NASA’s Next Era Will Rely on Robots

NASA’s Shuttle era may be over but its robotic era is in full swing. With robots having long performed the bulk of our exploration across the Solar System, on the surface of Mars, and now assisting astronauts in low-Earth orbit, we’re now also on the verge of having robots doing work for us on the Moon, on…

Curiosity Has Found Yet More Evidence For a Life-Lovin’ Mars

Cold as hell and no place to raise your kids, the surface of Mars today is a quite inhospitable place for any forms of life we know of. But that wasn’t always the case – billions of years ago Mars may have been a lot more like Earth, with a magnetic field, a much denser atmosphere, lakes…

Opportunity Celebrates 11 Years on Mars With a Grand Panorama

While we have been getting most of our daily images of Mars from NASA’s Curiosity rover over the past couple of years, we shouldn’t forget that there’s still another rover keeping busy on the Red Planet: Opportunity, one of the twin Mars Exploration Rovers (MER-B), still exploring after 11 years! To commemorate Opportunity’s upcoming landing…

Curiosity’s First “Selfie” of 2015

Here’s a “selfie” of NASA’s Curiosity rover, made from about 20 images acquired by its MAHLI instrument on mission sol 868 (January 14, 2015). I used Photoshop to stitch the raw images together and then enhanced the contrast and detail with a bit of HDR effect. (There’s one spot behind the rover’s RTG where an…

A Postcard from Mars: Salsberry Peak Panorama

Every now and then I get unexpectedly caught up in a project that I originally intended to be a quick just-for-fun thing and ends up taking an hour and a half of my time (usually long after I should have gone to bed.) This was one of those. Made up of 28 raw images acquired…

NASA’s Opportunity rover shows us what a comet looks like from Mars

It may not look like much but it’s actually quite a lot: that bright smudge is Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) as it approached Mars to make its historic and much-anticipated close pass on Sunday, Oct. 19! The mountain-sized comet shot past Mars at an estimated distance of 88,000 miles traveling about 35 miles a second……

Opportunity Breaks the Record for Extraterrestrial Roving

Well it’s official: after over a decade of roving on Mars, NASA’s Opportunity rover has surpassed the off-world driving record previously and proudly held by the Soviet Lunokhod 2 rover since 1973*! As of July 27, 2014, the tenacious solar-powered Opportunity racked 25.01 miles (40.25 kilometers) on its odometer as it traveled along the southern rim of…

Curiosity Claims the Biggest Meteorite Ever Found on Mars

If you’re a heavy metal fan then you’ll love this: this shiny, lumpy rock spotted by NASA’s Curiosity rover is made mostly of iron — and came from outer space! Dubbed “Lebanon” it’s a stony iron meteorite, similar to ones found in years past by the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, but is considerably larger than any of…

Happy First Year on Mars, Curiosity!

Sol 669 is here (well, there… on Mars that is…) and that marks the one full year anniversary of Curiosity’s mission exploring Gale Crater! Wait, you say, didn’t Curiosity land on Mars in August of 2012? Shouldn’t we still be approaching the TWO-year anniversary of the MSL mission? Well, yes, here on Earth, but on…

There’s a Jade Rabbit on the Moon!

There’s a rabbit on the Moon! A robot rabbit, that is — China’s Yutu rover (named after the mythological jade rabbit pet of the lunar goddess Chang’e) successfully deployed from the Chang’e-3 lander earlier this afternoon, completing the country’s first successful lunar landing and the first soft touchdown on the Moon by any nation since…

NASA Announces Goals for Next Mars Rover

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” — that seems to be the idea behind the designs for NASA’s next Mars mission, which will put yet another rover on the Red Planet in 2020. Drawing on the developments from previous rovers — Spirit, Opportunity, and especially Curiosity — the next robotic explorer will feature a…