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Posts tagged ‘Rovers’

Opportunity Reaches 12 Years on Mars!

Pasadena CA (JPL)

Jan 31 2016

Opportunity is exploring ‘Marathon Valley’ on the rim of Endeavor crater. The rover is up on north-facing slopes for improved solar array energy production.

The rover is conducting an in-situ (contact) science campaign on the surface target ‘Joseph Collin’ (informally named for members of the Lewis and Clark expedition).

The target appears as a curious, unconsolidated pile of coarse, dark grains. On Sol 4263 (Jan. 20, 2016), Opportunity began two sols of investigation using the robotic arm instruments. On each sol, extensive Microscopic Imager (MI) mosaics were collected.

Each was followed with a unique placement of the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) for elemental identification. Over the next 3 days (sols), the rover attitude was updated and a series of Panoramic Camera (Pancam) and Navigation Camera (Navcam) panoramas were collected.

On Sol 4268 (Jan. 25, 2016), the final work on this in-situ target was completed with the raising of the robotic arm off the target and the collection of some documentary imagery. The rover is now set to drive away from this site towards new targets up-slope from the current location.

As of Sol 4268 (Jan. 25, 2016), the solar array energy production was 469 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.478 and a solar array dust factor of 0.691.

Total odometry is 26.50 miles (42.65 kilometers), more than a marathon.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/Opportunity_Reaches_12_Years_on_Mars!_999.html.

China’s first moon rover sets record for longest stay

Jinan, China (XNA)

Nov 01, 2015

China’s first lunar rover, Yutu, has been operating on the moon for almost two years, setting the record for the longest stay by a rover, according to a Chinese lunar probe scientist.

Yutu was deployed and landed on the moon via China’s Chang’e-3 lunar probe in 2013, staying longer than the Soviet Union’s 1970 moon rover Lunokhod 1, which spent 11 months on the moon.

Its operations have streamed live through Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site, and its Weibo account has nearly 600,000 followers.

Yutu experienced a mechanical control abnormality in 2014, but it was revived within a month and, though it is unable to move, it continues to collect data, send and receive signals, and record images and video.

“Human history is relatively short, and people are brimming over with curiosity about the universe,” said Ye Peijian, chief scientist with China’s Chang’e-3 program. “We have to explore more by going out.”

The launch of Dongfanghong-1, China’s first satellite, in 1970 made China the fifth country to launch a domestic satellite using a domestic rocket, following the Soviet Union, the United States, France and Japan.

China launched its manned space program in the 1990s and successfully sent Yang Liwei, the country’s first astronaut, into orbit on the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft in 2003.

The Chang’e-1 mission in 2007 inaugurated an era of Chinese lunar exploration, followed by Chang’e-2 and Chang’e-3, with the latter marking completion of the second phase of China’s lunar program, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to Earth.

Chang’e-3 delivered the rover and a stationary lander to the lunar surface in 2013, making China the third country after the Soviet Union and the United States to carry out such a mission.

Meanwhile, China is planning to be the first country to land a lunar probe on the far side of the moon, or “dark side of the moon,” which is never visible to Earth.

The mission will be carried out by Chang’e-4, a backup probe for Chang’e-3, according to Ye.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Chinas_first_moon_rover_sets_record_for_longest_stay_999.html.

Opportunity is on the Move Again

Pasadena CA (JPL)

Aug 17, 2012

Opportunity is on the move again at the north end of Cape York on the rim of Endeavor Crater.

On Sols 3036 and 3037 (Aug. 8 and 9, 2012), the rover completed a set of Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) measurements on a surface target, called “Rushall_1.”

With the APXS integrations done, Opportunity swung the robotic arm out of the way so detailed Panoramic Camera (Pancam) images could be taken on Sol 3039 (Aug. 11, 2012).

On the next sol, the rover drove south with a 90-feet (27.5-meter) drive toward the small impact crater, called “Sao Rafael.”

With “drive-by” imaging of the crater complete, Opportunity drove again on Sol 3042 (Aug. 14, 2012), with a 128-feet (39-meter) drive toward another small impact crater, called “Berrio.”

The rover also had enough energy on that sol to collect an atmospheric argon measurement with the APXS.

As of Sol 3042 (Aug. 14, 2012), the solar array energy production was 545 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.564 and a solar array dust factor of 0.688.

Total odometry is 21.57 miles (34,705.88 meters).

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/Opportunity_is_on_the_Move_Again_999.html.

Curiosity finds clues to how water helped shape Mars

Pasadena CA (JPL)
Dec 09, 2014

Observations by NASA’s Curiosity Rover indicate Mars’ Mount Sharp was built by sediments deposited in a large lake bed over tens of millions of years. This interpretation of Curiosity’s finds in Gale Crater suggests ancient Mars maintained a climate that could have produced long-lasting lakes at many locations on the Red Planet.

“If our hypothesis for Mount Sharp holds up, it challenges the notion that warm and wet conditions were transient, local, or only underground on Mars,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity deputy project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “A more radical explanation is that Mars’ ancient, thicker atmosphere raised temperatures above freezing globally, but so far we don’t know how the atmosphere did that.”

Why this layered mountain sits in a crater has been a challenging question for researchers. Mount Sharp stands about 3 miles (5 kilometers) tall, its lower flanks exposing hundreds of rock layers. The rock layers – alternating between lake, river and wind deposits — bear witness to the repeated filling and evaporation of a Martian lake much larger and longer-lasting than any previously examined close-up.

“We are making headway in solving the mystery of Mount Sharp,” said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

“Where there’s now a mountain, there may have once been a series of lakes.”

Curiosity currently is investigating the lowest sedimentary layers of Mount Sharp, a section of rock 500 feet (150 meters) high, dubbed the Murray formation. Rivers carried sand and silt to the lake, depositing the sediments at the mouth of the river to form deltas similar to those found at river mouths on Earth. This cycle occurred over and over again.

“The great thing about a lake that occurs repeatedly, over and over, is that each time it comes back it is another experiment to tell you how the environment works,” Grotzinger said.

“As Curiosity climbs higher on Mount Sharp, we will have a series of experiments to show patterns in how the atmosphere and the water and the sediments interact. We may see how the chemistry changed in the lakes over time. This is a hypothesis supported by what we have observed so far, providing a framework for testing in the coming year.”

After the crater filled to a height of at least a few hundred yards, or meters, and the sediments hardened into rock, the accumulated layers of sediment were sculpted over time into a mountainous shape by wind erosion that carved away the material between the crater perimeter and what is now the edge of the mountain.

On the 5-mile (8-kilometer) journey from Curiosity’s 2012 landing site to its current work site at the base of Mount Sharp, the rover uncovered clues about the changing shape of the crater floor during the era of lakes.

“We found sedimentary rocks suggestive of small, ancient deltas stacked on top of one another,” said Curiosity science team member Sanjeev Gupta of Imperial College in London. “Curiosity crossed a boundary from an environment dominated by rivers to an environment dominated by lakes.”

Despite earlier evidence from several Mars missions that pointed to wet environments on ancient Mars, modeling of the ancient climate has yet to identify the conditions that could have produced long periods warm enough for stable water on the surface.

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project uses Curiosity to assess ancient, potentially habitable environments and the significant changes the Martian environment has experienced over millions of years. This project is one element of NASA’s ongoing Mars research and preparation for a human mission to the planet in the 2030s.

“Knowledge we’re gaining about Mars’ environmental evolution by deciphering how Mount Sharp formed will also help guide plans for future missions to seek signs of Martian life,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

Source: Mars Daily.
Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/NASAs_Curiosity_Rover_Finds_Clues_to_How_Water_Helped_Shape_Martian_Landscape_999.html.

China Exclusive: China developing Mars rover

Zhuhai, China (XNA)

Nov 12, 2014

After successfully putting the “Jade Rabbit” lunar rover on the moon, Chinese space experts say the country’s planned Mars vehicle will be larger, tougher and a better climber.

On Tuesday, a real-sized model of the Mars rover is on display at the Airshow China 2014 in south China’s Zhuhai City, offering a rare glimpse of the spacecraft still being designed.

“Our current concept is that it will have six wheels, like Yutu (Jade Rabbit), but will be larger in size and better at crossing obstacles,” says Jia Yang, who led the team that developed Yutu.

“Yutu can climb over obstacles no higher than 20-centimeters, but has to bypass larger rocks. This will not work on Mars, where places are full of large rocks like in the Gobi Desert. So we must improve its adaptability to complex territory,” he said.

The 2-meter-long model on display is the prototype. Its final look and functions are yet to be decided.

China has not announced an official plan for a Mars probe, but Ouyang Ziyuan, a lead scientist in China’s moon probe mission, has said China plans to land a Mars rover around 2020, collect samples and bring them back around 2030.

Jia expects the Mars buggy to be solar-powered, its weight close to NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers at about 180 kg. NASA’s latest Curiosity rover weighs 900 kg and is powered by nuclear battery, but Jia says the capability of China’s carrier rockets limits the size of its Mars rover.

Yutu reported a mechanical malfunction during the second lunar day after its successful landing in December last year, prompting Chinese experts to stress the fault response on the Mars rover.

“The Mars environment is more complicated and adverse than that of the moon. We’re working to overcome the worst scenario – dust storms that will significantly lower the energy output of the solar battery,” Jia says.

Displayed with the rover is a model of a capsule designed to carry the vehicle into the planet’s atmosphere. Jia says they are still working on the capsule’s parachute and heat-proof structure that will enable it to land in the extremely thin air, one of the hardest parts of the Mars mission.

Forty-three probes have been sent to Mars since 1960, of which 19 succeeded.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/China_Exclusive_China_developing_Mars_rover_999.html.

NASA Mars Curiosity Rover: Two Years and Counting on Red Planet

Pasadena CA (JPL)

Aug 06, 2014

NASA’s most advanced roving laboratory on Mars celebrates its second anniversary since landing inside the Red Planet’s Gale Crater on Aug. 5, 2012, PDT (Aug. 6, 2012, EDT). During its first year of operations, the rover fulfilled its major science goal of determining whether Mars ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

Clay-bearing sedimentary rocks on the crater floor in an area called Yellowknife Bay yielded evidence of a lakebed environment billions of years ago that offered fresh water, all of the key elemental ingredients for life, and a chemical source of energy for microbes, if any existed there.

“Before landing, we expected that we would need to drive much farther before answering that habitability question,” said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

“We were able to take advantage of landing very close to an ancient streambed and lake. Now we want to learn more about how environmental conditions on Mars evolved, and we know where to go to do that.”

During its second year, Curiosity has been driving toward long-term science destinations on lower slopes of Mount Sharp. Those destinations are in an area beginning about 2 miles (3 kilometers) southwest of the rover’s current location, but an appetizer outcrop of a base layer of the mountain lies much closer — less than one-third of a mile (500 meters) from Curiosity. The rover team is calling the outcrop “Pahrump Hills.”

For about half of July, the rover team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, drove Curiosity across an area of hazardous sharp rocks on Mars called “Zabriskie Plateau.” Damage to Curiosity’s aluminum wheels from driving across similar terrain last year prompted a change in route, with the plan of skirting such rock-studded terrain wherever feasible.

The one-eighth mile (200 meters) across Zabriskie Plateau was one of the longest stretches without a suitable detour on the redesigned route toward the long-term science destination.

Another recent challenge appeared last week in the form of unexpected behavior by an onboard computer currently serving as backup. Curiosity carries duplicate main computers. It has been operating on its B-side computer since a problem with the A-side computer prompted the team to command a side swap in February 2013.

Work in subsequent weeks of 2013 restored availability of the A-side as a backup in case of B-side trouble. In July, fresh commanding of the rover was suspended for two days while engineers confirmed that the A-side computer remains reliable as a backup.

To help prepare for future human missions to Mars, Curiosity incudes a radiation detector to measure the environment astronauts will encounter on a round-trip between Earth and the Martian surface. The data are consistent with earlier predictions and will help NASA scientists and engineers develop new technologies to protect astronauts in deep space.

In 2016, a Mars lander mission called InSight will launch to take the first look into the deep interior of Mars. The agency also is participating in the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions, including providing “Electra” telecommunication radios to ESA’s 2016 orbiter and a critical element of the astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover.

Additionally, NASA recently announced that its next rover going to Mars in 2020 will carry seven carefully selected instruments to conduct unprecedented investigations in science and technology, as well as capabilities needed for humans to pioneer the Red Planet.

Based on the design of the highly successful Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, the new rover will carry more sophisticated, upgraded hardware and new instruments to conduct geological assessments of the rover’s landing site, determine the potential habitability of the environment, and directly search for signs of ancient Martian life.

Scientists will use the Mars 2020 rover to identify and select a collection of rock and soil samples that will be stored for potential return to Earth by a future mission. The Mars 2020 mission is responsive to the science objectives recommended by the National Research Council’s 2011 Planetary Science Decadal Survey.

The Mars 2020 rover will help further advance our knowledge of how future human explorers could use natural resources available on the surface of the Red Planet. An ability to live off the Martian land would transform future exploration of the planet. Designers of future human expeditions can use this mission to understand the hazards posed by Martian dust and demonstrate technology to process carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to produce oxygen.

These experiments will help engineers learn how to use Martian resources to produce oxygen for human respiration and potentially as an oxidizer for rocket fuel.

The Mars 2020 rover is part of the agency’s Mars Exploration Program, which includes the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, the Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft currently orbiting the planet, and the MAVEN orbiter, which is set to arrive at the Red Planet in September and will study the Martian upper atmosphere.

NASA’s Mars Exploration Program seeks to characterize and understand Mars as a dynamic system, including its present and past environment, climate cycles, geology and biological potential. In parallel, NASA is developing the human spaceflight capabilities needed for future round-trip missions to Mars.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/NASA_Mars_Curiosity_Rover_Two_Years_and_Counting_on_Red_Planet_999.html.

Mars 2020 rover will carry tools to make oxygen

Washington (AFP)

July 31, 2014

The suite of space-age tools loaded on NASA’s next robotic vehicle, bound for the Red Planet in 2020, will include a device for making oxygen out of carbon dioxide.

Designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Mars Oxygen ISRU (in situ research utilization) Experiment (MOXIE), aims to see if Martian air could be converted for astronauts to breathe.

NASA has sent a series of robotic vehicles to Mars — the latest is the Curiosity rover which launched in 2012 — and hopes to have people exploring the surface of Earth’s neighboring planet by the 2030s.

“The 2020 rover will help answer questions about the Martian environment that astronauts will face and test technologies they need before landing on, exploring and returning from the Red Planet,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA.

The Mars 2020 rover also aims to “identify and select a collection of rock and soil samples that will be stored for potential return to Earth by a future mission.”

It will “conduct geological assessments of the rover’s landing site, determine the potential habitability of the environment, and directly search for signs of ancient Martian life.”

Other proposals accepted for the unmanned 2020 rover include advanced cameras and spectrometers for analyzing chemical composition, mineralogy and detecting organic compounds.

The rover will also carry a ground-penetrating radar and sensors for analyzing temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity and dust, NASA said.

The proposals chosen by NASA as scientific tools are valued at $130 million.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/Mars_2020_rover_will_carry_tools_to_make_oxygen_999.html.

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