Archive for the ‘Space News’ Category

Work underway atop the Harvard College Observatory.
Credit: Galileo Project/Avi Loeb

Work is underway at Harvard University to bring the search for extraterrestrial technological signatures to a new level of systematic scientific research – and that “level” has reached a rooftop.

Avi Loeb is the head of the Galileo Project, an effort that is complementary to traditional Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence efforts, in that it searches for physical objects, but not electromagnetic signals, associated with extraterrestrial technological equipment.

The intent of the Galileo Project is to bring the search for extraterrestrial technological signatures of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations from accidental or anecdotal observations and legends to the mainstream of transparent, validated and systematic scientific research.

Shown at recent Congressional hearing, Video 1 2021 flyby movie showing a purported UAP.
Credit: Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Fishing expedition

Meanwhile, back to the rooftop.

Members of the Galileo Project are busily working on the roof of the Harvard College Observatory and assembling the first telescope system for what Loeb tags as a “fishing expedition.”

“The next step is assembly of the instruments — optical, infrared, radio and audio sensors — in June and then starting to collect data in July and analyzing it with artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) algorithms,” Loeb told Inside Outer Space.

“If everything works to our satisfaction, we will deploy the system at a better observing site and start making copies of it for other locations. The number of copies will depend on the level of funding we have,” Loeb said. That better site and other locations, “to be decided,” he said.

GIMBAL/“Tic Tac”
Credit: DOD/U.S. Navy/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Search for anomalous characteristics

As one tall pole in how to search for life as we don’t know it, there’s the study of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) observed in the atmosphere whose characteristics and behavior cannot be readily explained in terms of well-known objects and physical processes, explains the Galileo Project website. “That is, all known explanations of aerial, atmospheric, or related phenomena, or even our current knowledge of technological advances, do not adequately explain why these phenomena have been observed.”

To examine the possibility of extraterrestrial origin for UAP, the website adds, “by making observations of objects in and near Earth’s atmosphere, filtering out identifiable objects using AI deep learning algorithms trained on rigorous classification of known objects, and then examining the nature of the remaining data for anomalous characteristics.”

Credit: DOD/U.S. Navy/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Mixed bag

According to Loeb, UAP are most likely a mixed bag. Many may have mundane explanations.

“From a scientific perspective, it makes most sense to focus effort on developing new instrumentation and monitoring objects in a quest for the best possible data. Instead of relying on pilots, the government could use ground-based instruments of higher quality than available in fighter jets or analyze the best satellite data at its possession. I hope they are doing that. We employ a much smaller budget to follow this goal within the Galileo Project,” Loeb told earlier.

The question is whether there is even one object for which human-made or natural origins can be excluded, Loeb notes. In particular, do we have materials from any of them?

“If some data has no national security implications, it should be analyzed by top scientists. I would love to help interpret the highest quality data if shared openly,” Loeb explains.

Curiosity’s location as of Sol 3483. Distance driven at that sol: 17.39 miles/27.98 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona


NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3485 tasks.

Mars researchers have been savoring imagery from the rover, “greeted with a beautiful vista, with well preserved layering and amazing outcrops, and a reminder of just how stunning the planet Mars is,” reports Catherine O’Connell-Cooper, a planetary geologist at the University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Curiosity Mastcam image showing some of the rover’s surroundings. Image taken on Sol 3478, May 19, 2022
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“Mastcam takes a 360 degree image on a regular basis, and our last one was fairly recently, on sol 3474, but given the stunning views from here, it was suggested that we take another here if we could fit it in,” O’Connell-Cooper adds.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 3483, May 24, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Gnarly-looking nodules

At the robot’s exploration site, the bedrock is rough, with larger “gnarly” looking nodules or lumps of material, and smaller exposures of nodular free, laminated bedrock. A smooth spot was identified that was just large enough to brush on the laminated material, so the rover’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) was set to analyze the brushed surface at “Bamboo Creek” and the unbrushed surface at “Maple Creek.”

