Archive for April, 2020

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2736 duties.

Here are a few select images as the robot traverses downhill:

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2736, April 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2736, April 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2736, April 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2736, April 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2736, April 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2736, April 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Mast Camera Right photo acquired on Sol 2735, April 16, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 2734, April 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2735 tasks.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 2734, April 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Susanne Schwenzer, a planetary geologist at The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, reports that the rover is on its way back downhill, passing by previously surveyed structures, veins and nodules when the robot was climbing up that area.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 2734, April 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“As the time was pressing on our way up, we are now taking full advantage of a second serving of this piece of bedrock,” Schwenzer explains.

First, the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument is slated to study which elements are present in the bedrock.

“Back on sol 2659 there was only time for a ‘touch and go’ measurement, which are naturally of lower statistical quality than longer overnight integrations and do not allow us to brush the dust off before,” Schwenzer adds.

Dust off

The rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the end of the robotic arm will document the measured area after the robot brushes dust off this spot with it Dust Removal Tool (DRT).

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera image acquired on Sol 2735, April 16, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Thus, the target “Creig” is set to be an overnight APXS measurement after DRT of the area, improving the statistics on APXS bedrock measurements at this location.

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

Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) did get many bedrock points on the way up, for which reason the team focuses the instrument on the other features in the scene: documenting the workspace with a mosaic that includes all the activities by the chemistry experiments, Schwenzer says.

Last dust storm

“The environmental working group has their standard sequence of observations, Schwenzer points out, “which include Navcam line of sight, a dust devil movie, crater rim extinction, a dust devil movie and basic tau. This is especially important at this time of the year, since it is about now that the last big dust storm started.”

Curiosity’s Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument that measures hydrogen and chlorine, is in the plan, too, in active and passive mode.

“Finally, Curiosity is going on a long roll,” Schwenzer concludes, “driving all the way into the valley between the buttes to our next area of interest. Stay tuned to see the buttes from the bottom of the valley again after our exciting climb onto and decent from the high place!”

Road map

A new road map was issued yesterday showing the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 2734 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (April 15, 2020).

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

From Sol 2732 to Sol 2734, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 101.86 feet (31.05 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 13.66 miles (21.99 kilometers).

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

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B photo taken on Sol 2735, April 16, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2735, April 16, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2735, April 16, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2735, April 16, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2735, April 16, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

General John Raymond, U.S. Space Force chief of space operations, signs the United States Space Command sign inside of the Perimeter Acquisition Radar building Jan. 10, 2020, on Cavalier Air Force Station, North Dakota.
Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Howley

The U.S. Space Command is aware and tracking Russia’s direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile test today.

“Russia’s DA-ASAT test provides yet another example that the threats to U.S. and allied space systems are real, serious and growing,” said General John W. “Jay” Raymond, USSPACECOM commander and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations. “The United States is ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the Nation, our allies, and U.S. interests from hostile acts in space.”

General Jay Raymond the first Chief of Space Operations and first member of the Space Force.

Hypocritical advocacy

Russia’s missile system is capable of destroying satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) and comes on the heels of Russia’s on-orbit testing the U.S. highlighted in February, namely COSMOS 2542 and COSMOS 2543.

These satellites, which behaved similar to previous Russian satellites that exhibited characteristics of a space weapon, conducted maneuvers near a U.S. Government satellite that would be interpreted as irresponsible and potentially threatening in any other domain, according to a U.S. Space Command statement.

“This test is further proof of Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control proposals designed to restrict the capabilities of the United States while clearly having no intention of halting their counterspace weapons programs,” Gen. Raymond said.

Anti-satellite painting by William K. Hartmann

Shared interest

“Space is critical to all nations and our way of life,” Raymond added. “The demands on space systems continue in this time of crisis where global logistics, transportation and communication are key to defeating the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is a shared interest and responsibility of all spacefaring nations to create safe, stable and operationally sustainable conditions for space activities, including commercial, civil and national security activities,” Gen. Raymond concluded.

A single modified tactical Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) launches from the U.S. Navy AEGIS cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70), successfully impacting a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite approximately 133 nautical miles (247 kilometers) over the Pacific Ocean, as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph. President George W. Bush decided to bring down the satellite because of the likelihood that the satellite could release hydrazine fuel upon impact, possibly in populated areas.
Credit: U.S. Navy

U.S. ASAT work

In the United States, there has also been early testing of ASAT prowess.

Operation Burnt Frost was carried out in February 2008 when the US military shot a missile at a decaying satellite from the National Reconnaissance Office. That test was justified because the USA-193 spacecraft was loaded with toxic hydrazine fuel that was deemed hazardous to the public if parts of the satellite fell to Earth and reached land.

A highly modified F-15A scored a direct hit on a U.S. satellite in this Sept. 13, 1985 test shot over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Credit: Edwards Air Force Base

The USS Lake Erie fired a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) to shoot down the satellite, neutralizing the potential dangers the errant satellite originally imposed.

In an earlier ASAT test, a modified F-15A fighter jet scored a direct hit on a satellite in September 1985 that was orbiting 340 miles above the Earth.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera image taken on Sol 2734, April 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2734 duties.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2734, April 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Reports Mark Salvatore, a planetary geologist at the University of Michigan: “In our last bit of science from on top of the flat topographically raised region known as the “Pediment,” we wanted to chemically characterize some small nodular bedrock targets that we’ve been noticing across the landscape.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2734, April 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Nodular targets

The original plan, Salvatore adds, was for a “touch-and-go,” which would mean a quick Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) integration over a target of interest before driving away to a new location.

However, the rover workspace contained plenty of great nodular targets, most were just outside of the reach of the rover’s arm, Salvatore notes.

“In addition, the timing of the short APXS integration was not ideal to collect clean data. So, instead, the “quaran-team” selected a small nodule that was within the arm’s reach, and planned overnight integrations on three nearby locations that will allow us to separate the composition of the nodule from the bedrock,” Salvatore says.

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

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2734, April 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

To accompany this APXS integration, scientists also identified both nodular and “typical” bedrock targets to characterize using the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument, which will provide additional chemical analyses of the surface of the Pediment before dropping back into the Clay-Bearing Unit, Salvatore reports.

 

 

Road map

Meanwhile, a new road map shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 2732 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (April 13, 2020).

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

 

From Sol 2729 to Sol 2732, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 52.78 feet (16.09 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 13.64 miles (21.96 kilometers).

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

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2734, April 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2734, April 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2734, April 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2734, April 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2734, April 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2734, April 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

 

 

Establishing an international long-term sustainable lunar presence in partnership with the private sector remains the core global focus of space exploration.

A new Euroconsult report — Prospects for Space Exploration – explains that global government investment in space exploration totaled nearly $20 billion in 2019, a 6% increase year-on-year. Thirty-one countries and space agencies lead this global investment with the U.S. accounting for 71% of spending.

Credit: NASA/ESA

Funding for space exploration is forecast to increase to $30 billion by 2029, driven by Moon exploration, transportation, and orbital infrastructure, the report states.

According to Euroconsult, approximately 130 missions are expected over the coming decade, compared to 52 missions conducted over the past 10 years.

Credit: Blue Origin/Blue Moon

The report identifies existing and upcoming new entrants in space exploration, as well as global trends related to space exploration, and it analyzes collaborative undertakings for exploration, including both international space agency partnerships as well as public-private partnerships.

Large-scale plans

Natalia Larrea Brito, Principal Advisor at Euroconsult and editor of the newly released, April 2020 appraisal, says that exploration is the space application of the coming decade.

Credit: NASA

“Forecast funding growth of about 50% over the coming decade illustrates government support for large-scale plans that are now materializing, with the Moon as a core focus,” Brito explains in a Euroconsult statement. “Recent announcements – such as NASA’s Plan for Sustained Lunar Exploration and Development and the U.S. Executive Order on Space Resources – reaffirm governments’ ambitions to achieve long-term sustainability in lunar exploration.”

Brito adds that while the current health and economic crisis may impact near-term investment and strategies, they are less likely to disrupt long-term space exploration objectives.

Artist impression of activities in a Moon Base.
Power generation from solar cells, food production in greenhouses and construction using mobile 3D printer-rovers.
Credit: ESA – P. Carril

Sustainable space exploration

“The next decade also promises numerous commercial exploration initiatives. This is having a significant impact on the strategic planning of governments in defining the agenda for space exploration,” Brito says. “New public-private contractual schemes are taking shape, reflecting the willingness of space agencies to act as both strategic partner and future customer of commercial services to achieve a cost-effective sustainable model for space exploration.”

The Euroconsult report focuses on six applications: Orbital infrastructure, transportation, Moon exploration, Mars exploration, other deep space exploration, astronomy, astrophysics and heliophysics.

Humans and robots on Mars are likely to team up to augment the types of exploration avenues that can be done on the Red Planet.
Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center

The forecast includes both government and commercial programs. Two periods of reference are considered: 2010-2019 for historical trends and 2020-2029 for forecasts.

Sampling of key findings

• Transportation is the application area which leads and will continue to lead governments’ investments in space exploration. It is anticipated to increase to $14.2 billion in 2029. Growth will be supported by high investments in multiple countries, particularly in the U.S., to support the development of next-generation crew and/or cargo vehicles for LEO and BLEO activities (including human lunar landers).

Orion approaches an evolved Gateway.
Credit: NASA

• Orbital infrastructure is the second-largest application with $4.4 billion in 2019 driven primarily by the ISS program and increased investments for China’s Space Station. It is anticipated that total world funding will continue to grow, driven by increasing funding for the development of the Lunar Gateway by ISS partners as well as the completion of the Chinese Space Station.

• Moon exploration experienced a high increase in the past two years as lunar exploration has become the central item in the exploration strategy of most agencies moving forward. It is anticipated to experience the highest sustained growth until reaching $2.7 billion by 2029. This will support future robotic government missions and commercial partnership programs.

• Mars exploration totalled $1.4 billion in 2019 driven by three missions planned for launch in 2020 (plus ExoMars being now pushed to 2022). Global funding is expected to drop as Moon programs shall be favored first. New investment cycles are expected in the second part of the decade to support plans such as Mars-sample return missions.

• Other deep space exploration programs have grown until reaching $1.8 billion in 2019 to support the development of multiple missions in the near-term (primarily from the U.S., ESA and Japan). Global funding is anticipated to reach $1.6 billion/year to support the various planned missions, including potential first endeavours from India and Russia.

• Astronomy, Astrophysics & Heliophysics programs reached $3.6 billion in 2019, currently in a peak phase to finance major flagship programs. This field will continue to be an essential application area for space agencies worldwide.

• Regarding missions, Moon exploration will dominate with close to 40% of all missions planned, reflecting the fact that lunar exploration remains the focus of stakeholders’ space exploration strategy. Commercial missions are forecasted to account for 18% of all missions to be launched in the decade, primarily driven by lunar initiatives.

Assessing trends

Euroconsult has maintained an expertise in assessing trends in the satellite industry, making use of proprietary databases and forecast models that are central to the publication of thematic research reports.

For details on this assessment — Prospects for Space Exploration (2020 Edition) – An economic & strategic assessment of the space exploration sector – go to:

http://www.euroconsult-ec.com/shop/index.php?id_product=129&controller=product

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir demonstrates how the LEctenna™, a light-emitting rectifying antenna constructed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, converts electromagnetic waves into electric current on the International Space Station. Similar technology could be used on the Earth’s surface to convert electromagnetic waves beamed from space-based solar arrays.
Credit: NASA

A power-beaming demonstration in orbit onboard the International Space Station is being highlighted by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

The first NRL power-beaming demo took place in mid-February, facilitated by ISS astronaut Jessica Meir. A device converted electromagnetic waves into electric current on the orbiting outpost.

Meir showed how NRL’s LEctenna™, a light-emitting rectifying antenna, converted a wireless network signal, similar to home networks, into electric power. While the current that was produced and the light emitted was a small amount, the setup proved the concept in space, notes an NRL statement on the experiment.

Military, civilian applications

The device is spearheaded by NRL electronics engineer Paul Jaffe. He and his colleagues are investigating space solar and power-beaming as a potential source of clean energy for a variety of military and civilian applications.

Peter Glaser, the father of the solar power satellite concept.
Credit: Arthur D. Little Inc.

Possible uses include wirelessly charging mobile devices, remotely powering drones, along with space-based solar panel arrays.

USAF has been studying use of power-beaming spacecraft.
Credit: Kirtland Public Affairs

Space solar is simply using solar panels in space to harvest the sun’s energy, where collecting rays would be unaffected by clouds or other interference. Power-beaming would send the collected energy down to Earth, where it would be converted back – as shown by the LEctenna – to usable energy.

The LEctenna demonstration proved the concept of power beaming in space, but was primarily a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) project to inspire the next generation of innovators under the Department of Defense Space Test Program mission.

For more information on the LEctenna on ISS, go to this video at:

https://youtu.be/zo7w0D6vz5g

Also available is a video, How to Build a LEctenna, at:

https://youtu.be/3j7sAjWgySQ

Take a look at this video — Energy transmitted by laser in ‘historic’ power-beaming demonstration – at:

https://youtu.be/Xb9THqrXd4I

 

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken on Sol 2732, April 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has just started Sol 2733 operations.

Following a drive away from the Edinburgh drill site last Wednesday, Curiosity has a brand-new parking spot for this weekend’s science activities, reports Rachel Kronyak, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken on Sol 2732, April 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Sand ripples

“The drive put us right in front of a nice patch of sand ripples,” Kronyak notes. “We’ll devote several of our weekend activities to investigating targets around this little patch of sand.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2732, April 13, 2020.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The robot had s a “soliday” this past weekend, which occurs every few weeks to allow the Earth and Mars schedules to sync back up. “That means our weekend plan is only two sols instead of the three,” Kronyak adds.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2732, April 13, 2020.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Science block

On the first sol of that weekend plan, Sol 2731, there was a hefty 2-hour science block during which Curiosity was slated to perform a suite of Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam), Mastcam, and Navcam observations.

The plan called for use of the ChemCam laser to probe targets “The Borders,” “Dryhope,” and “Chalifornia.”

“The Borders and Chalifornia are bedrock targets, and, as the name suggests, Dryhope is a soil target,” Kronyak explains. The plan called for using the Mastcam to take documentation images of the ChemCam targets as well as an additional large mosaic to document the stratigraphy of the Greenheugh pediment as the rover continues to drive down the pediment.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2732, April 13, 2020.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

To finish out the science block, Navcam and Mastcam were to search for dust devils and monitor the atmosphere. In the afternoon and overnight, the robot was scheduled to perform contact science (including the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instruments) on the “Auld Reekie” soil target.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 2732, April 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

 

 

 

Inspecting rover wheels

On the second sol, Sol 2732, the plan entailed Curiosity to wake up first thing in the morning to perform some additional atmospheric observations, including Mastcam tau and crater rim extinction images as well as a Navcam line-of-sight image and cloud-monitoring movies.

After those observations, a series of MAHLI images of Curiosity’s wheels were called for, before getting back on the road to continue the drive down off the Greenheugh pediment. Following that drive, the plan had the rover taking standard post-drive images, Kronyak reports.

HUGE Mastcam100 panoramic taken on Sol 2700.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Damia Bouic

 

Illustration of the capsule waverider in glide orientation. Courtesy: P. Rodi/Rice University

A new capsule/waverider concept could be useful in delivering cargo to Mars.

This new waverider concept is part space capsule, part hypersonic glider that’s capable of surviving a fiery return from outer space before gliding like a surfer on its own shock wave.

While the Red Planet’s atmosphere is thin, spacecraft need heat shields to survive entry. This heating, the planet’s rock-strewn surface and the communications lag between Earth and Mars combine to make landings on Mars tricky.

Mars needs cargo!
Credit: NASA

“That’s a real problem for NASA,” explains Patrick Rodi of Rice University’s Brown School of Engineering. “This concept would allow you to come in as a  capsule, flip over to a waverider, glide around, look things over, find your landing spot and then either drop off equipment with parachutes, glide in and skid across the Martian surface, or pitch up and land on the vehicle’s tail. It gives you a lot of options,” he explained in a university statement.

Boost-glide

During his 23-year career at Lockheed Martin, Rodi worked on advanced programs at the famed Skunk Works in Palmdale, California, and on the Orion space capsule program in Houston.

“This is my sixth new class of waverider vehicles, and it’s what is known as a boost-glide vehicle, which is a big deal in hypersonics these days,” Rodi points out.

In its boost orientation, the capsule waverider has the blunt shape reminiscent of a traditional space capsule heat shields. Courtesy: P. Rodi/Rice University

“Other vehicles have shock waves,” Rodi says. “But the shock waves are separated from the vehicle, and high-pressure leaks around that little gap between the shock wave and the body itself.” The waverider design stops the high-pressure air from leaking away.

“You’re expending energy to compress the air, and now you’re using that high-pressure air as efficiently as possible,” Rodi adds. “You’re not losing that lift. You’re capturing it by shaping the geometry, riding the wave. And it’s very efficient. That’s the big thing about waveriders. The lift-to-drag ratio is really high, which correlates linearly with gliding distance, or range, the metric you’re looking for.”

Balancing demands

“When it first enters the atmosphere, it punches pretty deep, and it gets really, really hot,” Rodi notes.

“There’s high-pressure loading, high heating. For re-entry you want something that can survive that high heating. Basically, you want a vehicle that kind of looks like a traditional space capsule. As a glider, you want something that’s very efficient, with a high lift-to-drag ratio.”

Rodi says that his capsule waverider class balances those demands. On one side, it has the rounded, blunt shape reminiscent of a traditional space capsule heat shield. On the opposite side, it is a wing-shaped waverider glider.

The Life and Science of Harold C. Urey by Matthew Shindell, The University of Chicago Press; December 2019; Hardback; 248 pages, $27.50.

This impressive biography is a well-researched and enjoyable read – a wonderful account of Harold Urey’s pioneering work, including his contributions in cosmochemistry and lunar science.

The author offers an intriguing look at Urey’s scientific contributions, but also insight into the scientist’s struggles with faith and tangles with political forces in America.

Within the book’s seven chapters, the author explores Urey’s maturation from farm boy to wartime chemist, followed by his Nobel Laureate status to a “Manhattan Project burnout.”

For all you space-based readers, you’ll find a marvelous account of Urey’s cosmic encounter coming to grips with the formation and evolution of the solar system. The chapter — “To Hell with the Moon!” – is a thoroughly absorbing story of the scientist’s move into planetary science and his early modeling of the Moon and solar system development.

The scientist was not a fan of NASA when it was established in 1958. Nor was he interested in planting human footprints on the Moon. “Urey’s lack of enthusiasm may have stemmed at least partially from the fact that the majority of the scientists and administrators who made up the new NASA were either atmospheric scientists, military personnel, or engineers,” Shindell writes. Still, Urey later became an important and early voice in putting forward a scientific agenda for lunar exploration.

Harold C. Urey
Credit: Energy.gov

Why the relationship with NASA turned sour, I’m not going to elaborate here, but the author offers impeccable detail and quotes a telling passage from Urey, written in 1976 that the Moon was quite a disappointment and explaining that the Moon seems to be an “incidental object of some kind with no theory for its origin that is generally accepted.”

The Life and Science of Harold C. Urey is a thumbs-up tome. The epilogue wraps up the Nobel Prize winner’s life in science, followed by a great set of notes, list of archives, oral history interviews, and bibliography.

Urey died in early January 1981.

On a personal note, decades ago, I bumped into Harold Urey while digging into a substantial cache of Ranger and Surveyor lunar documents held in the library stacks at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in La Jolla, California. He was a professor at large at UCSD and I treasure that moment of conversation with that grand man.

For more information on The Life and Science of Harold C. Urey, go to:

https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/L/bo43987910.html

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 2728, April 9, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2729 tasks.

“Many of us on Earth are being especially diligent lately about washing our hands for at least 20 seconds after touching a new surface,” reports Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2728, April 9, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“On Mars, Curiosity is used to doing something a little bit similar, but for a very different reason: to prevent cross-contamination between samples taken at different locations,” Guzewich explains.

Of course, the lack of water and soap prevents the rover from “washing,” but scientists, still have to make sure the rover’s instruments stay as clean as possible after touching a new surface.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2728, April 9, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Arm retraction

During last Monday’s plan, the rover’s arm was placed over the drill tailings from the Edinburgh drill hole to study them with the robot’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI).

In a recent plan, the call is to retract the arm from that position and stow it so Curiosity can drive away.

“During that process, we swing the turret back-and-forth to shake off and remove any bits of sand or dust that may have been clinging to APXS so when we next use it, APXS only measures materials at the new location and nothing that came with us from Edinburgh,” Guzewich adds.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera RMI photo taken on Sol 2728, April 9, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

 

Inside wall

After the robot’s arm is stowed, the plan calls for the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) to target the inside wall of the drill hole as well as take a long-distance mosaic of Gediz Vallis and the Greenheugh Pediment.

“Then we’ll conduct a short drive to a nearby patch of soil that we hope to study over the weekend,” Guzewich explains.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera RMI photo taken on Sol 2728, April 9, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

On the second sol of the plan, a ChemCam Autonomous Exploration for Gathering of Increased Science (AEGIS) software activity is slated (where ChemCam picks its own targets!), as is a search for dust devils and monitoring the dust levels in the atmosphere.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 2728, April 9, 2020
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Upcoming is the equinox on Mars and spring begins for the southern hemisphere, Guzewich notes. “This is also when the dust storm season (generally the second half of the martian year) begins. Last Mars year (2018), we had a global dust storm and will be carefully watching to see if another develops this year!”