William ‘Captain Kirk’ Shatner spotted a strange “shiny bluish light” in an image captured by the NASA InSight Rover on Mars, and then promptly shared his discovery with the world on Twitter. Before things got out of hand, the space agency Tweeted back: “Just a bit of lens flare as the sun dips low on the horizon. Both photos were taken shortly before sunset. No cause for alarm, Captain!” For those don’t know about the mission, InSight’s objectives are to basically place a seismometer, called SEIS, on the surface of the red planet to measure seismic activity and provide accurate 3D models of the planet’s interior; and measure internal heat flow using a heat probe called HP3 to study Mars’ early geological evolution. Read more for the original Tweet from William Shatner, a video about the InSight and additional information.
Photo credit: ESA
The European Space Agency has just released a new image that provides an incredible look at the ice-filled Korloev crater on Mars. This 50-mile wide crater in the northern lowlands of Mars has a mound of water ice about 1.8 km thick all year round, which forms a glacier comprising around 528 cubic miles of non-polar ice. It’s resistant to melting during the warmer summer because the plain of ice creates a “cold trap,” or the phenomenon that occurs when air travels above the crater, before cooling and then sinking over the ice like a shield. Read more for another video and additional information.
NASA has just released a new audio file, captured by the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport InSight lander, which touched down on Mars just 10 days ago, of the first ever “sounds” of Martian winds on the Red Planet. The lander’s sensors captured a haunting low rumble caused by vibrations from the wind, which were estimated to being between 10 to 15 mph on December 1st, from northwest to southeast, consistent with the direction of dust devil streaks in the landing area. Read more for another video and additional information.
Photo credit: DM
NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered a mysterious shiny rock, officially named “Little Colonsay,” which could be gold, or more than likely, just a meteorite. The team will use its MastCam system to get better images, since it provides multiple spectra and true-color imaging with two cameras. The cameras can take true-color images at 1600×1200 pixels and up to 10 frames per second hardware-compressed video at 720p (1280×720). “One of the samples that we try to get a better look at is ‘Little Colonsay’. The planning team thinks it might be a meteorite because it is so shiny. But looks can deceive, and proof will only come from the chemistry. Unfortunately, the small target was missed in the previous attempt, and with the information from that, Curiosity will try again,” said NASA. Read more for the full-photo and a bonus video.
NASA’s latest spacecraft, the InSight Lander, is comfortably settling into life on Mars by recharging its batteries and taking stunning photos. This robotic mining device will eventually dig into the surface of the red planet, and to begin the process, it opened its solar panels on schedule Monday night. It’s scheduled to begin operations on the Martian surface and start deploying instruments over the next few days, while its mechanical arm continues to take pictures of the surface so JPL engineers can use to decide where to place the instruments. Read more for another video and additional information.
NASA’s Mars InSight lander launced from Vandenberg Air Force Base back in May, and is scheduled to land just north of the Martian equator around 3 p.m. EST on Nov. 26. While Insight won’t be able to move about on Mars like the Curiosity Rover, it will be using a suite of instruments and a seven-foot-long robotic arm to drill up to 16-feet below the surface at its landing site, Elysium Planitia. Its ultimate goal is to compare the interior of Mars to that of Earth so researchers can better understand how these rocky worlds formed billions of years ago. Read more for another mission overview video and additional information.
NASA held a multi-year challenege to design a 3D-printable Mars habitat using on-planet materials, and a handful of teams have taken home their share of a $100,000 prize, with first place going to Team Zopherus (bottom in image above). Since the five winners have already been chosen, they’re all set to build scale models next year of their digital representations. “We are thrilled to see the success of this diverse group of teams that have approached this competition in their own unique styles. They are not just designing structures, they are designing habitats that will allow our space explorers to live and work on other planets. We are excited to see their designs come to life as the competition moves forward,” said Monsi Roman, program manager for NASA’s Centennial Challenges. Read more for another video and additional information.