Another stellar outing in the consistently excellent Scientists in the Field series.
'Curiosity' (US 2014): Mars Rover Book Excerpt
How extraordinary to visit Mars in Spirit; readers will be very glad of the Opportunity. After briefly discussing the search for life on Mars, Rusch introduces Steven Squyres as a year-old boy watching the Apollo 11 moon landing. Later, while studying geology at Cornell, he came across Viking mission photos that inspired his career as a planetary scientist and astronomy professor. Simultaneously it tells the story of landing the rovers Spirit and Opportunity on Mars and using them to gather information and images, some of which suggest the past existence of water on the planet.
Wildly successful, the mission has lasted years longer than expected and one of the rovers is still active. Quotes are used very effectively, both in the text and as dramatic headlines superimposed on photos.
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Sidebars fill in details on topics such as the communication with the rovers and names of physical features on Mars. Rusch covers not only the scientific aspects of Mars exploration but also the personalities of the people who made it happen, and profiles the rovers themselves, Spirit and Opportunity. Her comprehensive research shines through in her detailed style as she zeroes in on the behind-the-scenes efforts of launching a scientific mission. Full-color photographs on every page in this picture-book-size volume illuminate the Mars surface and the faces of the scientists as they agonize over communication difficulties and computer glitches and exult over the thrill of discovery.
The lists of websites, archives, multimedia, and sources may inspire readers to follow in the footsteps of Steve Squyres—mission leader. Terms and photographs are indexed. This detailed look at planning, implementing, maintaining, and troubleshooting a highly complex scientific mission puts a human face on an incredible accomplishment.
In the eleven chapters in this book part of the Scientists in the Field series , readers are drawn into the world of a team of scientists responsible for sending two rovers to Mars back in Readers follow the mission from its inception through lift-off and then as the two rovers, launched a month apart, explore Martian terrain at the behest of the men and women on the ground. Spirit and Opportunity were expected to last only three months, but both explored Mars for six years in search of clues as to whether life could have existed on Mars, far exceeding anyone's expectations.
The author relates their missions in an edge-of-the-seat style, luring readers into the story and making them care about Spirit's broken wheel and Opportunity's months spent trapped into the sand. It's intriguing to consider how the rovers were "driven" by someone on Earth, and how frustrating it must have been to wait for signals indicating the vehicles were okay. Although readers hear from many of those involved in the project, the author returns to Steven Squyres, an astronomy professor at Cornell, whose words seem to capture perfectly the way the team felt about this mission.
Now we need data from other planets letting us know that those models are correct. A comparative example is the Kepler mission close-ups of other solar systems, prompting scientists to readjust assumptions about our own. The mission has been a dream of InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt. After a rejected attempt, his revamped proposal was accepted in , and beat two competitors in for funding. InSight—or, Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport—will use seismometers and timing of the Martian rotation to ascertain the constitution of its mantle and core, and current geothermal activity.
While that technology has been around for decades on Earth, enabling an intact landing and functioning on Mars took an international mindset. Research institutes in France, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom helped design parts of the instruments, while Lockheed Martin Space in Denver designed the spacecraft. They include the lander and back shell separating from the cruise stage, turning the heat shield toward the atmosphere, which it will hit at a degree angle that will prevent its burning up or bouncing off.
At 10 miles, InSight will deploy a supersonic parachute, jettison its heat shield, release the landing legs, and transmit radar toward the surface to gauge its distance and speed. At a mile from the surface, the lander portion will detach from the back shell and parachute. Its back thrusters will ignite, rotating the lander away from the back shell, bringing it to a soft landing on the surface, and turning off the moment it hits ground, so as to not tip the lander over. Scientists chose the site for its sunny exposure, dearth of rocks, and a low-enough elevation to ensure sufficient atmosphere for a safe landing, including in a dust storm.
Once on the surface, the craft will unfold its solar panels to power up, but will take up to two months before the instruments get to work. Specifically, two days before the robotic arm unlatches from the deck; days of site reconnaissance with onboard cameras, and another days of methodically placing the seismometer and heat flow instruments on the ground. As Mars spins on its axis and orbits the sun, it wobbles like a top as the sun pushes and pulls it in its orbit as does Earth. A liquid core will create a greater wobble. This iron meteorite was the first meteorite of any type ever found on another planet.
The basketball-sized meteorite is rich in iron and nickel, and Opportunity found it in Endurance Crater and its tendrils of sand presented a beautiful photo chance for the rover in Mars is full of dunes, and this is just one example Opportunity encountered. These pointy features were called "Razorback. They may have formed when fluids moved through rock fractures. In , Opportunity took this panorama of the eastward horizon view of Endeavour Crater's rim.
The Mars Spirit rover was Opportunity's twin, and it's mission ended in Both rovers featured a piece of metal with the American flag on the side. These two views from NASA's Curiosity rover -- from June 7, left, and June 10 -- show how dust increased over three days from a major Martian dust storm that became planet-encircling on June 20, Opportunity was stranded in the middle of the storm and wasn't heard from afterward.
NASA's Opportunity rover appears as a blip in the center of this square. Solar-powered Opportunity hasn't communicated with engineers since June Dust has blocked out sunlight, and even the expected winds from November through January haven't helped clear Opportunity's sensors and panels.
Engineers tried different things to revive Opportunity, sending repeated signals and commands to attempt to fix other potential issues. They've sent more than recovery commands that remain unanswered. The team is grateful for the long mission but sad to say goodbye. It's a team sport, and that's what we're celebrating today," Zurbuchen said.
When Opportunity's twin, Spirit, became mired in soft soil in and its five working wheels couldn't free the rover, NASA held a "service" to commemorate the end of the mission in May Instead, the rover has persisted for 15 years, sending back incredible data and photos from Mars to help uncover the Red Planet's secrets. Opportunity and Spirit launched in and landed on Mars in , searching for signs of ancient life. Opportunity found hematite at its landing site: little round things all over the ground that looked like blueberries.
These features form in water, a definitive sign to NASA that liquid water had been on the surface of Mars. Opportunity was expected to travel 1, yards over 90 days on Mars.
Instead, it traveled 28 miles. But the rover got stuck in the dunes of windblown material on the Martian surface. The engineers put it in reverse and "gunned it" to free the rover.
The Mighty Mars Rovers | elizabethrusch
Where are you, Opportunity rover? Opportunity was able to visit Victoria and spend two years driving around it and inside it before moving on to Endeavour Crater and ending in Perseverance Valley. Opportunity's mission has led to many discoveries about the Red Planet, but perhaps the most exciting was when the rover found evidence that Mars once had water and supported conditions for sustaining microbial life. But if you look to its ancient past, you find compelling evidence for liquid water below the surface and liquid water at the surface.
Why the Curiosity Rover Stopped Singing 'Happy Birthday' to Itself
Photos: The best moments on Mars. A recent photo taken by the Curiosity rover shows its current location, known as "Teal Ridge. Cooled lava helped preserve a footprint of where dunes once moved across a southeastern region on Mars. But it also looks like the "Star Trek" symbol. InSight's seismometer recorded a "marsquake" for the first time on April 6, A photo of a preserved river channel on Mars, taken by an orbiting satellite, with color overlaid to show different elevations. Blue is low and yellow is high.
NASA has been exploring Mars since Here are some of the best moments captured by Mars missions over the years.
The European Space Agency's Mars Express mission captured this image of the Korolev crater, more than 50 miles across and filled with water ice, near the north pole. It displays the lander's solar panels and deck. On top of the deck are its science instruments, weather sensor booms and UHF antenna. This perspective of Mars' Valles Marineris hemisphere from July 9, , is actually a mosaic comprising Viking Orbiter images. At the center is the Valles Marineris canyon system, over 2, kilometers long and up to 8 kilometers deep.
Rovers can take selfies, too. This self-portrait of the Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the Quela drilling location in the Murray Buttes area on lower Mount Sharp. Mars is far from a flat, barren landscape.
Related Curiosity: An Inside Look at the Mars Rover Mission and the People Who Made It Happen
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