Entries in Mars Rover (4)


Mars Rover Discovers Earth-Like Rock

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS(PASADENA, Calif.) -- The Curiosity rover surprised NASA engineers with the first Martian rock it examined. Scientists expected to find a rock similar to the ones seen on previous missions to Mars. But instead, they found a rock with a composition seen in many rocks on Earth.

“This rock is a close match in chemical composition to an unusual but well-known type of igneous rock found in many volcanic provinces on Earth,” said Edward Stolper of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena in a NASA statement Friday. “With only one Martian rock of this type, it is difficult to know whether the same processes were involved, but it is a reasonable place to start thinking about its origin.”

According to NASA, rocks on Earth with a similar composition usually come from processes in the planet’s mantle and result from crystallization of water-rich magma at an elevated pressure.

As NASA said in a statement, rock compositions are important because they “tell stories about unseen environments and planetary processes.” Researchers hope that the discovery of varied rock composition on Mars will give insight into the planet's past.

The rock is around the size of a football and is shaped like a pyramid.  It has been nicknamed “Jake Matijevic,” after a mission engineer who recently died.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finds Bright Object on Mars

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS(NEW YORK) -- During NASA’s Curiosity rover’s first scoop of Mars’ surface, the robot discovered more than just soil.

An image taken by Curiosity’s right Mast Camera (Mastcam) shows a small, bright object near the rover.  This was the first use of the scoop on the rover’s robotic arm, NASA said in a press release.

NASA is investigating what exactly the bright object is, but they believe it may be a piece of the rover itself.  They will not scoop anymore soil or use the arm until they determine what the shiny object is.

The image was taken on Oct. 7, the rover’s 61st day on Mars.  The rover is part of a two-year, $2.5 billion project to look for signs that Mars could once have had the chemical resources needed to support microbial life.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mars Rover Curiosity to Take First Test Drive

NASA/JPL-Caltech(PASADENA, Calif.) -- The Mars rover Curiosity, which landed on the Martian surface on the night of Aug. 5, is about to take its first baby steps -- or test drive, or whatever your preferred metaphor is -- on the way to exploring the terrain around it.

Overnight, U.S. time, mission engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California said they plan to send Curiosity the computer commands to send it on its first short trip.  If everything works, it will move forward three meters (about 10 feet), turn right 90 degrees, and then back up a little bit.

That’s it.  But the longest journey begins with a single step.  Ultimately, NASA said it hopes the rover will be able to travel more than 100 yards per day over at least a two-year period, probing the Martian landscape for signs that it might once have been a home to microbial life.

“You will definitely see tracks,” said Mike Watkins, the mission manager, in a teleconference.  The first drive will tell controllers the rover’s six wheels are working properly, that it can turn in place as designed, and that it’s ready to move on later this week.

The test drive should last about half an hour.  It should take place in mid-afternoon, Mars time, when it’s warmest and the rover’s parts don’t have to be heated up.  NASA hopes there will be no surprises.

“We want to park it in a place we’ve imaged with our stereo cameras,” said Watkins, “just to make sure there’s nothing there.”

Controllers said they will be more bold over time.  The rover is in good shape so far after its nail-biter of a landing (recall the references to “seven minutes of terror” NASA promised) though a small wind detector is damaged.

Meanwhile, it’s almost summer-like at Gale Crater, where Curiosity put down.  Engineers reported the soil around the rover reached an afternoon high temperature of 37 degrees Fahrenheit on a recent Martian day, then dropped overnight to 131 degrees below zero.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mars Rover Curiosity: First Road Trip Planned

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS(NEW YORK) -- NASA scientists Friday announced they’ve chosen the first two road trip destinations for the $2.5 billion Mars Curiosity rover.

The first site is a geologically-rich area known as “Glenelg” that lies about 550 yards from where Curiosity touched down almost two weeks ago.

After a series of instrument and wheel tests that will last for at least the next couple of weeks, the rover will begin driving toward Glenelg, named after a series of rock formations in northern Canada.

That journey, says project scientist John Grotzinger, should take about three to four weeks. (Curiosity’s top speed is only 1.5 inches per second, which ABC News researcher Natalie Savits calculated to equal 0.0823 miles per hour.)

Click Here for Pictures: Mars Curiosity Rover

After reaching Glenelg, Grotzinger says Curiosity will spend approximately six weeks using scoops, drills, cameras and lasers to examine rocks and soil for signs that a warmer and wetter Mars may have once supported microbial life.

By the end of December, Grotzinger says Curiosity should be ready for a much longer road trip to its next stop: the base of a three-mile-high mountain known as Mt. Sharp. The area is described as being very similar to the four corners area of the southwestern United States.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio