Archive for November, 2016

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1509, November 3, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1509, November 3, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 1512

After driving over 130 feet (40 meters) on Sol 1509, the Mars machinery is carrying out a 3-sol weekend plan.

“There are a couple of good-sized outcrops in the arm workspace, so we’re planning contact science on Sol 1511,” reported Ken Herkenhoff of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1511 November 5, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1511, November 5, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Brush off

On the schedule is for the rover’s Navcam to first look for clouds and the Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) to observe bedrock targets named “Pemetic,” “Jordan Pond,” and “Penobscot.”

The rover’s Right Mastcam was slated to image Jordan Pond, Pemetic, and the ChemCam target selected by special software on Sol 1509, and acquire a 9×3 mosaic of sedimentary structures southwest of the rover.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B image taken on Sol 1511, November 5, 2016 Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B image taken on Sol 1511, November 5, 2016
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Later that afternoon, the Dirt Removal Tool (DRT) was to brush off Penobscot and Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) was to image the brushed spot and Pemetic from 25, 5 and 1 centimeter.

Wheel inspection

The rover’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) was on tap to be placed on Pemetic for a pair of integrations that evening, then placed on Penobscot for an overnight integration.

On Sol 1512, the Mars masterplan was to use Curiosity’s Mastcam to acquire a 5×4 stereo mosaic of the outcrop around Penobscot and a multispectral observation of the brushed spot.

Next on the schedule was for the robot’s MAHLI to image the rover wheels at 5 locations separated by small “bumps” to monitor wheel wear.

Potential touch and go

“Then it’s time for another drive and the post-drive imaging needed for a potential ‘touch and go’ on Sol 1514,” says Herkenhoff.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1509, November 3, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1509, November 3, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity’s Sol 1513 is to start with another ChemCam observation and Mastcam measurements of atmospheric dust opacity.

Finally, the robot’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) is slated to read out the data resulting from the recent analysis of empty sample cells and the robot’s Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) is to acquire an image during twilight.

Well-earned rest

“The rover will then get some well-earned rest and charge her batteries overnight,” Herkenhoff concludes.

As always, 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.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Exploration map

A new Curiosity traverse map has been issued, noting the rover’s exploration route after landing in August 2012 through Sol 1509, November 4, 2016.

As of that Sol, Curiosity has driven 9.22 miles (14.83 kilometers).

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up. The scale bar is 1 kilometer (roughly 0.62 mile).

From Sol 1508 to Sol 1509, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 125.75 feet (38.33 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 9.22 miles (14.83 kilometers).

The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The view from above of crash site. CredutL NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

The view from above of crash site.
CredutL NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

 

Splat attack!

More information has been issued as to the fate of Europe’s failed Schiaparelli Mars lander.

New high-resolution images taken by a NASA orbiter –the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its super-powerful High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) — show parts of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ExoMars Schiaparelli module and its landing site in color on the Red Planet.White spots, fuzzy patch

Color imagery of the October 19th crash site shows Schiaparelli and its hardware components. For example, a number of the bright white spots around the dark region can be seen.

Also, a bright fuzzy patch revealed in the color image alongside the dark streaks to the west of the crater could be surface material disturbed in the impact or from a subsequent explosion or explosive decompression of the module’s fuel tanks.

Blowing in the wind

According to an ESA press statement, here are some related facts:

About 0.9 km to the south, the parachute and rear heatshield have also now been imaged in colour.

In the time that has elapsed since the last image was taken on 25 October, the outline of the parachute has changed. The most logical explanation is that it has been shifted in the wind, in this case slightly to the west.

Artist's impression of Schiaparelli, the ExoMars entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, as it approaches the Martian surface. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Artist’s impression of Schiaparelli, the ExoMars entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, as it approaches the Martian surface.
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

A stereo reconstruction of this image in the future will also help to confirm the orientation of the rear heatshield. The pattern of bright and dark patches suggest it is sitting such that we see the outside of the heatshield and the signature of the way in which the external layer of insulation has burned away in some parts and not others – as expected.

New images coming

Finally, the front heatshield has been imaged again in black and white – its location falls outside of the colour region imaged by MRO – and shows no changes. Because of the different viewing geometry between the two image sets, this confirms that the bright spots are not specular reflections, and must therefore be related to the intrinsic brightness of the object. That is, it is most likely the bright multilayer thermal insulation that covers the inside of the front heatshield.

Further imaging is planned in about two weeks, and it will be interesting to see if any further changes are noticed.

Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. Mishap caused lander to crash into the Red Planet and explode. Credit: ESA

Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. Mishap caused lander to crash into the Red Planet and explode.
Credit: ESA

The images may provide more pieces of the puzzle as to what happened to Schiaparelli as it approached the martian surface.

Following its successful atmospheric entry and subsequent slowing due to heatshield and parachute deceleration, the internal investigation into the root cause of the problems encountered by Schiaparelli in the latter stages of its six-minute descent continues.

As noted in the ESA statement, an independent inquiry board has been initiated.

Credit: New China

Credit: New China

China scored a big boost today in its space program activities.

The country’s Long March-5 lifted off from the newly completed Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, scoring high marks on its maiden flight.

Declared success

Wang Jingzhong, head of commanding center for Long March-5 launch, reported via CCTV-Plus:

“According to Xi’an Satellite Control Center, Long March-5 has been operating as planned. We have accurately sent the upper stages and the satellites into designated orbit. All systems are operating well. I now declare that the maiden flight of Long March-5 has been a successful mission!”

Long March-5 ready for first liftoff. Credit: CASC via GBTimes

Long March-5 ready for first liftoff.
Credit: CASC via GBTimes

Moon, space station booster

As China’s largest carrier rocket, Long March-5 is slated to carry the Chang’e-5 lunar probe into space around 2017. It also serves as key to the country’s future space station plans.

Long March-5 has expanded the diameter of liquid-fuel rockets to 5 meters from the previous 3.35 meters. The 57-meter-long rocket is equipped with four liftoff thrusters each with a diameter of 3.35 meters, and thus is powered with more than 1,000 tons of thrust force.

Credit: CCTV-Plus

Credit: CCTV-Plus

Using liquefied kerosene and very low-temperature or cryogenic liquefied oxygen and hydrogen as its fuels, Long March-5 is tagged as being non-toxic and pollution-free.

Liftoff of the Long March-5 marks the first use of the number 1 launch pad at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, which is China’s first launch center along the coast line.

The Long March-5 carrier rocket is scheduled to have a second launch in the middle 2017.

 

 

For a video of the launch, go to:

http://cd-pv.news.cctvplus.com/2016/1103/8035823_Preview_5534.mp4

 

Long March-5 ready for first liftoff. Credit: CASC via GBTimes

Long March-5 ready for first liftoff.
Credit: CASC via GBTimes

China’s new booster, the Long March-5, is being readied for its maiden flight on Thursday (Beijing time), according to news reports.

A successful liftoff would signal a step forward in lofting heavier payloads for China’s space station program, as well as hurling spacecraft to the Moon and beyond.

Launch center

The rocket was transported to the launch site in Wenchang City on Oct. 28 for its maiden flight, according to CCTV-Plus. The launch center is conducting all the preparations of the five systems including communication system and logistics system.

At the Wenchang launch center — China’s new sprawling spaceport – the launch pad hardware is undergoing final checkout, including tests underway by launch personnel, said Han Dawei, an engineer of rocket’s measuring and controlling system at the center.

Liftoff readiness

The launch center is China’s first situated along the coast and was the locale for conducted the Long March-7’s successful liftoff on April 25th.

All is ready for maiden liftoff of China's new heavy-lift booster. Credit: CASC via GBTimes

All is ready for maiden liftoff of China’s new heavy-lift booster.
Credit: CASC via GBTimes

Chinese booster makers dub the Long March-5 a “super rocket” with a payload capacity of between 13 and 23 tons and a liftoff thrust of over 10,000 kilonewtons, reports CCTV-Plus. The giant rocket requires more time for preparation and technical verification prior to liftoff.

Weather forecast

The center is doing their best to provide an accurate weather forecast to prepare for the rocket’s premier takeoff.

Guo Xuewen, weather forecast engineer at the Wenchang launch center explains:

“We could forecast typhoons in five days when we launched Long March-7. Now we have to forecast typhoons in nine days. Our main task is to forecast the weather of the launch window and before the launch window when we are filling propellant at low temperature. Typhoons have formed in west Pacific recently. So, we will pay close attention of the activities of the cold air, climate development and the weather of the launch center.”

Launch tower

Tang Jian’gong, head of the Wenchang launching station, adds that the upcoming flight “will test the accuracy and reliability of the design of both the Long March-5 and its launching tower.”

Credit: CCTV-Plus

Credit: CCTV-Plus

Being China’s only launching site close to sea, the Long March-5 launching tower is a solid structure of steel and reinforced concrete with anti-corrosive coatings of various designs to fend off both hot and humid elements.

Apart from its colossal water tank at the base for sound suppression as well as cooling effect, sprinklers are also installed along both sides of the launching tower to cool it down immediately after the Long March-5 liftoff.

Credit: CCTV-Plus

Credit: CCTV-Plus

“After the first blast-off, other Long March-5’s will be used to launch geosynchronous orbiting communications satellites, Moon and Mars probes,” Tang notes.

 

 

 

 

For a view of Long March-5 launch preparations, go to:

http://cd-pv.news.cctvplus.com/2016/1102/8035732_Preview_1478091517460.mp4

http://l3-pv.news.cctvplus.com/2016/1102/8035663_Preview_1478046259782.mp4