Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Online Rockhounding Adventures update and Mars Rover Update

After way more effort than I ever imagined when I started working on the online rockhounding adventures two years ago, I think I am finally done with Adventure 1.  I would still like to preview and test the four segments in real time, but this would take a whole day.  I have not done a final count, but the four segments of the first adventure include somewhere around 300 computer pages,  55 video clips, and thousands of photos, diagrams, and animations. 

There is part of me that would like to launch this adventure NOW, but my marketing instinct is that since most of the people who will sign up at launch are rockhounds, I should wait until I finish the final edit on Adventure 2.  The first adventure, as I have reported in other blog updates, covers from the Big Bang through Universe, Solar System, and Earth formation.  Adventure 2 will be about the Lake Superior agate, Upper Peninsula geology, and beach rocks.  I don't know how long it will take me to complete the final edit the five segments of Adventure 2, but it will be at least a few weeks.

What is your opinion?  Please send me an email to and give me your opinion, or send me a comment via this blog posting.  Which decision do you prefer::

Decision 1 -- Launch Adventure 1 now.
Decision 2 -- Wait to launch until after the final edit has been completed on Adventure 2.

No matter which decision I make, the launch will not yet include the PLAY TIME self-evaluation quizzes.  These quizzes will be added this winter.  Either way, the launch price for the pilot program will be $15 that will cover both adventures, the corresponding PLAY TIME quizzes that will be added this winter, and all future improvements to these two adventures.  At the launch of the pilot program, there will also be the option to purchase a life time subscription to these first two as well as all future online rockhounding adventures for $50.

The pilot program will end when I launch the third adventure.  I have not yet decided which rock or mineral I will feature in this third adventure.  The third adventure will be launched (I hope) by next summer.  At that time, those who have purchased the pilot program will have the chance to upgrade their subscription to include the third adventure.  I am not sure yet what the cost of upgrade will be, but the price will be somewhere around an additional $15.  The cost of the lifetime subscription will also go up with the launch of the third adventure to somewhere between $60 and $70.   I hope to be adding two adventures per year for many years to come.

For today's blog posting I'll update everyone about the Mars rover. 

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity drove 83 feet eastward during the 102nd Martian day of the mission (Nov. 18, 2012), and used its left navigation camera to record this view ahead at the end of the drive. The view is toward "Yellowknife Bay" in the "Glenelg" area of Gale Crater.

This panorama is a mosaic of images taken by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on the NASA Mars rover Curiosity while the rover was working at a site called "Rocknest" in October and November 2012.

The center of the scene, looking eastward from Rocknest, includes the Point Lake area. After the component images for this scene were taken, Curiosity drove 83 feet (25.3 meters) on Nov. 18 from Rocknest to Point Lake.

The above photo shows a rock approximately 15 inches (40 centimeters) long and 4 inches (10 centimeters) tall. Next to the "Rocknest" patch of windblown dust and sand where Curiosity scooped and analyzed soil samples. The Mastcam was about 13 feet (4 meters) from the rock when the component images were taken.

The picture on the left covers an area of about 0.75 by 0.87 inches (1.9 by 2.2 centimeters) and shows some of the variety of coarse sand grains observed on a portion of the Rocknest wind drift that was flattened by the left front rover wheel. Though Mars is thought of as the Red Planet, the sands of Mars are not necessarily red. This one small area shows clear, translucent grains, gray sand and white sand, in addition to two blue-gray glassy spheres and a glassy ellipsoid. The spherical and ellipsoidal grains were likely formed from molten droplets that cooled above the Martian surface to form glass, either during an explosive volcanic eruption or an impact cratering event. Similar grains are found in association with impacts on Earth and explosive volcanoes on the moon. The larger glassy sphere is 0.026 inches (655 micrometers) in diameter.

The picture on the right shows a magnified view of the fraction of smaller sand grains examined by Curiosity.

This map shows where NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has driven since landing at a site subsequently named "Bradbury Landing," and traveling to an overlook position near beside "Point Lake," in drives totaling 1,703 feet (519 meters). The rover landed on August 5,2012. It was at the easternmost waypoint on this map on Nov. 30, 2012. It worked on scoops of soil for a few weeks at the drift of windblown sand called "Rocknest." The place called "Glenelg" is where three types of terrain meet. The depression called "Yellowknife Bay" is a potential location for selecting the first target rock for Curiosity's hammering drill.

All of these sites are within Gale Crater and north of the mountain called Mount Sharp in the middle of the crater. After using its drill in the Glenelg area, the rover's main science destination will be on the lower reaches of Mount Sharp.

The NASA Mars rover Curiosity took the above photo during the mission's 120th Martian day, or sol (Dec. 7, 2012), to record this view of a rock outcrop informally named "Shaler."

The outcrop's striking layers, some at angles to each other in a pattern called crossbedding, made it a target of interest for the mission's science team. The site is near where three types of terrain meet at a place called "Glenelg," inside Gale Crater.

The area covered by the image spans about 3 feet (90 centimeters).

Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona, NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems, NASA/JPL-Caltech.

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