recently driving nearly 155 feet (47 meters) around the lee side of Namib Dune.

“The latest Navcam images reveal many beautiful aeolian features on the slipface and interdune deposits,” reports Lauren Edgar, a research geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of Mars Science Laboratory science team.

The plan call for Mastcam imagery to be taken of the brink of the dune and its slipface to characterize the dune morphology, Edgar adds. “We’ll also use Mastcam to document an outcrop with an unusual purple hue.”

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B Sol 1195, December 16, 2015. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B Sol 1195, December 16, 2015.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Also slated is driving the rover even closer to the dune slipface, taking post-drive pictures to prepare for the upcoming weekend of rover duties. A 360-degree Mastcam mosaic for geologic context is in the plan, as is monitoring the wind as Curiosity moves through the dune field.

Rover scientists are having a challenge staging all of the observations into a plan while staying within data volume constraints.

Edgar notes: “It’s hard to curb your imaging appetite when the views are so spectacular!”

As always, carrying out planned rover activities are subject to change due to a variety of factors.

NOTE: For more on Curiosity’s investigation of Martian dunes, go to this new video published on December 15, 2015.

The video spotlights Curiosity’s first investigation of active sand dunes on another planet. Studying the Bagnold Dunes on Mars will help scientists understand the physics of Martian dunes and how they move.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ur_TeOs3S64&feature=youtu.be

This May 22, 2015, view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) in NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the "Marias Pass" area where a lower and older geological unit of mudstone -- the pale zone in the center of the image -- lies in contact with an overlying geological unit of sandstone. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This May 22, 2015, view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) in NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the “Marias Pass” area where a lower and older geological unit of mudstone — the pale zone in the center of the image — lies in contact with an overlying geological unit of sandstone.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This image was taken by Curiosity’s Navcam Left B camera on Sol 1194, December 16, 2015. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image was taken by Curiosity’s Navcam Left B camera on Sol 1194, December 16, 2015.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars has taken a number of new images of Martian sand dunes.

The robot continues to drive around Namib Dune, relaying impressive photos of the feature, including up close looks at local bedrock.

Curiosity is now on duty, entering Sol 1195 since its landing in August 2012.

Curiosity’s Navcam Right B snapped this image on Sol 1194, December 16, 2015. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity’s Navcam Right B snapped this image on Sol 1194, December 16, 2015.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

Images taken by the Mars machinery are providing scientists with a better understanding of the morphology of the ripples and grain flows of Namib Dune.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To view a high resolution map of the rover’s whereabouts, go to:

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/imgs/2015/12/Curiosity_Location_Sol1187-full.jpg

 

This map shows the route driven by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity through the 1187 Martian day, or sol, of the rover's mission on Mars - as of December, 09, 2015. Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up. From Sol 1185 to Sol 1187, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 92.61 feet (28.23 meters). The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

This map shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 1187 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars – as of December, 09, 2015.
Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up.
From Sol 1185 to Sol 1187, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 92.61 feet (28.23 meters).
The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Griffith Observatory Event