Curiosity’s Dust Removal Tool taken by Mast Camera (Mastcam) Right on Sol 3483, May 24, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“Pairing targets like this is very beneficial to APXS, allowing us to compare adjacent compositions and to determine if compositional trends are ‘real’ or if dust buildup is obscuring some of the more subtle trends,” O’Connell-Cooper explains.

Curiosity Mast Camera (Mastcam) Left image taken on Sol 3481, May 22, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Long distance imaging

The Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) was slated to use its Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument to look at the chemistry of Bamboo Creek, and Mastcam is scheduled to use multispectral imaging to look at the brushed spot.

An investigation of the nodular-rich bedrock was to be performed.

The rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) is on tap to take a suite of images on one of the largest features “Apoteri,” whilst ChemCam and Mastcam take aim at “El Gato.” ChemCam will use the long distance imaging (RMI) to look at some possible Prow-like material in the distance, O’Connell-Cooper reports.

Curiosity Mast Camera (Mastcam) Left image acquired on Sol 3483, May 25, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Full list of activities

Mastcam has a full list of activities, looking at more possible Prow-like lens material (at “Sierra Maigualida”) in the distance, and characterizing sedimentary structures near the rover (at “Ampa,”) in addition to imaging of Mirador butte and the cliffs to the east of Mirador.

“There is also a special Mastcam multispectral sunset image, timed to document the brightness of the sky when the sun is at a low angle,” O’Connell-Cooper concludes. “But despite this heavy load, the views were just too good to pass up, so Mastcam will get that 360 image here too – keep your eyes peeled for that image!”


Starliner artwork depicts airbag-assisted landing in New Mexico.
Credit: Boeing

With the intravehicular activity (IVA) hatch closed and leak checks now complete, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is in a good configuration to return home today.

After several days docked at the International Space Station, Starliner is ready to complete its physical separation.

Approximately one hour before undocking, mission operations teams will conduct a landing zone weather briefing. At 45 minutes before undocking, they will conduct the “go/no go” poll to proceed with undocking operations.

Starliner reentry path.
Credit: Boeing

If a go is given, Starliner will then commence its outbound flyaround maneuver, moving above, around and then behind the ISS before conducting a departure burn and exiting the approach ellipsoid (AE).

Return cargo

Starliner will then start deorbit and landing operations, targeting a touchdown at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico at 6:49 p.m. ET. Flight controllers are keeping a close eye on winds at the New Mexico landing site.

Credit: Boeing



The Boeing-built Starliner is loaded with 600 pounds of return cargo, including three Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System (NORS) tanks and hardware supporting tissue engineering research.



For mission updates from Boeing, go to:

Coverage of undocking and landing will start at 2:00 p.m. ET on NASA TV and at

White Sands Missile Range will also be sharing the live-stream on Facebook at:

Credit: ISS/NASA

A new study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that the Moon may be a waterlogged world, far more than scientists once thought.

This prospective finding stems from work done by University of Colorado, Boulder researchers that suggests lunar volcanoes may have left another lasting impact on the Moon’s surface: sheets of ice that dot the Moon’s poles and, in some places, could measure dozens or even hundreds of feet thick.

“We envision it as a frost on the Moon that built up over time,” said Andrew Wilcoski, lead author of the new study and a graduate student in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS) and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at CU Boulder.

Wilcoski and his colleagues — Paul Hayne and Margaret Landis — published their findings this month in The Planetary Science Journal.

Credit: Andrew X. Wilcoski et al 2022 Planet. Sci. J. 3 99

Short-lived, collisional atmospheres

“Our work suggests that the volcanically active period of the early Moon would have been punctuated by short-lived, collisional atmospheres that enabled the efficient sequestration of large quantities (8.2 × 1015 kg) of water ice at the poles and the temporary diurnal availability of water ice and vapor at all latitudes,” states the research paper.

