Mars rover landing scars change over time

Mars may not be a living place with rolling waters and swaying trees but it’s not static either. This report shows how the winds move

Changes in Scars From 2012 Mars Landing

PIA19159_ip[1]The landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars left this mark on the
surface as seen by the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter. (Large image)

Spacecraft that land in dusty areas of Mars create dark blast zone patterns where bright dust is blown away by the landing. Monitoring with the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows these dark patterns fade over time in a surprising way. Four sequences of images span two-and-a-half years beginning in the week after the August 2012 landing of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover inside Gale Crater.

The first series shows a repeating sequence of seven images of the scar where the Mars Science Laboratory’s descent stage hit the ground. The descent stage, or “sky crane,” had lowered Curiosity onto the ground and then flown approximately 2,100 feet (650 meters) away and impacted the ground. The fading of the dark blast zone resembles what has been observed at other Mars landing sites, presumably because bright dust is settling on the surface and masking the blast zones. Scientists thought they could model this fading and predict how long it would take for the patterns to disappear entirely. However, the most recent image, taken in February 2015, shows that this blast zone is not fading as quickly as expected, and may even be darkening. This indicates that understanding is still incomplete about processes that move dust around on the Martian surface.

PIA19159_fig1_thumb[1]Figure 1 (Large version)

Figure 1 is a sequence showing the spacecraft’s back shell and parachute. Wind causes changes in the shape of the parachute as well as fading of the dark zone visible around the back shell in initial frames.

PIA19159_fig2_thumb[1]Figure 2 (Large version)

The Figure 2 sequence shows where the rover itself landed. Curiosity disappears after the first two of the seven frames because it drove away. Its wheel tracks heading generally east (toward the left) can be seen in subsequent frames, and they also fade over time.

PIA19159_fig3_thumb[1]Figure 3 (Large version)

Figure 3 is a five-frame sequence of the location where the spacecraft’s heat shield hit the ground.

The images in these sequences have not been adjusted for differences in viewing angle or lighting conditions. Without such image processing, some features on the ground appear to shift slightly from frame to frame.

The first image in each of the four sequences is from HiRISE observation ESP_028335_1755, taken on Aug. 12, 2012, six days after Curiosity’s landing. A different product from this observation, mapping where various hardware hit the ground, is at pia16001. Additional image products from this observation are available at

Subsequent images in these sequences are from HiRISE observations ESP_028401_1755, on Aug. 17, 2012; ESP_030313_1755, on Jan. 13, 2013; ESP_034572_1755, on Dec. 11, 2013;ESP_036128_1755, from April 2014; ESP_037117_1755, from June 27, 2014; andESP_036128_1755, from February 2015. The two observations in 2014 did not include the heat shield location.

HiRISE is one of six instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

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‘Chicks in Space’ ISS experiment fundraising a success + Burt Rutan film project exceeds Kickstarter goal

Crowd-funding seems to be more than a fad. While many projects don’t meet their fund-raising goals, there continue to be some campaigns that meet or even greatly exceed their goals.

For example, I posted a few times about the Chicks in Space campaign by three high school students to fund an experiment on the Int. Space Station. They have now met their goal of $15,000. The Chicks Are Going To NASA’s International Space Station – NanoRacks –

Houston, TX- March 27, 2015—NanoRacks and DreamUp are happy to announce that the Chicks In Space, the Company’s first student crowd-sourced payload, has raised the required $15,000 to send their payload ‘The Garden of ETON’ to the International Space Station (ISS) via NanoRacks’ Dream-Up educational program.

The Chicks In Space are three sisters, MaryAnn, Lillith, and Adia Buwala, from Tennessee who have always dreamt of researching in space. The young women have completed many NASA challenges, created an after school club for space research, and recently converted their centrifuge plant growth chamber for ISS research. The Chicks’ experiment “The Garden of ETON (Extraterrestrial Organic Nutrition)” is a hydroponic garden developed to function under conditions of microgravity in hopes to learn the best way to grow a renewable food source for long-term space travel.


Here’s a new video from the young ladies:


Another crowd-funding campaign I posted about was to support the antennaFILMS documentary about Burt Rutan and his latest aircraft design: Looking Up, Way Up! The Burt Rutan Story by antennaFILMS – Scott B / Sandy Guthrie — Kickstarter

The goal was $80,000 and they raised  $106,689.

I expect that crowd-funding is here to stay. There will always be cool projects that people will want to help make happen.

Sci-Tech: Lithium battery costs have fallen faster than expected

Thus far continual incremental improvements and mass-production have been more effective in driving lithium-ion battery performance up and prices down rather than dramatic breakthroughs:

This process may plateau, of course, and then leaps in technology like solid state batteries will be needed to make further progress towards lowering battery costs.