Guest Videos: The Winds of Mars


The hardest part of space exploration, at least for laypeople trying to keep up to date, is getting used to familiar things, like wind, in unfamiliar settings.

Mars is smaller than the Earth, but it has enough wind to support the currently ongoing planetwide dust storm that has shut down Opportunity (hopefully, temporarily). And we have seen its twisters, though they don’t look as powerful as ours.

Martian winds must be pretty powerful, though, right? After all, the planet’s surface looks like it has been scoured in places:




There are some awesome wind-made features on the Red Planet, including yardangs. To really appreciate them, we need to understand just how weak the winds of Mars actually are.

Spoiler: Not quite as strong as they are depicted in The Martian.



Those beautiful Martian dunes and streamlined rocky features must have taken way longer than it took to sculpt similar structures on Earth. But then, according to a new study, Mars may have gotten a hundred-million-year jump on the Earth in terms of this whole solid planetary crust thing.

All told, over billions of years even weak winds can have impressive effects.




Featured image: NASA/JPL.


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Update, 6:38 p.m., June 20, 2018:

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I think this situation with Oppy waiting out a storm has somehow made Mars very real for a lot of people who don’t usually read science news. And that’s a good thing.



Typical. TYPICAL. I go away for a week – up to the beautiful Isle of Skye to take in some museums, castles and white sandy beaches – and after virtually ignoring her for years and years the rest of the world suddenly goes crazy about Opportunity! No-one (ok, almost no-one) has cared about her for […]

via Opportunity and the 2018 Dust Storm — The Road To Endeavour



Read the whole thing. There is some good news. The rover isn’t buried in sand; it just can’t get enough sunlight for power. However, the dust may keep the extreme Martian cold temperatures from falling so low that Oppy can’t power up again. They are taking a wait-and-see attitude. Go! Oppy! And thanks, Spirit, Oppy, and their human builders and operators for this vast trove of solid information about the once-unknown “Barsoom.” (Yeah, I was a Burroughs fan as a kid.)


Reblog on Opportunity Rover and the Mars Dust Storm from The Road To Endeavour

Guest Video: Mars Update From NASA


The Curiosity rover passed its 2000-sol mark last week (1 sol = one Martian day, about 39 minutes longer than an Earth day). But the Opportunity rover–which was photographed from a spacecraft in orbit around Mars–has been going for over 5,000 sols!

This year’s InSight mission (launch scheduled for May 5, from Vandenburgh Air Force Base) is going to check out the Red Planet in depth. Here is more information about the 2020 mission.


Featured image: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Guest Reblog: The Face of Mars Rover “Opportunity”


Everybody knows about the Curiosity rover’s “selfie.” But that wasn’t the first Mars rover.

Amazingly, some of the older ones continued exploring the Red Planet long after their mission time was expected to expire. And recently, five thousand Martian days (“sols”) after arriving, one of them took a selfie.

Lookin’ great, Opportunity!

Featured image is by NASA. (I cropped it a little bit.)

They made up this montage in 2010, when Opportunity was a newcomer and 12 miles of Martian travel was considered a huge success. Exploration has gone much farther, in various parts of Mars, since then.

Below is a reblog I really like from Jason Major’s excellent Lights In The Dark blog on space exploration.



It’s finally happened—after over 14 years on Mars (14!!!) NASA’s Opportunity rover has turned its arm-mounted camera around to take a look at itself, giving us the very first true “selfie” of the Mars Exploration Rover mission! Hello Opportunity!

via After 5,000 Sols We See the Face of Opportunity — Lights in the Dark