“It’s possible that 5 or 10 meters below the surface, you have big sheets of ice,” added Hayne, assistant professor in APS and LASP in a university press statement.

At its peak, the Moon is estimated to have experienced one eruption every 22,000 years, on average. The research team used computer modeling to track how volcanic gases may have swirled around the Moon, escaping into space over time. The result: conditions may have gotten icy; roughly 41% of the water from volcanoes may have condensed onto the Moon as ice, estimated the scientists.

Maximum surface temperatures measured by the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment and adjusted to account for ∼25% lower solar luminosity at ∼3.5 Ga from ±60° latitude to the poles in the south (left) and the north (right).
Credit: Andrew X. Wilcoski et al 2022 Planet. Sci. J. 3 99

Subsurface burial grounds

As an input, the model uses maximum temperature maps from the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment on board the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Ice distribution and thickness after a complete 2 Gyr model run. (a, b) Maps from ±60° latitude to the poles in (a) the south and (b) the north. (c, d) Maps from ±80° latitude to the poles in (c) the south and (d) the north. (e, f) Ice deposits remaining after 4 Gyr of sublimation to space.
Credit: Andrew X. Wilcoski et al 2022 Planet. Sci. J. 3 99

The group calculated that about 18 quadrillion pounds of volcanic water could have condensed as ice during that period. That’s more water than currently sits in Lake Michigan. And the research suggests that much of that lunar water may still be present today, but buried under several feet of lunar dust, or regolith, explains the university press statement.

To get down to this ice reservoir, that means drill, baby drill.

Next step

But first, what next?

“One of the next steps for this particular project will be determining what other substances may have condensed out of these volcanic atmospheres and how much of these substances we might expect to find mixed in with volcanically sourced ice,” Wilcoski told Inside Outer Space.

For example, various sulfur species were likely released during volcanic eruptions on the Moon and many may have ended up mixed in with the water ice, Wilcoski said. “It’s important to nail down how much sulfur we’d expect to find in these ice deposits because if we one day drill into this ice and find sulfur then we will be able to tell how much of that ice came from volcanism as opposed to other sources. Additionally, if this ice is one day used as a resource by humans, it’s important to know what else is mixed in with the water.”

Wilcoski added that a longer-term next step that goes beyond just he and his colleagues work is to one day go drill for this ice on the Moon.

“With our work, we’ve shown that it’s possible that volcanism left a significant amount of ice at the lunar poles. If we can find the remnants of these deposits on the Moon today, they will tell a fascinating story of the history of water on the Moon and in our solar system,” Wilcoski concluded.

To access the research paper – “Polar Ice Accumulation from Volcanically Induced Transient Atmospheres on the Moon” – go to:

White Sands Missile Range personnel supporting NASA and Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) landing and recovery of the Starliner spacecraft participated in a Mission Dress Rehearsal on May 18, 2022 at White Sands Space Harbor.
Credit: Anne Marie Chadima, White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs

All is ready for receiving the uncrewed CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, making its touchdown at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The Boeing-built spacecraft departed on May 19 from Space Launch Complex 41 in Cape Canaveral, Florida to successfully link up with the International Space Station.

The anticipated landing is on May 25 at White Sands Missile Range.

A Starliner Mission Dress Rehearsal was held on May 18 at White Sands Space Harbor, a spaceport that was formerly used as a Space Shuttle runway, a test site for rocket research, and the primary training area used by NASA for Space Shuttle pilots practicing approaches and landings in the Shuttle Training Aircraft and T-38 Talon aircraft.

Credit: Anne Marie Chadima, White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs

White Sands Missile Range provides Army, Navy, Air Force, DoD, and other customers with services for experimentation, test, research, assessment, development, and training.

Weather: significant factor

Karla James works for the Materiel Test Directorate as the Air and Space Branch Test Officer at White Sands Missile Range, WSMR for short.

James noted that they will determine the capsule’s trajectory on the day of the anticipated landing, with weather playing a significant factor. The WSMR Meteorology Branch is providing weather data utilizing weather balloon releases. If the weather or any other factor causes the module to shift from the agreed-upon landing sites between WSMR and Boeing, the crew module will need to land at an alternate site or delay the spacecraft’s return.

White Sands Missile Range personnel supporting NASA and Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) landing and recovery of the Starliner spacecraft participated in a Mission Dress Rehearsal on May 18, 2022 at White Sands Space Harbor.
Credit: Anne Marie Chadima, White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs

Since there are two potential landing sites on the installation, the entire WSMR team, Boeing, NASA, and all other personnel need to be prepared for the landing and recovery to happen at either location. They also have alternate landing plans that are executable within a few hours if the flight tests or missions need to return earlier than originally planned.

Ground recovery operations

According to Vanessa Flores of White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs, for the Starliner landing, a “Counter Drone” is to video an aerial view of ground recovery, expected to show various vehicles en route to the capsule after it lands.

Also, the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range Garrison Fire Department has received training on their part in the landing and recovery process. In the future, they will also receive training on what to do when astronauts are present within the capsule.

Credit: Boeing

On capsule landing, Boeing has a requirement to ensure it is safe to approach the capsule and open the hatch. Boeing personnel in protective suits with hydrazine monitors and, depending on the wind, are to determine where to set up the staging area.

“Up-wind or down-wind plays a key part in the location,” James said.

Landing sequence

This is the second landing of the Starliner spacecraft on the Army installation. The first landing was in December 2019, with the unpiloted capsule completing the first land touchdown of a human-rated capsule in U.S. history.

In November of 2019, the Boeing Pad Abort Test also landed successfully at White Sands Missile Range.

Credit: Boeing

According to Boeing, on landing day, the parachute sequence begins around 30,000 feet (9 km) above the ground, when Starliner jettisons the forward heat shield that protects the parachutes during reentry. Two drogue parachutes begin slowing Starliner down, then detach. The three main parachutes are then deployed and inflated, and about 3,000 feet (0.9 km) off the ground, the airbags inflate. On touchdown, those airbags absorb the initial forces of landing.

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is seen after it landed in White Sands, New Mexico on December 22, 2019. The landing completed an abbreviated Orbital Flight Test for the company.
Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Credit: Prime Video


The first episode of a new sci-fi drama series has been beamed into space, available to anyone open to receiving satellite signals.

Prime Video, Amazon Web Services (AWS), satellite services providers SES and Intelsat “beamed” the first episode of the new sci-fi drama series Night Sky from Legendary Television into outer space, “marking the first-ever intergalactic premiere for a TV series,” stated a Prime Video press statement.

Night Sky follows Irene (Sissy Spacek) and Franklin York (J.K. Simmons), a couple who, years ago, discovered a chamber buried in their backyard which inexplicably leads to a strange, deserted planet.

Credit: Prime Video


Space streaming

Intelsat and SES leveraged AWS modernized cloud infrastructures to securely receive a pre-release of the first episode of Night Sky. Using ground stations and geostationary satellite fleets, a 360-degree broadcast was performed of the show’s first episode into space.

“This marks not only the farthest distance that a TV series has been intentionally distributed, but also makes Prime Video the first streamer to distribute its content directly into space,” adds the press statement.

For more information on Night sky, go to:

Credit: NOVA

Noted asteroid expert, Clark Chapman, a senior scientist (retired) from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, has assessed a recent NOVA broadcast that had Sir David Attenborough guiding viewers on a search for clues that could provide an unprecedented snapshot of what happened in the dinosaurs’ final moments on Earth.

The evening of 5/11/2022 “Nova” (WGBH) broadcast a two-hour special, narrated by David Attenborough, telling a “Just So” story about the “last day” of the Cretaceous period.  This was first published in the March 29, 2019 issue of The New Yorker.   An introduction had been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but the promised follow-on peer-reviewed articles with actual evidence have not been published yet, so far as I can tell.  (A “Scientific Reports” article published this past December tries to deduce the season of the impact (spring), but shies away from demonstrating any paleontological evidence about what happened on the “last day.”)   Despite lack of peer-reviewed focus on the “last day,” this didn’t stop the BBC and now PBS from giving a high profile to this story (e.g. front-page story in a recent Washington Post story).

Amateur paleontologists to credible professionals

The first hour of Nova doesn’t even get to the day that Chicxulub was formed.  Although there are brief segments showing an artist’s poor conception of an asteroid heading toward Earth, it doesn’t arrive until the second hour.  When asteroid astronomy is briefly mentioned, it is done badly.  The graphics have it first nearly hitting Mars, which is pure fiction.  Most of the words and all of the graphics show that Near-Earth Asteroids are bumped into Earth-approaching orbits when they collide with each other, although Jupiter’s gravity is briefly mentioned.

European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake took this image from the International Space Station of the Yucatan Peninsula – site of the Chicxulub impact crater.
Credit: Tim Peake/ESA/NASA

The first hour is devoted to paleontological work in the Hell Creek formation in North Dakota, where dinosaur fossils have been discovered for over a century.  It shows Robert DePalma and associates scraping away in the mud and finding petrified animal bones and skin.  Meanwhile, Attenborough narrates fancy graphics showing dinosaurs walking around in a rain-forest landscape.  DePalma was an amateur paleontologist, who became a belated graduate student during most of his studies.  There are about a dozen other commentators during the two-hours, ranging from another amateur paleontologist to credible professionals in several fields, most of them sticking to their areas of expertise without explicitly endorsing the “last day” story. 

For instance, Cathy Plesko of Los Alamos Natl. Lab talks about results of her numerical modeling of giant impacts.  There are limits to what can be gleaned from paleontological studies and Attenborough’s script strays far into the realm of speculation.  We are told that certain male dinosaurs were “loners”, that some probably dug in sandy soils for roots, and that another species generally laid two eggs at once (despite an earlier explanation that the number of fossilized dinosaur eggs found worldwide number little more than half-a-dozen).  Some paleontologists and archaeologists love to speculate on stories beyond what can be robustly proved by analysis of their excavations, and that was the tone of the first hour’s script.

Minimal evidence

The last half of the second hour was all about the general worldwide environmental horrors during the minutes, days, and months following the impact.  There were extravagant graphics and videos depicting scenarios that have been discussed for decades…little was new here, though there was an unusual emphasis on the far-flung effects of seismicity.

It was the first half of the second hour where the focus was on “the last day,” and purported evidence (and dramatic artistic videos) of what might have happened to individual animals that wound up dying on that day and later fossilized. 

One wishes that the evidence would be published in a scientific journal, because one cannot expect a popularized documentary to go into the necessary detail.  But it struck me as being minimal evidence and extremely unlikely to be true.  The chief evidence seems to be some tiny spherules caught in a petrified fish’s gills.  Of course, the Cretaceous–Paleogene( K/Pg) boundary layer is made up of such spherules, but they also result from meteorite falls all the time.  And spherules are produced by volcanic and industrial processes, among others.  The proponents of “the last day” hypothesis are clearly hoping to find a dinosaur that died on the day of the impact.  They find a plausible specimen, they think, but finally conclude that it probably died weeks or months earlier.  Given that dating of the K/Pg event has an uncertainty of tens of thousands of years (as one commentator on the program mentions), there’s no reason to think that the particular dinosaur didn’t die 30,000 weeks before the final day.

Credit: NASA/Don Davis

One spherule contains a tiny inclusion that is rich in iron and nickel.  It is offered as proof that the spherule contains an unmelted particle from the asteroid that struck on that day.  Earlier in the program, it is stated that a carbonaceous asteroid created Chicxulub, and carbonaceous chondrites typically contain only a few percent of siderophile material.  Regardless, while iron-rich material is consistent with many meteorite compositions, it is hardly proof of extraterrestrial origin.  A diagram is briefly shown that suggests that spherules in Hell Creek have the same compositions as known K/Pg spherules.  The context and origin of the diagram aren’t shown, but it is hardly surprising that such spherules are in Hell Creek.  One video actually shows a small animal (a contemporary mouse?) crawling out of an exposure of the K/Pg boundary layer in Hell Creek.

Public fascination

All of this may not be important, despite public fascination with “the last day.” For sure there was a last day, even though it can’t be timed within tens-of-thousands of years.  And it isn’t known what fraction of animals and plants were killed on that day worldwide (or in North Dakota), nor how many weeks or decades it took for whole species to be rendered extinct.There may have been a tsunami or otherwise turbulent waters in North Dakota that day, to account for evidence of “tumbled” fossils, but then there are many large thunderstorms every year, and many giant floods every century (like the Red River Flood in 1997), in North Dakota.  I consider the “Just So” story to be “possible” but extremely unlikely.  I have to admit that editors of Attenborough’s script seem to have ensured that nothing about the “last day” is said to be a certain fact.  Attenborough often uses words like “possible”, “likely”, “might have”, and so on.  And one commentator repeatedly cautions the viewers that science has “uncertainties.”  But the impression the viewer is left with, after the two hours of being awed by all the Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) of dinosaurs, is that the whole “last day” story has a fifty-fifty, or similar, chance of being true, whereas it seems to me to have an extremely tiny probability of being true from the evidence so far presented.

— Review by Clark Chapman

Deployment of China’s Zhurong Mars rover on May 22, 2021. Credit: CNSA

The China National Space Administration has noted that the country’s Zhurong Mars rover has been placed in dormancy-mode due to sand and dust storms.

Zhurong is predicted to resume its operation at year’s end, according to China Central Television (CCTV).

Imagery taken by Zhurong on March 16 and April 30, along with analyzing the data of electricity changes of Zhurong’s solar wings, scientists estimated that Mars is experiencing strong sandstorms.

Dusty Zhurong rover.
Credit: CNSA

To deal with the sandstorms which may weaken Zhurong’s power generating capacity and the low temperatures at night, scientists decided to switch Zhurong to dormant mode.

The CCTV explains that, as Zhurong’s landing area enters the winter season, the highest daytime temperatures drop to minus 20 degrees Celsius and the night temperatures may drop below minus 100 degrees Celsius with high probability of sandstorms. The temperature will continue to drop in mid-July.

Dust storm on the Red Planet observed by China’s Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter..
Credit: CNSA

Back to work

It is predicted that around December when the landing area comes into the spring season and the environmental conditions get better, Zhurong will get back to work.

In the meantime, the Mars probe Tianwen-1 is conducting remote sensing over Mars. The current image that it sent back shows the landform of the circumpolar latitude in the southern hemisphere of Mars.

The Mars mission team will try their best to continue monitoring the weather using the orbiter, the CCTV story explained.

Go to this video detailing the status of China’s Mars rover at:

Curiosity’s location as of Sol 3478. Distance driven since landing: 17.36 miles/27.94 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona


NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3479 duties.

“Despite the incredibly rough terrain surrounding Mirador butte,” reports Natalie Moore, a mission operations specialist at Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, California, the nearly 10-year-old rover successfully drove a net distance forward [of roughly 33 feet (10 meters) and roughly 7 feet (2 meters] in elevation.

Martian art

“Not only did the Sol 3476 drive succeed, but placed us perfectly in front of the most beautiful laminated outcrop, a true canvas of Martian art painted by nature herself,” Moore adds.

“Evidence of possible cross-bedding and fine-scale laminations here are so interesting there was an initial question of whether we should stay for extra contact science opportunities or keep with our plan to drive away on the first sol of this plan,” Moore notes.

Dust Removal Tool result. Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 3478, May 19, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Energized discussion

It was decided to keep the robot’s drive planned for Sol 3478, which sparked an energized discussion on which types of science Mars researchers could fit in the limited time they have before continuing forward in the afternoon.

Moore said there were questions of which activities would provide the most useful science and that they were vehemently discussed: Should we prioritize using our Dust Removal Tool (DRT) to wipe away the atmospheric dust that blocks our view of grain-size? Or would using the DRT damage the undisturbed bedrock laminations and ruin a close-up view from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI).

“Although scientists were certainly interested in the grain-size of this unit, getting those measurements from MAHLI images at this heading would most likely need low-level lighting from the afternoon sun: a seemingly impossible task,” Moore pointed out, “as we’ve kept our plan to drive away in the afternoon.”

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity took 2 images in Gale Crater using its mast-mounted Right Navigation Camera (Navcam) to create this mosaic.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Try for all of it

In the end, the heat fell on the dedicated Rover Planners who decided to try for all of it.

First, the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) was scheduled to do a short morning sniff of the laminated bedrock target researchers chose and named “Las Claritas.”

Then, MAHLI was slated to do the limbo to take a 6-frame angled mosaic surrounding Las Claritas to hopefully catch cross-bedding. Then the plan called for use of the DRT on the target itself and perform a MAHLI “full-suite” for grain-size which includes images of Las Claritas from 25 cm, 5 cm, and 2 cm away.

To get a sense of what Curiosity Rover Planners try to avoid navigating terrain, check out this Navcam image of the robot’s left front wheel at a recent parking spot.
Photo taken on May 17, 2022, Sol 3476, by Left Navigation Camera at drive 930, site number 95.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Planned drive

Besides this full sol of arm activities, Mastcam was also to carry out a stereo mosaic surrounding Las Claritas and two large farther-field mosaics covering the many outcrops around the rover, in addition to a host of other Mastcam images to document the state of our DRT and other instrument activity attempts.

Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) was slated to shoot its laser for spectrometry on a bedrock target nearby named “Maturin” and a micro image mosaic on a layered outcrop roughly 16 feet (5 meters) away.

Curiosity imagery taken by Mast Camera Left and Right on Sol 3476, May 17, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS



The rover’s planned drive is for roughly less than 100 feet (30 meters) generally south, putting the Mars machinery near the south-east corner of Mirador butte for more science.

“While we wait for our drive data to come down to Earth, our rover will take environmental observations of the sky to monitor dust activity and ChemCam will autonomously choose a target for a second laser spectrometry observation at our new location,” Moore reported. “From the entire team’s hard work, everyone is getting a piece of the Martian pie this time!”

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

That Soviet-era, nuclear-powered Cosmos 954 satellite that crashed into Canada on January 24, 1978 is haunting a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, Lance Rayner.

In a newly-posted story by Malak Abas in the Winnipeg Free Press, Rayner, then 24-years-old, was first on the scene with a fellow mountie at the site in Lutselk’e, a settlement on the eastern shore of Great Slave Lake.

Rayner has been diagnosed with a rare malignant parotid tumor and Stage 4 cancer. The former mountie believes guarding some of the radioactive remains of the Soviet satellite has caused his rare cancer condition.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Clean-up operations

Under the code-name “Operation Morning Light,” it was determined that radioactive satellite debris had indeed survived re-entry and reached the ground.

Subsequent clean-up operations sought to safeguard the welfare of Northern Canadians living in the affected area. A search and clean-up of radioactive debris was pulled together, involving hundreds of personnel from the Canadian military and government agencies, as well as a 120-person U.S. Nuclear Emergency Search Team.

Credit: Nevada National Security

To read the Winnipeg Free Press article – “Fateful mission – Former Mountie believes guarding Soviet satellite caused rare cancer” – go to:

Also, go to this video by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) at:

Lastly, go to an informative document on Operation Morning Light from Arctic Operational Histories edited and introduced by P. Whitney Lackenbauer and Ryan Dean at: