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  1. The problematic history of Martian landings
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  4. Get e-book NASA MSL: Curiosity’s Diary - Six Months on Mars

If the video command states that the images are to be lossy compressed, however, then one data product is produced for every 16 images acquired. An important capability of the Mastcam is to acquire stereoscopic images. Ground Data System Photogrammetric software using stereoscopic data can be used to compute range maps that in turn can be transformed to triangulated integrated networks meshes , and eventually digital elevation models, and orthographically projected texture maps.

The images can also be viewed anaglypically. Owing to the commonality of hardware and flight software, the Mastcams also can acquire focus stacks and perform onboard focus merges. Focus stacks can be acquired and the individual images can be relayed to Earth, or a focus merge can be performed on board by the instrument. Mastcam focus stack acquisition was extremely rare during the first 2. Onboard merges were only performed five times, once on sol with data acquired that sol, and four times on sol with images obtained on sol Their main purpose is to provide a visual index of data stored in the DEA flash memory.

In cases for which the onboard parent image is uncompressed, the thumbnail contains information that describes the compressibility of the parent image; this can be helpful in determining the JPEG compression quality to assign to the future return of that image in lossy compressed form. Nominally, thumbnails sent from Mars are color JPEGs with a high commanded compression quality, typically quality This means that the largest thumbnails, for parent images of — by pixels, are by pixels in size i. Each image acquired as part of a focus stack is stored in its respective Mastcam DEA as an individual parent image.

Thus, each image in a focus stack generates a thumbnail. Indeed, instrument operators can inspect these thumbnails before deciding how to proceed with downlinking the focus stack—do they want to choose a few frames and relay them to Earth, or do they want to select up to eight consecutive frames for an onboard focus merge? Each of these two products generates a thumbnail. When images acquired using the video command are stored individually, each parent produces a thumbnail. However, owing to human factor issues cycling around the clock wrecks havoc with human circadian rhythm and creates other life factor stresses operating on Mars time is not sustainable for more than a small number of months.

It is used early in missions when concern is highest regarding the lifetime of the mission hardware. The tactical process is generally limited by the time required to assess new data as they are received, plan the succeeding sol's activities, prepare commands to implement the succeeding sol's plan, and uplink the commands, all of which must fit in the time between the receipt of the new data and the start of the next sol's work period.

After operating on Mars time for some period, it becomes necessary to return to Earth time operations owing to its short duration, the PHX mission remained on Mars time. Abstracting from Mishkin et al. On the afternoon of the previous day, Project science team members and engineers create a skeleton tactical plan. It is based on guidance laid out by the strategic plan established by the Project Science Group, and general discussion within the science team, as well as expectations of engineering parameters power, available downlink, and available uptime for the rover computer based on the results of that previous day's tactical plan.

A day of tactical operations work begins with downlink: new data are received from the instruments, processed, analyzed, and then used to help the MSL Science Team plan the next one or more sols of science activities. The integrated plan is reviewed and finalized during the Activity Planning and Approval Meeting, after which time the command sequences are finalized, checked, and uplinked [ Mishkin et al. During sol N planning, the individual rover and instrument plan fragments are discussed by the scientists, with input and guidance from the instrument engineers.

During sequencing, camera parameters for each individual image are established e. Each specific planned activity is sequenced separately and eventually combined by the project Science Planner into a coherent, integrated master sequence that includes the commands for all the instruments and the rover [ Bass and Talley , ]. The sequences must pass multiple checks and reviews, culminating in a Command Approval Meeting, after which the rover and instrument commands are staged for uplink to the spacecraft, and eventually transmitted to the rover either directly or through a relay orbiter [ Mishkin et al.

After the data are transmitted to the orbiters, they await an opportunity for the orbiter to relay the data to Earth usually after a few tens of minutes up to a few hours of latency , at which point the rover data are transmitted by the orbiter to the Deep Space Network DSN stations. The Mastcam downlink process retrieves the raw data from JPL's servers, and processes the images for eventual return to JPL servers for the science team to access and use in science planning and data analysis.

Downlink operations personnel evaluate both spacecraft and instrument health and welfare telemetry to assess the status of the instruments. Other downlink efforts involve managing the camera internal buffer memory resources tracking how many images are residing in the buffer, how much space has been used, how much space is available, and how many images can still be taken without deleting previous data. These personnel also monitor the data resident in the rover's nonvolatile memory, into which Mastcam and MARDI data are transferred just prior to transmission to Earth.

There is a constant interplay between camera buffer memory and the rover memory that needs to be monitored closely and managed owing to the statistical fluctuations in the downlink data volume. The ultimate downlink effort is preparing materials for archiving with the Planetary Data System. This occurs in an episodic flow, based on a negotiated delivery schedule. Ultimately, the detector we selected for the flight MARDI was one with the fewest defective pixels two , called k We characterized the rate of accumulation of dark current charge generated in the CCD from thermal background effects, or bias as a function of temperature during preflight testing.

More important is a constant noiseless DC offset that causes dark pixels to be at slightly positive values instead of zero. For the MARDI EDL sequence, tests were done during the mission cruise phase in the dark environment inside the aeroshell to determine the DC offset in the maximum frame rate mode to be used. A value of was ultimately selected.

For the long exposure times required for twilight imaging, the main dark current effect is a significant number of hot pixels. These have been mapped and can be removed, for some of the images that have gone though our research image processing pipeline. System modulation transfer function MTF refers to the contrast and resolution performance of the fully assembled camera head.

These techniques all gave a spatial frequency of 0.

Visual comparison of the frames in the upper tier of this figure suggests that the amount of Gaussian blurring is about 1. Applying that blurring to representative targets and applying the same four quantitative techniques to examine MTF and resolution indicate a spatial frequency of 0. The image scale at the boresight at distance d is d x 0.

We applied no smoothing operators, filters, or spatial or local operators, and we made no corrections to bad pixels or optical obstructions in the source images. Of course, transmission was altered by deposition of a thin film of dust on the MARDI lens during the terminal descent landing events on sol 0; this change in transmission has not been characterized as MARDI cannot view any calibration surfaces. White balance or color adjustments are generally a matter of individual preference or objective. Targets can look quite different, independent of calibration or other image processing, whether the scene is entirely in shadow, partially in shadow, in twilight illumination, or in full Sun.

The terrain beneath the descending rover on sol 0 was in afternoon sunlight; after touchdown the scene is partially shadowed by rover hardware and the lens had likely become coated by a film of dust. Subsequent imaging by MARDI during the course of the surface mission was preferably, though not always, performed with twilight illumination in order to minimize the large contrasts between sunlit and shadowed surfaces.

These high contrasts also resulted in light scattering off the dust on the lens, reducing the contrast in each area. Flight images of the heat shield calibration target can be used for comparison e. The latter method ignores color contributions from scattering from the Martian atmosphere. Comparable values for the Mastcam flight images are 1. A different set of multiplicative values 1, 1. This effort occurred in December and is described in Maki et al. Two analyses of these images were performed. This is a CAHV model for a simple camera with a rectangular detector and fixed focal length.

C Camera position A camera pointing Attitude actually points into the camera H Horizontal pointing vector toward the right of the image actually more complicated than this V Vertical pointing vector down. The CAHVOR acronym refers to the vectors that permit transformation from object to image coordinates: C is the camera center vector, A is the axis, H is horizontal, V is vertical, O is optical, and R is the radial distortion vectors [ Yakimovsky and Cunningham , ; Gennery , ; Di and Li , ].

This analysis followed the procedure described by Yakimovsky and Cunningham [ ] as modified by Gennery [ , ]. The interior surface of the sunshade was grooved and black anodized to further reduce the scattered light sensitivity. Mastcams have an average acquisition of about 50 images per sol of activity. Exposure times have not changed appreciably. The Mastcam observations of the calibration target show no demonstrable change during the mission other than those attributable to the change; i. No mechanical and no electronic issues have been observed.

Detector performance remains unchanged. The Mastcam mechanisms have shown no sign of wear, no incidences of skipping motor counts, or other indications of the potential loss or uneven redistribution of lubricant. The Mastcam flight software is designed to prevent commanding the cameras to harm themselves, so it is our expectation that the cameras will continue to perform at their present levels for the foreseeable future. Funded by the U. Hundreds of people ultimately contributed to the development of Mastcams, MARDI, and the capabilities to deliver and move the cameras around Curiosity's field site on Mars.

We heartily thank all of them, although we regret we cannot name them all here. Davis, K. Stoiber, and E. Keely, D. Fraschetti chair , J. Baker, G. Fraschetti, P. Wu, W. Harris, R.

The problematic history of Martian landings

Kemski, W. Mateer, G. Reeves, F. Vescelus, R. West, J. Johnson, and P. Fraschetti chair , G. Fraschetti, H. Kieffer, W. Harris, C. Kingery, W. West, P. Hardy, and G. Fraschetti chair , H. Reeves, R. Paynter, and A. Izenberg, J. Johnson, K. Klaasen, and R. Volume 4 , Issue 8. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.

If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Open access. Earth and Space Science Volume 4, Issue 8. Research Article Open Access. Michal C. Malin Corresponding Author E-mail address: malin msss. Malin, E-mail address: malin msss. Michael A. Jacob A. Justin N. James F. William E. Kenneth S. Laurence J. James B. Kenneth E. Linda C. Mark T. Michelle E. Timothy S. Timothy J. Scott K. Robert J. Dawn Y. Brian M. Elsa H. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation.

Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. Figure 1 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. The digital electronics assembly DEA hardware for these cameras is housed inside the rover body in a thermally controlled environment.

In this view, support equipment is holding the rover slightly off the floor. When the wheels are on the ground, the top of Curiosity's mast is about 2. Various aspects of the descent sequence affected the science requirements: 4. Exposure Description Duration 0 to Onboard data compression options Description Uncompressed No compression; no color interpolation Lossless Approximately 1. Stereo pair acquisition The two Mastcam camera heads can be used to acquire stereo image pairs, which requires resampling to match the pixel scales between the two cameras; the cameras have an interoccular distance of Figure 2 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint.

Figure 3 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. Mastcam narrowband filters. Labels indicate the filter positions, left zero through seven L0—L7 , and effective center wavelength as determined by Bell et al. Labels indicate the filter positions, right zero through seven R0—R7 , and effective center wavelength as determined by Bell et al. Filter aperture diameters are Figure 4 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. Figure 5 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. Figure 6 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint.

The top view shows the entire camera head including its sunshade baffle; the lower view shows the details of the optical and mechanical lens and filter wheel assemblies. Figure 7 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. Figure 8 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. The Mastcam calibration target on board Curiosity as viewed from three different cameras. Figure 9 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. A stereo mosaic at various stages of processing. Figure 10 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint.

These are products MRR00 and MRS0; the parent images were acquired on sol and were also subsequently downlinked. In range maps as computed by the onboard software, bright is near and dark is distant. Figure 11 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint.

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MARDI photon transfer curve and derived gain, read noise, and full well parameters from analysis of prelaunch calibration images acquired in early July Figure 12 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. Neither view is geometrically corrected. These images demonstrate that MARDI faithfully reproduces color as seen by the human eye under Earth solar illumination conditions.

Figure 13 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. Modulation transfer curves for three MSL cameras and Junocam. For discrete sampling, the highest frequency achievable is 1 cycle per sample pair or 0. In practice, MTFs use pixels as the measure of distance. Figure 14 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint.

Each side of the hexagonal drip shield is about 1. The target was at a height above the camera of about 8. Figure 15 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. Other images show the Nikon image subjected to Gaussian blurring filters between 1 and 2. Figure 16 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. For illustration purposes, the dynamic range has been adjusted, here. Figure 17 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. Figure 18 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. These highly processed images including spatial filtering show how poorly daylight imaging is compared to twilight imaging.

The arrow points to the same rock. Figure 19 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. MARDI color adjustment example from the 35th frame acquired during descent from an altitude of 9. The heat shield is circular, 4. Figure 20 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. MARDI lens distortion correction.

Note the rover's front left wheel at the bottom right. Dot target is Acknowledgments Funded by the U. Anderson, R. Google Scholar. Crossref Google Scholar. ADS Google Scholar. Citing Literature. Volume 4 , Issue 8 August Pages Figures References Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Previous Figure Next Figure. Journal list menu Journal. Log in with your society membership Log in with AGU. Email or Customer ID. Forgot password? Old Password. New Password. Password Changed Successfully Your password has been changed.

Returning user. Request Username Can't sign in? Forgot your username? Enter your email address below and we will send you your username. Based on Mars rover engineering camera approach of Maki et al. Paulo Bellutta carried out the traversability studies. Fernando Abilleira contributed mission design and navigation diagrams.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author s and the source are credited. Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Download PDF. Open Access. First Online: 25 July The Spirit rover forged a trail of discoveries leading into the heart of hydrothermal processes in the early history of Mars.

These recent missions build systematically upon the earlier Mars Global Surveyor orbiter mission and the Pathfinder proof-of-concept lander and rover mission. Discoveries from Odyssey spawned the follow-up lander, Phoenix. It is a remarkable achievement that each of these recent missions has functioned so capably, performing well past their nominal operational periods, all with spectacular results.

But what really impresses—with all the hardware in motion around Mars these days—is the high degree of both tactical and strategic coordination among these missions, which has propelled us ever closer to fathoming the broad range of environmental processes that transformed the surface of Mars, beginning over 4 billion years ago Fig. Open image in new window. Assuming microbes were once present on Mars, we will also need to focus on very specific and systematic exploration strategies. Scientists working on the terrestrial record of early life long ago recognized to study those rocks whose preservation character maximizes the chances of success.

Paleontological exploration is critically sensitive to the diagenetic processes that control preservation and, paradoxically, the very characteristics water, gradients in heat, chemicals, and light, and also oxidant supply that make so many environments habitable also cause them to be destructive to biosignature preservation. Nevertheless, though most habitable environments destroy organic materials, there are rare circumstances that facilitate spectacular preservation; these often involve geochemical conditions that favor very early mineralization.

Authigenic silica, phosphate, clay, sulfate, and less commonly, carbonate precipitation are all known to promote biosignature preservation when all other factors, such as environmental redox conditions, are equal Fig. The Gale crater landing site gives MSL a good head start on the search for past habitable environments that could preserve paleoenvironmental indicators.

While each of the four final landing sites had its own particular strengths, they all shared in common two very important attributes: definitive evidence for the former presence of water as seen by either mineralogic or morphologic features or both , and the presence of prominent stratigraphic sequences, hundreds to thousands of meters thick in some cases, suggestive of sedimentary rocks Fig.

Historical accounts of planetary evolution are largely recorded in its rock record, and processes that operate at a planetary surface have the potential to create a record of sedimentary rocks. Sedimentary rocks precipitated from water are particularly important because they embed signals of elemental and isotopic variability that relate to geochemical and biogeochemical processes, expressed at local to global scales. Although other rock types such as hydrothermal deposits within volcanic terrains also hold potential to be both habitable and favorable for preservation of biosignatures, terrestrial experience shows that sedimentary rocks are the favored medium for preservation of both biosignatures and global environmental records.

As described in the Announcement of Opportunity solicitation, the mission has the primary objective of placing a mobile science laboratory on the surface of Mars to assess the biological potential of the landing site, characterize the geology of the landing region, investigate planetary processes that influence habitability, and characterize the broad spectrum of surface radiation.

The MSL Project aims to achieve this objective in a manner that will offer the excitement and wonder of space exploration to the public. The primary function of the PSG is to advise the Project on optimization of mission science return and on resolution of issues involving science activities. During landed operations, the PSG will have an important role providing strategic guidance to the Science Operations Working Group that subset of MSL science team members on shift making tactical decisions on any given sol of the mission.

The full Science Team was involved in independent analysis and consideration of the various landing sites. These activities were created due to the very sophisticated nature of the mission goals, involving multiple objectives depending on coordinated observations between many instruments. The PSG co-chairs Project Scientist and Program Scientist , in consultation with the PIs determined that analysis of the landing sites would be aided by the involvement of the MSL Science Team, who would be intimately familiar with the instruments and objectives of the mission.

Criteria Description Diversity A site with a variety of possible science objectives will ensure a greater chance for scientific success. Context A site that can be placed in a larger, more regional context will ensure a greater depth of scientific understanding. Habitability Sites with orbiter-derived evidence for habitable environments can be assessed to make specific predictions that will guide the exploration strategy for MSL.

