The Opportunity rover on Mars has trekked a Marathon long journey

The Opportunity rover reaches yet another milestone:

NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover Finishes Marathon,
Clocks in at Just Over 11 Years

15-049c[1](Click for large image)
This illustration depicts some highlights along the route as NASA’s Mars
Exploration Rover Opportunity drove as far as a marathon race during the
first 11 years and two months after its January 2004 landing in Eagle
Crater. The vehicle surpassed marathon distance of 26.219 miles (42.195 km)
with a drive completed on March 24, 2015, during the 3,968th Martian day,
or sol, of Opportunity’s work on Mars. For this map, north is on the left. 
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./USGS/Arizona State Univ.

There was no tape draped across a finish line, but NASA is celebrating a win. The agency’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity completed its first Red Planet marathon Tuesday — 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers) – with a finish time of roughly 11 years and two months.

“This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world,” said John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “A first time happens only once.”

The rover team at JPL plans a marathon-length relay run at the laboratory next week to celebrate.


(Click for large image)
This map shows the southward path driven by Opportunity from late 
December 2014 until it passed marathon distance on March 24, 2015,
during the 3,968th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work
on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

The long-lived rover surpassed the marathon mark during a drive of 153 feet (46.5 meters). Last year, Opportunity became the long-distance champion of all off-Earth vehicles when it topped the previous record set by the former Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 moon rover.

“This mission isn’t about setting distance records, of course; it’s about making scientific discoveries on Mars and inspiring future explorers to achieve even more,” said Steve Squyres, Opportunity principal investigator at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. “Still, running a marathon on Mars feels pretty cool.”

Opportunity’s original three-month prime mission in 2004 yielded evidence of environments with liquid water soaking the ground and flowing on planet’s surface. As the rover continued to operate far beyond expectations for its lifespan, scientists chose the rim of Endeavour Crater as a long-term destination. Since 2011, examinations of Endeavour’s rim have provided information about ancient wet conditions less acidic, and more favorable for microbial life, than the environment that left clues found earlier in the mission.

15-049b[1](Click for large image)
This map shows the rover’s entire traverse from landing to that point.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/NMMNHS

JPL manages the Mars rover projects for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Mars Exploration Rover Project, NASA’s newer Curiosity Mars rover, and three active NASA Mars orbiters are part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, which seeks to characterize and understand Mars as a dynamic system, including its present and past environment, climate cycles, geology and biological potential. In parallel, NASA is developing the human spaceflight capabilities needed for its journey to Mars.

For more information about Opportunity, visit

Follow the project on social media at: and

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project – needs a boost to cross the finish line

The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, underway since 2008, is crowd-funding the completion of the processing of images of the Moon taken by five early unmanned lunar missions and recovered from magnetic tape: Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project Last Mile – Indiegogo

Between further NASA funding and $62k raised by crowd funding in 2013 we have completed the process of digitizing almost 1500 tapes, the entire tape library from lunar orbiter.    This has created tens of terabytes of data, and over 1700 images.  Each medium resolution image is broken into 28 strips or framelets.  Each high resolution image is made from 98 framelets.  Each framelet is a file. We have over 107,000 of these files.  

Our task is to complete the processing of these files and publish them to the NASA  website where they will be free for everyone to enjoy.  We are also doing the paperwork to get the raw data and images to the National Space Science Data Center.   We had estimated the cost to NASA to complete this at about $400,000 dollars, of which they provided $300k after we finished the work from the 2013 crowd funded effort.  We originally thought that we were only going to get Lunar Orbiter II and III, but because of our previous crowd funded effort, we were able to leverage the additional $300k.  That puts us at about $100k short of what we needed to finish, and that is what we are asking you, the crowd funding community to help us with.  This gets us our very last mile to finish everything.  To see what we have done so far, here is our gallery at NASA Ames Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute web site:

Public invited to suggest names for features on Pluto and Charon

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft gets closer each day to Pluto and the fly-by on July 14th. The New Horizons mission, the SETI Institute and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) have opened a public participation program in which you offer an addition to a list of names that will be used for features on Pluto and its moon Charon.

