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May 18, 2014

Curious George Goes to Mars with PBS Kids
The adventurous primate Curious George is heading to Mars for the first time in a special TV episode of the cartoon airing Monday (May 19). While Curious George has been to space before, this is the first time he is exploring the Red Planet. In the episode, "Red Planet Monkey," George needs to help engineers on Earth figure out what is making the rover's controls stick. The primate finds himself on an amazing adventure to Mars with his friend, the Man with the Yellow Hat.

February 14, 2014

Mars Rover Heads Uphill After Solving 'Doughnut' Riddle
Researchers have determined the now-infamous Martian rock resembling a jelly doughnut, dubbed Pinnacle Island, is a piece of a larger rock broken and moved by the wheel of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in early January. Only about 1.5 inches wide (4 centimeters), the white-rimmed, red-centered rock caused a stir last month when it appeared in an image the rover took Jan. 8 at a location where it was not present four days earlier. More recent images show the original piece of rock struck by the rover's wheel, slightly uphill from where Pinnacle Island came to rest.

February 4, 2014

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover looks to 'jump' sand dune
The Curiosity Mars rover is to try to drive over a one metre-high dune. The sand bank is currently blocking the robot's path into a small valley and a route with fewer of the sharp rocks that lately have been making big dents in the vehicle's aluminium wheels. US space agency engineers will take no risks, however. The rover will be commanded initially to climb only part way up the dune to see how it behaves. The team is mindful that NASA's Spirit rover was lost in a sand trap in 2009. And the Opportunity rover, which has just celebrated 10 working years on the planet, very nearly went the same way in 2005 when it became stuck for several weeks in a deep dirt pile later dubbed "Purgatory Dune".

January 22, 2014

Large international interest in riding with NASA’s next Mars Rover Spaceflight
The next NASA rover to be sent to the surface of Mars has received twice the usual amount of proposals for carrying science and exploration technology instruments. The agency is reviewing a total of 58 submitted proposals, 17 of which came from international partners, ahead of a proposed mission in 2020. Announced at the end of 2012, the next NASA rover will be based on the Curiosity Rover that is currently exploring the surface of Mars.

January 6, 2014

LEGO launches Mars Curiosity; Plus! Five toy brick spacecraft awaiting liftoff collectSPACE
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has landed in LEGO's toy catalog and is now available for order. The fifth in a line of fan-created, LEGO-produced building kits, the six-wheeled science laboratory could be followed by the now Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft, Hubble Space Telescope, or other space-themed kits, if the public votes for them online. The 295-piece "NASA Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover" is now for sale for $29.95 through the Danish toy company's webshop. Created and suggested by engineer Stephen Pakbaz, who worked on the real Curiosity before its launch to the Red Planet, the model faithfully recreates many of the actual car-size rover's features, including its "rocker-bogie" suspension.

December 18, 2013

An Updated Mars Exploration Family Portrait The Planetary Society
The Mars Exploration Family Portrait shows every dedicated spacecraft mission to Mars, and now includes India’s Mars Orbiter Mission and NASA's MAVEN. The dates listed are for launch.

December 10, 2013

Curiosity Finds A Former Lake On Mars Popular Science
Once upon a time, in the lowest part of Gale Crater on Mars, there was a lake about the length and width of one of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. It was fed by rivers that ran into it. If you stood on its shores, you might have seen snow or ice capping the mountains in the distance. After its first 100 Mars-days, or sols, on the Red Planet, NASA’s Curiosity rover trundled down into this now-dry lakebed. The rover took images of rocks along the way and drilled two holes to take samples. It’s from these samples scientists determined this lake existed and that its waters weren’t too alien, after all, compared to water on Earth. The water was of relatively neutral pH and low salinity. “I would be pretty confident it would be fresher than seawater,” says Scott McLennan, a geoscientist with Stony Brook University in New York who worked on this and other studies based on Curiosity data. This is water that microbes could have lived in, although Curiosity found no direct evidence of life on Mars, nor is it designed to do so, McLennan tells Popular Science.

October 24, 2013

UA Student Finds 'Hawaiian Beach' Sand on Mars University of Arizona
Most geology students are used to traveling far and wide to collect samples for their research, but University of Arizona Shaunna Morrison has everybody beat by a long shot: 140 million miles, on average, stand between her sampling sites and her lab. As part of NASA's designated science team in charge of CheMin, one of 10 scientific instruments mounted on the Mars rover Curiosity, Morrison never gets her hands on the samples she collects, but that's a small price to pay for the opportunity to analyze soil scooped up by a robot on another planet. Earlier this month, Morrison co-authored two scientific publications in the journal Science, reporting the first scientific results of Curiosity's digging into the soil near Mount Sharp in Gale Crater. Morrison provided the first detailed analyses of individual mineral compositions in the Martian surface. "We knew from previous Mars missions what elements are present in the Martian soil, but we didn't know how they are arranged, in other words, what minerals they form," said Morrison, a first-year PhD student in the UA Department of Geosciences.

October 17, 2013

Curiosity proves that bits of Mars fall to Earth as meteorites
Case closed. After several decades of speculation and the gathering of imperfect evidence, Mars rover Curiosity has positively identified hundreds of meteorites found all over the Earth as Martians. The discovery is not unexpected, but it allows the science to go forward with renewed confidence in conjectures about the Red Planet. In particular, Curiosity’s findings could help scientists figure out exactly how Mars lost the vast majority of its atmosphere, why, and how long ago it happened.

October 16, 2013

Millions Of Miles From Shutdown, Mars Rovers Keep Working NPR
The budget negotiations in Washington are not front-page news on Mars. There, millions of miles away, NASA's rovers continue to operate, taking photographs and collecting data as they prepare for the coming Martian winter. The two rovers are taking in data and getting into strategic locations before winter arrives on Mars in a few months. The scarcity of sunlight shouldn't pose a challenge for Curiosity, whose systems are powered by heat generated by the radioactive decay of plutonium. NASA hopes that the older Opportunity, which powers itself with solar panels, will be aided by its position on a north-facing slope.

October 2, 2013

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter achieves imaging of comet ISON from Mars The Planetary Society
Yesterday, the much-anticipated comet ISON made its closest pass by Mars. Despite the government shutdown, all NASA spacecraft are still operating normally, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Curiosity, and Opportunity have all attempted imaging over the last several days. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE camera is the first to achieve a positive detection of the somewhat-fainter-than-expected comet in its photos.

October 1, 2013

As Comet ISON sweeps past Mars today, most observations will happen EarthSky
Despite the U.S. government shutdown today, it appears that many planned observations of Comet ISON – as it sweeps dramatically close to the planet Mars today – will happen. NASA has a skeleton crew in support of the six crew members aboard International Space Station (ISS) in place, so presumably they will observe Comet ISON today, as previously announced. Likewise, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE instrument will be turned in Comet ISON’s direction today, according to Anjani Polit, the HiRISE Uplink Lead.
US government shutdown puts Mars rover to sleep The Independent
Just days after the Curiosity rover amazed the scientific community when it found water on Mars, it has been forced in hibernation by the shutdown of the US government. Curiosity will now enter ‘protective mode’ for its own security, according to NASA, and ‘no new data gathering will take place’.

September 27, 2013

Cache and Not Carry: Next Mars Rover to Collect Samples for Return to Earth—Someday Scientific American
Have rover, need payload. That’s the state of things for NASA, which is planning to launch its next rover to Mars in 2020. The rover has ambitious goals, including searching for signs of habitability and life on the Red Planet, and collecting rock samples to be stored for future return to Earth. Now, NASA is asking scientists to propose instruments that will help the spacecraft accomplish its mission. The space agency released an “announcement of opportunity” on September 24 calling for proposals by December 23. Researchers who plan to put an instrument in the hat must file a heads-up about their plans, called a notice of intent, by October 15.

September 26, 2013

NASA's Curiosity Rover Just Found Water in Martian Soil Gizmodo
Just when you thought ol' Curiosity was digging in for the winter, the little discovery machine came up with a doozy: It discovered water in Martian soil. NASA scientists just published five papers in Science detailing the experiments that led to the discovery. That's right. There's water on Mars. Impressive as it is, though, the discovery comes with some caveats. It's not like Curiosity stumbled on a lost lake under a mountain or a stream trickling across the landscape. Rather, it found water molecules bound to other minerals in Martian soil. There's kind of a lot of it, too. Researchers say that every cubic foot of Martian soil contains about two pints of liquid water. All things told, about two percent of the Martian soil is made of up water.

September 19, 2013

Could Upcoming Comet Flybys Damage Mars Spacecraft?
Two comets will buzz Mars over the course of the next year, prompting excitement as well as some concern that cometary particles could hit the spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet and exploring its surface. Three operational spacecraft currently circle Mars: NASA's Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), as well as Europe’s Mars Express. NASA also has two functioning rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity, on the ground on Mars. All of these spacecraft will have ringside seats as Comet ISON cruises by Mars this year, followed by Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) in 2014.

August 30, 2013

Curiosity snaps sharpest-ever solar eclipse photos from Mars NBC News
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has captured the sharpest-ever images of a solar eclipse as seen from the Red Planet. The 1-ton Curiosity rover snapped pictures with its telephoto lens as Phobos, the larger of Mars' two tiny moons, blotted out much of the solar disk on Aug. 17. "This event occurred near noon at Curiosity's location, which put Phobos at its closest point to the rover, appearing larger against the sun than it would at other times of day," Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, a co-investigator for Curiosity's Mastcam instrument, said in a statement. "This is the closest to a total eclipse of the sun that you can have from Mars."

August 20, 2013

Curiosity captures footage of a Martian moon eclipse CNET
As Curiosity continues to trek across the wild red yonder of Mars, it stopped for a moment earlier this month to observe the two Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, passing by each other in the night sky. This imagery of one Martian moon eclipsing another as seen from the surface of Mars is the first of its kind, and serves a useful purpose for astronomers. "The ultimate goal is to improve orbit knowledge enough that we can improve the measurement of the tides Phobos raises on the Martian solid surface, giving knowledge of the Martian interior," said Mark Lemmon, a Texas A&M University co-investigator working with Curiosity's Mastcam. "We may also get data good enough to detect density variations within Phobos and to determine if Deimos' orbit is systematically changing."

August 6, 2013

NASA's Curiosity First Anniversary on Mars
NASA's Curiosity rover marks one year on Mars and has already achieved its main science goal of revealing ancient Mars could have supported life. The mobile laboratory also is guiding designs for future planetary missions. "Successes of our Curiosity -- that dramatic touchdown a year ago and the science findings since then -- advance us toward further exploration, including sending humans to an asteroid and Mars," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Wheel tracks now, will lead to boot prints later."

August 5, 2013

Curiosity’s Hard-Working Year on Mars Pays Off With Amazing Scientific Discoveries Wired
NASA's Curiosity rover is a gigantic mobile laboratory. During the last year, it has roved over the Martian surface exploring a small section of Gale crater while making huge scientific discoveries. The rover was built as a data-generating machine. You put rocks, air, and samples in and you get science out. Specifically, Curiosity is searching for signs of ancient habitability and seeking to answer an important question: Could Mars have ever had living organisms crawling over its surface? Curiosity's science team includes geologists, chemists, physicists, astrobiologists, and countless other researchers. Using the probe's state-of-the-art equipment, they have drilled into Martian rocks, fired lasers and X-rays, baked powdered soil for analysis, and sniffed the atmosphere. Many of these activities had never been done on the Red Planet, or any planet beyond Earth, before. The data received from Curiosity has bolstered the idea that the planet once had water flowing over its surface and was a place where life could have conceivably thrived. It will take many more months and years of exploring to completely tease out all the details but the rover has already exceeded the expectations of its original designers.

August 1, 2013

Happy New Mars Year! The Planetary Society
They're too far apart to have a party, but today Curiosity and Opportunity could have rung in the New Mars Year. Today Mars reached a solar longitude of zero degrees and the Sun crossed Mars' equator, heralding the arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern hemisphere. This is the date that Martian climatologists have identified as the zero-point for Mars' calendar. Mars Year 31 was a good one, with Opportunity active at the rim of Endeavour crater and Curiosity arriving at Gale. Mars Year 32 should be even better, as Opportunity rolls up Solander point and maybe even Cape Tribulation, and Curiosity should explore the rocks in the mountain that drew her to Gale in the first place. And there'll be two orbiters arriving (we hope). MAVEN and the Mars Orbiter Mission's capabilities should warm the hearts of the climatologists who care about how one Mars year differs from the next enough to need to make up a calendar to mark their passage!

July 26, 2013

Think our weather's zany? Try Mars and its daily 123° swings KOMO News
If the warm days of summer have you pining for some cooler weather, perhaps a trip to Mars is in order. Sure, you'd need to build a spaceship, ask your boss for about 2 years off from work, and solve that whole "Mars has no oxygen, water, or Starbucks (yet)" issue but if you could get there, it would definitely be colder than a Seattle summer. Tony Rice, a fellow weather blogger and volunteer with the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program, maintains the @MarsWxReport Twitter feed, which gives the current weather once a Martian day (40 minutes longer than an Earth day) from the Mars rover Curiosity. What we find is that Mars is a cold place that has some radical changes in temperature between day and night, when it gets really, really cold.

April 26, 2013

NASA proves 3D printing is headed to the stars VentureBeat
3D-printed space technology is no longer science fiction, as NASA and other space companies are making it a reality. Engineers and researchers at the Ames Research Center are already working with 3D printing technology to make it applicable for use in both space travel and the study of our universe, according to a recent CNET report. Earlier this year, MakerBot, one of the foremost producers of 3D printers, confirmed that NASA engineers were using the technology to build parts for models, including the Mars Rover Curiosity. NASA is now the company’s biggest customer, the company told Forbes.

April 4, 2013

Mars missions scaled back in April because of sun
It's the Martian version of spring break: Curiosity and Opportunity, along with their spacecraft friends circling overhead, will take it easy this month because of the sun's interference. For much of April, the sun blocks the line of sight between Earth and Mars. This celestial alignment — called a Mars solar conjunction — makes it difficult for engineers to send instructions or hear from the flotilla in orbit and on the surface. Such communication blackouts occur every two years when the red planet disappears behind the sun. No new commands are sent since flares and charged particles spewing from the sun can scramble transmission signals and put spacecraft in danger.

April 3, 2013

Used Parachute on Mars Flaps in the Wind
Photos from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show how the parachute that helped NASA's Curiosity rover land on Mars last summer has subsequently changed its shape on the ground. The images were obtained by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Seven images taken by HiRISE between Aug. 12, 2012, and Jan. 13, 2013, show the used parachute shifting its shape at least twice in response to wind.

March 29, 2013

4-Gigapixel Mars Panorama Created Using 407 Photos Taken by Curiosity PetaPixel
For a while now we’ve been sharing photos beamed home by NASA’s rovers on Mars. From panoramas by the old timer Opportunity to selfies by the new kid Curiosity, we’re starting to see more and more of the Red Planet many millions of miles away. Andrew Bodrov, however, has taken it to the next level. By putting together 407 photos taken by both the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) and Medium Angle Camera (MAC) on Curiosity, Bodrov has created the amazing 4-gigapixel 360-degree panorama you see below. A panorama so vast it’ll make you feel like you’re using street view on Mars.

March 28, 2013

Why a Mars Comet Impact Would be Awesome Discovery News
When Jupiter’s tides ripped Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 to shreds, only for the icy chunks to succumb to the intense Jovian gravity, ultimately slamming into the gas giant’s atmosphere, mankind was treated to a rare cosmic spectacle (in human timescales at least). That was the first time in modern history that we saw a comet do battle with a planet… and lose. But next year, astronomers think there’s a chance — albeit a small one — of a neighboring planet getting punched by an icy interplanetary interloper. However, this planet doesn’t have a generously thick atmosphere to soften the blow. Rather than causing bruises in a dense, molecular hydrogen atmosphere, this comet will pass through the atmosphere like it wasn’t even there and hit the planetary surface like a cosmic pile-driver, ripping into the crust. What’s more, we’d have robotic eyes on the ground and in orbit should the worst happen.

March 20, 2013

Mars Rover Curiosity Stands Down After New Problem Time
After recovering from a computer problem, the Mars rover Curiosity is sidelined again, further delaying the restart of science experiments. The latest complication occurred over the weekend when the six-wheel rover entered safe mode after experiencing a software file error. Curiosity remained in contact with ground controllers, but it can’t zap rocks, snap pictures or roam around until the problem is fixed. Rover team members had expected to resume activities Monday, but they now have to wait a bit longer — perhaps until the end of the week.

March 15, 2013

To the stars: After a 25 year hiatus, NASA restarts plutonium production ExtremeTech
After a quarter-century hiatus, the United States has begun producing plutonium-238 once more. The decision was made to ensure that future NASA projects would have access to the valuable fuel. As US stocks dwindled, NASA began buying plutonium-238 from Russia, but that agreement came to an end in 2010. When most people think of plutonium, they think of nuclear weapons — but that’s not what plutonium-238 is used for. If you need a power source that can last for decades, plutonium-238 is fantastically useful stuff. It’s got a half life of nearly 88 years and it emits 560 watts of heat per kilogram of material. It’s a vital component of the radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) used on Curiosity and in a number of space probes, including Cassini. One of the best features of plutonium-238 is that, while it’s radioactive as hell (275 times more so than plutonium-239, it takes a minimal amount of shielding to protect spacecraft or humans from contamination. Plutonium-powered pacemakers (yes, that was a thing for a little while) have operated as long as 25 years without running out of power.

March 12, 2013

NASA Rover Finds Conditions Once Suited for Ancient Life on Mars
An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA's Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon -- some of the key chemical ingredients for life -- in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month. "A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."

March 6, 2013

Curiosity sleeps as solar blast races toward Mars
Curiosity hunkered down Wednesday after the sun unleashed a blast that raced toward Mars. While the hardy rover was designed to withstand punishing space weather, its handlers decided to power it down as a precaution since it suffered a recent computer problem. "We're being more careful," said project manager Richard Cook of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which runs the $2.5 billion mission. While Curiosity slept, the Opportunity rover and two NASA spacecraft circling overhead carried on with normal activities.

March 1, 2013

Mars Rover Curiosity Has First Big Malfunction National Geographic
The Mars rover Curiosity experienced its first significant malfunction on Wednesday, when one of its two onboard computers became corrupted and failed to turn off and enter "sleep mode" as planned. The Curiosity team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent up commands to switch all operations from the corrupted A computer to the twin B computer early Thursday morning, according to a Thursday NASA statement. Most spacecraft have a backup computer to step in if the primary computer fails. Richard Cook, project manager for the Curiosity project, said the problem was the most serious experienced by the rover so far in its nearly 7 months on the red planet.

February 21, 2013

Mars rover drills, sees planet's true colors
Mars may have a lot of orangey dust flying around, but now that a rover has retrieved a sample by drilling a rock there, scientists believe the Red Planet may have another color beneath the surface. The two-ton Mars rover Curiosity, which has been exploring Gale Crater since its miraculous landing on August 6, has become the first robot to drill into a rock to collect a sample on Mars, scientists reported Wednesday. Chemical analyses are still to come, but for now the big news is that the material from the drill appears to be gray.

February 15, 2013

National Space Club Honors Mars Curiosity
The National Space Club will honor NASA's Curiosity/Mars Science Laboratory team with three awards, including the prestigious Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy. The Goddard Trophy recognizes the team for significant contributions to developing the most capable deep space mission ever and initiating the most ambitious science mission ever conducted on the surface of another planet. The team will also receive the organization's Nelson P. Jackson Aerospace Award for its significant role in successfully landing on and exploring the Martian surface.

February 13, 2013

Step into the Twilight Zone: Can Earthlings Adjust to a Longer Day on Mars? Scientific American
"Mutinous" is not a word frequently used to describe teams of NASA scientists and engineers. But that's precisely the term employed by Harvard University sleep scientist Charles Czeisler to explain what happened when the group operating the Pathfinder mission's rover in 1997 was required to live indefinitely on Mars time. "They didn't really have a plan for dealing with the Martian day before they went up, and the rover lasted a lot longer than it was supposed to, so they actually had a mutiny and wanted to shut the thing off because they were so exhausted," he says, drily adding the obvious: "NASA wasn't too happy with that notion."

February 10, 2013

NASA Curiosity Rover Collects First Martian Bedrock Sample
NASA's Curiosity rover has, for the first time, used a drill carried at the end of its robotic arm to bore into a flat, veiny rock on Mars and collect a sample from its interior. This is the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars. The fresh hole, about 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) wide and 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) deep in a patch of fine-grained sedimentary bedrock, can be seen in images and other data Curiosity beamed to Earth Saturday. The rock is believed to hold evidence about long-gone wet environments. In pursuit of that evidence, the rover will use its laboratory instruments to analyze rock powder collected by the drill.

February 7, 2013

Another Weird Shiny Thing on Mars Universe Today
The Curiosity Mars rover has found some strange-looking little things on Mars – you’ve likely heard of the Mars ‘flower,’ the piece of benign plastic from the rover itself, and other bright flecks of granules in the Martian soil. Now the rover has imaged a small metallic-looking protuberance on a rock. Visible in the image above (the green lines point to it), the protuberance appears to have a high albedo and even projects a shadow on the rock below. The image was taken with the right Mastcam on Curiosity on Sol 173 — January 30, 2013 here on Earth — (see the original raw image here), and was pointed out to us by Elisabetta Bonora, an image editing enthusiast from Italy.

December 3, 2012

Mars rover finds simple organics, but results not yet conclusive CNET
Despite widespread speculation about a potentially significant discovery on Mars, the Curiosity rover's first detailed look at a Martian soil sample with an instrument capable of detecting organic compounds hasn't found any "definitive" signs of materials that play key roles in biological processes on Earth, scientists said Monday. While the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument detected signs of an oxygen-chlorine compound -- perchlorate -- and trace amounts of chlorinated methane compounds, which contain carbon, researchers say more tests are needed to make sure the carbon originated with the sample and was not brought to Mars aboard Curiosity.

November 20, 2012

Big News From Mars? Rover Scientists Mum For Now NPR
Scientists working on NASA's six-wheeled rover on Mars have a problem. But it's a good problem. They have some exciting new results from one of the rover's instruments. On the one hand, they'd like to tell everybody what they found, but on the other, they have to wait because they want to make sure their results are not just some fluke or error in their instrument. It's a bind scientists frequently find themselves in, because by their nature, scientists like to share their results. At the same time, they're cautious because no one likes to make a big announcement and then have to say "never mind."

November 15, 2012

NASA Scientist: Astronauts Could Absolutely Live On Mars Business Insider
The Mars Curiosity rover is three months into its two-year mission to determine if Mars was, or still is, able to support life. One life-limiting factor to habitability — and critical to a future manned mission to Mars — is the level of radiation, from cosmic rays and solar particles, that gets to the planet's surface. To measure this, an instrument onboard the rover called the Radiation Assessment Detector, or "RAD," has been collecting data on the daily cycles of radiation reaching Curiosity.
NASA Rover Providing New Weather and Radiation Data About Mars
Observations of wind patterns and natural radiation patterns on Mars by NASA's Curiosity rover are helping scientists better understand the environment on the Red Planet's surface. Researchers using the car-sized mobile laboratory have identified transient whirlwinds, mapped winds in relation to slopes, tracked daily and seasonal changes in air pressure, and linked rhythmic changes in radiation to daily atmospheric changes. The knowledge being gained about these processes helps scientists interpret evidence about environmental changes on Mars that might have led to conditions favorable for life.

November 8, 2012

Ultimate Mars Challenge PBS
In its search for life beyond Earth, NASA employs a "sky crane" maneuver to land the Curiosity rover on Mars. Airing November 14, 2012 at 9 pm on PBS.

November 7, 2012

Mars rover team coming off 'Mars time'
Researchers operating NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, after three months of living on "Mars time," have switched to more regular hours, the space agency says. The Curiosity team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has been working on a schedule based on martian day, called sols, which are about 40 minutes longer than Earth days. That's meant the start time of their work day has been moving a few hours later each week, often resulting in the team working overnight hours on Pacific Time.

November 2, 2012

The Curiosity Rover’s Ultimate Self-Portrait Universe Today
NASA says that self-portraits like this one document the state of the rover and allow mission engineers to track changes over time, such as dust accumulation and wheel wear. Due to its location on the end of the robotic arm, only MAHLI (among the rover’s 17 cameras) is able to image some parts of the craft, including the port-side wheels.

October 31, 2012

Mars Soil Similar to Hawaiian Volcanic Soil
The soil on Mars appears to be very similar to the volcanic soils of Hawaii, according to scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA. The results come after the first chemical and mineralogy tests performed on Martian soil scooped up and taken aboard NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity. NASA said the soil analysis was carried out by the rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument (CheMin). The U.S. space agency said the study concluded that the Mars soil sample “is similar to weathered basaltic soils of volcanic origin in Hawaii.”
Mars rover gets instructions daily from NASA via a network of antennae The Washington Post
We live in a chaos of electromagnetic energy. Visible, infrared and ultraviolet light courses omnidirectionally from the sun. A fraction of it bathes our planet, while some bounces off other planets, moons, comets and meteoroids. The visible light from stars up to 4,000 light-years away can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. With instruments, astronomers can detect gamma rays from stars 13 billion light-years away. Radio waves from remote galaxies help Earth’s official timekeepers monitor our planet’s path around the sun. Once per day, a minuscule stream of radio waves joins this cacophony, making the 13.8-minute trip from an antenna on Earth to an SUV-size machine parked on the surface of Mars. Those short-lived waves represent our way — our only way — of communicating with Curiosity, the rover that NASA landed on Mars in August.

October 29, 2012

Illinois connection helping to drive Mars rover
Since its landing on Mars in early August, NASA's rover Curiosity has been sending back extraordinary pictures that may tell us whether the red plant was ever life-friendly, and from that we'll no doubt learn more about our own planet. What you may not know is that there is an Illinois connection, both human and mechanical, to the machine on Mars.

October 27, 2012

NASA Oct. 30 Telecon About Mars Curiosity Progress
NASA will host a media teleconference at 11:30 a.m. PDT (2:30 p.m. EDT) on Tuesday, Oct. 30, to provide an update about the Curiosity rover's mission to Mars' Gale Crater. The Mars Science Laboratory Project and its Curiosity rover are almost three months into a two-year prime mission to investigate whether conditions may have been favorable for microbial life.

October 25, 2012

TRANSLOGIC 115: Mars Rover Curiosity TRANSLOGIC
Bradley Hasemeyer heads to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a view of Mars from mission control. Ann Devereaux, Deputy Lead for Entry, Descent and Landing of the Mars Science Laboratory, commonly known as Curiosity, takes us through the objectives of this groundbreaking rover mission.

October 24, 2012

Curiosity may one day return to Earth, says NASA boss
The director of NASA's Mars exploration programme has spoken of hopes that one day the rover Curiosity might be brought back to Earth by astronauts. Doug McCuistion said it was his personal hope that humans would visit the Red Planet in the 2030s or 2040s. He said he could imagine astronauts walking up to Curiosity. McCuistion said the roving laboratory's mission was scheduled to last two years, but it could have enough power for 20 years.

October 19, 2012

Um, What's That Bright, Shiny Thing Curiosity Just Found on Mars? The Atlantic
A close-up of the small pit created when the Curiosity rover collected its second scoop of Martian soil. The bright particle near the center -- which resembled similar ones elsewhere in the pit -- were determined to be native Martian material rather than, as was first thought, spacecraft debris. Curiosity's on-board analytic instruments will use X-rays to determine the composition of the mystery material.

October 15, 2012

NASA rover Curiosity finds a rock not seen before on Mars (+video) The Christian Science Monitor
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has indentified a type of rock scientists have never seen on Mars before, but it's one familiar to geologists on Earth. The Martian rock, a form of basalt, has a composition very similar to volcanic rocks found in ocean-island settings such as Hawaii and the Azores, as well as in rift zones – regions where Earth's continents split and begin separating into separate land masses. The rock, named Jake Matijevic for a key member of the rover engineering team who passed away shortly after Curiosity arrived on the red planet, can form in a number of ways, says Edward Stolper, provost of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and a member of Curiosity's science team.

October 10, 2012

Adjusting to Sol Takes Toll on Mars Rovers’ Teams Space Safety Magazine
It accounts for no more than 39 minutes and 35 seconds but the difference between the terrestrial “day” and the Martian “sol” can really mess up human circadian rhythms. It is like skipping one time zone every day, leading to a permanent need to adjust to a feeling of mild jet lag. As everyone who ever experienced jet lag knows, deviating from the internal clock usually leads to sleepiness and impairs the ability to concentrate and think clearly. As NASA’s Curiosity rover continues its journey over the Red Planet’s surface, this adjustment to space jet lag is exactly what the operations team in NASA’s JPL are going through. The mission requires them to steer the rover in the real Martian time making it impossible to follow a 24 hour schedule. The results of a study conducted on the engineers operating the previous Martian lander Phoenix could help with this challenge.
NASA Mars Curiosity Rover Prepares to Study Martian Soil
NASA's Curiosity rover is in a position on Mars where scientists and engineers can begin preparing the rover to take its first scoop of soil for analysis. Curiosity is the centerpiece of the two-year Mars Science Laboratory mission. The rover's ability to put soil samples into analytical instruments is central to assessing whether its present location on Mars, called Gale Crater, ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. Mineral analysis can reveal past environmental conditions. Chemical analysis can check for ingredients necessary for life. The rover's preparatory operations will involve testing its robotic scooping capabilities to collect and process soil samples. Later, it also will use a hammering drill to collect powdered samples from rocks. To begin preparations for a first scoop, the rover used one of its wheels Wednesday to scuff the soil to expose fresh material.

October 4, 2012

NASA Mars Curiosity Rover Prepares to Study Martian Soil
NASA's Curiosity rover is in a position on Mars where scientists and engineers can begin preparing the rover to take its first scoop of soil for analysis. Curiosity is the centerpiece of the two-year Mars Science Laboratory mission. The rover's ability to put soil samples into analytical instruments is central to assessing whether its present location on Mars, called Gale Crater, ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. Mineral analysis can reveal past environmental conditions. Chemical analysis can check for ingredients necessary for life. "We now have reached an important phase that will get the first solid samples into the analytical instruments in about two weeks," said Mission Manager Michael Watkins of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Curiosity has been so well-behaved that we have made great progress during the first two months of the mission."

September 27, 2012

NASA Rover Finds Old Streambed on Martian Surface
NASA's Curiosity rover mission has found evidence a stream once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. There is earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but this evidence -- images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels -- is the first of its kind. Scientists are studying the images of stones cemented into a layer of conglomerate rock. The sizes and shapes of stones offer clues to the speed and distance of a long-ago stream's flow. "From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep," said Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley. "Plenty of papers have been written about channels on Mars with many different hypotheses about the flows in them. This is the first time we're actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it."
Remnants of Ancient Streambed on Mars
NASA's Curiosity rover found evidence for an ancient, flowing stream on Mars at a few sites, including the rock outcrop pictured here, which the science team has named "Hottah" after Hottah Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories. It may look like a broken sidewalk, but this geological feature on Mars is actually exposed bedrock made up of smaller fragments cemented together, or what geologists call a sedimentary conglomerate. Scientists theorize that the bedrock was disrupted in the past, giving it the titled angle, most likely via impacts from meteorites. The key evidence for the ancient stream comes from the size and rounded shape of the gravel in and around the bedrock. Hottah has pieces of gravel embedded in it, called clasts, up to a couple inches (few centimeters) in size and located within a matrix of sand-sized material. Some of the clasts are round in shape, leading the science team to conclude they were transported by a vigorous flow of water. The grains are too large to have been moved by wind.

September 26, 2012

1909 V.D.B. Lincoln Cent on NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity CoinNews
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has taken the first photographs of a camera calibration target that actually includes a classic United States coin. Found in the target is a 1909 V.D.B. Lincoln cent. The century old coin and other calibration devices are used by Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager ( MAHLI) to test its performance. MAHLI is capable of focusing on objects as close as 2.1 centimeters up to infinity. The choice to include the Lincoln cent was the recommendation of MAHLI’s principal investigator, Ken Edgett. "The penny is on the MAHLI calibration target as a tip of the hat to geologists’ informal practice of placing a coin or other object of known scale in their photographs. A more formal practice is to use an object with scale marked in millimeters, centimeters or meters," Edgett said. "Of course, this penny can’t be moved around and placed in MAHLI images; it stays affixed to the rover."

September 25, 2012

NASA's Martian weather reports show extreme pressure swings University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Curiosity, the NASA rover that landed on Mars last month, is sending us remarkable weather observations from the Martian surface that are attracting interest from scientists. “From a weather point of view, Mars is the most ‘Earth-like’ of the other planets in our solar system, and many features of the weather there are similar to Earth,” says Kevin Hamilton, a pioneer in the area of computer modeling of the Martian atmosphere. Hamilton, who is Director of UH Manoa’s International Pacific Research Center and a Professor of Meteorology, noted that Curiosity is the fifth ‘Weather Station’ on Mars. Over the last 35 years, a total of four NASA probes had reached the Martian surface and returned weather data. “These earlier observations had shown a large daily cycle in temperature and air pressure on Mars. The atmospheric temperature near the surface of Mars generally varies by more than 100°F between day and night because of the overall thinner Martian atmosphere and lack of oceans and their moderating influence,” says Hamilton

September 24, 2012

Curiosity Finishes Close Inspection of Rock Target
NASA's rover Curiosity touched a Martian rock with its robotic arm for the first time on Sept. 22, assessing what chemical elements are in the rock called "Jake Matijevic." After a short drive the preceding day to get within arm's reach of the football-size rock, Curiosity put its Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument in contact with the rock during the rover's 46th Martian day, or sol. The APXS is on a turret at the end of the rover's 7-foot (2.1-meter) arm. The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), on the same turret, was used for close-up inspection of the rock. Both instruments were also used on Jake Matijevic on Sol 47 (Sept. 23). The Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument, which shoots laser pulses at a target from the top of Curiosity's mast, also assessed what chemical elements are in the rock Jake Matijevic. Using both APXS and ChemCam on this rock provides a cross calibration of the two instruments.

September 13, 2012

Mars Curiosity Descent - Ultra HD 30fps Smooth-Motion io9
Think you've seen the internet's best video of Curiosity descending to the surface of Mars? Think again. Featured above is likely the world's first "true motion-flow" version of Curiosity's touchdown, and it is nothing short of remarkable. Trust us — you need to see this.

August 31, 2012

Life on Mars time for JPL scientist and his family Los Angeles Times
David Oh's eldest son taped aluminum foil over his windows. His daughter painted a sign warning visitors away from the front door. His wife pulled the phone cord out of the wall and turned the couple's cellphones off. David's time on Earth had come to a temporary end — and he was taking his family with him. As soon as the rover Curiosity dropped onto the Martian surface on Aug. 5, David and hundreds of his fellow scientists and engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory switched from Earth time to Mars time.
Orbiter View of Curiosity From Nearly Straight Overhead
Details such as the shadow of the mast on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity appear in an image taken Aug. 17, 2012, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, from more directly overhead than previous HiRISE images of Curiosity. In this product, cutouts showing the rover and other hardware or ground markings from the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft are presented across the top of a larger, quarter-resolution overview keyed to the full-resolution cutouts. North is up. The scale bar is 200 meters (one-eighth of a mile).

August 29, 2012

NASA Curiosity Rover Begins Eastbound Trek on Martian Surface
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has set off from its landing vicinity on a trek to a science destination about a quarter mile (400 meters) away, where it may begin using its drill. The rover drove eastward about 52 feet (16 meters) on Tuesday, its 22nd Martian day after landing. This third drive was longer than Curiosity's first two drives combined. The previous drives tested the mobility system and positioned the rover to examine an area scoured by exhaust from one of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft engines that placed the rover on the ground. "This drive really begins our journey toward the first major driving destination, Glenelg, and it's nice to see some Martian soil on our wheels," said mission manager Arthur Amador of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The drive went beautifully, just as our rover planners designed it."

August 27, 2012

Will.I.Am's 'Reach For The Stars' To Debut On Mars Huffington Post
From the files of what will they think of next, singer-songwriter-producer will debut his next song on Mars. NASA announced the news itself via press release on Friday. The song, "Reach for the Stars," will beam down from the Mars Curiosity rover to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday, where the Black Eyed Peas singer will hold an event to promote science education. According to NASA, "Reach of the Stars" deals with's "passion for science, technology, and space exploration."'s connection with the Mars Curiosity rover goes back to last year, when the singer teamed with NASA for his program. During an appearance on Fox News last August, it was joked that would debut one of his songs on Mars to see if any intelligent life exists on the planet. "Reach for the Stars" will debut at 4 p.m. EST on Tuesday.

August 24, 2012

Why NASA Intentionally Put Large Holes In Curiosity's Wheels Business Insider
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover may be loaded with a bunch of highly-sophisticated instruments to help it scoop, drill, and snap awesome photographs, but it doesn't come with a built-in GPS. The only way to track Curiosity's whereabouts and how far it has traveled is by following the car-sized Martian explorer's wheel marks. For this reason, engineers put holes in Curiosity's treads so that every time the wheels turn, they leave a unique imprint on Mars. Orbiters photograph the print and scientists can determine how far the rover has moved.

August 22, 2012

Mars rover: NASA's Curiosity robot takes first drive
The Mars robot, which landed on the Red Planet two weeks ago, turned its six wheels briefly on Wednesday to satisfy engineers that its locomotion system was in full working order. Curiosity is a sophisticated mobile science laboratory. It has been built to drive at least 20km across the Martian landscape to investigate whether the planet ever had the conditions necessary for life. Wednesday's drive saw the rover roll forward 4.5m, turn clockwise on the spot, and then reverse up 2.5m. It took about five minutes to complete the manoeuvre. It is now pointing south in the general direction of Mount Sharp, the big mountain at the centre of Mars' equatorial Gale Crater.

August 20, 2012

MSL - Full Duration MARDI Video of final Descent Spaceflight101
This video shows the final descent of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Descent Vehicle from Heat Shield Jettison through Touchdown as captured by the Mars Descent Imager that was provided by Malin Space Science Systems.
The Best Photos of Mars Since Curiosity’s Landing Slate
It’s now been over a week since NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity landed on Mars, after successfully surviving the notorious final “seven minutes of terror.” Curiosity has been busy at work since, taking measurements, sending back data, and capturing all kinds of images on its various cameras. In case you haven’t been carefully paying attention as the photos make their way to Earth bit by bit, these are the most interesting images among the hundreds that have emerged so far.

August 19, 2012

Rover's Laser Instrument Zaps First Martian Rock
Today, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity fired its laser for the first time on Mars, using the beam from a science instrument to interrogate a fist-size rock called "Coronation." The mission's Chemistry and Camera instrument, or ChemCam, hit the fist-sized rock with 30 pulses of its laser during a 10-second period. Each pulse delivers more than a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second. The energy from the laser excites atoms in the rock into an ionized, glowing plasma. ChemCam catches the light from that spark with a telescope and analyzes it with three spectrometers for information about what elements are in the target. "We got a great spectrum of Coronation -- lots of signal," said ChemCam Principal Investigator Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M. "Our team is both thrilled and working hard, looking at the results. After eight years building the instrument, it's payoff time!"

August 16, 2012

Mars rover fans make viral video: ‘I’m NASA and I know it’ New York Daily News
It's sexy to be a scientist. A new viral video set to the tune of LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” is making the rounds, paying a hilarious tribute to NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity team in the wake of the country’s obsession with its landing on Aug. 5. The spoof video shows a group of “NASA” members hard at work on landing the Mars rover, touting their space skills in rap form.

August 15, 2012

ESA spacecraft records crucial NASA signals from Mars
ESA’s Mars Express acquired signals from NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory as it delivered the car-sized Curiosity rover onto the Red planet’s surface. ESA’s New Norcia tracking station also picked up signals directly from the NASA mission, 248 million km away at Mars. A key step was completed today in ESA's ongoing support to NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission. Signals recorded by Mars Express during MSL’s entry and descent were successfully received at ESOC, ESA's European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany. The open-loop recording of radio Doppler and signal spectrum transmitted by the NASA mission were stored on Mars Express and then downloaded to Earth.
Mars Rover's 'Voice' Captured During Nail-Biting Landing
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity may seem like the strong, silent type, but the 1-ton robot was making a lot of noise during its harrowing Red Planet touchdown on Aug. 5. Curiosity phoned home throughout its daring and unprecedented landing sequence that night, giving its nervous handlers step-by-step status and health updates. The European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter recorded some of this chatter, and now we can hear what Curiosity had to say. Sort of. ESA scientists have processed Curiosity's radio signals, shifting them to frequencies the human ear can hear.

August 14, 2012

Curiosity rover: Martian solar day 2 360Cities

Curiosity rover: Martian solar day 2 in New Mexico
Be The Mars Curiosity Rover With New 360 Interactive Panoramas Talking Points Memo
NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover has spent one week on the Red Planet and already sent back some incredible views of its immediate surroundings. But now things are about to get even more interesting: The rover is concluding a massive software update that will allow it to begin driving around and sampling Martian soil and geology, officially embarking on its two-year scientific exploration mission to determine whether Mars ever had conditions capable of supporting life. Plus, it’s now possible for ordinary Web users to look around the rover’s landing site from its point of view — a full 360 degrees — thanks to several recently published interactive panoramas made up of still images captured by Curiosity.
Mars Curiosity: Meet the women behind the Twitter feed @MarsCuriosity KABC
Hundreds of thousands of people have been following Curiosity's "comments," tweeted by the Mars rover -- with some help from its human friends. Meet the team at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who specialize in out-of-this-world tweets. With such an important mission for Curiosity, when is there time to break from roving Mars to catch up with the latest tweets? The truth is, Curiosity has some help -- a lot of help.

August 12, 2012

NASA Curiosity Mars Rover Installing Smarts for Driving
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity will spend its first weekend on Mars transitioning to software better suited for tasks ahead, such as driving and using its strong robotic arm. The rover's "brain transplant," which will occur during a series of steps Aug. 10 through Aug. 13, will install a new version of software on both of the rover's redundant main computers. This software for Mars surface operations was uploaded to the rover's memory during the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft's flight from Earth. "We designed the mission from the start to be able to upgrade the software as needed for different phases of the mission," said Ben Cichy of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., chief software engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory mission. "The flight software version Curiosity currently is using was really focused on landing the vehicle. It includes many capabilities we just don't need any more. It gives us basic capabilities for operating the rover on the surface, but we have planned all along to switch over after landing to a version of flight software that is really optimized for surface operations."
NASA's "Seven Minutes of Terror" Recut Ustream

Video streaming by Ustream

August 9, 2012

How NASA Invented Curiosity’s Insanely Great Landing System Gizmodo
Adam Steltzner spent nine years working to turn seven minutes of terror into NASA's finest hour since the landing of Apollo 11 on the Sea of Tranquility. His is a fascinating insider's view of one of the most amazing space exploration feats in the history of humankind. And here he tells you how, when, and why it all happened—a story of invention, camaraderie, and courage that ended in triumph when most expected them to fail.

August 8, 2012

Crazy Smart: When A Rocker Designs A Mars Lander NPR
It's called the seven minutes of terror. In just seven minutes, NASA's latest mission to Mars, a new six-wheeled rover called Curiosity, must go from 13,000 mph as it enters the Martian atmosphere to a dead stop on the surface. During those seven minutes, the rover is on its own. Earth is too far away for radio signals to make it to Mars in time for ground controllers to do anything. Everything in the system known as EDL — for Entry, Descent and Landing — must work perfectly. So you won't be surprised to learn that this is a rather nerve-wracking time for Adam Steltzner, the EDL team leader. "The product of nine years of my life will be put to the test Sunday evening," Steltzner told me when I visited him at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in late July. "And so that is personally anxiety provoking." I don't know about you, but I tend to think of engineers as serious buttoned-down types. Steltzner is anything but. He has pierced ears, wears snakeskin boots and sports an Elvis haircut. He's quick to laugh and curious about everything. Steltzner's laid-back style makes team meetings a jolly affair. I stopped by one of those meetings during my visit. The jollity was still there, but it was clear that the prelanding tension was rising.

August 6, 2012

Curiosity's Descent
The Curiosity Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) captured the rover's descent to the surface of the Red Planet. The instrument shot 4 fps video from heatshield separation to the ground.
Statement by the President on Curiosity Landing on Mars The White House
Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history. The successful landing of Curiosity – the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet – marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future. It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination. Tonight’s success, delivered by NASA, parallels our major steps forward towards a vision for a new partnership with American companies to send American astronauts into space on American spacecraft. That partnership will save taxpayer dollars while allowing NASA to do what it has always done best – push the very boundaries of human knowledge. And tonight’s success reminds us that our preeminence – not just in space, but here on Earth – depends on continuing to invest wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research that has always made our economy the envy of the world. I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality – and I eagerly await what Curiosity has yet to discover.
NASA Lands Car-Size Rover Beside Martian Mountain
NASA's most advanced Mars rover Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet. The one-ton rover, hanging by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down onto Mars Sunday to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft that carried Curiosity succeeded in every step of the most complex landing ever attempted on Mars, including the final severing of the bridle cords and flyaway maneuver of the rocket backpack. "Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars -- or if the planet can sustain life in the future," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030's, and today's landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal."

August 3, 2012

The following is the essay written by Clara Ma, winner of the Mars Science Laboratory naming contest. Twelve-year-old Ma submitted the winning entry, "Curiosity."
Mars landing: It could be crazier
An hour before the Mars rover Curiosity is scheduled to make its dramatic touchdown on the surface of our neighboring planet, there must be peanuts. David Oh, lead flight director for the mission, explains that it has been a tradition for decades to open up cans of peanuts and pass them around to the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory responsible for overseeing the landing of the rover. Curiosity is scheduled to land at 1:31 a.m. ET Monday. “It’s always been a lucky charm for us, and missions have always seemed to work out better when we had the peanuts there,” Oh said. “For landing this, I’ll take all the great engineering we have, and all the luck you can give us, too.” Given how complicated and intricate this landing will be, it’s no surprise that scientists are taking extra precautions, even superstitious ones.

August 1, 2012

Mars Curiosity Landing Parties Pillow Astronaut
Here it is the third draft map of the Mars Curiosity Landing Parties in the United States, Canada, England and Australia! Please let me know of any others, and I will update the map daily as we countdown to the MSL touchdown on Mars, scheduled for August 5th. Many planetariums, science museums, independent astronomy groups and the Planetary Society are holding special events to watch and celebrate this risky new landing sequence... one thing is for sure, we will all either cry together or cheer together!
Yuri’s Night, Explore Mars To Collaborate on Mars Science Laboratory Landing Celebrations Yuri's Night
Yuri’s Night and Explore Mars are teaming up to celebrate the upcoming landing of the Mars Science Laboratory, the largest and most advanced rover to explore the Red Planet. Yuri’s Night will be providing registration services and logistical support for celebrations and events to be held around the world on August 5, the projected landing date for the MSL. “We’re excited to help Explore Mars celebrate this space milestone,” said Yuri’s Night Executive Director Ryan Kobrick. “Yuri’s Night, the World Space Party, is uniquely suited to help organize and promote space-based celebrations of all shapes and sizes, and we look forward to the successful landing of the Mars Science Laboratory in August!”
Rover Curiosity aims to unlock the biggest mysteries of Mars
Mars, our next-door neighbor in the solar system, hasn't given up many of its secrets yet. But when NASA's newest Mars rover, Curiosity, lands on the Red Planet next week, scientists hope to unlock a few more. The centerpiece of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, the Curiosity rover comes packed with a slew of instruments to study not only today's Martian surface, but also the surface of the past.

July 31, 2012

MarsFest 2012: Mars Science Laboratory Landing Party The Museum of Flight (Seattle, WA)
Admission is Free! NASA's latest Mars rover, the Mars Science Laboratory named Curiosity, is scheduled to land on Mars at approximately 10:30 p.m. PDT on the evening of Aug. 5 Earth time. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum, MarsFest 2012, is a free landing party that allows the public to share the experience of NASA's most ambitious Mars mission with some of the people who helped make it happen. The evening will include Mars-related family activities and games, Mars exploration and spaceflight engineer speakers, and a live link-up with The Planetary Society's Planetfest 2012 in Pasadena, Calif., starring Bill Nye. Topping the evening is big-screen, live NASA TV coverage of the spacecraft's final approach to the surface of the planet, when it undergoes such complicated, must-make-it maneuvers that NASA spaceflight controllers have dubbed the descent as "the seven minutes of terror." MarsFest 2012 will end at about 11:30 p.m., depending upon the NASA broadcast's updates.

July 16, 2012

NASA Previews Mars Landing
Monday, July 16 at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT) NASA will hold a news conference to discuss the upcoming August landing of the most advanced robot ever sent to another world. A new public-engagement collaboration based on the mission also will be debuted. The event will be held at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Mars Science Laboratory will deliver the Curiosity rover to the surface of Mars at approximately 10:31 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5 (1:31 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6). Curiosity, carrying laboratory instruments to analyze samples of rocks, soil and atmosphere, will investigate whether Mars has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.
Live video from your Android device on Ustream
NASA 3-D App Gives Public Ability To Experience Robotic Space Travel
A NASA-created application that brings some of the agency's robotic spacecraft to life in 3-D now is available for free on the iPhone and iPad. Called Spacecraft 3D, the app uses animation to show how spacecraft can maneuver and manipulate their outside components. Presently, the new app features two NASA missions, the Curiosity rover that will touch down on Mars on Aug. 5 at 10:31 p.m. PDT (Aug. 6 at 1:31 a.m. EDT), and the twin GRAIL spacecraft, Ebb and Flow, currently orbiting the moon. "With Spacecraft 3D and a mobile device, you can put high definition, three-dimensional models literally into the hands of kids of all ages," said Stephen Kulczycki, deputy director for communications and education at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

June 11, 2012

NASA Mars Rover Team Aims for Landing Closer to Prime Science Site
NASA has narrowed the target for its most advanced Mars rover, Curiosity, which will land on the Red Planet in August. The car-sized rover will arrive closer to its ultimate destination for science operations, but also closer to the foot of a mountain slope that poses a landing hazard. "We're trimming the distance we'll have to drive after landing by almost half," said Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "That could get us to the mountain months earlier." It was possible to adjust landing plans because of increased confidence in precision landing technology aboard the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, which is carrying the Curiosity rover. That spacecraft can aim closer without hitting Mount Sharp at the center of Gale crater. Rock layers located in the mountain are the prime location for research with the rover. Curiosity is scheduled to land at approximately 10:31 p.m. PDT Aug. 5 (1:31 a.m. EDT, Aug. 6).

May 25, 2012

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Will Explore Mars—Like a Boss Gizmodo
NASA may not be sending up manned shuttles anymore, but that doesn't mean we're done exploring the solar system—not by a long shot. On August 5th, the space agency's new flagship rover is expected to land on Mars as part of an unprecedented search for traces of life on the Red Planet. You can ascertain the rover's importance simply by its size. This thing is huge compared to NASA's previous explorers, Spirit and Opportunity. Curiosity measures 10 feet long, 9 feet wide, and seven feet tall—taller than the average NBA Center—weighing a hefty 2000 pounds. NASA's previous pair weighed just 408 pounds apiece. Tack on the added reach of Curiosity's seven-foot long manipulation arm and the rover has roughly a two-story vertical reach. Not that there are many two-story-tall objects around the rover's planned landing site but a good ability to have, nonetheless.

February 18, 2012

NASA fixes computer glitch on robot traveling to Mars Computerworld
NASA engineers updated the software for a robotic Mars rover, correcting a computer glitch more than two months old while the robot hurtled through space on its way to Mars. Late in November, NASA launched its $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory. Dubbed Curiosity, the SUV-size super rover is on an eight-month journey to Mars with a mission to help scientists learn whether life can exist, or has ever existed, on the Red Planet. However, a problem caused a computer reset on the rover Nov. 29, three days after the launch, NASA reported last week. The problem was due to a cache access error in the memory management unit of the rover's computer processor, a RAD750 from BAE Systems.

January 27, 2012

Mars-Bound Instrument Detects Solar Burst's Effects
The largest solar particle event since 2005 has been detected by the radiation- monitoring instrument aboard the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, on its way from Earth to Mars. The Radiation Assessment Detector, inside the mission's Curiosity rover tucked inside the spacecraft, is measuring the radiation exposure that could affect a human astronaut on a potential Mars mission. It has measured an increase resulting from a Jan. 22 solar storm observed by other NASA spacecraft. No harmful effects to the Mars Science Laboratory have been detected from this solar event.

January 12, 2012

Curiosity Tweaks Course to Mars

December 9, 2011

Mars Orbiters Will Attempt to Take Pictures of the Curiosity Rover as It Lands Universe Today
Remember this amazing image from 2008? The HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured the Phoenix lander descending on a parachute to land on Mars’ north polar region. MRO will attempt a repeat performance in August of 2012 when the Mars Science Laboratory rover “Curiosity” will be landing in Gale Crater on Mars. Capturing this event would be epic, especially with MSL’s unique “skycrane” landing system. “Yes, MRO is planning to image the descent of MSL with both HiRISE and CTX (Context Camera),” Alfred McEwen, HiRISE principal investigator told Universe Today. “For Phoenix we got a bit lucky with HiRISE in terms of the geometry, giving us a high probability of success. It may not work out so well for MSL. What I’d really like is to capture the rover hanging from the skycrane, but the timing may be difficult.”

December 2, 2011

Mars Science Laboratory on its way to Mars Duncan Waldron

November 30, 2011

NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity Had Planetary Protection Slip-Up
All NASA spacecraft sent to other planets must undergo meticulous procedures to make sure they don't carry biological contamination from Earth to their destinations. However, a step in these planetary protection measures wasn't adhered to for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity, now en route to the Red Planet, has learned. The incident has become a lessons-learned example of miscommunication in assuring that planetary protection procedures are strictly adhered to.

November 28, 2011

The Curiosity rover's 'long cruise to Mars': By the numbers THE WEEK
NASA's Curiosity rover — a car-sized robot mounted on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket — successfully blasted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday morning at 10:02 a.m. Its task: To determine if microbial alien life could, or ever did, exist on the Red Planet. Here's a look at Curiosity's ambitious and costly "long cruise to Mars," by the numbers:

November 26, 2011

MSL Lifts Off
Atlas V roars off the launch pad sending NASA's next Mars rover toward the Red Planet.

November 25, 2011

Mobile science laboratory heading for Mars on Saturday CBS / SpaceFlight Now
NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory rover, the most complex and scientifically powerful robotic spacecraft ever built to explore the surface of another world, is poised for launch Saturday on a high-stakes mission to look for organic compounds and signs of past or present habitability.

November 24, 2011

From Redmond to the Red Planet: Local rockets steering NASA's Mars rover The Seattle Times
Redmond rocket scientist Jon Schierberl's work has landed on Mars six times before. Yet he's still excited enough that he flew to Florida with his extended family very early Thanksgiving morning to witness the planned Saturday launch of a new robotic rover headed for Mars. Small rocket engines designed, built and tested by his team at Aerojet in Redmond will steer the delivery spacecraft on its journey and guide the rover to its touchdown on the planet's surface. "I've built rockets that have gone to every planet in the solar system, and that includes Pluto," said Schierberl, the company's program manager for small rocket engines. With the help of an array of 36 of Schierberl's rocket engines, the new robotic rover — NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, dubbed Curiosity — should reach Mars in about 8 ½ months.

November 22, 2011

Launch Team Preparing MSL for Saturday Liftoff
It's launch week for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), scheduled for liftoff Nov. 26 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The one hour and 43 minute launch window opens at 10:02 a.m. EST. The MSL spacecraft, including the rover Curiosity, is sealed within the protective payload fairing atop the rocket, which is inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. On Wednesday, officials will gather for the Launch Readiness Review, followed by a prelaunch news conference at 1 p.m. EST.

November 14, 2011

Mission to Mars: NASA gears up to send robotic laboratory and laser-armed rover to red planet The Daily Mail
Nasa’s most advanced mobile robotic laboratory, which will examine one of the most intriguing areas on Mars, is in final preparations for a launch from Florida's Space Coast on November 25. The Mars Science Laboratory mission will carry Curiosity, a rover with more scientific capability than any ever sent to another planet. It will set down inside a huge crater and use its highly advanced instruments, including cameras and lasers, to find out more about the planet’s environment, which will help pave the way for human missions. Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at Nasa Headquarters in Washington, said: ‘Mars Science Laboratory builds upon the improved understanding about Mars gained from current and recent missions. ‘This mission advances technologies and science that will move us toward missions to return samples from, and eventually send humans to, Mars.’

November 10, 2011

NASA’s Next Mission to Mars
News conference participants are: -- Doug McCuistion, director, Mars Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington -- Ashwin Vasavada, Mars Science Laboratory deputy project scientist, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. -- Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory project manager, JPL

November 3, 2011

New Mars Rover Prepared For Thanksgiving Launch
The Mars Science Laboratory, a sophisticated rover designed to assess conditions for life on Mars, was moved to its Cape Canaveral, Fla., launch pad on Thursday and hoisted atop an Atlas 5 rocket in preparation for liftoff Thanksgiving weekend. The $2.5 billion spacecraft, nicknamed Curiosity, is expected to arrive at the Red Planet in August 2012. Its landing site is Gale Crater, a large impact crater with a 3-mile high mountain rising from its floor.

October 28, 2011

Mars rover headed to launch pad next week The Flame Trench
NASA's flagship Mars rover was encased in a protective aerodynamic shell this week in preparation for its move to the launch pad next week. The Mars Science Laboratory, nicknamed Curiosity, is targeted to blast off at 10:25 a.m. Nov. 25 -- the day after Thanksgiving -- from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop an Atlas V rocket. The compact car-sized rover, the biggest yet bound for the Red Planet, is scheduled to be hoisted on a transporter Tuesday and rolled from Kennedy Space Center's Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility to Launch Complex 41 overnight Wednesday.

October 20, 2011

Mars Rover Power
Mars Rover Carries Device for Underground Scouting
An instrument on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity can check for any water that might be bound into shallow underground minerals along the rover's path. "If we conclude that there is something unusual in the subsurface at a particular spot, we could suggest more analysis of the spot using the capabilities of other instruments," said this instrument's principal investigator, Igor Mitrofanov of the Space Research Institute, Russia. The Mars Science Laboratory mission will use 10 instruments on Curiosity to investigate whether the area selected for the mission has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for life and favorable for preserving evidence about life. "The strength of Mars Science Laboratory is the combination of all the instruments together," Mitrofanov added.

October 10, 2011

Assembling Curiosity’s Rocket to Mars Universe Today
Assembly of the powerful Atlas V booster that will rocket NASA’s Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory rover to Mars is nearly complete. The Atlas V is taking shape inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The rocket is built by United Launch Alliance under contract to NASA as part of NASA’s Launch Services Program to loft science satellites on expendable rockets. Blastoff of Curiosity remains on schedule for Nov. 25, 2011, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. The launch window for a favorable orbital alignment to Mars remains open until Dec. 18 after which the mission would face a 26 month delay at a cost likely to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Curiosity is set to touchdown on Mars at Gale Crater between August 6 & August 20, 2012. The compact car sized rover is equipped with 10 science instruments that will search for signs of habitats that could potentially support martian microbial life, past or present if it ever existed.

October 6, 2011

ScienceCast: The Strange Attraction of Gale Crater Science@

October 5, 2011

Huge Mars Crater an 'Intriguing' Target for Next NASA Rover
A giant crater on Mars destined to be the stomping ground for NASA's next rover could provide a treasure trove of intriguing science finds, researchers say. NASA's car-size, $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, also known as Curiosity, is slated to blast off in late November and arrive at the Red Planet in August 2012. It'll touch down near the foot of a 3-mile (5-kilometer) high mountain in a massive crater called Gale. Curiosity's traverses around Gale Crater and its central mountain should reveal a great deal about Martian history and the planet's past potential to host life, scientists say.

September 18, 2011

NASA Preps Mars "Curiosity" Rover For The Launchpad Neon Tommy
NASA plans to send a new rover, Curiosity, on an expedition to Mars in hopes of finding evidence of the possibility of microbial life, NASA officials said at the Jet Propulsion Lab on Thursday. Curiosity, or the Mars Science Laboratory, is targeted for a Nov. 25-Dec. 11 launch period, after overcoming obstacles that conflicted with its original target launch date of 2009. The mission’s main purpose is to explore a landing site as a potential habitat for life and assess its potential for the preservation of biosignatures (substances that provide evidence of life), NASA said.

August 15, 2011

NASA completes testing of sophisticated Mars rover Spaceflight Now
Engineers finished up functional testing of the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory last week, verifying the Curiosity rover can make it to Mars and pursue scientific clues that the planet may have once harbored life.

July 24, 2011

NASA to explore massive Mars mountain
NASA's unmanned Curiosity rover will explore one of the tallest, climbable mountains in the Solar System to discover if signs of life ever existed on the red planet. The landing site for the US$2.5 billion dollar Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) was unveiled the day after the 30-year shuttle era ended with the return to Earth of Atlantis after its final mission to the International Space Station.

July 22, 2011

NASA's Next Mars Rover to Land at Huge Gale Crater
It's official: NASA's next Mars rover has a landing site and it's a giant crater called Gale. NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission is slated to launch in late November, and will drop a car-size rover named Curiosity at the Gale crater.
Gale Crater FAQ: Mars Landing Spot for Next Rover Explained
NASA has just selected Gale Crater as the landing spot for its next Mars rover, Curiosity, which will launch late this year and arrive at the Red Planet in August 2012. Here's what you need to know about Gale Crater.

July 18, 2011

NASA to Announce Landing Site for New Mars Rover Smithsonian Media Advisory
NASA and the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum will host a news conference at 10 a.m. EDT, Friday, July 22 to announce the selected landing site for the agency's latest Mars rover. NASA Television and the agency's website will provide live coverage of the event that will be held at the museum's Moving Beyond Earth Gallery.

July 7, 2011

Mars landing site narrowed down to two candidates
NASA is deciding between two places on Mars to send its next rover. The space agency said that the project team and outside scientists have narrowed the options and that a final decision on the destination for the nuclear-powered rover nicknamed Curiosity will likely be made by the end of the month. The rover will touch down either in Gale Crater near the Martian equator or the Eberswalde crater in the planet's southern hemisphere.

June 29, 2011

Mars missions encounter hitch
US and European efforts to send joint missions to Mars have encountered yet another hitch. A letter from Washington formally committing to combined ventures at the planet this decade was expected in Paris this week, but has not arrived. It makes it harder for Europe to authorise its industry to start the next phase of building on an orbiter to hunt for Methane in Mars' atmosphere.

June 19, 2011

Florida residents send names to Mars The New York Times
More than 34,000 Floridians will go to Mars this year, attached to the back of a wheeled rover. Well, sort of. As part of an ongoing NASA initiative, the space organization invited people to submit their names online to be included on a dime-sized microchip to land on the red planet later this year.

June 18, 2011

Huge Heat Shield Has Huge Task: Protecting NASA's Next Mars Rover
When NASA's newest Mars rover dives into the Martian atmosphere next year, it will be cocooned in the largest "beat the heat" system ever sent to the Red Planet. To ensure that the nuclear-powered rover — called the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), or "Curiosity" for short — survives its fiery entry and reaches a pinpointed landing spot, it will have a huge heat shield and back shell that together form a protective aeroshell. The heat shield is outfitted with something called the Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent and Landing Instrument (MEDLI) — a set of sensors that will record atmospheric conditions and gauge how well the heat shield thwarts the brutal welcoming that Curiosity will receive high above the red Martian dirt.

June 17, 2011

Curiosity: NASA’s Next Mars Rover Wired News
Curiosity is the rover that will house NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), due to launch on November 25, 2011, and land on Mars on August 6, 2012. The rover and its mobile lab will perform a wide range of remote sensing tasks, including (hopefully? finally?) answering the question of whether Mars is or was capable of supporting microbial life.

April 14, 2011

New Mars Rover to Land Using Rocket Crane [VIDEO] Mashable
By the end of this year, a bigger and smarter rover will be on its way to Mars. Called Curiosity, NASA‘s six-wheel-drive, 9-foot-long robotic research vehicle will be delivered to the planet’s surface using the most unusual method yet, which you can see in the video above. Unlike its predecessors that landed on Mars inside huge balloons that bounced along the surface until they came to a halt, the heavier Curiosity will be suspended by a tether from a crane-like rocket platform that gently lowers the robot to the surface. Then that platform will fly away and crash elsewhere into the surface of the Red Planet while Curiosity gets its 687-Earth-day (1 Mars year) mission underway.

March 26, 2011

Work Stopped on Alternative Cameras for Mars Rover
The NASA rover to be launched to Mars this year will carry the Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument already on the vehicle, providing the capability to meet the mission's science goals. Work has stopped on an alternative version of the instrument, with a pair of zoom-lens cameras, which would have provided additional capabilities for improved three-dimensional video. The installed Mastcam on the Mars Science Laboratory mission's Curiosity rover uses two fixed-focal-length cameras: a telephoto for one eye and wider angle for the other. Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built the Mastcam and was funded by NASA last year to see whether a zoom version could be developed in time for testing on Curiosity.

March 18, 2011

Next Mars Rover Gets a Test Taste of Mars Conditions
A space-simulation chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is temporary home this month for the Curiosity rover, which will land on Mars next year. Tests inside the 25-foot-diameter chamber (7.6-meters) are putting the rover through various sequences in environmental conditions resembling Martian surface conditions. After the chamber's large door was sealed last week, air was pumped out to near-vacuum pressure, liquid nitrogen in the walls dropped the temperature to minus 130 degrees Celsius (minus 202 degrees Fahrenheit), and a bank of powerful lamps simulated the intensity of sunshine on Mars.

December 30, 2010

11 things Americans will be doing in space in 2011 Mother Nature Network
From private spaceflights to NASA missions to the moon, Mars and beyond, the next year promises to be a busy one for Americans in space. Here's a preview of just some of the coming attractions for U.S. spaceflight in 2011.

November 12, 2010

How Much Radiation Will Mars Explorers Have to Endure? Astrobiology Magazine
About eight months before the NASA rover Curiosity touches down on Mars in August 2012, the mission's science measurements will begin much closer to Earth. The Mars Science Laboratory mission's Radiation Assessment Detector, or RAD, will monitor naturally occurring radiation that can be unhealthful if absorbed by living organisms. It will do so on the surface of Mars, where there has never before been such an instrument, as well as during the trip between Mars and Earth. RAD's measurements on Mars will help fulfill the mission's key goals of assessing whether Curiosity's landing region on Mars has had conditions favorable for life and for preserving evidence about life. This instrument also will do an additional job. Unlike any of the nine others in this robotic mission's science payload, RAD has a special task and funding from the part of NASA that is planning human exploration beyond Earth orbit. It will aid design of human missions by reducing uncertainty about how much shielding from radiation future astronauts will need. The measurements between Earth and Mars, as well as the measurements on Mars, will serve that purpose.

September 14, 2010

NASA's Next Mars Rover Rolls Over Ramps
The rover Curiosity, which NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission will place on Mars in August 2012, has been rolling over ramps in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to test its mobility system. Curiosity uses the same type of six-wheel, rocker-bogie suspension system as previous Mars rovers, for handling uneven terrain during drives. Its wheels are half a meter (20 inches) in diameter, twice the height of the wheels on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers currently on Mars. Launch of the Mars Science Laboratory is scheduled for 2011 during the period from Nov. 25 to Dec. 18. The mission is designed to operate Curiosity on Mars for a full Martian year, which equals about two Earth years. A public lecture by Mars Science Laboratory Chief Scientist John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, will take place at JPL on Thursday, Sept. 16, beginning at 7 p.m. PDT Time (10 p.m. EDT). Live video streaming, supplemented by a real-time web chat to take public questions, will air on Ustream at

August 20, 2010

How the Curiosity rover will land on Mars CNET
Slamming into the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph and enduring temperatures of up to 3,800 degrees Fahrenheit, a peak deceleration of up to 15 Gs, and the jerk of a supersonic braking parachute--that's just the opening act. For NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, the real fun will start 50 seconds before touchdown when the one-ton nuclear-powered rover falls free of its parachute for a nail-biting rocket-powered final descent to the surface. (For the main story in this package, see "On Mars, satisfaction awaits Curiosity.") Unlike past Mars missions, the Curiosity rover will not set down atop a legged lander or bounce to the surface surrounded by shock-absorbing airbags. Instead, it will be lowered to the ground and set on its wheels by a slowly descending "sky crane" designed to unreel the lander like a lure on a fishing line.

July 20, 2010

Video Camera Will Show Mars Rover's Touchdown
A downward-pointing camera on the front-left side of NASA's Curiosity rover will give adventure fans worldwide an unprecedented sense of riding a spacecraft to a landing on Mars. The Mars Descent Imager, or MARDI, will start recording high-resolution video about two minutes before landing in August 2012. Initial frames will glimpse the heat shield falling away from beneath the rover, revealing a swath of Martian terrain below illuminated in afternoon sunlight. The first scenes will cover ground several kilometers (a few miles) across. Successive images will close in and cover a smaller area each second. The full-color video will likely spin, then shake, as the Mars Science Laboratory mission's parachute, then its rocket-powered backpack, slow the rover's descent. The left-front wheel will pop into view when Curiosity extends its mobility and landing gear.
Test Image by Mars Descent Imager
The Mars Descent Imager for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory took this image inside the Malin Space Science Systems clean room in San Diego, Calif., during calibration testing of the camera in June 2008. It shows the instrument's deputy principal investigator, Ken Edgett, holding a six-foot metal ruler that was used as a depth-of-field test target. The camera is focused at 7 meters (23 feet) so that everything between about 2 meters (7 feet) and infinity is in focus. This image shows a slightly out-of-focus rock (a rounded cobble of Icelandic basalt with tiny crystals and vesicles) at a distance of about 70 centimeters (2.3 feet), equivalent to the distance the camera will be from the ground after the rover has landed.

July 12, 2010

Space agencies tackle waning plutonium stockpiles Spaceflight Now
While NASA is counting on an act of Congress or a renegotiated deal with Russia to acquire plutonium for its next robotic deep space missions, the European Space Agency is considering alternative nuclear fuels to power its own probes traveling into the sun-starved outer solar system. NASA's dwindling supply of plutonium-238 nuclear fuel will not be sufficient to power an orbiter to visit Jupiter's moon Europa, NASA's contribution to a planned $4.5 billion joint flagship mission between the U.S. space agency and Europe. That's unless the U.S. Department of Energy, which supplies nuclear fuel for NASA missions, receives funding to restart domestic production of plutonium or successfully resolves a contract dispute with the Russian government, said Jim Adams, the deputy director of NASA's planetary science division.
Nuclear-Challenged U.S. Turns to Europe to Meet NASA's Plutonium needs DailyTech
Europe, a leader in nuclear power, has announced that it intends to lend its American counterparts a hand by making Pu-238 for NASA. David Southwood, ESA's director of science and robotic exploration, in an interview with Spaceflight Now, states, "Our target is to have an independent capability, which may help our American friends." Since the Pioneer and Voyager missions of the 1970s, NASA has been using the radioactive plutonium-238 (or Pu-238) isotope to power its deep space missions. The radioactive source has a very long half-life of 87.7 years. Over that period it slowly decays, releasing a steady stream of thermal energy in the process. That thermal energy is harvested by radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) in the probes to make power. Unfortunately, NASA's plutonium stockpile has almost been exhausted, even as agency prepares its new Mars Space Laboratory which will require the isotope for power. There's really no alternative currently for NASA, as the operational range of many of its missions place it well outside the spatial volume where the sun's rays are strong enough to provide a decent level of solar power.

July 11, 2010

Future Mars Rover Gets New Set of Wheels
NASA's next Mars rover just got a new set of wheels and an innovative suspension system in preparation for its journey to the red planet. The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity, a robot car is scheduled to launch in 2011 and reach Mars soil in August 2012. Each of its six new wheels is about 20 inches (about half a meter) in diameter. The ambitious rover is designed to collect samples and conduct tests on rocks across the Martian surface in order to dissect the planet's geological history.

June 19, 2010

Next Mars Rover's Landing Site Narrowed to 4 Choices
The latest Mars robot may be dead, but NASA scientists have plenty to keep them busy as they scout out four potential stomping grounds for an ambitious new rover pegged to be the next red planet explorer. NASA declared the Phoenix Mars lander – its youngest Mars probe – officially dead in late May after photos taken of it from orbit revealed substantial damage from its environment in the Martian arctic. Those photos came from the same powerful orbiter that has been searching for the ultimate drop zone for NASA's new Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) which is currently set for a November 2011 launch. The new roving robot lab, known as Curiosity, is expected to determine whether Mars is or was ever habitable to microbial life. The rover's combination of technical improvements should make any potential landing sites more scientifically rich than anywhere Mars landers have gone before.

June 12, 2010

NASA Dryden Hosts Radar Tests for Next Mars Landing
Engineers with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are running diverse trials with a test version of the radar system that will enable NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission to put the Curiosity rover onto the Martian surface in August 2012. One set of tests conducted over a desert lakebed at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., in May 2010 used flights with a helicopter simulating specific descent paths anticipated for Martian sites. During the final stage of descent, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission will use a "sky crane" maneuver to lower Curiosity on a bridle from the mission's rocket-powered descent stage. The descent stage will carry Curiosity's flight radar.

May 28, 2010

Mars rover on the move, another yet to come cnet
The life of a Mars rover is probably bit like that of Wall-E at the start of the Pixar movie: a lot of lonely treks in dutiful fulfillment of a mission through the remains of a planet's earlier days. The rovers Spirit and Opportunity may not be Hollywood icons, but they have done NASA proud. And in just the last day or so, Opportunity hit yet another milestone--it now holds the record for the longest active service on the surface of Mars, surpassing the mark of six years, 116 days (in Earth time) set by the Viking 1 lander, which arrived on the Red Planet in the summer of 1976.

May 11, 2010

Planet Mars: Searching for Life Continues The Voice of Russia
Any proof that there’s life on Mars is still non-existent. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) agency of the U.S. government has made a statement to that effect in answer to the sensational article in the British tabloid newspaper “The Sun”, saying that the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have allegedly found a biological substance similar to a bog. It is really not very important whether purposefully or simply wrongly interpreting the NASA reports, the author of the publication in the daily tabloid newspaper “The Sun” deceived its readers. In any case, everybody, as before, is interested to know whether there is life on Mars. New arguments have appeared in the dispute over the presence of primitive life on Mars. Scientists have proved that there’re bacteria on the Earth, which can live under extreme conditions, similar to the conditions existing on Planet Mars. This provides us sufficient grounds to reconsider the results of the experiments, which denied the existence of life on Mars.

May 6, 2010

Mars rover 'Curiosity' model at Museum of Flight The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Imagine a focused laser beam that can evaporate rocks on a far-away planet. The stuff of science fiction, right? Well, not if you're a NASA scientist working on the newest martian rover being built at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. A full-scale model of the rover, about the size of a compact SUV, is on display at Seattle's Museum of Flight from May 4 until May 31, 2010.

April 29, 2010

James Cameron lobbies NASA to include 3-D "eyes" on the next-generation Mars rover Pasadena Star-News
If the next generation rover is able to take high-resolution color movies in 3-D on Mars, it will be thanks to the reigning king of 3-D cinema himself, "Avatar" director James Cameron. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory scaled back its plans in 2007 to mount such a camera atop the rover Curiosity, set to launch in 2011, after that next flagship mission to Mars came in consistently over budget and behind schedule. But Cameron lobbied hard for inclusion of a 3-D camera for the mission, taking his concerns directly to NASA administrator Charles Bolden in a one-on-one meeting in January. Cameron, whose film "Avatar" has brought in more money worldwide than the $2.3 billion Mars mission, convinced Bolden that a rover with a better set of eyes would help the public connect with the mission. "He actually was really open to the idea," Cameron said. "Our first meeting went very well." It went so well that Cameron convinced NASA to buy a 3-D camera for Curiosity. It will sit on top of the rover's mast - even though a mast camera, without 3-D capabilities, had already been built and was delivered to JPL this month.

March 23, 2010

Bad Religion Heading to Mars Exclaim!
While Bad Religion aren’t technically heading to outer space, the names of the band members, as well as the name of their record label, Epitaph Records, are going to Mars. Apparently, NASA astronaut Jerry Stoces is a big fan of the band, and according to the Epitaph blog, he listened to the group while training for his mission into space, going down next year on the Lynx spacecraft. Stoces also happens to be working on the next Mars Exploration Rover Mission and had the opportunity to add some names to a microchip that will be carried by the Curiosity rover, which goes to Mars next year. Naturally, he picked the dudes in Bad Religion and Epitaph Records as choices for Martians to understand English proper nouns.

March 8, 2010

This is your chance to go to Mars!
Fill in your information and your name will be included with others on a microchip on the Mars Science Laboratory rover heading to Mars in 2011!

February 19, 2010

Curiosity: NASA's Epic New Mars Rover Jalopnik
Mars rovers "Spirit" and "Opportunity" were successful beyond NASA's wildest dreams. Now they're building a new, nuclear-powered Mini Cooper-sized rover to be lowered onto Mars by a hovering drop ship in 2013. Meet "Curiosity," the new Mars Science Laboratory.

February 17, 2010

NASA rides 'bucking bronco' to Mars
It weighs almost a tonne, has cost more than $2bn and, in 2013, it will be lowered on to the surface of Mars with a landing system that has never been tried before. The Mars Science Laboratory will "revolutionise investigations in science on other planets", says Doug McCuistion, director of Nasa's Mars exploration programme. It will, he says, lay the foundations for future missions that will eventually bring pieces of the Red Planet back home to Earth. "The ability to put a metric tonne on the surface... gives us the capability to undertake sample collection," says Dr McCuistion. "To collect and launch samples back into orbit will require that size of a vehicle."
New Lasers Fight Crime, Martians
new technique that uses a laser to vaporize materials like rocks and steel to analyze their chemical composition is finding new applications from Mars to forensics. Thanks to its relatively small size and low cost, laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy is emerging from the laboratory and turning into a precise tool for figuring out what something is made of. What had been a technique largely for scientists now can be transformed into a tough, small system that can be operated by a technician instead of a PhD. “The same things that make it amenable to go to Mars also make it amenable to go out in the field,” said Jose Almirall, a chemist at Florida International University who has a grant from the Department of Justice to explore how crime labs can use the technology. NASA will be deploying a LIBS system called the “ChemCam” on its new Mars rover, now named Curiosity and scheduled to launch next year.

October 31, 2009

A Mars Rover Named "Curiosity" Science@
If you found your grandmother's diary, tattered and dust covered, up in the attic, would you read it? Of course you would. Granny was a pistol! Brush off the dust, open up the little book, and foray into her lively and interesting past. Dust cloaks some fascinating tales in other places, too. NASA scientists will soon brush the dust off some Martian rocks that are practically bursting their seams to give their lively account of the red planet's past. The Mars Science Lab -- aptly named "Curiosity" -- is heading up there in 2011 to read the diary of Mars. The small, car-sized rover will ramble about on the rocky surface, gizmos at full tilt, not only brushing dust off rocks but also vaporizing them with a laser beam, gathering samples to analyze on the spot, taking high resolution photographs, and more.

October 2, 2009

Plutonium Shortage Could Stall Space Exploration NPR
NASA is running out of the special kind of plutonium needed to power deep space probes, worrying planetary scientists who say the U. S. urgently needs to restart production of plutonium-238. But it's unclear whether Congress will provide the $30 million that the administration requested earlier this year for the Department of Energy to get a new program going. Nuclear weapons use plutonium-239, but NASA depends on something quite different: plutonium-238. A marshmallow-sized pellet of plutonium-238, encased in metal, gives off a lot of heat. "If you dim the lights a little bit, it glows a little red, because it's very hot," says Stephen Johnson, director of space nuclear systems and technologies at the Idaho National Laboratory. All that heat can be converted into electricity. "And this electricity is very, very useful, when you're in a remote or a hostile environment," says Johnson, "such as when you're in space and when you're too far away from sun to use solar power."

July 22, 2009

Send Your Name to Mars
Fill in your information below and your name will be included with others on a microchip on the Mars Science Laboratory rover heading to Mars in 2011!

April 16, 2009

Mars Science Laboratory Parachute Qualification Testing
The parachute for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory passed flight-qualification testing in March and April 2009 inside the world's largest wind tunnel, at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. In this image, an engineer is dwarfed by the parachute, the largest ever built to fly on an extraterrestrial flight. It is designed to survive deployment at Mach 2.2 in the Martian atmosphere, where it will generate up to 65,000 pounds of drag force. The parachute, built by Pioneer Aerospace, South Windsor, Conn., has 80 suspension lines, measures more than 50 meters (165 feet) in length, and opens to a diameter of nearly 16 meters (51 feet).

February 11, 2009

Mars Mission Has Some Seeing Red The Washington Post
In a "clean room" in Building 150 of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is something that looks very much like a flying saucer. It's a capsule containing a huge, brawny Mars rover, a Hummer compared with the Mini Coopers that have previously rolled across the Red Planet. This is the Mars Science Laboratory, the space agency's next big mission to the most Earth-like planet in the solar system. But it's been a magnet for controversy, and a reminder that the robotic exploration of other worlds is never a snap, especially when engineers decide to get ambitious.

January 29, 2009

Mars strategy shift eyed as methane boosts odds for life Spaceflight Now
The Mars Science Laboratory rover may be retargeted to land near a methane vent on Mars to specifically seek direct evidence of current Martian life. This new consideration of MSL landing sites comes in the wake of compelling new data that large pockets of methane found in the Martian atmosphere could have been exhaled or vented from abundant microorganisms living underground on Mars. The MSL rover's launch was recently delayed from 2009 to 2011 because of technical delays, but the slip could enable a new landing site selection related to the methane findings, says Michael Meyer, the lead Mars program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington.

December 5, 2008

Next NASA Mars Mission Rescheduled for 2011
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory will launch two years later than previously planned, in the fall of 2011. The mission will send a next-generation rover with unprecedented research tools to study the early environmental history of Mars. A launch date of October 2009 no longer is feasible because of testing and hardware challenges that must be addressed to ensure mission success. The window for a 2009 launch ends in late October. The relative positions of Earth and Mars are favorable for flights to Mars only a few weeks every two years. The next launch opportunity after 2009 is in 2011. "We will not lessen our standards for testing the mission's complex flight systems, so we are choosing the more responsible option of changing the launch date," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Up to this point, efforts have focused on launching next year, both to begin the exciting science and because the delay will increase taxpayers' investment in the mission. However, we've reached the point where we can not condense the schedule further without compromising vital testing."

December 4, 2008

Mars Science Laboratory Delayed to 2011
The Mars Science Laboratory mission, a jumbo rover originally slated to launch for the red planet next year, has been delayed until 2011, NASA announced today. "We will not be ready to launch by the hoped-for date next year," said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin at a briefing. A major review of the mission conducted earlier this year had concluded that MSL "had a solid chance of making the 2009 launch" if the launch window was extended into October 2009, which was done, and an additional $200 million was added to the project, said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. But new technical issues that came up since that review as well as missed delivery schedules have prompted NASA officials to further delay the mission to avoid a "mad dash to launch," Weiler said. "Failure on this mission is not an option, the science is too important," he added.

November 15, 2008

Divining Rod Designed for Mars
Detecting water underground does not require a magical stick. Neutrons reflecting out of the soil can indicate the presence of water or ice. A novel instrument that can detect those neutrons is planned for NASA's next rover mission to Mars. Because neutrons penetrate most materials, neutron beams and detectors are often used to study crystal structure, as well as explore oil and mineral reserves underground. The same physics motivates the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument, a contribution from the Federal Space Agency of Russia to the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) that is scheduled to launch next year. The goal of the DAN instrument is to use neutrons to detect water that might be lurking underneath the rover as it moves along the martian surface.

November 11, 2008

Has Mars Science Laboratory Made the Discovery of the Decade? The Daily Galaxy
Planetary scientists at NASA's Goddard Flight Center claim to have identified hotspots of methane gas emission, extremely localized plumes whose concentration fades quickly in time. An atmosphere-wide distribution that's stable in time would indicate a balance between geological sources and destruction by sunlight. Localized sources, however, suggest much more active sources. What's the best source of methane most people know about? Cows. That's unlikely on Mars. But backing off a level, the important factor is LIFE. NASA team leader Michael Mumma puts forward the idea that subterranean bacteria could be producing the noxious fumes, which periodically percolate to the surface in short lived bursts. But it could also be a geological source deep below the surface. The CH4 was identified spectroscopically, analyzing the exact wavelengths of the light emitted from certain regions over time. It's exactly the same strategy the astronomers of old used, "just looking at what color things are", but since we worked out (some) quantum mechanics the same light can tell us so much more. Unfortunately, it can't make the crucial distinction between life or rock-based gas. But if we can just get a bit closer we can find out.

October 10, 2008

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory: Blastoff in 2009…or Slip City? LiveScience
A NASA decision may be forthcoming on the cost-overrun and highly complex Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission. Will a decision be made to stay the course to Mars with a liftoff next year…or move it to 2011?…or decide its fate at a later time? But time is running out. The call itself is expected to come from NASA chief, Mike Griffin. MSL is being tagged as “the first real astrobiology mission to Mars” - with a price tag sailing past $2 billion. The project has already exceeded the 15 percent “overguide”, (that’s an “overrun” in taxpayer parlance) set by Congress in the fiscal year 2008 NASA authorization law. The next overguide benchmark is 30 percent. MSL’s total cost overrun is expected to be between 33 and 40 percent. Why not delay the launch to 2011? Doing so will cost NASA an additional $300 million - $400 million.

April 14, 2008

Troubles parallel ambitions in NASA Mars project
NASA's new Mars rover aims high. It's bigger, more powerful and more sophisticated than any other robotic vehicle that has landed on another planet. It will try to answer a big question: Has life existed elsewhere in the solar system? Its very ambition has gotten the rover in trouble. Thanks to a mix of technological setbacks and engineering misjudgments, the rover's epic scale is matched by epic problems. Its story offers a cautionary tale as NASA plans to devote large chunks of its science budget in coming years to grand "flagship" missions, including a spacecraft to return Mars rocks to Earth and another that would visit a moon of Jupiter or Saturn. The new rover, known as the Mars Science Laboratory, is $235 million, or 24%, over budget. Work on it has run so late that engineers are racing to prepare the rover for its blastoff in 2009. After that, the next good launch window, when Mars and the Earth are closest, is in 2011.

October 12, 2007

NASA Orbiter Provides Color Views of Mars Landing Site Candidates
Less than a year since beginning the prime science phase of its mission, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has passed a mission-success milestone for the amount of data returned. The data-volume target of 26 terabytes, which was surpassed this week, is equivalent to about 5,000 CD-ROMs full and exceeds the total from all other current and past Mars missions combined. The biggest shares of the data come from two of the orbiter's six science instruments: the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment and the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars. The high-resolution camera's team of investigators, based at the University of Arizona, Tucson, today released 143 color images. The images reveal features as small as a desk. They are valuable to researchers studying possible landing sites for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, a mission launching in 2009 to deploy a long-distance rover carrying sophisticated science instruments on Mars.

September 24, 2007

Mars Science Laboratory: Tough Love, Mad Scientists LiveScience Blogs
The nuclear-powered Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) has escalated in cost. It’s now an outlay of loot hovering at $1.7 billion. NASA senior Mars management has directed the project to — among a suite of actions — expend no additional funds on a remote-sensing laser instrument called ChemCam, take off a descent imaging camera, and cost-cap a couple of other instruments at their current budgets. The MSL “required some focused and prudent reductions in scope in order to better ensure project success,” according to a NASA statement on the large Mars rover project. From higher-ups at NASA Headquarters, the marching order is for the MSL project team to dig into their collective science and engineering pockets and cover the $75 million cost overrun to “clean up the mess” so as not to “slaughter the innocent,” I’ve been advised. Translation, and in tough love language: MSL gets no more money from NASA Headquarters.

June 23, 2007

Mars Science Laboratory is going to be HUGE The Planetary Society
Yesterday I deposited the baby with her grandmother and went to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a press junket to the opening of their new Mars Yard. (I did ask if I could bring Anahita along but I guess it's too complicated to get kids under 12 access to the Lab. Too bad, I think she would have enjoyed it!) The Mars Yard is an outdoor facility where the robotics lab test-drives their rovers. For a long time, it has been an area roughly the size of a softball infield, perfectly flat, peppered with rocks ranging in size from pebbles to a soccer ball or so. This was adequate for developing and testing the Rocky series of rovers that led to Sojourner, the subsequent FIDO and its sister rovers, and the Mars Exploration Rover, but once the rovers were on Mars the robotics lab ran into a problem: there were no sloping surfaces in the Mars Yard for test-driving. They had to truck a bunch of dirt in to the loading dock of the building where they housed the engineering model to build a slope. Clearly, the Mars Yard needed upgrading. Yesterday's opening showed us the new-and-improved Mars Yard, which was six times larger, contained much larger rocks, and included one area with a variably sloping surface. All of which was interesting, but that wasn't the best part of the day. They used the opportunity to unveil to the press the mobility model of the next Mars rover, Mars Science Laboratory or MSL.

June 1, 2007

The next generation Mars rover The Planetary Society
Go to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory website and check out the newest video showing the Mars Science Laboratory mission, and you'll see the latest and greatest design for a roving mission to Mars. I've clipped and posted a few screen caps below. The first part of the video shows the landing, which will not be at all like the last three successful Mars landings. Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity all landed by means of an absolutely crazy scheme where the whole hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars' worth of spacecraft was encased in airbags and smashed at a relatively high speed onto the surface of Mars, bouncing a dozen or more times until rolling to a stop. That system produced three successful landings in three attempts, so the engineers clearly knew what they were doing, but I have got to say that, to me, that seems like no way to treat a spacecraft. Mars Science Laboratory (abbreviated MSL) is much bigger than Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity and absolutely cannot use the same landing technique, so the engineers had to go back to the drawing board. They're using a heat shield and parachute to decelerate through Mars' upper and middle atmosphere, the same as Pathfinder and the rovers, but after that the landing system changes. In the video, you'll see the heat shield fall off and -- surprise! -- there's no lander; while MSL is still way up in the air, the six wheels are already out and ready to touch Martian soil. Retrorockets fire, slowing the descent, much like Viking. The descent slows and slows. Then the rover is lowered on cables to the ground as the backshell -- retrorockets still firing -- floats overhead.

June 1, 2006

Landing Sites Debated for Next Mars Rover
When NASA’s next wheeled robot—the Mars Science Laboratory—rockets skyward in 2009, the mega-rover will carry the largest, most sophisticated array of science gear ever shot to the martian surface. Far more robust and powerful than those smaller robotic look-alikes now laboring on Mars—Spirit and Opportunity—the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is intended to turn a new page in planetary exploration. But here’s the issue at hand: Where to land the hunk of high-tech machinery; deciding the ideal spot that’s safe but also maximizes the rover’s chances to help figure out if Mars ever was—or is today—an abode for life.

January 18, 2006

Mars Science Laboratory: Big Wheels on A Red Planet
Make way Spirit and Opportunity big daddy is coming! The next wheels on the red planet will belong to the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)a huge step in how that planet is further poked, probed, and more fully plumbed for new information. MSL is a huge chunk of machinery. At liftoff in September 2009, it will carry the largest, most advanced set of instruments for on-the-spot science duties ever dispatched to the martian surface. The nuclear-powered rover is being designed to assess whether Mars ever was, or is still today, an environment able to support microbial life.

December 19, 2005

Bright Idea: Rover to zap rocks on Mars The Albuquerque Tribune
The next rover to land on Mars will come packing heat. On a mast above the six-wheeled, car-sized, insect-looking contraption will be a space laser system designed by Los Alamos National Laboratory. The laser will shoot at rocks from a distance and analyze what they're made of, said Roger Wiens, a scientist working on the system. A Mars rover can't drive up to everything that seems interesting - "They'd would never get anywhere," Wiens said. The laser can zap interesting things from up to 30 feet away, and "if (the scientists are) still interested, they can drive up and whack off a sample."

May 15, 2005

Shift in priorities by NASA hits JPL Pasadena Star News
Several of Jet Propulsion Laboratory's future missions, including its next Mars rover, might be delayed or cut to compensate for other NASA priorities, the agency administrator said Thursday. Michael Griffin, NASA's new administrator, told a Senate subcommittee the space agency will have to revise its spending plan for the year in order to offset costs associated with the space shuttle's return to flight, possible human servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope and growth in upcoming missions.

April 14, 2005

Flying a Science Lab to Mars
How do you follow a flat-out success like the Mars Exploration Rovers, still cruising Mars after all these months? By thinking "bigger and better." The Mars Science Laboratory, currently scheduled for launch in 2009, will land a rover three times as massive as Spirit or Opportunity and with ten scientific instruments, among them some never before flown in space. MSL will assess the habitat potential of its landing site, providing a bridge between MER and later direct searches for life on Mars.

March 12, 2005

NASA Mars Program Under Scrutiny
NASAs Mars program could undergo major alternation, driven by budgetary and technical issues, as well as science goals. Weve been getting inputs, advice, actions itemsfrom the road mapping teams, said Doug McCuistion, Mars Exploration Program Director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Nothing is finalized at this point. There have been no final decisions made or, frankly, any interim decisions made as yet.

January 30, 2005

Total Recall for Rover Team The Cornell Daily Sun
Four Cornell space scientists are part of a team planning NASA's next Mars rover mission, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). Scheduled for launch in 2009, the mission will explore the region for organic molecules to determine if Mars' environment is suitable for potential life or has hosted life previously. Filmmaker James Cameron, the director of Titanic, is also collaborating with the team to work with the camera.

January 5, 2005

Mars Science Laboratory: Next Wheels On Mars
While those unflappable interplanetary twins Spirit and Opportunity continue to trudge across Mars, engineers and scientists are readying the next robotic rover destined to trail across the distant sands of the red planet. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is bigger, heavier, and more powerful than the machinery now at work on Mars. As the next robot to go mobile on Mars, building, testing, and then flying MSL has its challenges. That being said, and while now a solo mission, there is already talk that MSL may follow in the wheel tracks of Spirit and Opportunity that is, doubling up on Mars.

December 15, 2004

NASA Selects Investigations for the Mars Science Laboratory
NASA has selected eight proposals to provide instrumentation and associated science investigations for the mobile Mars Science Laboratory rover, scheduled for launch in 2009. Proposals selected today were submitted to NASA in response to an announcement of opportunity released in April. The Mars Science Laboratory mission, part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, would deliver a mobile laboratory to the surface of Mars to explore a local region as a potential habitat for past or present life. The laboratory would operate under its own power. It is expected to remain active for one Mars year, equal to two Earth years, after landing.

December 4, 2004

Aerojet Tests Engine Design for New Mars Rover
Aerojet, a GenCorp Inc. (NYSE: GY) company, recently test-fired a Viking flight spare rocket engine assembly in order to help design a new engine which will deliver the next rover to the surface of Mars in 2009. The rocket engine used in the test was originally built, tested and delivered in 1973 for the Viking program. The engine was put into storage after the successful landing of the Viking 1 and Viking 2 spacecraft on Mars in 1976. "Aerojet hardware has flown on every U.S. mission to Mars," said Aerojet President Michael Martin. "We are extremely proud that the hot fire testing of the Viking Lander rocket engine assembly further proved Aerojet's heritage capabilities in design, manufacture, test and production of propulsion systems. Our role in the Mars Science Laboratory mission will bring our work full-circle."

November 11, 2004

Mars answers spur questions Rocky Mountain News
Five spacecraft are circling Mars and creeping across its ruddy surface, looking for traces of long-gone waters and signs that the cold, arid planet may once have been hospitable to life. The robotic martian invasion - three orbiters and two six-wheeled rovers - has already uncovered strong evidence that water once flowed on Mars and is now locked in subsurface ice. But big questions about water on Mars remain. When did it flow? How long did it last? How much was there? Where did it come from? Where did it go? Perhaps the most tantalizing question: Were there long-lived watery environments where microbial life could have gained a foothold?

September 15, 2004

People on Mars Possible in 20 to 30 Years
People could land on Mars in the next 20 to 30 years provided scientists can find water on the red planet, the head of NASA's surface exploration mission said on Wednesday. Two partially solar-powered "robot geologists" -- Mars Exploration Rovers, or MERs -- have been trundling across 3 miles of the planet and into craters since January, beaming back data about the makeup of what scientists believe is Earth's sister planet. Asked how long it could be before astronauts land on Mars, Arthur Thompson, mission manager for MER surface operations, told Reuters in an interview in Lima, "My best guess is 20 to 30 years, if that becomes our primary priority."

July 28, 2004

Engineer To Develop Navigation System For Next Mars Mission PhysOrg
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration originally hoped that its rovers Spirit and Opportunity would survive long enough to travel at least half a mile each. Now the space agency has awarded Ohio State engineer Ron Li and his team nearly $900,000 to develop tools that will enable the next-generation rover to travel at least three miles. Other research teams around the country have received an initial round of funding as well. Future field tests will determine which team will help build the control system for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), set to launch in 2009.

July 26, 2004

'Beagle 3' looks to American ride
Colin Pillinger has asked the US space agency to put a Beagle "pod" on its Mars Science Laboratory probe for 2009. Professor Pillinger says he wants to send a second Beagle instrument package to the Red Planet as soon as possible. "We wrote to NASA last week, asking them if they'd like to put a Beagle pod on MSL and drop it off in an interesting place," he said.

April 27, 2004

Mars Science Laboratory: New Rover, New Science Equipment
NASA is not wasting time in moving forward on its next rover that will strut its stuff across the far-flung sands of the red planet. The space agency released mid-month an "Announcement of Opportunity" that calls for science gear and related ideas that could wind up onboard the Mars Science Laboratory -- or MSL, for short. The overall MSL science objective is to explore and quantitatively assess a local region on the Mars surface as a potential habitat for life, past or present.

March 17, 2004

'Life chip' ready for 2009 Mars missions nature
A miniature laboratory that can spot a tell-tale chemical signature of life is set to be part of NASA's 2009 Mars mission. The device will look for amino acids, the molecular building blocks of proteins. "Amino acids are the best molecules to look for if you want to find evidence of life that existed a long time ago. Unlike DNA, they could last for millions of years on Mars without changing," says Alison Skelley, a chemist at University of California, Berkeley, who helped build the 'life chip'.

February 18, 2004

NASA's Nuclear Focus Aimed At 2009 Mars Lander

NASAs nuclear future promises more maneuverable, longer-lasting spacecraft and rovers with more onboard power than scientists know what to do with. Nuclear propulsion and power systems also could greatly reduce travel times to distant planets and supply energy to future planetary settlements, said Al Newhouse, director of NASAs Project Prometheus nuclear power and propulsion program.

February 17, 2004

NASA rovers busy on Mars, mission undergoes leadership change

NASA's two Mars rovers were busy through the long holiday weekend, one progressing toward a distant crater and the other digging a trench to expose material beneath the martian surface for study by geology instruments, mission officials said Tuesday. NASA, meanwhile, changed the leadership of the $820 million double-rover mission to allow project manager Pete Theisinger to join a new program aiming for a Mars launch in 2009. Deputy project manger Richard Cook will take over the rovers.

February 13, 2004

Mission to Mars The Gazette

Spherix Chairman Gilbert V. Levin has watched the images from NASA's Martian rovers with a mixture of amazement and envy. Like others, he is fascinated by the otherworldly images from the $820 million space mission. However, he is also disappointed that the scientific mission may leave a controversial question lingering: Is there life on Mars? "I wish I were going back with my experiment," Levin said.

February 11, 2004

Next Generation Rover: The Mars Science Laboratory

While the Spirit and Opportunity rovers wheel themselves into the history books of Mars exploration, get ready for the next giant leap in rolling across the red planet. The Mars Science Laboratory is an all-terrain, all-purpose machine, akin to an extraterrestrial Sport Utility Vehicle. To be rocketed toward Mars in 2009, this long-range, long-duration robot is a trend setter. It will scope out Mars like never before to assess that puzzling planet as a potential habitat for life -- past or present -- and help verify if human explorers could exist there in the future.

January 19, 2004

Golf Carts Today, Mini-Van In 2009?

If you think the Mars rovers are interesting, wait until you see a mini-van clambering over the planet's red rocks and dusty lake beds. The two golf-cart size rovers that are mesmerizing the country now are preparing the way for a 2009 mission to Mars called the Mars Scientific Laboratory, says William Hiscock, head of the physics department and director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium based at Montana State University-Bozeman. The 2009 mission will involve a rover, too, but that vehicle will be the size of a mini-van.

January 15, 2004

Mini-Van Sized Rover for 2009 Universe Today

If you think the Mars rovers are interesting, wait until you see a mini-van clambering over the planet's red rocks and dusty lake beds. The two golf-cart size rovers that are mesmerizing the country now are preparing the way for a 2009 mission to Mars called the Mars Scientific Laboratory, says William Hiscock, head of the physics department and director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium based at Montana State University-Bozeman. The 2009 mission will involve a rover, too, but that vehicle will be the size of a mini-van.

November 2, 2003

Robot makes local stop before Mars trip Santa Cruz Sentinel

NASA scientists are testing a robot named FIDO for a trip to Mars. The six-wheel, 145-pound, solar-powered "K9 rover," FIDO (Field Integrated Design and Operations), is undergoing research at Graniterock Co.s quarry. Liam Pedersen, NASA scientist, said NASA needed a rocky Mars-like research spot that isnt covered in vegetation. The quarry fit the bill. The rover will act as a research guinea pig to develop another robot NASA will use for its 2009 Mars Science Laboratory mission.

May 9, 2000

NASA's Dog Days: FIDO Mars Rover's Desert Trek

Using an anonymous patch of the American West as a stand-in for Mars, NASA has begun the second field tests of an advanced rover prototype developed to help it explore the Red Planet.

August 11, 1999

FIDO Takes A Spin In The MarsYard

The FIDO prototype rover that is being used to test technologies in support of the Mars Sample Return Mission in 2005 has taken another spin around JPL's MarsYard.