Monday, September 30, 2013

Mars Rover Update

Soon after I research more details, I will be posting another blog update regarding new software that is available for IPads that will allow IPad users to access the online rockhounding classes.  There are two browsers that can be purchased and downloaded that allow IPads to access and play flash based videos and software.  The names of the software are Photon and Penguin.  My sister, Diana, is coming later this week.  She has an IPad.  We will download the software and try them to be sure that they work.  If any of you blog followers try it before we get to it -- please let me know whether or not the browsers successfully translate and play the flash based classes.

But for this blog posting I am going to update everyone on new Mars rover photos. 

In the lower center of this image above the visible light-toned streaks have been chosen as a place for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity to study for a few days in September 2013. The pause for observations at this area, called "Waypoint 1," is the first during the rover's trek of many months from the "Glenelg" area where it worked for the first half of 2013 to an entry point to the lower layers of Mount Sharp. This pale outcrop is informally named "Darwin."

The view is a mosaic of images taken by the telephoto-lens camera of the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Curiosity during the 387th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Sept. 7, 2013). The rover's position was on a rise called "Panorama Point," and the view looks southwestward. this position was at the endpoint of the mission's longest-yet drive, 464 feet or 141.5 meters.

Waypoint 1 is the first stop planned along the route to the Mount Sharp entry point. Studies at these waypoints are intended to help researchers trace how the rocks at Glenelg, where the mission found evidence of an ancient habitable environment, are related to the lower layers of Mount Sharp, where scientists hope to learn more about habitable environments and major changes in environmental conditions that have occurred during Mars' geologic history.

Curiosity finished more than six months of investigations in the Glenelg area in early July 2013 and began the drive of about 5.3 miles (8.6 kilometers) from Glenelg to the Mount Sharp entry point. Waypoint 1 is about one-fifth of the way along the planned route.

For at least a couple of days, Curiosity will study layers of rock that could reveal the inner makeup and geologic history of the plains on the floor of Gale Crater, including any flows of water that laid these materials down in the past. Analysis of Darwin may provide evidence of whether and how water played a role in the layering of rocks in this region.

The image above is a mosaic of four images taken by Curiosity.  It shows detailed texture in a ridge that stands higher than surrounding rock. The images were captured shortly before sunset on the 400th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Sept. 21, 2013). The camera was positioned about 10 inches (25 centimeters) from the rock. Scale is indicated by the Lincoln penny from the camera's calibration target, shown beside the mosaic.

The ridge resulted when a crack or vein in the surrounding rock becoming filled with material that was subsequently more resistant to erosion. Researchers are investigating the textures and composition of ridges and the surrounding rock, which is a pebbly sandstone conglomerate. Reddish dust coats the surfaces seen in this image. The underlying rocks are gray, varying from nearly white to nearly black. The host rock in which the crack or vein formed is obscured in this image by the coating of dust and a thin layer of the rock's own debris -- loose pebbles and sand.

This mosaic of nine images above shows detailed texture in a conglomerate rock bearing small pebbles and sand-size particles.  The rock is at a location called "Darwin," inside Gale Crater. The camera was positioned about 4 inches (10 centimeters) from the rock. Scale is indicated by the Lincoln penny calibration target, shown beside the mosaic.

Reddish dust coats much of the surface visible in this mosaic, but the patch of rock also offers some bare patches where sand and pebble grains can be seen. Pebbles here are mostly gray, with some white in them. Some grains are somewhat translucent, and some are shiny.

Researchers interpret the sand and pebbles in the rock as material that was deposited by flowing water, then later buried and cemented into rock. Curiosity's science team is studying the textures and composition of the conglomerate rock at Darwin to understand its relationship to stream bed conglomerate rock found closer to Curiosity's landing site. A major goal for observations at waypoint stops along the 5-mile (8-kilometer) route to Mount Sharp is to piece together the relationship between rock layers at "Yellowknife Bay" in the Glenelg area, where the mission found evidence of an ancient freshwater-lake environment favorable for microbial life, and layers at the main destination on lower slopes of Mount Sharp.

The photo above shows how Curiosity is using a new technique to more quickly and safely place the  the tool-bearing turret on its robotic arm closer to the target rock. The technique, called proximity placement, allows researchers to collect data that allows them to move the turret closer if it is not yet close enough. This will enable placement of the instrument much closer to soil targets than would have been feasible without risk of touching the sensor head to loose soil.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems,

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