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JPL

Martian rock called Rocknest 3, white-balanced to show what it would look like on Earth (I...

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover got a bit of help from the European Space Agency (ESA) in October. Beaming data back to Earth from the surface of the Red Planet is often tricky, and Curiosity regularly uses satellites to act as relays when a proper line of sight isn't available. On October 6, the ESA probe Mars Express took up the slack by relaying data and images for the rover as part of an ESA-NASA support agreement.  Read More

Wind patterns in Gale Crater, with Curiosity's position marked by an X (Image: NASA/JPL-Ca...

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now sending back weather reports and radiation measurements. Using the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) instrument built by Spain’s Centro de Astrobiologia (CAB), the nuclear-powered robot has been taking measurements of atmospheric pressure, temperature, wind speed and other factors to better understand the Martian environment in hopes of finding out whether life could still exist on the Red Planet.  Read More

X-ray diffraction image of first Martian soil sample showing presence of crystalline felds...

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has completed its first soil analysis of the Red Planet. The unmanned explorer used an advanced, miniaturized X-ray diffraction instrument that is part of the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument (CheMin) of its internal laboratory. The soil, collected at a site designated “Rocknest” in Gale Crater, reveals that Martian soil is a weathered volcanic type similar to soils found in the Hawaiian Islands.  Read More

The first three bite marks of Curiosity's robotic arm (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover took its first soil sample last week. The unmanned explorer used its robotic arm to scoop up a bit of the Martian surface, which it then sieved. A baby-Aspirin sized portion was subsequently deposited into its internal laboratory for analysis by the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument, to determine what minerals it contains.  Read More

ChemCam image of object found with outline added for identification (Image: NASA/JPL-Calte...

The object that NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover found on Sunday is probably a piece of plastic that fell off the unmanned exploration vehicle. According to mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at Pasadena, California, the object is “benign” and poses no likely threat to continuing the mission. However, the JPL rover team has not yet definitely identified the object and will continue investigating for another day.  Read More

Wheel scuff mark made by Curiosity to expose fresh soil for collection (Image: NASA/JPL-Ca...

Scooping up a handful of dirt may seem simple, but for a robot operating on another planet, it’s a major operation. NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is making itself ready to collect its first soil sample at an area called “Rocknest.” The preparations involve testing the nuclear-powered rover’s motorized scoop and cleaning out its Chemistry and Mineralogy (ChemMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratories of any terrestrial contaminants before receiving soil samples.  Read More

Close up view of the Link outcropping (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA’s unmanned Curiosity rover has found the most direct evidence to date that ancient Mars once had running water. The robot explorer discovered rock outcroppings thrusting from the Martian surface that are the remains of an ancient stream bed consisting of water-worn gravel that was washed down from the rim of Gale Crater where the nuclear-powered rover landed. This means that Mars was once a much wetter place and increases the chances that it once harbored life ... or still does.  Read More

Curiosity's robot arm touches the rock 'Jake Matijevic' (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover reached another pair of milestones over the past week. Last Saturday, the 4x4-sized lander touched its first rock with the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) mounted on its seven-foot (2.1 m) robotic arm. Then on Wednesday, 50 Martian days into the mission, Curiosity took its longest drive yet as it rolled 160 feet (48.9 meters) eastward toward the Glenelg area. It also took the opportunity to show off the American flag.  Read More

Curiosity's self-portrait (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has limbered up its robotic arm, taken a good look at itself and has been given a clean bill of health. It’s now on the move as it starts its two-year mission of discovery on the Red Planet. On Thursday, it traveled 105 feet (32 m) as it seeks out its first rock for serious investigation. Meanwhile, the nuclear-powered explorer sent back images of Mars’s moon Phobos as it passed in front of the Sun.  Read More

Curiosity's track marks spelling out 'JPL' in Morse code (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The NASA Mars rover Curiosity began its mission of exploration this week and as it rolled out, it wrote the place of its birth on the Martian surface. The 4x4-sized unmanned explorer will travel a quarter of a mile (400 m) to an area where it will test its robotic arm and may use its sample-collecting drill for the first time. As it goes along, the treads on Curiosity’s six wheels spell out “JPL” (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) over and over in Morse code.  Read More

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