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Robotic Spacecraft: Far-Ranging Robots
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20 Mar 2013 Sun in the Way Will Affect Mars Missions in April
The positions of the planets next month will mean diminished communications between Earth and NASA's spacecraft at Mars. Mars will be passing almost directly behind the sun, from Earth's perspective. The sun can easily disrupt radio transmissions between the two planets during that near-alignment. To prevent an impaired command from reaching an orbiter or rover, mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are preparing to suspend sending any commands to spacecraft at Mars for weeks in April. Transmissions from Mars to Earth will also be reduced.
19 Mar 2013 Curiosity Rover Exits 'Safe Mode'
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has returned to active status and is on track to resume science investigations, following two days in a precautionary standby status, "safe mode." Next steps will include checking the rover's active computer, the B-side computer, by commanding a preliminary free-space move of the arm. The B-side computer was provided information last week about the position of the robotic arm, which was last moved by the redundant A-side computer. The rover was switched from the A-side to the B-side by engineers on Feb. 28 in response to a memory glitch on the A-side. The A-side now is available as a back-up if needed.
19 Mar 2013 NASA's LRO Sees GRAIL's Explosive Farewell
Many spacecraft just fade away, drifting silently through space after their mission is over, but not GRAIL. NASA's twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) spacecraft went out in a blaze of glory Dec. 17, 2012, when they were intentionally crashed into a mountain near the moon's north pole. The successful mission to study the moon's interior took the plunge to get one last bit of science: by kicking up a cloud of dust and gas with each impact, researchers hoped to discover more about the moon's composition. However, with the moon about 380,000 kilometers (over 236,000 miles) away from Earth, the impact plumes would be difficult to observe from here.
15 Mar 2013 Panorama From NASA Mars Rover Shows Mount Sharp
Rising above the present location of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, higher than any mountain in the 48 contiguous states of the United States, Mount Sharp is featured in new imagery from the rover. A pair of mosaics assembled from dozens of telephoto images shows Mount Sharp in dramatic detail. This layered mound, also called Aeolis Mons, in the center of Gale Crater rises more than 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the crater floor location of Curiosity. Lower slopes of Mount Sharp remain a destination for the mission, though the rover will first spend many more weeks around a location called "Yellowknife Bay," where it has found evidence of a past environment favorable for microbial life.
14 Mar 2013 A Tribute to MESSENGER: Video!
This video showcases a small sampling of the thousands of images taken by the spacecraft, as well as animations illustrating how MESSENGER moves in orbit and how its orbit has changed during the mission.
8 Mar 2013 Planetary Data System Releases MESSENGER Data from Third Mercury Solar Day
The Planetary Data System (PDS), which archives and distributes data from all of NASA's planetary missions, today released data collected during MESSENGER's thirteenth through eighteenth month in orbit around Mercury. With this release, images and measurements are now available to the public for the third full Mercury solar day of MESSENGER orbital operations.
4 Mar 2013 Curiosity Rover's Recovery on Track
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has transitioned from precautionary "safe mode" to active status on the path of recovery from a memory glitch last week. Resumption of full operations is anticipated by next week.
28 Feb 2013 Computer Swap on Curiosity Rover
The ground team for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has switched the rover to a redundant onboard computer in response to a memory issue on the computer that had been active. The intentional swap at about 2:30 a.m. PST on Feb. 28 put the rover, as anticipated, into a minimal-activity precautionary status called "safe mode." The team is shifting the rover from safe mode to operational status over the next few days and is troubleshooting the condition that affected operations yesterday. The condition is related to a glitch in flash memory linked to the other, now-inactive, computer.
25 Feb 2013 Lab Instruments Inside Curiosity Eat Mars Rock Powder
Two compact laboratories inside NASA's Mars rover Curiosity have ingested portions of the first sample of rock powder ever collected from the interior of a rock on Mars. Curiosity science team members will use the laboratories to analyze the rock powder in the coming days and weeks.
21 Feb 2013 NASA and JPL Contribute to European Jupiter Mission
NASA has selected key contributions to a 2022 European Space Agency (ESA) mission that will study Jupiter and three of its largest moons in unprecedented detail. The moons are thought to harbor vast water oceans beneath their icy surfaces.
20 Feb 2013 NASA Rover Confirms First Drilled Mars Rock Sample
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has relayed new images that confirm it has successfully obtained the first sample ever collected from the interior of a rock on another planet. No rover has ever drilled into a rock beyond Earth and collected a sample from its interior. Transfer of the powdered-rock sample into an open scoop was visible for the first time in images received Wednesday at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.
13 Feb 2013 NASA's MAVEN Mission Completes Assembly
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft is assembled and is undergoing environmental testing at Lockheed Martin Space Systems facilities, near Denver, Colo. MAVEN is the next mission to Mars and will be the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. During the environmental testing phase, the orbiter will undergo a variety of rigorous tests that simulate the extreme temperatures, vacuum and vibration the spacecraft will experience during the course of its mission.
9 Feb 2013 NASA Curiosity Rover Collects First Martian Bedrock Sample
NASA's Curiosity rover has, for the first time, used a drill carried at the end of its robotic arm to bore into a flat, veiny rock on Mars and collect a sample from its interior. This is the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars. The fresh hole, about 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) wide and 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) deep in a patch of fine-grained sedimentary bedrock, can be seen in images and other data Curiosity beamed to Earth Saturday. The rock is believed to hold evidence about long-gone wet environments. In pursuit of that evidence, the rover will use its laboratory instruments to analyze rock powder collected by the drill.
7 Feb 2013 Preparatory Drill Test Performed on Mars
The drill on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity used both percussion and rotation to bore about 0.8 inch (2 centimeters) into a rock on Mars and generate cuttings for evaluation in advance of the rover's first sample-collection drilling. Completion of this "mini drill" test in preparation for full drilling was confirmed in data from Mars received late Wednesday at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. If the drill cuttings on the ground around the fresh hole pass visual evaluation as suitable for processing by the rover's sample handling mechanisms, the rover team plans to proceed with commanding the first full drilling in coming days.
6 Feb 2013 State of the Solar System 2013
An update from the ongoing exploration of our cosmic neighborhood.
4 Feb 2013 Weekend Test on Mars Was Preparation to Drill a Rock
The bit of the rock-sampling drill on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity left its mark on a Martian rock this weekend during brief testing of the tool's percussive action. The successful activity, called a "drill-on-rock checkout" by the rover team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, is part of a series of tests to prepare for the first drilling in history to collect a sample of rock material on Mars.
1 Feb 2013 Building a Lunar Base with 3D Printing
Building a base on the moon could theoretically be made much simpler by using a 3D printer to construct it from local materials. The concept was recently endorsed by the European Space Agency (ESA) which is now collaborating with architects to gauge the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil.
30 Jan 2013 MSL Curiosity on Sol 157 in Color
The pair of bright white spots in the HiRISE image, taken from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, show the area immediately below where sky crane's rockets were pointed. HiRISE also captured Curiosity on its 157th Sol as it was exploring Yellowknife Bay and about to drill its first rock. This is the first time that HiRISE has captured the rover tracks in color, and they show up as a pair of dark lines moving across the landscape.
28 Jan 2013 Curiosity Maneuver Prepares for Drilling
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has placed its drill onto a series of four locations on a Martian rock and pressed down on it with the rover's arm, in preparation for using the drill in coming days. The rover carried out this "pre-load" testing on Mars on Jan. 27. The tests enable engineers to check whether the amount of force applied to the hardware matches predictions for what would result from the commanded motions.
23 Jan 2013 The PI's Perspective: The Seven-Year Itch
It's been seven years since New Horizons' launch on 19 Jan. 2006, and our spacecraft remains healthy and on course.
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Last Updated: 16 Apr 2014