Preservation Sites with a higher potential for preserving evidence for past habitable environments will ensure a greater chance of scientific success. The landing ellipse and adjacent mountain of strata comprise the region to be explored by the Curiosity rover Fig. Having left the landing ellipse, Curiosity will be commanded to drive up through the outcropping ridges, slopes and buttes that define the lower part of Mount Sharp. These outcrops expose the lower strata of Mount Sharp, composed of interbedded clays and sulfates Fig. Near the top of the interval of strata that contains well-defined sulfates are a set of bedding planes that expose plan-view cross-sections through cement-filled fractures of very large decameter scale Fig.

Comparison to similar terrestrial features suggests that groundwater circulated through these fractures, providing dissolved minerals that precipitated along the margins of the fractures eventually occluding much of their initial porosity. This was established as a two-step process that first considered the range of possibilities in a general sense, followed by a more focused evaluation which considered specific opportunities identified at the candidate landing sites, as well as instrument capabilities and detection limits. Their findings were published in the journal Astrobiology Summons et al.

These results were very helpful in educating the MSL Science Team members in terms of what constitute the most likely targets for potential preservation of organic compounds, had they been present on the surface of Mars. Of the many categories of rock types listed by Summons et al.

LSWG membership included all team members, in addition to site advocates from the external community. Over the course of 9 months leading up to the September community workshop, on the order of 50 telecons were held that added up to over hours of discussion by 20—50 participtants. These tiger teams involved smaller numbers of discussants, again including members external to the MSL Science Team. Tiger teams were self-organized and their leaders reported out to the entire Science Team at all-hands science team meetings. Investigation of the Gale field site requires driving out of the ellipse to the south to access the high science value targets.

A terrain and rover traversability map is shown in Fig. As a result, the ellipse must be traversable to the south and the lower part of Mount Sharp must be accessible by the rover. Although there are no mobility concerns for most of the landing ellipse, a series of dark, fresh sand dunes that could be active Hobbs et al. Examination of these dunes in HiRISE images and slope maps shows many of the dunes exceed the slope limit for driving on cohesionless material, but that there are a number of traversable troughs mostly swept clean of dark sand that cross the dune fields from north to south Fig.

As a result, traversing to the south to exit the landing ellipse appears feasible.

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  • South of the Gale ellipse a mineralogical stratigraphy has been identified in CRISM Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars spectra that includes a topographically lowermost sulfate rich layer with an overlying clay-bearing layer that is overlain by more sulfates, with mixed clay and sulfate layers in between Milliken et al. The team would like to be able to sample these strata to address the compelling science topics at this site. Examining the slope maps of the lower reaches of Mount Sharp and correlating with the hydrated mineral-bearing strata identified in CRISM shows that the lowermost sulfate layer is easily accessible south of the dune field.

    A similar figure showing the location of the instruments Fig. Overall characteristics of Curiosity include a total mass of The rover is a vehicle for remote operation on the Martian surface with the following capabilities: supports the science instrument payload investigations can traverse up to to meters per sol, depending on the terrain provides high-speed computational capability and substantial data storage provides X-band for Direct-to-Earth DTE and Direct-from-Earth DFE telecommunications, and the ability to communicate via UHF with Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey which will store and relay data to the Earth.

    Mounted along the shaft of the mast are two booms for the REMS investigation. The PADS is responsible for acquiring powdered rock samples; the diameter of the hole in a rock after drilling is 1. The powder travels up an auger in the drill and into a chamber with a transfer tube connection to the CHIMRA processing unit. Movement of the powder through CHIMRA is driven by gravity by changing the position and orientation of the robotic arm and vibration. The Dust Removal Tool DRT is mounted to the turret of the robotic arm and can be used to remove dust and loose material off of rock surfaces by clearing it away with stainless steel wire brushes.

    The design of the DRT Fig. A single actuator mechanism rotates the brushes and relies on the robotic arm to position it at a desired standoff distance from a target surface. The DRT is also expected to be used to clear off loose material from the observation tray. The instrument Fig. Both instruments will help determine which rock and soil targets within the vicinity of the rover are of sufficient interest to use the contact and analytical laboratory instruments for further characterization. ChemCam can analyze a much larger number of samples than can be studied with the contact and analytical laboratory instruments.

