Courtesy NASACan we expect to get more than 10 years out of our cars today? At best, they get listed as a "late model" vehicle in some classified ads. So how about our space cars?
This week the Mars rover Opportunity is marking its tenth year of rolling around the Red Planet. Not too shabby for something that was designed for just a quick three-month life span. It's partner rover, Spirit, seized up and got permanently stuck in sand three years ago. And now both vehicles are being overshadowed by Curiosity, the high-tech rover that just landed on Mars five months ago.
Like any older vehicle, Opportunity has its quirks. It gets around mostly in reverse these days because one of the front wheels doesn't turn well. Its robot arm needs some extra coaxing from operators to get jobs done. But it's still collecting samples and data. It total, it's logged 22 miles across the Martian terrain. Not too shabby for a late model rover.
Here's a link to NASA's webpage of photos and information that Opportunity has collected over the years.
NASA scientists announced today that analysis of a soil sample scooped up by the Mars rover, Curiosity, and analyzed by its on-board lab shows evidence of organic compounds. However, whether the organics are indigenous to Mars or were brought by the rover to the Red Planet from Earth has not yet been determined, so NASA is keeping the excitement level subdued for the moment. The announcement was made today at a press conference at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, California.
Wired magazine story
It's been, oh, maybe 3 weeks since I posted the last hi-def POV video of Curiosity's amazing descent to the surface of Mars but this time it's in Ultra High Def and at 30fps! Who wouldn't want to see that? And with audio no less. Not sure if the audio is dubbed in or was actually captured with the video. Compared to Earth Mars doesn't have much of an atmosphere but because sound can travel through several different types of media - air, liquids, solids, etc - audio capture would probably be possible but I'm not sure NASA set the rover up for that. Whatever the case, the imagery is worth seeing.
A photograph captured by the Mars rover, Curiosity, shows an unconformity in the strata of Mount Sharp, a mountain inside nearby Gale Crater. An unconformity is a geological feature marking a stop in sedimentation and erosion of a surface before the overlying layer is deposited. The photo above shows the two distinct rock layers (marked by a line of white dots) that make up the unconformity. The upper layer, which is tilted left to right in relation to the lower layer, contains no evidence of hydrated minerals found in the lower layer. This idicates the two layers were laid down in different environments.
Courtesy NASA via UStreamThe Mars rover Curiosity managed to make it through seven minutes of terror and land safely and pretty much flawlessly this morning on the surface of the Red Planet. The amazingly complicated landing, which took place around 12:25 CDT, was broadcast on the internet and on NASA-TV. It was very thrilling to watch, and a great accomplishment for all the scientists involved. They were ecstatic, as you can well imagine.
Tonight, as you're wondering if your level 81 dark elf mage and her sweet double-enchanted dragonscale armor makes up for the girlfriend you lost playing Skyrim, turn your xbox over to the live streaming of the landing of the new Mars rover, Curiosity. Because it's right there on your console's dashboard!
It's really a win-win situation. Arborea Darkshadow can wait a few minutes, I'm sure, and you'll either get to witness an action-packed landing of a big new Mars rover, or you'll get to see the hopes and dreams of hundreds of scientists and engineers crash and disintegrate on the cold surface of a dead planet millions of miles away!
You know what JGordon will be doing approximately 12 hours from now? Definitely not watching the Curiosity landing! But that's only because I don't have an internet connection at my apartment. No, I'll probably be forcing the cat to participate in the St. Paul Cat Olympics. As far as I know, there will be only one contestant, but it promises to be hilarious! Why? Because she probably can't swim very well.
Mars! Be there!
The music is a little over-the-top, but the machine is epic. Even for a girl who isn't particularly interested in space stuff.
Check it out.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.NASA commemorates the event (which took place July 2nd) by posting this great panorama taken by the robotic explorer. The full-circle photograph is composed of 817 separate images. Opportunity and its equally tenacious sister rover, Spirit, have exceeded by many years their planned missions on the desert planet.
Full resolution image files can be downloaded here.