0

NASA prototype rover can split in two, could climb down deep Mars craters

Posted on

NASA JPL took the DuAxel out for a test run in the Mojave Desert.


NASA/JPL-Caltech/J.D. Gammell

NASA’s car-size Mars rovers are awesome, versatile machines capable of traversing rugged terrain. But they’re not made to descend down the sides of craters. For that, NASA would need something like its DuAxel prototype rover, a wild concept that is two rovers in one.

When all together, DuAxel is a four-wheeled rover. The rear can anchor itself to the ground while the front goes free on two wheels. A tether holds the pieces together while the front section rappels down a steep slope. This could work well for exploring currently inaccessible crater walls on Mars.

NASA put a DuAxel prototype through its paces in the Mojave Desert in California. “DuAxel performed extremely well in the field, successfully demonstrating its ability to approach a challenging terrain, anchor, and then undock its tethered Axel rover,” robotics technologist Issa Nesnas said in a statement from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Tuesday.

A video shows the clever rover in action and how it can use onboard instruments to get a close look at what’s under its wheels.

One of the motivations for developing DuAxel is to one day get a closer look at enigmatic dark streaks called recurring slope lineae that appear on the side of some martian craters. Scientists are trying to figure out if these have a watery origin.

The craters are too steep for a rover like Curiosity or Perseverance (which is currently on its way to Mars), but a transforming rappelling machine like DuAxel could handle the challenge.

It’s not just Mars science that could

0

China’s Mars Probe Tianwen-1 Sends Home Selfies Captured 15 Million Miles From Earth

Posted on

KEY POINTS

  • The CNSA released new selfies of Tianwen-1 captured 15 million miles away from Earth
  • The Mars probe took images of itself using a tiny camera ejected from the spacecraft
  • Tianwen-1 is expected to reach the red planet in February 2021

Talk about a clever way to take self-portraits in space! Tianwen-1 has snapped some selfies while in outer space using a camera ejected from its spacecraft.

While on its way to Mars, Tianwen-1 sent home new images of itself captured 15 million miles away from Earth. They were released by the China National Space Administration earlier this month as part of the country’s national day celebrations.

The small camera the Mars probe used to snap selfies had wide-angle lenses on each side and took one photo every second. It sends the images it takes to Tianwen-1, which would then transmit the pictures to Earth.

One of the many photos snapped by the camera is a close-up of the Tianwen-1 spacecraft that shows its two silver solar arrays and the conical aeroshell containing the mission’s rover. Another photo was taken from farther away and showcases the vastness of outer space surrounding Tianwen-1 as it makes its way to its mission.

The little photoshoot went both ways as the Tianwen-1 also took images of the tiny camera while it was being jettisoned into outer space and leaving the spacecraft.

Tianwen-1 was launched by China on July 23 aboard the Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. This mission is considered to be China’s first attempt at reaching and eventually landing on the red planet.

If all goes according to plan, Tianwen-1 should arrive on Mars in February 2021. The rover will land on the red planet’s surface somewhere along Utopia Planitia, a large empty

0

Mars At Its Brightest Since 2003 As Moon Visits Venus. What You Can See In The Night Sky This Week

Posted on

Each week I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy and eclipses. 

What To Watch For In The Night Sky This Week: October 12-18, 2020

This week it’s all about Mars, which will look its biggest, brightest and best in post-sunset skies since 2018 and, technically speaking, since 2003.

However, it’s also a week where the Moon wanes towards its New phase, meaning dark skies at night, gorgeous crescents in the early pre-dawn mornings early in the week, and in early evenings from Sunday. 

MORE FROM FORBESWhat’s That Really Bright ‘Star’ In The Night Sky?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020: Mars at opposition

Tonight the red planet reaches opposition, a moment when the Earth is between it and the Sun. It’s therefore at its biggest and brightest. It’s also visible all night, rising at dusk in the easy and setting at dawn in the west.