    For example, the ChemCam team anticipates making daily analyses of the soil at the rover location to understand spatial variations in soil composition. Furthermore, it can provide valuable analyses of samples that are inaccessible to other instruments, such as vertical outcrops where LIBS can target individual strata using its submillimeter beam diameter.

    ChemCam uses multiple laser pulses to clean dust off of rock samples, providing uncontaminated remote observations, and it can also remotely analyze or profile through weathering rinds or surface coatings. CheMin utilizes a microfocus cobalt X-ray source, a transmission sample cell, and an energy-discriminating X-ray sensitive CCD to produce simultaneous 2-D X-ray diffraction patterns and energy-dispersive histograms from powdered samples.

    Raw CCD frames are processed into data products onboard the rover to reduce the data volume. Each analysis may take up to 10 hours of analysis time, spread out over two or more Martian nights, although some samples may provide acceptable results in a single sol. Both cameras can focus from the nearest view to the surface to infinity. The M can focus as close as 0. The RAD instrument Fig. An additional BC scintillating plastic channel is used together with the CsI calorimeter and an anti-anticoincidence shield to detect and characterize neutral particles i.

    The outputs of the various photodiodes, used with the CsI and scintillating plastic, and solid-state detectors are converted to digital pulse height discriminated signals for further processing. The RAD instrument is mounted just below the top deck of the rover with the charged particle telescope pointed in the zenith direction. All sensors are located around three elements: two booms attached to the rover Remote Sensing Mast, the Ultraviolet Sensor assembly located on the rover top deck, and the Instrument Control Unit inside the rover body.

    The booms are approximately 1. Boom 2, which points in the driving direction of the rover, has wind sensors and the relative humidity sensor. Boom 1, which looks to the side and slightly to the rear of the rover, hosts another set of wind sensors and the ground temperature sensor. Both booms have an air temperature sensor. SAM is a suite of three instruments see Fig. The QMS is the primary detector for the GC with a mass range of 2— Dalton, and can analyze the atmosphere or gases thermally evolved from solid phase samples rock powder or soil. The GC separates complex mixtures of organic compounds into molecular components for QMS and GC stand-alone analysis; helium is the carrier gas.

    During the cruise to Mars, the spacecraft performed three trajectory correction maneuvers before July 15, , to correct for launch vehicle injection errors, remove the initial bias required for planetary protection, and refine the trajectory toward the entry aim point at Mars see Fig. During this time a number of maintenance and checkout activities were performed.

    A health checkout of each of the science instruments plus the engineering cameras was carried out during the period of March 12—22, , beginning days after launch. The one exception to this is RAD, which was checked out and began routine science observations on December 6, 10 days after launch. The last 45 days before landing comprised the approach phase, involving additional trajectory correction maneuvers.

    Throughout the mission the rover itself operates on Mars time. The rover will complete its tactical science activities i. During the early portion of the mission, the operations team will synchronize its efforts to Mars time. Data that are not essential for next-sol planning will be returned during the overnight orbiter telecom pass. This basic framework allows approximately five hours for tactical science activities by the rover on Mars.

    The mission scenario envisions a logical sequence of scientific operations that repeats multiple times as the rover explores the region within its field site. The rover performs a detailed examination of a number of distinct locations. The analysis of each location is assumed to consist of a traverse to a site of interest, remote sensing measurements to identify a target, a short approach drive to place the target within the robotic arm workspace, contact analyses to triage the target and determine whether to sample it, a set of activities that acquire rock or soil samples, process them, and deliver them to the analytical laboratory instruments, and finally, the analysis by those instruments.

    In this scenario, each target is assumed to undergo the full set of activities, though in practice, each step is a decision point that can go forward or restart the process e. The sol types defined for the MSL mission are as follows: Traverse Sols are sols in which roving is the dominant activity. Approach Sols are used to place a target e. Contact Sols conduct scientific observations of a target with the arm-mounted instruments. The curves can be used to judge tradeoffs between sampling and traversing, for example, another scenario might involve traversing as rapidly as possible to Mount Sharp, resulting in fewer early samples but more sols to explore and sample Mount Sharp.

    A separate study of traverse performance at Gale, taking into account the details of the terrain, is described in Sect. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author s and the source are credited.

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