NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity Halfway to Solander Point As It Celebrates 10th Anniversary (9th year on Mars)

Subject: General Tech | July 9, 2013 - 02:48 AM |
Tagged: nasa, opportunity, mars rover, rover, solander point, botany bay

Yesterday, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity celebrated its 10th anniversary since being launched in 2003. The “golf cart sized” rover landed on Mars in December 2004, and has been exploring the red planet ever since. Despite its planned 3 month mission life-span, the Opportunity has continued functioning in the Martian environment for 9 years.

The rover recent moved away from the southern tip of Cape York (which is an area along the edge of the larger Endeavour crater) where it has been exploring for 22 months. Opportunity is heading towards another area called the Solander Point by traveling across a track of land called Botany Bay. Solander Point is approximately 1.2 miles away from Cape York. The Opportunity rover, which has been driving for about six weeks recently passed the halfway mark between the two research areas.

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A photo of Botany Bay, taken by the Opportunity rover's rear hazard identification camera.

Interestingly, NASA is driving the Opportunity rover backwards in an effort to reduce wear on the vehicle. Fortunately, the rover is making good time, and Botany Bay is proving to be a relatively easy drive. The land is fairly flat, and composed of a “polygonally fractured outcrop” of various plates with cracks. Soil and hematite-rich spherical structures called “blueberrries” has filled in the cracks.

In total, the Opportunity has traveled approximately 22.820 miles in its ongoing (currently 9 year) exploration mission. It is edging closer to the world record for off-world driving distance, which is currently held by the Soviet Lunokhod 2 rover. The Lunokhod 2 traveled 23 miles on the surface of the moon.

More information on the Opportunity rover can be found on the NASA JPL website.

Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Source: NASA

Curiosity Has Landed: First Photos from Mars

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2012 - 01:47 AM |
Tagged: space, rover, photos, nasa, mars rover, mars, curiosity

NASA’s latest rover, named Curiosity has successfully landed on Mars a few minutes ago. The NASA team members were understandably ecstatic and gleeful as their hard work paid off. The first fruits of their labor arrived in the form of images from Mars.

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An artist's depiction of the Curiosity rover on Mars

Using a rocket-powered skycrane, the one-ton rover was lowered onto the Martian surface to begin its two year mission collecting data for research into everything from water on Mars to the planets past life forms.

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The NASA employees in the control room celebrate a successful landing.

Doug McCuistion, Director of the Mars Exploration Program for NASA’s Washington Headquarters stated in a recent press release:

 “Curiosity is a bold step forward in learning about our neighboring planet, but this mission does not stand alone. It is part of a sustained, coordinated program of Mars exploration. This mission transitions the program's science emphasis from the planet's water history to its potential for past or present life."

It is an exciting time for NASA, and I’m interested to see what comes out of the Curiosity-aided research! The first images from Mars started arriving soon after the Curiosity rover landed, and more should be coming soon. You can find a collection of images from the Curiosity landing on the NASA website.

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One of the first images from Mars

PS While the Xbox 360 gamers got a Mars rover landing game for Kinect, PC users can now play around with their own skycrane-delivered rovers in Kerbal Space Program.

UPDATE: Several low resolution images have been posted to the NASA site and can be seen below. Higher resolution images should become available later.

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Images courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Source: NASA