The opposition of Mars happens roughly every two years, though technically speaking, Mars is tonight bigger and brighter than at any time since 2003. 

MORE FROM FORBESYour Stargazing Guide To Fall: One ‘Halloween Blue Moon,’ Two Eclipses And A Once-In-397 Years Sight

Wednesday, October 14, 2020: Crescent Moon and Venus

Look east about an hour before sunrise this morning and you’ll see the glorious sight of a very bright 76%-illuminated planet Venus shining 4.3° above a delicate 1% illuminated crescent Moon.

Such a Moon is often called “the New Moon in the Old Moon’s arms.” You may

0

Perseverance Rover will peer beneath Mars’ surface

Posted on

Perseverance Rover Will Peer Beneath Mars' Surface
Perseverance’s Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX) uses radar waves to probe the ground, revealing the unexplored world that lies beneath the Martian surface. The first ground-penetrating radar set on the surface of Mars, RIMFAX can provide a highly detailed view of subsurface structures down to at least 30 feet (10 meters) underground. In doing so, the instrument will reveal hidden layers of geology and help find clues to past environments on Mars, especially those with conditions necessary for supporting life. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/FFI

After touching down on the Red Planet Feb. 18, 2021, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will scour Jezero Crater to help us understand its geologic history and search for signs of past microbial life. But the six-wheeled robot won’t be looking just at the surface of Mars: The rover will peer deep below it with a ground-penetrating radar called RIMFAX.


Unlike similar instruments aboard Mars orbiters, which study the planet from space, RIMFAX will be the first ground-penetrating radar set on the surface of Mars. This will give scientists much higher-resolution data than space-borne radars can provide while focusing on the specific areas that Perseverance will explore. Taking a more focused look at this terrain will help the rover’s team understand how features in Jezero Crater formed over time.

Short for Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment, RIMFAX can provide a highly detailed view of subsurface structures down to at least 30 feet (10 meters) underground. In doing so, the instrument will reveal hidden layers of geology and help find clues to past environments on Mars, especially those that may have provided the conditions necessary for supporting life.

“We take an image of the subsurface directly beneath the rover,” said Svein-Erik Hamran, the instrument’s principal investigator, with the University of Oslo in Norway. “We can do

0

Elon Musk’s Tesla, Starman fly past Mars 2 years after SpaceX launch

Posted on

  • In February 2018, SpaceX launched a Tesla Roadster owned by the company’s founder, Elon Musk, into deep space.
  • The electric vehicle, which has a spacesuit-clad “Starman” dummy in the driver’s seat, just made its first flyby of Mars.
  • To Starman, Mars would have appeared to be about one-tenth the size of the moon as seen from Earth, the astronomer Jonathan McDowell said.
  • The vehicle and its unlikely passenger, launched on the upper stage of a Falcon Heavy rocket, may travel for millions of years before crashing, most likely back into Earth.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

An electric car that Elon Musk rocketed into space more than two years ago just flew past Mars for the first time.

SpaceX, the rocket company Musk founded, launched his old Tesla Roadster aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket in February 2018 with a spacesuit-wearing dummy named “Starman” at the wheel.

The car also carried a Hot Wheels model of itself with a miniature Starman inside. In storage, it holds a copy of the sci-fi novels “Foundation” by Isaac Asimov and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams, along with a towel and a sign that says “Don’t Panic.” The car’s speakers even blasted the song “Space Oddity” by David Bowie after launch.

Since then, the rocket’s second stage has glided through space with no fuel to propel it, with Musk’s old red car perched on top of it.

“It’s a rocket stage with a hood ornament,” Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who independently calculated the Tesla’s close Mars pass, told Business Insider.

spacex falcon heavy launch

An illustration of Musk’s Tesla atop the upper stage of a Falcon Heavy rocket.


SpaceX/YouTube



The Tesla was supposed to slip into a circular orbit between Mars and the sun. But the mission

1 2 3