The SETI Institute has opened the Our Pluto website where you can submit your suggested names : Public Asked to Help Name Features on Pluto – SETI Institute.

[ Update: Here’s a Google Hangout discussion with SETI Institute scientist Mark Showalter and New Horizons mission member Cathy Olkin about the Our Pluto program:


The deadline for the name submissions is April 7, 2015.

Here is a statement today from the IAU that lays out the boundaries for what names will be accepted.:

Campaign for Public Participation in Naming Features on Pluto

In partnership with NASA’s New Horizons mission and the SETI Institute, the IAU is endorsing a campaign that will allow the public to participate in naming newly discovered features on Pluto and its satellites. It is expected that many new features will be discovered in the upcoming flyby of Pluto and will be available for naming. The public is invited to suggest names within the designated IAU themes for these celestial bodies.

Pluto retains a unique position in the hearts and minds of many. Pluto is a remote and enigmatic world that resides at the edge of the Solar System, in a region known as the Kuiper Belt, where it is one among many similar dwarf planets, although Pluto remains the largest discovered to date.

On 14 July 2015, NASA’s New Horizons probe will fly past Pluto, offering the first close-up look at this small, distant world and its largest satellite, Charon. These denizens of the outer Solar System will, at long last, be transformed from mysterious, hazy bodies into worlds with distinct features.

In celebration of this historic occasion, the IAU is proud to endorse a campaign that will allow members of the public to participate in naming newly imaged and identified features on the surfaces of Pluto and its natural satellites.

This naming campaign is a partnership between the NASA’s New Horizons project, the SETI Institute and the IAU.

You are invited to visit the website, where you can vote for the names that you think should be used to identify the most prominent features on both Pluto and Charon. You can also suggest additional names. These must be associated with a set of accepted themes set out by the IAU’s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN) related to mythology and the literature and history of exploration:


  • Names for the Underworld from the world’s mythologies.
  • Gods, goddesses, and dwarfs associated with the Underworld.
  • Heroes and other explorers of the Underworld.
  • Writers associated with Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
  • Scientists and engineers associated with Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.


  • Destinations and milestones of fictional space and other exploration.
  • Fictional and mythological vessels of space and other exploration.
  • Fictional and mythological voyagers, travellers and explorers.


  • River gods.


  • Deities of the night.


  • Dogs from literature, mythology and history.


  • Legendary serpents and dragons.

Please note, however, that votes for other themes will not be taken into account, incl. the following, since these themes have already been used on Mercury, Venus and Mars:

  • Space missions and spacecraft names.
  • Authors, artists, directors and producers of the fiction of exploration.
  • Explorers of the Earth, air and seas.

The campaign ends on 7 April 2015, after which the New Horizons team will sort through the names and submit their recommendations to the IAU. The IAU will have the final decision on how the names are used.

Scott Kelly & Mikhail Kornienko set to leave for 1-year mission on the ISS


NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka are heading to the International Space Station this Friday on a Soyuz spacecraft: One-Year Crew Set for Launch to Space Station; NASA TV to Air Live Coverage – NASA

While all previous astronaut tours on the station have been limited to less than six months, Kelly and Kornienko will spend a year aboard the space station. The goal of the  One Year Crew program is to study the effects on the human body that could occur on a long space trip in microgravity to Mars and to find ways to ameliorate or prevent negative effects.

One particularly interest aspect of this experiment will be the comparison of Scott with his twin brother and former astronaut Mark Kelly, who will remain on the ground: NASA Launches New Research, Seeks the Subtle in Parallel Ways – NASA

Last year Chris Jones wrote an extensive preview of the mission in an Esquire Magazine article called Away. Jones will post periodic updates on the mission in the coming year. Here is his first posting: Away: Five Days To Launch

Here’s a NASA video about the twins study: