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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Mars
Posted: January 24, 2022 at 10:38 am
Before and After Perseverance Sample Tube Shake: An animated GIF depicts the Martian surface below the Perseverance rover, showing the results of the January 15, 2022, percussive drill test to clear cored-rock fragments from one of the rovers sample tubes. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The team has made good progress implementing the initial recovery steps outlined last week. Our first success: The upper two pebbles were ejected from the bit carousel during a test. This is great news, as these small chunks of debris are believed to be the cause of the unsuccessful transfer of the drill bit and sample tube into the carousel back on December 29. Our second success: We appear to have removed most if not all of the cored rock that remained in Sample Tube 261.
Here is the latest
On Monday, January 17, the WATSON camera imaged the bit carousel and its pebbles and also took images underneath the rover to establish just what was down there before any recovery strategies were applied. Later that same Martian day, we rotated the bit carousel about 75 degrees before returning it back to its original position. WATSON imaging showed the two upper pebbles were ejected during the process. Tuesday night we also received the second set of under-rover images, which show two new pebbles on the surface, indicating the ejected pebbles made it fully through bit carousel and back onto the surface of Mars as planned.
Rotating Perseverances Bit Carousel: An annotated GIF depicts a rotational test of Perseverances bit carousel in which two of four rock fragments were ejected. The five images that make up the GIF were obtained by the rovers WATSON imager on January 17, 2022. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
The other two pebbles, located below the bit carousel, remain. It is interesting to note that some of the initial trials performed on our testbed here on Earth indicate that the location of the two leftover pebbles may not pose a significant problem with bit carousel operation, but we are continuing analysis and testing to confirm this.
On Saturday, January 15, the team performed an experiment using Perseverances rotary-percussive drill. After the robotic arm oriented the drill with Sample Tube 261s open end angled around 9 degrees below horizontal, the rovers drill spindle rotated and then extended. Our remarkable Mastcam-Z instrument (which has video capability previously used to document some of Ingenuitys flights) captured the event. The imagery from the experiment shows a small amount of sample material falling out of the drill bit/sample tube. Later that same Martian day, the bit was positioned vertically over Issole (the rock that provided this latest core) to see if additional sample would fall out under the force of gravity. However, Mastcam-Z imaging of 261s interior after this subsequent maneuver showed it still contained some sample.
Perseverance Expels Rock Fragments: A portion of a cored-rock sample is ejected from the rotary percussive drill on NASAs Perseverance Mars rover. The imagery was collected by the rovers Mastcam-Z instrument on January 15, 2022. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS
Given that some of the sample had already been lost, the team decided it was time to return the rest of the sample to Mars and hopefully completely empty the tube to ready it for potentially another sampling attempt. On Monday, January 17, the team commanded another operation of the rotary percussive drill in an attempt to dislodge more material from the tube. With the tubes open end still pointed towards the surface, we essentially shook the heck out of it for 208 seconds by means of the percussive function on the drill. Mastcam-Z imagery taken after the event shows that multiple pieces of sample were dumped onto the surface. Is Tube 261 clear of rock sample? We have new Mastcam-Z images looking down the drill bit into the sample container that indicate little if any debris from the cored-rock sample remains. The sample tube has been cleared for reuse by the project.
Perseverances Sample Tube Looks Clean: This image, taken by the Mastcam-Z camera aboard NASAs Perseverance Mars rover on January 20, 2022, shows the rover successfully expelled the remaining large fragments of cored rock from a sample tube held in its drill. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS
The team is still reviewing the data and discussing next steps. Like all Mars missions, weve had some unexpected challenges. Each time, the team and our rover have risen to the occasion. We expect the same result this time by taking incremental steps, analyzing results, and then moving on, we plan to fully resolve this challenge and get back to exploration and sampling at Jezero Crater.
Written by Rick Welch, Deputy Project Manager at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Posted: at 10:38 am
NASA helicopter on the Mars 2020 mission
Ingenuity, nicknamed Ginny, is a small robotic helicopter operating on Mars as part of NASA's Mars 2020 mission along with the Perseverance rover, which landed on February 18, 2021. Two months later, on April 19, Ingenuity successfully completed the first powered controlled extraterrestrial flight by an aircraft taking off vertically, hovering, and landing, for a flight duration of 39.1seconds. As of December 15, 2021, the helicopter has made 18 successful flights.
Ingenuity was designed and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Other contributors include NASA's Ames Research Center, NASA's Langley Research Center, AeroVironment, Inc., SolAero, and Lockheed Martin Space. Ingenuity's rotors measure 1.2m (4ft), while its entire body is 0.49m (1ft 7in) tall. Its fuselage measures 13.6cm 19.5cm 16.3cm (5.4in 7.7in 6.4in), and sports four landing legs that are 0.384m (1ft 3.1in) long each. Ingenuity is operated by solar-charged batteries that power dual counter-rotating rotors mounted one above the other. During its 30-day technology demonstration, Ingenuity was intended to fly up to five times at altitudes ranging 35m (1016ft) above the ground for up to 90 seconds each. The expected lateral range was exceeded in the third flight, and the flight duration was exceeded in the fourth flight. With those technical successes, Ingenuity achieved its original objectives. The flights proved the helicopter's ability to fly in the extremely thin atmosphere of another planet over a hundred million miles from Earth without direct human control. Ingenuity operates autonomously, performing maneuvers planned, scripted and transmitted to it by JPL.
After the brief demonstration phase, JPL then began more flights as operational demonstrations, to show how aerial scouting can benefit future exploration of Mars and other worlds. In its operational role, Ingenuity is observing areas of interest for possible examination by the Perseverance rover.
Ingenuity travelled to Mars attached to the underside of Perseverance, which touched down at the Octavia E. Butler Landing site in Jezero crater on February 18, 2021. The helicopter was deployed to the surface on April 3, 2021, and Perseverance drove approximately 100m (330ft) away to allow the drone a safe "buffer zone" in which it made its first flight. Success was confirmed three hours later in a livestreaming TV feed of JPL mission control. On its fourth flight, April 30, 2021, Ingenuity became the first interplanetary spacecraft whose sound was recorded by another interplanetary spacecraft, Perseverance.
Ingenuity carries a piece of fabric from the wing of the 1903 Wright Flyer, the Wright Brothers' airplane used in the first controlled powered heavier-than-air flight on Earth. The initial take-off and landing area for Ingenuity is named Wright Brothers Field as a tribute. Before Ingenuity, the first flight of any kind on a planet beyond Earth was an unpowered balloon flight on Venus, by the Soviet Vega 1 spacecraft in 1985.
The lower gravity of Mars (about a third of Earth's) only partially offsets the thinness of the 95% carbon dioxide atmosphere of Mars thus making it much harder for an aircraft to generate adequate lift. The atmospheric density of the Red Planet is about 1100 as that of Earth at sea level, or approximately the same as 87,000ft (27,000m), an altitude never reached by existing helicopters. To keep Ingenuity aloft, its specially shaped blades of enlarged size must rotate at a speed at least 2400 and up to 2900 rpm, or about 10 times faster than what is needed on Earth. The helicopter uses contra-rotating coaxial rotors about 1.2m (4ft) in diameter. Each rotor is controlled by a separate swashplate that can affect both collective and cyclic pitch.
There are two cameras on board: the downward-looking black-and-white navigation camera (NAV) and the color camera to make terrain images for return to Earth (RTE). Although it is an aircraft, it was constructed to spacecraft specifications in order to endure the acceleration and vibrations during launch. It also includes radiation-resistant systems capable of operating in the environment of Mars. The inconsistent Mars magnetic field precludes the use of a compass for navigation, so Ingenuity relies upon different sensors grouped in two assemblies. All sensors are commercial off-the-shelf units.
The Upper Sensor Assembly with associated vibration isolation elements is mounted on the mast close to the center-of-mass of the vehicle to minimize the effects of angular rates and accelerations. It consists of a cellphone grade Bosch BMI-160 Inertial measurement unit (IMU) and an inclinometer (Murata SCA100T-D02), which is used only on the ground prior to flight to calibrate the IMU accelerometers biases. The Lower Sensor Assembly consists of an altimeter (Garmin LIDAR Lite v3), both of the cameras and a secondary IMU, all mounted directly onto the Electronics Core Module and not onto the mast. The down-facing Omnivision OV7251 camera supports visual odometry, in which images are processed to produce navigation solutions that calculate helicopter position, velocity, attitude, and other variables.
The helicopter uses solar panels to recharge its batteries, which are six Sony Li-ion cells with 3540Wh (130140kJ) of energy capacity (nameplate capacity of 2 Ah). Flight duration is not constrained by the available power, but by the motors heating up 1C every second.
The helicopter uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with a Linux operating system. Among other functions, this processor controls the visual navigation algorithm via a velocity estimate derived from terrain features tracked with the navigation camera. The Qualcomm processor is connected to two flight-control microcontroller units (MCUs) to perform the necessary flight-control functions.
The telecommunication system consists of two identical radios with monopole antennae which support the data exchange between the helicopter and the rover. The radio link is built upon the low-power Zigbee communication protocols, implemented via 914 MHz SiFlex 02 chipsets mounted in both the rover and helicopter. The communication system is designed to relay data at 250kbit/s over distances of up to 1,000m (3,300ft). The antenna located on the solar panel of the helicopter weighs 4 grams and may communicate equally in all directions.
The Mars Helicopter team in 2018
Some of the Ingenuity team in 2019
The history of the Mars Helicopter team dates back to 2012, when MiMi Aung was leading then JPL director Charles Elachi on a tour of the Autonomous Systems Division. Looking at the drones demonstrating onboard navigation algorithms in one of the labs, Elachi asked, "Hey, why don't we do that on Mars?" Engineer Bob Balaram briefed Elachi about feasibility, and a week later Elachi told him, "Okay, I've got some study money for you". By January 2015 NASA agreed to fund the development of a full-size model, which came to be known as the "risk reduction" vehicle. As project manager, Aung assembled a multidisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and technicians leveraging all of NASA's expertise.
The JPL team was never larger than 65 full-time-equivalent employees, but program workers at AeroVironment and NASA AMES and Langley research centers brought the total to 150. Team members include:
On June 15, 2021, the team behind Ingenuity was named the 2021 winner of the John L. "Jack" Swigert, Jr. Award for Space Exploration from the Space Foundation.
NASA's JPL and AeroVironment published the conceptual design in 2014 for a scout helicopter to accompany a rover. By mid-2016, $15 million was being requested to continue development of the helicopter. By December 2017, engineering models of the vehicle had been tested in a simulated martian atmosphere and models were undergoing testing in the Arctic, but its inclusion in the mission had not yet been approved or funded. The United States federal budget, announced in March 2018, provided $23 million for the helicopter for one year, and it was announced on May 11, 2018, that the helicopter could be developed and tested in time to be included in the Mars 2020 mission. The helicopter underwent extensive flight-dynamics and environment testing, and was mounted on the underside of the Perseverance rover in August 2019. NASA spent about $80 million to build Ingenuity and about $5 million to operate the helicopter.
In April 2020, the vehicle was named Ingenuity by Vaneeza Rupani, a girl in the 11th grade at Tuscaloosa County High School in Northport, Alabama, who submitted an essay into NASA's "Name the Rover" contest. Known in planning stages as the Mars Helicopter Scout, or simply the Mars Helicopter, the nickname Ginny later entered use in parallel to the parent rover Perseverance being affectionately referred to as Percy.
Ingenuity was designed to be a technology demonstrator by JPL to assess whether such a vehicle could fly safely. Before it was built, launched and landed, scientists and managers expressed hope that helicopters could provide better mapping and guidance that would give future mission controllers more information to help with travel routes, planning and hazard avoidance. Based on the performance of previous rovers through Curiosity, it was assumed that such aerial scouting might enable future rovers to safely drive up to three times as far per sol. However, the new AutoNav capability at Perseverance significantly reduced this advantage, allowing the rover to cover more than 100 meters per sol.
In 2019, preliminary designs of Ingenuity were tested on Earth in simulated Mars atmospheric and gravity conditions. For flight testing, a large vacuum chamber was used to simulate the very low pressure of the atmosphere of Mars filled with carbon dioxide to approximately 0.60% (about 1160) of standard atmospheric pressure at sea level on Earth which is roughly equivalent to a helicopter flying at 34,000m (112,000ft) altitude in the atmosphere of Earth. In order to simulate the much reduced gravity field of Mars (38% of Earth's), 62% of Earth's gravity was offset by a line pulling upwards during flight tests. A "wind-wall" consisting of almost 900 computer fans was used to provide wind in the chamber.:1:08:051:08:40
After deployment, the rover drove approximately 100m (330ft) away from the drone to allow a safe flying zone. The Ingenuity helicopter was expected to fly up to five times during a 30-day test campaign, early in the rover's mission.
Each flight was planned for altitudes ranging 35m (1016ft) above the ground, though Ingenuity soon exceeded that planned height. The first flight was a hover at an altitude of 3m (9.8ft), lasting about 40 seconds and including taking a picture of the rover. The first flight succeeded, and subsequent flights were increasingly ambitious as allotted time for operating the helicopter dwindled. JPL said the mission might even stop before the 30-day period ended, in the likely event that the helicopter crashed,:0:49:500:51:40 an outcome which did not occur. In up to 90 seconds per flight, Ingenuity could travel as far as 50m (160ft) downrange and then back to the starting area, though that goal was also soon exceeded with the fourth flight. The helicopter uses autonomous control during its flights, which are telerobotically planned and scripted by operators at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It communicates with the Perseverance rover directly before and after each landing.:1:20:381:22:20
After the successful first three flights, the objective was changed from technology demonstration to operational demonstration. The goal shifted towards supporting the rover science mission by mapping and scouting the terrain. While Ingenuity would do more to help Perseverance, the rover would pay less attention to the helicopter and stop taking pictures of it in flight. JPL managers said the photo procedure took an "enormous" amount of time, slowing the project's main mission of looking for signs of ancient life. On 30 April 2021, the fourth flight successfully captured numerous color photos and explored the surface with its black-and-white navigation camera. On May 7, Ingenuity successfully flew to a new landing site.
On 5 September 2021, after successful completion of the Operations Demonstration phase, the mission was extended indefinitely.
Perseverance dropped the debris shield protecting Ingenuity on March 21, 2021, and the helicopter deployed from the underside of the rover to the martian surface on April 3, 2021. That day both cameras of the helicopter were tested taking their first b/w and color photos of the floor of Jezero Crater in the shadow of the rover.
Ingenuity's rotor blades were successfully unlocked on April 8, 2021 (mission sol 48), and the helicopter performed a low-speed rotor spin test at 50 rpm.
A high-speed spin test was attempted on April 9, but failed due to the expiration of a watchdog timer, a software measure to protect the helicopter from incorrect operation in unforeseen conditions. On April 12, JPL said it identified a software fix to correct the problem. To save time, however, JPL decided to use a workaround procedure, which managers said had an 85% chance of succeeding and would be "the least disruptive" to the helicopter.
On April 16, 2021, Ingenuity successfully passed the full-speed 2400 rpm rotor spin test while remaining on the surface. Three days later, April 19, JPL flew the helicopter for the first time. The watchdog timer problem occurred again when the fourth flight was attempted. The team rescheduled the flight, which succeeded on April 30. On June 25, JPL said it had uploaded a software update the previous week to permanently fix the watchdog problem, and that a rotor spin test and the eighth flight confirmed that the update worked.
The Ingenuity team plans to fly the helicopter every two to three weeks during its indefinitely extended mission. The helicopter's longer-than-expected flying career lasted into a seasonal change on Mars, when the atmospheric density at its location became even lower. The flight team prepared by commanding Ingenuity to ground-test a faster rotor blade rotation, needed for sufficient lift. JPL said the higher planned flight speed of 2700 rpm would pose new risks, including vibration, power consumption and aerodynamic drag if the blade tips approach the speed of sound. The test speed was 2800 rpm, giving a margin for increase if the intended flight speed of 2700 is not enough. Ingenuity faced another challenge to remain functional during the Martian winter and solar conjunction, when Mars moves behind the Sun, blocking communications with Earth and forcing the rover and helicopter to halt operations. The shutdown happened in mid-October 2021, for which preparations started in mid-September. The helicopter remained stationary at its location 575 feet (175 meters) away from Perseverance and communicated its status weekly to the rover for health checks. JPL intended to continue flying Ingenuity since it survived solar conjunction.NASA leadership has acknowledged that extending the mission adds to the original Ingenuity budget of $80 million but has stated that any increase would be minimal compared to what NASA is learning.
(Record values highlighted)
This was the first time the helicopter had to land at an airfield which was not surveyed by any means other than MRO satellite imagery.
Ingenuity has two commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) cameras on board. The Sony IMX 214 with 4208 x 3120 pixel resolution is a color camera with a global shutter to make terrain images for return to Earth (RTE). The Omnivision OV7251 (640 480) VGA is the downward-looking black and white rolling shutter navigation camera (NAV), which supplies the onboard computer of the helicopter with the raw data essential for flight control.
While the RTE color camera is not necessary for flight and may be switched off (as in flights 7 and 8), the NAV camera works throughout each flight, catching the first frame before takeoff and the last frame after landing. Its frame rate is synchronized with blade rotation to ease online image processing.
During flight, all NAV frames must be carefully stored in the onboard helicopter computer, with each frame assigned the unique timestamp of its creation. Loss of a single NAV image timestamp was an anomaly that caused the helicopter to move erratically during flight 6.
The longer a flight lasts, the more NAV photos must be stored. Each new record flight duration automatically means a record number of images taken by the NAV camera. The frequency and timing of the camera's operations are predetermined not for the sake of records, but due to the technical necessity. A huge number of NAV files does not overload the local storage of the helicopter. Less than 200 NAV files are uploaded to the NASA storage after each flight starting from the 8th, and the total volume of this package is only about 5 Megabytes The limitations are imposed by weakness of local telecommunications: when landed, helicopter relays data to the rover in a slow mode of 20 kbit/s. Another significant inconvenience here is caused by the location of the antenna on the side of the rover: if turned wrong side to the helicopter, it may impede signal propagation with its massive metal body.
Most of the NAV files are not transmitted to the rover base station for return to Earth. After the fourth flight, MiMi Aung confirmed that "images from that navigation camera are typically used by Ingenuity's flight controller and then thrown away unless we specifically tell the helicopter to store them for later use". From more than 4000 NAV files acquired on flight four, only 62 were stored.
With the end of the flight technology demonstration, Perseverance project manager Jennifer Trosper relinquished her team's responsibilities for photographing Ingenuity to concentrate exclusively on the rover science mission of searching for signs of ancient Martian life. Without pictures from the rover, the flight team relied more heavily on photos taken by the helicopter NAV camera to confirm Ingenuity's location. The helicopter, however, does not create or refine the maps, but rather, depends upon work coordinated by the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center and performed by the NASA Mars and Lunar Cartography Working Groups.
To support the Mars-2020 mission, USGS used photos by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to produce Context Camera (CTX) and Digital Terrain Models (DTM) and orthoimage mosaics. Those images were used by the Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) feature on the Perseverance descent vehicle and helped determine the safest landing location. Using maps created from photos and radar elevation data previously acquired by the MRO and other NASA missions, planetary cartographers manually correlate them with terrain features seen by Ingenuity's small and lens-distorted NAV images. After each NAV frame is assigned a georeference, the resulting flight maps are shown at NASA's Mars-2020 tracking service. NAV frames from Ingenuity are also used to produce moving images that show the Martian terrain passing under Ingenuity during its flights.
In November 2021 the Ingenuity team started to supply scientists a new kind of photographic materials the color photos taken on the ground during the interflight periods. By December, 3 two such photos were received on Earth, the first one acquired on November 15 (sol 263) and another on November 27 (sol 274).
Flight 3 (April 25, 2021)
Flight 4 (April 30, 2021)
Flight 6 (May 23, 2021)last 39 seconds
Flight 7 (June 8, 2021)(48 seconds)
Flight 8 (June 22, 2021)(75 seconds)
Flight 9 (July 5, 2021)full real-time animation
Flight 10 (July 24, 2021)full real-time animation
Flight 11 (August 5, 2021)full real-time animation
Flight 12 (August 16, 2021)full real-time animation
Flight 13 (September 5, 2021)full real-time animation
Flight 14 (October 24, 2021)full real-time animation
Flight 15 (November 6, 2021)191 frames
Flight 16 (November 21, 2021)full real-time animation
Flight 17 (December 5, 2021)full real-time animation
Flight 18 (December 15, 2021)full real-time animation
Unlike Perseverance, Ingenuity does not have a special stereo camera for taking twin photos for 3D pictures simultaneously. However, the helicopter has made such images by taking duplicate color photos of the same terrain while hovering in slightly offset positions, as in flight 11, or by taking an offset picture on the return leg of a roundtrip flight, as in flight 12.
As of December 16, 2021, 2091 black-and-white images from the navigation camera and 104 color images from the terrain camera (RTE) have been published.
NASA and JPL officials described the first Ingenuity flight as their "Wright Brothers moment", by analogy to the first successful airplane flight on Earth. A small piece of the wing cloth from the Wright brothers' 1903 Wright Flyer is attached to a cable underneath Ingenuity's solar panel. In 1969, Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong carried a similar Wright Flyer artifact to the Moon in the Lunar Module Eagle.
NASA named Ingenuity's first take-off and landing airstrip Wright Brothers Field, which the UN agency ICAO gave an airport code of JZRO for Jezero Crater, and the drone itself a type designator of IGY, call-sign INGENUITY.
The Ingenuity technology demonstrator could form the foundation on which more capable aircraft might be developed for aerial exploration of Mars and other planetary targets with an atmosphere like Mars Science Helicopter. The next generation of rotorcraft could be in the range between 5 and 30kg (11 and 66lb) with science payloads between 0.5 and 5kg (1.1 and 11.0lb). These potential aircraft could have direct communication to an orbiter and may or may not continue to work with a landed asset. Future helicopters could be used to explore special regions with exposed water ice or brines, where Mars microbial life could potentially survive.
Data collected by Ingenuity is supporting planning of a future helicopter design by engineers at JPL, NASA's Ames Research Center and AeroVironment. The Mars Science Helicopter, a proposed successor to Ingenuity, would be a hexacopter, or six-rotor helicopter, with a mass of about 30kg (66lb) compared to 1.8kg (4.0lb) of Ingenuity. Mars Science Helicopter could carry as much as 5kg (11lb) of science payloads and fly up to 10km (6.2mi) per flight.
March 29, 2021: after Ingenuity was extended vertically into place after being rotated outward from its horizontal position on the belly of the rover, Perseverance takes photos for the panorama, catching in its field of view the debris shield which protected Ingenuity during landing and was dropped on March 21, 2021
Debris shield released and dropped
Ingenuity swings down, with two of its four legs extended
Ingenuity with all legs extended
Rotor blades are unlocked for tests and flying
The slow-speed (50 rpm) spin up test on sol 48
The high-speed (2400 rpm) spin up test on sol 55
The Wright Brothers Field and the overlook location
The Wright Brothers Field
View of the field from the rover
Rover track and Wright Brothers Field
Flight profile for Ingenuity's Flight 15
Topography between Mars helicopter and rover for Flight 17
Landed after flight 3 (25 April 2021)
Landed after flight 5 at Airfield B (7 May 2021)
One day after sixth flight (Sol 92)
Four days after 7th flight (Sol 111)
Seven days after 8th flight (Sol 127)
Sol 45 (6 April 2021): grounded before flights
In-flight image (19 April 2021, altitude 1.2m (3ft 11in))
Landing after the first flight (19 April 2021)
First color aerial photo (22 April 2021, altitude 5.2m (17ft), flight 2)
Flight 3, rover is seen left-up from the 5.0m (16.4ft) height
Flight 3, the rover (enlarged)
Heading towards Airfield B (flight 4, 30 April 2021)
Flight 5, altitude 10m (33ft) (7 May 2021)
Perseverance rover (left) viewed about 85m (279ft) away from 5.0m (16.4ft) height (April 25, 2021)
Flight 6, view from 10m (33ft) towards Stah
Flight 7, above the terrain (8 June 2021)
Flight 8, landed (22 June 2021)
Flight 9, flying over the Stah (July 5, 2021)
Flight 11 NW along Stah
The first ground photo after conjunction (sol 236)
Slow speed blade rotation test (sol 240)
Flight 15 (6 November 2021)
Flight 16 (21 November 2021)
Post-flight 16 rover view
Originally posted here:
Posted: at 10:38 am
If a rock falls on Mars, and no one is there to see it, does it leave a trace? Yes, and its a beautiful herringbone-like pattern, new research reveals. Scientists have now spotted thousands of tracks on the red planet created by tumbling boulders. Delicate chevron-shaped piles of Martian dust and sand frame the tracks, the team showed, and most fade over the course of a few years.
Rockfalls have been spotted elsewhere in the solar system, including on the moon and even a comet. But a big open question is the timing of these processes on other worlds are they ongoing or did they predominantly occur in the past?
A study of these ephemeral features on Mars, published last month in Geophysical Research Letters, says that such boulder tracks can be used to pinpoint recent seismic activity on the red planet. This new evidence that Mars is a dynamic world runs contrary to the notion that all of the planets exciting geology happened much earlier, said Ingrid Daubar, a planetary scientist at Brown University who was not involved in the study. For a long time, we thought that Mars was this cold, dead planet.
To arrive at this finding, Vijayan, a planetary scientist at the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad, India, who uses a single name, and his colleagues pored over thousands of images of Marss equatorial region. The imagery was captured from 2006 through 2020 by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard NASAs Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and revealed details as small as 10 inches across.
We can discriminate individual boulders, Dr. Vijayan said.
The team manually searched for chain-like features a telltale signature of a rock careening down an incline on the sloped walls of impact craters. Dr. Vijayan and his collaborators spotted more than 4,500 such boulder tracks, the longest of which stretched over a mile and a half.
Sometimes the tracks change direction and occasionally new tracks suddenly branch off, Dr. Vijayan said. Such changing tracks are likely evidence that a boulder disintegrated mid-fall and that its offspring continued bouncing downslope.
Roughly one third of the tracks the researchers studied were absent in early images, meaning that they must have formed since 2006. The bounce marks of all of these young tracks are framed by a chevron-shaped pile of Martian regolith. That material, which Dr. Vijayan and his colleagues nicknamed boulder fall ejecta, is kicked out each time a boulder impacts the surface, the researchers propose.
And that boulder fall material is transient: By tracing the same tracks in images obtained at different times, the team found that boulder fall ejecta tends to remain visible for only about four to eight years. The researchers suggest that winds continuously sweeping over the surface of Mars redistribute dust and sand and erase the ejecta.
Because boulder fall ejecta fades so rapidly, seeing it implies that a boulder was dislodged recently, the team suggest. And a common cause of rockfalls, on Earth and elsewhere, is seismic activity.
Dr. Vijayan and his collaborators found that roughly 30 percent of the boulder tracks in their sample with boulder fall ejecta were concentrated in the Cerberus Fossae region of Mars. Thats far more than expected, the researchers say, since this region encompasses only 1 percent of the studys area. The surrounding craters have lots of boulder falls, Dr. Vijayan said. A few of them even have multiple falls in the same location.
That makes sense, said Alfred McEwen, a planetary geologist at the University of Arizona and the principal investigator of HiRISE, not involved in the research. The geography near Cerberus Fossae, namely the Tharsis volcanic region, predisposes the area to seismic activity. These giant masses of dense rock loaded up on the surface creates stresses throughout the surrounding crust of Mars, Dr. McEwen said.
Since 2019, hundreds of marsquakes have been detected by NASAs InSight lander, and two of the largest occurred last year in the Cerberus Fossae region.
In the future, Dr. Vijayan and his collaborators plan to extend their analysis to Marss polar regions. The HiRISE camera will hopefully oblige, Dr. McEwen said, despite the instrument being significantly past its design lifetime. HiRISE is still going strong.
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Posted: at 10:38 am
NASA's Perseverance rover managed to spit out pieces of rock that had been blocking its Mars-sampling gear since late December.
Although the un-choking procedure hadn't been previously tested, the engineers on the Mars mission found it was rather "straightforward," the team said in an earlier blog post. It involved pointing the drill containing a clogged test tube to the ground and rotating it at speed until the rocks fell out.
The team even managed to capture the moment when the Perseverance rover spat out the pebbles with its Mastcam-Z science camera. The video, shared on Twitter, shows the rover's drill rotating as a small piece of rock comes out onto the red Martian surface.
Related: Tour Mars' Jezero Crater with this gorgeous Perseverance rover mosaic (video)
"In order to keep #SamplingMars, I've emptied my latest partial sample," the team said in the tweet. "Watch closely to see one piece of cored rock drop to the surface in this movie. Thankfully, I can reuse this tube for another sample from the same rock."
The unclogging procedure took place in two steps, with the first part of the stuck sample dislodged on Saturday (Jan. 15) and the rest coming out after some extra effort on Thursday (Jan. 20).
The sampling attempt was the sixth carried out by Perseverance since its landing on Mars in February last year. The rover is building a collection of rock samples that will be brought to Earth in the early 2030s by a Mars sample mission that is being developed jointly by NASA and the European Space Agency.
The engineers realized something was wrong on Dec. 29, when the rover's robotic arm attempted to place the freshly drilled sample into the rover's bit carousel, a rotating wheel-like structure on its chassis that stores the samples. The data revealed resistance when the arm tried to seal the tube with the sample.
The ill-fated sample originated from a rock that scientists call Issole. The team might attempt to drill into this rock once more, the engineers said in the statement.
Follow Tereza Pultarova on Twitter @TerezaPultarova. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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Radar images of Marss southern ice cap indicated that there could be a lake there but a new set of simulations hints that it could be volcanic rock instead
By Leah Crane
The icy cap over Marss south pole, photographed by Mars Express
ESA/DLR/FU Berlin / Bill Dunford
There may not be a huge lake of liquid water at Marss south pole after all. In 2018, the European Space Agencys Mars Express spacecraft spotted bright radar reflections under the ice cap there that seemed to indicate a lake of liquid water 20 kilometres across. But a new study shows that the signal could simply indicate iron-rich volcanic rocks under the ice.
The original signal was promising, but it was difficult to understand how the Martian climate could support a long-lived lake, even under the ice cap. We do not understand how liquid water could be there, because we wouldnt expect to have enough energy and pressure to melt water there, even if the water is salty, says Cyril Grima at the University of Texas at Austin.
To dig into what else the signal may be, Grima and his colleagues performed a simulation of what the entire surface of Mars would look like if, like the south pole, it were buried under 1.4 kilometres of ice. They found bright reflections like the ones that Mars Express spotted scattered everywhere across the planet, covering up to 2 per cent of its surface.
These bright areas tended to match up with the locations of volcanic plains, terrain created when iron-rich lava flowed across the surface of Mars early in its history. That indicates that the signal from beneath the ice may have come from volcanic rock, not liquid water.
Mars is known to have these terrains all over the planet, so its far more likely to have this terrain under the ice than liquid water, says Grima. We arent ruling out this water, but its lowering by far the likelihood that its there.
The best way to find out for sure would be to visit the south pole of Mars and take measurements from the surface, he says.
Journal reference: Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2021GL096518
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Tonga Volcanic Eruption May Give Insights about Water-Lava Interactions on Mars, Suggest NASA Scientists | The Weather Channel – Articles from The…
Posted: at 10:38 am
NASA scientists are studying the explosion of submarine volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai to understand how features formed on the surfaces of Mars and Venus, Nature reported.
The unusual explosionwhich has been calculated at more than 500 times the force of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945offers researchers a rare chance to study how water and lava interact.
Studying the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano and its evolution in recent weeks is "important for planetary science", Petr Broz, a planetary volcanologist at the Institute of Geophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, was quoted as saying.
The knowledge "might help us to reveal results of water-lava interactions on the red planet and elsewhere across the Solar System", he added.
The report said that the volcanic island was formed from ash and lava expelled from an undersea volcano in early 2015 and is similar to structures on Mars and possibly also Venus.
While such volcanic islands eroded fast, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai survived for years.
"We don't normally get to see islands form," Broz explained
James Garvin, chief scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, but this one offered "a front-row seat".
Garvin's team used satellite observations and seafloor surveys to study how such islands form, erode and persist. The report said that the researchers wanted to use that knowledge to understand how small conical volcanoes found on Mars may have formed in the presence of water billions of years ago.
The Red Planet is also thought to have many volcanoes which erupted with steady flows of lava, but some could have been explosive, like Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, Joseph Michalski, a planetary scientist at the University of Hong Kong, said.
The marine environment also mimics some aspects of the low-gravity settings on small planets such as Mars and "can shed unique light on Martian features that formed in lower gravity", he added.
The violent explosion last week was preceded by a series of small eruptions starting in December, which increased the size of the island.
Researchers worldwide are monitoring the island using optical, radar, and laser satellites to measure what is left on the island.
The vast majority of the island is now gone, according to Daniel Slayback, a geographer at the Goddard Space Flight Center.
But, Garvin said the giant chamber of magma deep under Earth's crust, which formed Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, will eventually create another island for researchers to study.
The above article has been published from a wire source with minimal modifications to the headline and text.
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News Reports| Lafayette Journal & Courier
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. In less than a month, thePerseverance mission team will mark a full year since the Mars rover began exploring our neighboring planet.
Purdue's Briony Horgan, Perseverance mission member, looks forward to the team's next focus studying the planet's large river delta, now dry.
When we chose the landing site, it was because of the delta; thats the reason were here, said Horgan, associate professor of planetary science in the Purdue College of Sciences Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, in a release. So, well be excited to finally get up close and study it.
Horgan's duties included leadingmineralogy research using satellite data before landing, the release stated, producing results that contributed to NASAs selection ofJezero Crater as the rover's landing site.
The crater, Purdue's release stated, once held a lake and the river delta.
Well spend most of the next year on the delta, exploring this ancient lake and river environment and looking for signs of ancient life like organic material and signs of microbes, she said in the announcement.
During the mission's three-year journey, the Mars rover will collect rock and dust samples. After the those three year,Horgan stated, Perseverance will hopefully continue outside Jezero Crater indefinitely.
The key objective of the rover mission is to search for signs of microbial life, according to Purdue, by examining Mars' geology. A single rover journey could last 12-15 hours of travel, taking as long to prepare.
The second year of the mission, Horgan said in the release, the team hopes to move away fromsemi-autonomous travel.
With all the new technology on the rover, were working on how to drive on consecutive days and do longer and longer autonomous drives, she said. Then well make a beeline for the delta as fast as we can.
While a layered ridge spotted after landing turned out not to be semimentary rock that could reveal biosignatures of Mars' history, the material was determined to beancient lava flow that could still provide answers.
By doing that, we can actually figure out when the delta was there and when there was water in the crater, Horgan said in the release. Thats a really big question because we only have estimates for when we think Mars was wet and was habitable. We really dont know for sure.
Four unique rock and dust samples are expected to be collected by next months landing anniversary, Horgan stated.
Its an incredibly ambitious mission, with goals that are leaps and bounds beyond any previous Mars rover and really any previous space mission had been supposed to do: how far and fast were supposed to drive, how many samples were supposed to drill …, Horgan said in the release. Were still learning a lot.
Deanna Watson is the executive editor at the Journal & Courier. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @deannawatson66.
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The company said that it will provide a modern take on the appearances of the characters which Mars calls lentils" and give them more nuanced personalities. The lentils, which are featured in red, green, orange, yellow, brown and blue, will also come in different shapes and sizes.
Some of the changes to the M&M characters include making two of them less stereotypically feminine. In the new version, the green M&M ditches the high-heeled boots in favor of sneakers and the brown candy no longer wears stilettos, opting instead for lower heels.
Our ambition is to upend the expected, break through barriers, and discover the little joys shared in everyday life. Imagine a world with less judgment & more connection & consistent laughter," the company said on its website.
Mars, whose brands also include Twix and Snickers, said that it will also put added emphasis on the ampersand in the M&M's logo to demonstrate how the brand aims to bring people together.
The move toward inclusivity and embracing individual differences comes at a time when consumers are growing increasingly aware of how products are marketed to them. Mars is aware of this, having had to change the name of itsUncle Ben'srice brand in 2020 due to criticism. Quaker Oats'Aunt Jemimabrand pancake mix and syrup part of PepsiCo rebranded last year because it said that Aunt Jemima was based on a racial stereotype.
But some marketers believe that Mars may be overthinking the marketing of its M&Ms.
Allen Adamson, co-founder of marketing consultancy Metaforce, says the move to overhaul the character of the M&Ms is a good idea" but it's just an example of how worried marketers are to offend consumers. And he believes this step is on the verge of potential overthink.
Marketing consultant Laura Ries agrees, though she praises Mars' emphasis of the ampersand as a symbol of unity.
They're looking for some attention and trying to jump on the bandwagon of trying to be more inclusive," Ries said. I dont think there was an overall outcry of the overall sexualization of the M&M. Its just an M&M.
Posted: at 10:38 am
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