Mars rover

NASA’s expensive Mars exploration Curiosity rover is finally doing what it was created to do: rove. Following a successful wheel test, the probe moved forward. Photo Gallery: Curiosity Rover Makes First Tracks on Mars article tells that Curiosity beamed back some incredible images of its tracks, which tell scientists that the soil is firm, great for mobility, and won’t cause the rover to sink much. Curiosity also pulled out its big scientific guns, firing a laser beam at several rocks in the vicinity.

Yes, the Mars rover cost $2bn – but it’s far from a waste of money. Landing Curiosity on Mars was Way Harder and Way Less Expensive than the Olympics. Curiosity rover is about the size of a small SUV and weighs almost 900 kg. It uses scoops, cameras, drills, a powerful rock-vaporizing infrared laser, and 75 kilograms of scientific instruments to perform its investigation. Curiosity is very much based on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology. Wind River’s VxWorks real-time operating system serves as the software platform for all functionality. Seeing the successful commencement of the Curiosity mission – powered by COTS – is certainly a cause for celebration amongst engineers.

Plan Make Your Own LEGO Curiosity Rover for fun? Stephen Pakbaz designed a custom Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory Rover set, complete with PDF build instructions and parts lists. LEGO Cusoo pages have another model of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, named Curiosity designed by a Mechanical Engineer who worked on the actual Curiosity. A LEGO Digital Designer model and step-by-step .pdf instructions of the Curiosity rover are now freely available.

Rovio sticks some Martian action into Angry Birds Space and has released the following funny advertisement video that features Curiosity rover and Angry Birds.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    NASA Panel Finds Fault WIth Curiosity Rover Project’s Focus

    The Curiosity Rover that’s been exploring the surface of Mars for more than two years now has a lot of fans (and quite a few headlines here on Slashdot), but not everyone feels positively toward the project.

    The Curiosity Rover that’s been exploring the surface of Mars for more than two years now has a lot of fans (and quite a few headlines here on Slashdot), but not everyone feels positively toward the project.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Indian Mars Mission Has Completed 95% of Its Journey Without a Hitch

    It will reach its destination before the end of the month.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Moon landing was real and WE CAN PROVE IT, says Nvidia
    Different angle on a product demo

    It’s only a product promo, but it’s a smart one: Nvidia reckons the judicious application of its graphics technology can debunk one of the world’s favourite “moon landing was a hoax conspiracies”.

    As a demo of the VXGI – voxel based global illumination – technology included in the company’s new Maxwell graphics architecture, a few enthusiasts at the company put together a rendered reconstruction of a scene that conspiracists say “prove” the landing was a hoax.

    the researchers were able to reproduce the conditions they say led to Aldrin being so apparently-anomalously well-illuminated in the photo.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    NASA’s Newest Mars Mission Spacecraft Enters Orbit around Red Planet

    NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars’ orbit at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere as never done before. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars.

    “As the first orbiter dedicated to studying Mars’ upper atmosphere, MAVEN will greatly improve our understanding of the history of the Martian atmosphere, how the climate has changed over time, and how that has influenced the evolution of the surface and the potential habitability of the planet,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “It also will better inform a future mission to send humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s.”

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    China Eager To Send Its Own Mission To Mars In the Wake of Mangalyaan

    The recent arrival into Mars orbit of both NASA’s MAVEN and India’s Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter Mission has not escaped the notice of China. The achievement of its Asian rival has especially proven galling to the Chinese. China has yet to successfully send a space probe beyond the moon. The development has elicited calls in Beijing to accelerate China’s Mars program. China currently plans to send a rover to Mars in 2020 and, perhaps, do a Mars sample return mission in 2030.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
    ‘What fun!’ exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE

    NASA boffins are chuffed as ninepence this week to announce that they have discovered unmistakable signs of a crashed spacecraft far away from the Apollo landing sites on the far side of the Moon.

    The boffins believe that the wrecked craft was the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), sent into orbit around the moon after taking off from Earth in September 2013.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Rocket Failure Underscores Dangers of Spaceflight

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How to Ride a Comet
    Treacherous Challenges Ahead for Rosetta’s Mission Control Team

    In the next phase of the spacecraft Rosetta’s journey. the mission control team has to cope with many uncertainties–including whether the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gersaimeno might suddenly belch–like a flatulent frat boy–a plume of gasses that could induce a disturbing torque on Rosetta’s attitude.

    “Our biggest challenge in flying is being able to predict as accurately as possible the future orbit of the spacecraft, some three or four days out,” says Andrea Accomazzo, Rosetta flight director and head of the Planetary Missions Division at the European Space Agency (ESA). He heads up the team of 28 full-time engineers responsible for the mission’s flight dynamics and control.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Strangeness of the Mars One Project

    superboj sends an article written after its author investigated the Mars One Project for over a year. Even though 200,000 people have (supposedly) signed up as potential volunteers on a one-way trip to Mars, there are still frightfully few details about how the mission will be accomplished.

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    THRUSTER DRAMA fails to halt Philae’s attempt to HARPOON A COMET
    Fridge-sized lander to separate from mothership Rosetta despite cold bump in the night

    The ESA’s comet-chasing spacecraft Rosetta will send its lander Philae towards Comet 67P on Wednesday – after some scrambling by boffins overnight, here in Germany, to get the probe ready for its historic landing attempt.

    The comet is hurtling through space at 135,000km per hour towards the Sun, and the ESA hopes Philae will be able to separate from Rosetta, get close enough to harpoon the space rock and draw itself in to land, an effort that will take about seven hours to complete. Once on the rock, the lander will drill into the surface.

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Photonic Frontiers: Laser Space Instrumentation: Laser instruments earn their place in space for communications and lidar

    Solid-state lasers have earned their place in space instrumentation through programs that have mapped Mars, Mercury, and the Greenland ice sheet, and downlinked high-speed data from a lunar probe, but challenges remain.

    Lasers were born early in the space race, but the first successful space applications were based on the ground. Flashlamp-pumped solid-state lasers measured distance to the moon in 1962 and to satellites in 1964, but they had to be big and cumbersome to deliver the power needed for ranging. Gemini 7 astronauts tested a diode laser for communications in 1965, but clouds kept them from establishing a link to the ground receiver.

    By 1971, a lamp-pumped 0.05 Hertz Q-switched ruby laser altimeter on the Apollo 15 Lunar Orbiter was mapping part of the lunar surface.

    Lasers to Mars

    The first high-profile space mission to carry a diode-pumped laser was the ill-fated Mars Observer. Launched in September 1992 carrying the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter, it was lost on August 21, 1993, three days before it was to enter Mars orbit. Smaller laser altimeters later mapped the Moon and the near-earth asteroid Eros.

    On January 12, 2003, NASA launched the first satellite-borne lidar for continuous global observations of Earth, the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System, on ICESat-1, to study changes in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. It carried three 1064 nm Nd-YAG lasers that were each supposed to operate continuously for 18 months, initially firing 70 mJ pulses.

    Laser communications

    Diode pumping also revived interest in high-speed laser links to deep space, where the limited speed of radio links had created a data bottleneck. After NASA’s plans to launch a 5 W, 100 Mbit/s laser relay called the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter in 2009 was cut in the 2005 budget, focus was shifted to a simpler test called the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD).5

    The LLCD transmitter was based on commercial telecommunication parts, including a distributed-feedback diode laser, erbium-fiber amplifiers, and a modulator, to avoid the high cost of lasers customized for space, says Donald Cornwell, director of NASA’s optical communications division (Washington, DC). Designed, built and operated by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory (Lexington, MA), the transmitter emitted 0.5 W at 1550 nm through a 10 cm telescope. A 16-ary pulse-position modulation encoded four data bits in pulse, to carry 622 Mbit/s from the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) (see Fig. 2) in lunar orbit. To maximize sensitivity, the ground receiver used superconducting nanowire detector arrays operating at 1 to 3 K. A single 1550 nm photon can heat the 4 nm wire enough to stop superconductivity, says Cornwell. “It’s amazingly sensitive, with detection efficiency of 70 to 80%,” he adds.

    In October 2013, LLCD successfully demonstrated 622 Mbit/s downloads, six times the fastest radio link from the Moon, with a transmitter only half as massive.

    NASA’s next laser test will relay data at gigabit rates between a pair of ground stations. Both up- and down-laser links in the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will be in the 1550-nm band, with a pair linking each ground station with a transceiver on a geosynchronous communications satellite. Initial plans called for a two-year test, but NASA is considering up to five years after a 2018 launch.

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    NASA revisits Europa with modern image-processing software
    Do attempt landings here, says space agency, it looks VERY interesting

    NASA has re-issued a famous image of Jovian moon Europa, after subjecting it to “modern image processing techniques” for the first time.

    The 1.6km-per-pixel, 2300×1700 image is actually a composite of several captured by the Galileo probe during the craft’s first and fourteenth orbits through the Jupiter system, in 1995 and 1998, respectively. Previous versions were “a mosaic with lower resolution and strongly enhanced color”.

    This time around, NASA has combined “Images taken through near-infrared, green and violet filters”, corrected them for “light scattered outside of the image, to provide a color correction that is calibrated by wavelength.”

    “ Gaps in the images have been filled with simulated color based on the color of nearby surface areas with similar terrain types.”

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Astrophotography and Data-Analysis Sense Exoplanets

    [David Schneider] was reading about recent discoveries of exoplanets. Simply put these are planets orbiting stars other than the sun. The rigs used by the research scientists include massive telescopes, but the fact that they’re using CCD sensors led [David] to wonder if a version of this could be done on the cheap in the backyard. The answer is yes. By capturing and processing data from a barn door tracker he was able to verify a known exoplanet.

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Orion: To Mars, the Moon and beyond… but first, a TEST FLIGHT through Van Allen belt
    With handy ‘any-time abort’ should a KERPLUNK occur

    NASA’s Orion spacecraft, rescued from the chop by President Barack Obama and aimed at reviving the US’s dormant manned space exploration with trips to Mars, the Moon and asteroids, will have its first test flight this week.

    The Apollo-like ship has been seen by some as nothing more than a stealthy bit of politicking – rescued from budget cuts to the space programme to keep voters in the state of Colorado, where manufacturer Lockheed Martin is based, happy and disguise the fact that NASA has all but given up on sending people into space.

  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Euro spacemen clear Ariane 6 for liftoff
    European Space Agency commits to next-generation launch vehicle

    The European Space Agency (ESA) has committed to building a new generation of Ariane launch vehicles.

    The Ariane 6′s four-stage design has been on the table for over a year, but ESA member states hadn’t signed off on its construction. At this week’s ESA Ministerial Council that changed, with the Resolution on Europe’s Access to Space [PDF] giving the green light for construction of the next-generation launcher.

  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Magnifico! Galileo satellite nudged back into correct orbit
    Second system still AWOL for the moment

    The European Space Agency has managed to salvage one of two misplaced Galileo satellites that it is using to build an alternative to the US’s GPS system.

    ESA launched the fifth and sixth satellite that will make up the Galileo constellation on August 22 – but the were sent into the wrong orbit. It was initially thought the problem was down to a software fault, but in October French launch company Arianspace admitted that its boosters were at fault.

  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    NASA’s Pluto-Bound New Horizons Spacecraft Wakes Up from 1,873-Day Slumber

    This past Saturday, December 6, NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft woke up from a years-long nap. The spacecraft is now en route to Pluto and is estimated to be some 3 billion miles (4.8 billion kilometers) away from Earth.
    As detailed by NASA scientists, New Horizons left our planet on January 19, 2006. It was launched from a space station in Florida, US, and is expected to begin studying Pluto sometime in January 2015.

    What this means is that the New Horizons spacecraft, whose overall weight is one of 478 kilograms (1,054 pounds), will soon become the first probe ever to study the Pluto system up close. Thus, in July 2015, the spacecraft is set to make its closest approach to the distant body.

  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Mars was a MOIST MISTRESS: Curiosity probes once-wet bottom
    Mount Sharp was immersed, nuclear droid finds

    The nuclear powered Curiosity rover – right now rolling across three-mile-high Mount Sharp on Mars – has found evidence the great peak was once under a mighty lake.

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

    Curiosity has already discovered the remains of an ancient riverbed on the Red Planet, but the latest discovery gives evidence of not only free-flowing water but large lakes that rose and fell over time.

    “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,”

  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Orion ‘Mars’ ship: Cosmic ray guard? Go. Parachutes? Go. Spacerock shield? Go!
    Oh yes… fuel. NASA Mars craft in test flight TODAY

    NASA’s potentially Mars-bound spaceship is set for its first test flight today, with a 70 per cent chance of good weather for the blast-off.

    The space agency has just finished fuelling up Orion, which it hopes will be the successor craft to Apollo and will carry astronauts to the Moon, asteroids and the Red Planet.

  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Overview of Orion’s Successful Flight Test;Test-Measurement

    NASA’s Orion spacecraft is built to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before. Orion will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. After years of design, fabrication, and testing, Orion completed a perfect launch into Earth’s orbit on the morning of December 5, 2014. After returning to Earth, NASA’s Orion spacecraft was seen from an unpiloted aircraft descending under three massive red and white main parachutes.

  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    HUMAN HAIR will soon be FOUND on MOON: Brit ‘nauts aim for SPAAAACE
    Lunar Mission One hits crowdfunding target

    Blighty-backed moonshot Lunar Mission One has managed to hit its Kickstarter goal of £600,000 in crowdfunding, just a day and a half ahead of the cut-off point.

    After a fast-paced start, helped by media coverage and endorsements from the likes of celebrity rockstar physicist Brian Cox, raised £200,000 in three days, things slowed down somewhat – but the lunar attempt still managed to cross the finish line in time.

    Over 6,500 people pledged to the start-off pot for Lunar Mission One’s dream of landing on the Moon again in an unmanned craft in 2024. The lucky backers will get rewards ranging from photos, videos and updates to digital libraries of personal pics and documents to be buried on the moon by the lander.

    Some backers will even get the chance to send up a strand of their own (or someone else’s) hair, to be placed inside the hole that the lander plans to drill in the Moon.

    Of course, £600,000 isn’t going to buy all that. Lunar Missions, the non-profit behind the project, is also hoping to get funding from commercial and public backing

  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Pub time for NASA bods? Orion spacecraft test launch called off
    Boat, high winds and pesky fuel valve scupper Mars-aiming craft’s first flight

  23. Tomi Engdahl says:

    It’s whiff, Jim, but not as we know it: Curiosity sniffs ORGANICS on Mars
    But David Bowie still waiting for his answer

    Two new papers on the latest data from the compact chemistry laboratory aboard nuclear-tank Curiosity show organic compounds in Mars’ atmosphere and rocks – and therefore offer tantalizing clues to the Red Planet’s watery past.

    In the past 20 months Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory has sniffed the air a dozen times using its mass spectrometer, gas chromatograph, and tunable laser spectrometer. As the rover has rolled across kilometres of Martian regolith the SAM instrument has sniffed four huge spikes in the methane content of the thin atmosphere – ten times the background reading – according to data published in Science.

    The blasts of organic material, which were detected by SAM in late 2013 and early 2014, aren’t necessarily proof of active organic life on Mars – it could be that they were formed by the action of water on Martian rocks’ chemical contents.

  24. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ESA: Venus probe doomed to fiery death on weird planet’s surface
    Nine years of exploration ending up as Venusian rubble

    The European Space Agency’s has administered the last rites to its Venus Express probe, saying that the spacecraft is now out of control and has gone “gently into the night.”

    “The available information provides evidence of the spacecraft losing attitude control most likely due to thrust problems during the raising maneuvers,” said Patrick Martin, ESA’s Venus Express mission manager. “It seems likely, therefore, that Venus Express exhausted its remaining propellant about half way through the planned maneuvers last month.”

    Venus Express was launched in 2005 and took station around its namesake four months later to map out the planet’s weather systems. During the past eight years the craft has sent back images from one of the more bizarre atmospheres in the Solar System, and caused head-scratching with the discovery that Venus is slowing down.

  25. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Space Weather Satellite Set for Launch

    Space weather forecasters will get an important new tool to help predict disruptions to the Earth’s magnetic field that could damage critical infrastructure when the US launches a deep space sentry designed to monitor solar activity. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) plans to launch its Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, from Cape Canaveral on Jan. 23, 2015, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. If all goes as planned, DSCOVR will take about 110 days to reach a stable “Lagrange point” orbit between the Earth and Sun.

    The NOAA space weather satellite orbiting about 1 million miles from Earth represents the first deep space early warning system for detecting geomagnetic storms emanating from the Sun. DSCOVR will replace a 17-year-old NASA research satellite and will carry two NASA sensors that will monitor ozone and aerosol levels in the Earth’s atmosphere, along with changes in Earth’s radiation.

  26. Tomi Engdahl says:

    10 Years In, Mars Rover Opportunity Suffers From Flash Memory Degradation

    Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been exploring the Martian surface for over a decade — that’s an amazing ten years longer than the 3-month primary mission it began in January 2004. But with its great successes, inevitable age-related issues have surfaced and mission engineers are being challenged by an increasingly troubling bout of “amnesia” triggered by the rover’s flash memory.

    Mars Rover Opportunity Suffers Worrying Bouts of ‘Amnesia’

    Problems with NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity’s flash memory have intensified over recent weeks, so Discovery News Space Producer Ian O’Neill spoke with NASA Project Manager John Callas about the severity of the glitches, how they’re affecting Opportunity’s mission and how his team hope to find a fix.

  27. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ALIEN fossils ON MARS: Curiosity snaps evidence of life
    ‘Worm’ trails in lake bed remarkably similar to Earth rock

    Photographs of rocks taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover may confirm that life as we know it once existed on Mars.

    The pictures were shot at the Gillespie Lake outcrop in Yellowknife Bay, which used to be a huge lake back when Mars had surface water. Dr Nora Noffke, who has spent 20 years studying fossils of early microbes, said formations in the Martian rocks looked very similar to those found on Earth – formations created by microorganisms.

    “In one image, I saw something that looked very familiar,” Noffke told Astrobiology Magazine. “So I took a closer look, meaning I spent several weeks investigating certain images centimetre by centimetre, drawing sketches, and comparing them to data from terrestrial structures.”

    Her research, published [PDF] in the journal Astrobiology, examined structures in the Martian rocks, and compared them to the remains of microbial organisms that were once the most advanced form of life on our planet. Interestingly enough, they match up.

  28. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Darrell Etherington / TechCrunch:
    Microsoft reveals Windows Holographic augmented reality user interface and HoloLens headset

    Sean O’Kane / The Verge:
    Windows Holographic will let NASA explore what Curiosity sees on Mars

    Microsoft announced the futuristic at-home augmented reality project Windows Holographic today, and one of the many different uses the company teased was a collaboration with NASA and the Curiosity rover team. Now, NASA has released more information on the software it built for Holographic, a program called OnSight.

    By using Microsoft’s HoloLens visor, NASA scientists will be able virtually explore the areas of Mars that Curiosity is studying in a fully immersive way. It will also allow them to plan new routes for the rover, examine Curiosity’s worksite from a first-person view, and conduct science experiments using the rover’s data.

    That’s a big deal, according to OnSight’s project manager, who’s quoted in the release. “This tool gives them the ability to explore the rover’s surroundings much as an Earth geologist would do field work here on our planet,” he says.

  29. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Curiosity rover rendered armless by short circuit
    Mars nuclear space tank parks after trouble strikes while retrieving sample

    Humanity’s Mars-resident nuclear-powered, laser-packing space tank Curiosity has a broken arm.

    NASA says the problem emerged on February 27th when “the rover was conducting an early step in the transfer of rock powder collected by the drill on the arm to laboratory instruments inside the rover.”

    During that operation “Telemetry received from the rover indicated that a transient short circuit occurred and the vehicle followed its programmed response, stopping the arm activity underway at the time of the irregularity in the electric current.”

    The wounded arm has worked five times previously, transferring Martian soil samples to Curiosity’s innards for detailed examinations.

    It’s not yet known what happened, or why, or if the rover can be remotely repaired.

  30. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Boffins say Mars had ocean covering 20 per cent of planet
    New theory suggests Red Planet was wet enough, long enough, for life to emerge

  31. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Mars “Webcam” To Be Made Available For Public Use

    If your group can make a good use case you can control of the ESA’s Mars Express webcam.

    Mars Express Webcam Available for Public Use in May for Images of the Red Planet

    Schools, youth groups and astronomy clubs are invited to use ESA’s webcam in May for images of Mars and another planet. Proposals are due by March 27.

  32. Tomi Engdahl says:

    NASA Spacecraft Becomes First to Orbit a Dwarf Planet

    NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has become the first mission to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet. The spacecraft was approximately 38,000 miles (61,000 kilometers) from Ceres when it was captured by the dwarf planet’s gravity at about 4:39 a.m. PST (7:39 a.m. EST) Friday.

    Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California received a signal from the spacecraft at 5:36 a.m. PST (8:36 a.m. EST) that Dawn was healthy and thrusting with its ion engine, the indicator Dawn had entered orbit as planned.

    “Since its discovery in 1801, Ceres was known as a planet, then an asteroid and later a dwarf planet,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission director at JPL. “Now, after a journey of 3.1 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometers) and 7.5 years, Dawn calls Ceres, home.”

  33. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Build Your Own 3D Printed Mars Curiosity Rover Featuring LED Lights, All-Wheel Drive & Steering

  34. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Curiosity rover’s broken arm heals, exploration-as-normal resumes
    Rover returns to showing Mars humanity’s mighty drilling skill

    The Curiosity rover’s arm is working again!

    In late February, NASA shut down the robotic limb after a short circuit led to errors. By March 7th, the space agency expressed optimism that the arm would come good.

    And last week, it did: NASA reports that last Wednesday the nuclear-powered laser-equipped space tank once again showed Mars that humanity means business by using its arm “to sieve and deliver a rock-powder sample to an onboard instrument.”

  35. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Wham! NASA claims ‘picture-perfect’ blast-off for tricky MAGNETIC EXPLOSIONS mission
    Why do these powerful events nobble Earth’s comms?

  36. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nasa’s Curiosity rover finds water below surface of Mars

    New measurements from the Gale crater contradict theories that the planet is too cold for liquid water to exist, but Mars still considered hostile to life

    Mars has liquid water just below its surface, according to new measurements by Nasa’s Curiosity rover.

    NASA Mars Rover’s Weather Data Bolster Case for Brine

    Martian weather and soil conditions that NASA’s Curiosity rover has measured, together with a type of salt found in Martian soil, could put liquid brine in the soil at night.

  37. Tomi Engdahl says:

    13 engineering truths proved by NASA’s Curiosity Rover

    Luke Dubord, technical group supervisor, avionics subsystem engineering group, NASA, laid some truth on the opening keynote audience at this week’s Embedded Systems Conference in Boston.

    1. ‘Fake it ’til you make it’ doesn’t apply to engineering.
    2. Timing can be everything.
    3. Communication is key.
    4. Safety first.
    5. The best laid plans can still fail.
    6. You are going to fail sometimes.
    7. And sometimes there are no second chances.
    8. Sometimes the best ideas are the crazy ones.
    9. Engineering can be messy.
    10. Good engineering is a thing of beauty.
    11. Trust your designs.
    12. There’s always another project ahead.
    13. There’s no I in “team.”

  38. Tomi Engdahl says:

    LightSail mission stalled by .CSV log file embiggenment SNAFU
    Cubesat reboots after discovering that in space, no-one can press CTRL-ALT-DEL

    LightSail’s Jason Davis explains that the issue was down to a logfile in the avionics software that writes beacon events to a .csv file. In the version of Linux-based software running on the little spacecraft, a too-large beacon file crashes the system.

    “When it reaches 32 megabytes—roughly the size of ten compressed music files—it can crash the flight system. The manufacturer of the avionics board corrected this glitch in later software revisions. But alas, LightSail’s software version doesn’t include the update,” Davis writes.

    The spacecraft wasn’t responding to soft reboot commands from Earth, so there was nothing for it but to wait for the system to reboot itself, and that seems to have happened.

  39. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Glass door to the ancient past FOUND ON MARS
    Red dust-stained geologists now working in vitro

    Rock-boffins have used data from satellites to scope out impact-crater glass on Mars for a glimpse into its past, based on the theory that glass formed during hypervelocity happenings can encapsulate and preserve earthly bio-signatures.

    A study lead by Brown University’s Peter Schultz found that organic matter, including plant matter, was entombed by molten glass formed in asteroid and comet impacts occurring millions of years ago in Argentina.

    When the study was published, the rock-boffin suggested that something similar could also have happened on Mars millions of years ago.

    The paper, Preserved glass-rich impactites on Mars, and published in Geology, is the first step in detecting the existence of impact glass on Mars.

  40. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Explore the surface of Mars right from your phone or browser #JourneyToMars #SDCC

  41. Tomi Engdahl says:

    NASA Orion’s challenging journey to the Red Planet: Power and Thermal mission planning–Power-and-Thermal-mission-planning?_mc=NL_EDN_EDT_EDN_weekly_20150827&cid=NL_EDN_EDT_EDN_weekly_20150827&&elq=c91010aff89c4117988b1394c6e54d09&elqCampaignId=24547&elqaid=27772&elqat=1&elqTrackId=7463320a337e4ddab086d50a0baf47c1

    Meet Nujoud Merancy, a senior lead engineer at Booz Allen, where she currently serves as the Mission Planning & Analysis Lead for NASA’s Orion. She brings to NASA’s mission more than six years of experience in Orion vehicle integration, systems integration, and performance analysis. She previously worked for seven years with Boeing on the International Space Station Guidance, Navigation, and Control team as a systems engineer. In that position she was responsible for real-time flight operations engineering, international partner integration, and software interface development.

  42. Tomi Engdahl says:

    10 Kickstarter Projects that Promote Space Exploration

    For those of us who were born into the “Star Trek” generation, we might use the opening voiceover by William Shatner as our mantra: “To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. The popularity of the newest Star Wars offerings, though, points to enthusiasm that crosses generation. Based on the latest winning projects on Kickstarter electronics free-thinkers are monetizing that enthusiasm with a variety of projects aimed at space exploration.

    By shelling out from $30 to $140 dollars, space enthusiasts, whether working in the electronics industry or standing on the sidelines, could feel like they were part of something greater than themselves. At the same time, it’s clear that the innovation continues to evolve as inventors look to capture space and space-themed projects and monetize them.

  43. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Evidence of liquid water found on Mars

    Nasa’s Curiosity rover has found that water can exist as a liquid near the Martian surface.

    Mars should be too cold to support liquid water at the surface, but salts in the soil lower its freezing point – allowing briny films to form.

    The results lend credence to a theory that dark streaks seen on features such as crater walls could be formed by flowing water.

    The results are published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

    Scientists think thin films of water form when salts in the soil, called perchlorates, absorb water vapour from the atmosphere.

    The temperature of these liquid films is about -70C – too cold to support any of the microbial life forms that we know about.

    Forming in the top 15cm of the Martian soil, the brines would also be exposed to high levels of cosmic radiation – another challenge to life.

    The Rover Environmental Monitoring System (REMS) – essentially the vehicle’s weather station – measured the relative humidity and temperature at the rover’s landing site of Gale Crater.

    Scientists were also able to estimate the subsurface water content using data from an instrument called Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN). These data were consistent with water in the soil being bound to perchlorates.

    Finally, the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument gave the researchers the content of water vapour in the atmosphere.

    The results show conditions were right for the brines to form during winter nights at the Martian equator, where Curiosity landed. But the liquid evaporates during the Martian day when temperatures rise.

    “These perchlorate salts have a property called deliquescence. They take the water vapour from the atmosphere and absorb it to produce the brines.”

    He added: “We see a daily water cycle – which is very important. This cycle is maintained by the brine. On Earth we have an exchange between the atmosphere and the ground through rain. But we don’t have this on Mars.”

    Dark streaks on slopes seen by orbiting spacecraft have long been thought to be the product of running water seeping from the Martian soil. But this interpretation has been contested.

    “It’s speculation at this point… but these observations at least support or go in this direction,” said Dr Martin-Torres.

    Transient liquid water and water activity at Gale crater on Mars

  44. Tomi Engdahl says:

    NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars

    New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

    Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

    “Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

    These downhill flows, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), often have been described as possibly related to liquid water. The new findings of hydrated salts on the slopes point to what that relationship may be to these dark features. The hydrated salts would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly. Scientists say it’s likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening.

    NASA Research Suggests Mars Once Had More Water Than Earth’s Arctic Ocean

    A primitive ocean on Mars held more water than Earth’s Arctic Ocean, according to NASA scientists who, using ground-based observatories, measured water signatures in the Red Planet’s atmosphere

    “Our study provides a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had, by determining how much water was lost to space,” said Geronimo Villanueva, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the new paper. “With this work, we can better understand the history of water on Mars.”

    Perhaps about 4.3 billion years ago, Mars would have had enough water to cover its entire surface in a liquid layer about 450 feet (137 meters) deep. More likely, the water would have formed an ocean occupying almost half of Mars’ northern hemisphere, in some regions reaching depths greater than a mile (1.6 kilometers).

  45. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How Close Are We To a Mars Mission?

    NASA is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s,” reads the official NASA web site. But National Geographic points out that “the details haven’t been announced, in large part because such a massive, long-term spending project would require the unlikely support of several successive U.S. presidents.”

    Journey to Mars Overview

    NASA is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s – goals outlined in the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and in the U.S. National Space Policy, also issued in 2010.

    Mars is a rich destination for scientific discovery and robotic and human exploration as we expand our presence into the solar system. Its formation and evolution are comparable to Earth, helping us learn more about our own planet’s history and future. Mars had conditions suitable for life in its past. Future exploration could uncover evidence of life, answering one of the fundamental mysteries of the cosmos: Does life exist beyond Earth?

    While robotic explorers have studied Mars for more than 40 years, NASA’s path for the human exploration of Mars begins in low-Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station. Astronauts on the orbiting laboratory are helping us prove many of the technologies and communications systems needed for human missions to deep space, including Mars. The space station also advances our understanding of how the body changes in space and how to protect astronaut health.

    Our next step is deep space, where NASA will send a robotic mission to capture and redirect an asteroid to orbit the moon. Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft will explore the asteroid in the 2020s, returning to Earth with samples. This experience in human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit will help NASA test new systems and capabilities, such as Solar Electric Propulsion, which we’ll need to send cargo as part of human missions to Mars.

  46. Tomi Engdahl says:

    13 engineering truths proved by NASA’s Curiosity Rover

    Luke Dubord, technical group supervisor, avionics subsystem engineering group, NASA, laid some truth on the opening keynote audience at this week’s Embedded Systems Conference in Boston.

    Dubord is a member of the team that safely landed NASA’s Curiosity rover on the fourth planet from the sun, early on August 6, 2012, eastern time. Since then, it has been communicating with NASA’s Mars Science Lab, passing valuable data and photos back to Earth.

    In discussing the NASA Curiosity Rover’s design, launch, successful landing, and continuing mission on Mars, Dubord touched on topics that, whether engineers want to accept or not, are real of all engineering, from simple consumer devices to complex spacecraft.


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