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Space lasers are happening: Curiosity to fire at unsuspecting Martian rock

 first 360-degree panorama in color of the Gale Crater Mars

NASA/JPL-Caltech

This is the first 360-degree panorama in color of the Gale Crater landing site taken by NASA's Curiosity rover. The panorama was made from thumbnail versions of images taken by the Mast Camera.

NASA takes the figurative phasers off stun as Curiosity, the world's coolest remote control vehicle, prepares to fire its space laser at an unsuspecting Martian rock next week.

Since landing in the Gale crater on the surface of Mars on Aug. 5, NASA's rover has been getting a full health checkup. Now, it's time for target practice.

Scientists said Friday they've selected a generic-looking rock about 10 feet away from the landing site to ready, aim, fire, and burn with a small hole.

Let's just hope the generic-looking rock they've selected isn't one of those generic-looking fakes with a hidden key inside that leads to some other part of Mars that's invisible or located in another dimension or something. 

The laser is one of ten tools Curiosity will be using to study the planet in search of signs that the environment was favorable for microbial life.

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will spy for you, HiRise camera taking requests

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

NASA

This artist's animation of the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Smile for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter! HiRISE, a camera aboard the MRO orbiting spacecraft, is taking requests with an online wishlist of what earthlings want to see on Mars.

NASA's Curiosity is getting up close and personal with the surface of the red planet, but the eye in the sky that helped get it there could be looking beyond the Gale Crater, if you ask it nicely, and in the right way.

The HiWish program, which began in January 2010, announced "the people's camera" would be open to public suggestion, and started delivering images of civilian-selected locales within a few months.

"Explore Mars, one giant image at a time," is the HiRISE (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) motto, and project researchers continue to look to the home planet for input about where to point the camera.

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Mars from Curiosity: First photos to mission control (UPDATED)

 first 360-degree panorama in color of the Gale Crater Mars

NASA/JPL-Caltech

This is the first 360-degree panorama in color of the Gale Crater landing site taken by NASA's Curiosity rover. The panorama was made from thumbnail versions of images taken by the Mast Camera.

This color full-resolution image showing the heat shield of NASA's Curiosity rover was obtained during descent to the surface of Mars

NASA/JPL-Caltech

This color full-resolution image showing the heat shield of NASA's Curiosity rover was obtained during descent to the surface of Mars on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The image was obtained by the Mars Descent Imager instrument known as MARDI and shows the 15-foot (4.5-meter) diameter heat shield when it was about 50 feet (16 meters) from the spacecraft.

Mars Curiosity

NASA/JPL-Caltech

These are the first two full-resolution images of the Martian surface from the Navigation cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover, which are located on the rover's "head" or mast. The rim of Gale Crater can be seen in the distance beyond the pebbly ground. The topography of the rim is very mountainous due to erosion. The ground seen in the middle shows low-relief scarps and plains. The foreground shows two distinct zones of excavation likely carved out by blasts from the rover's descent stage thrusters.

NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover

NASA/JPL-Caltech

This is the first image taken by the Navigation cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover. It shows the shadow of the rover's now-upright mast in the center, and the arm's shadow at left. The arm itself can be seen in the foreground.

Mars Curiosity

NASA/JPL-Caltech

These images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) show a before-and-after comparison of the area where NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The images were taken by the Context Camera on MRO on Aug. 1 and Aug. 7.

Mars Curiosity

NASA/JPL-Caltech

This imagery is being released in association with NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission. This is a temporary caption to be replaced as soon as more information is available.

Mars Curiosity

NASA/JPL-Caltech

This imagery is being released in association with NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission. This is a temporary caption to be replaced as soon as more information is available.

mars curiosity rover

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image taken by NASA's Curiosity shows what lies ahead for the rover -- its main science target, Mount Sharp. The rover's shadow can be seen in the foreground, and the dark bands beyond are dunes. Rising up in the distance is the highest peak Mount Sharp at a height of about 3.4 miles, taller than Mt. Whitney in California. The Curiosity team hopes to drive the rover to the mountain to investigate its lower layers, which scientists think hold clues to past environmental change. This image was captured by the rover's front left Hazard-Avoidance camera at full resolution shortly after it landed. It has been linearized to remove the distorted appearance that results from its fisheye lens.

mars curiosity rover

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

This view of the landscape is to the north of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity acquired by the Mars Hand Lens Imager on the afternoon of the first day of landing. In the distance the image shows the north wall and rim of Gale Crater.

mars curiosity rover

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity's Heat Shield in View: This color thumbnail image was obtained by NASA's Curiosity rover during its descent to the surface of Mars on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The image was obtained by the Mars Descent Imager instrument known as MARDI and shows the 15-foot (4.5-meter) diameter heat shield when it was about 50 feet (16 meters) from the spacecraft. It was obtained two and one-half minutes before touching down on the surface of Mars and about three seconds after heat shield separation. It is among the first color images Curiosity sent back from Mars. The resolution of all of the MARDI frames is reduced by a factor of eight in order for them to be promptly received on Earth during this early phase of the mission. Full resolution (1,600 by 1,200 pixel) images will be returned to Earth over the next several months as Curiosity begins its scientific exploration of Mars. The original image from MARDI has been geometrically corrected to look flat. Curiosity landed inside of a crater known as Gale Crater.

mars rover curiosity

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Looking Back at the Crater Rim: This is the full-resolution version of one of the first images taken by a rear Hazard-Avoidance camera on NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT). The image was originally taken through the "fisheye" wide-angle lens, but has been "linearized" so that the horizon looks flat rather than curved. The image has also been cropped. A Hazard-avoidance camera on the rear-left side of Curiosity obtained this image. Part of the rim of Gale Crater, which is a feature the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, stretches from the top middle to the top right of the image. One of the rover's wheels can be seen at bottom right.

nasa rover curiosity mars

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This is one of the first images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars on the morning of Aug. 6, 2012. It was taken through a fisheye wide-angle lens on the left "eye" of a stereo pair of Hazard-Avoidance cameras on the left-rear side of the rover. The image is one-half of full resolution.

nasa mars rover curiosity

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The one-ton rover, hanging by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down onto Mars Sunday to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation.

mars curiosity landing mro hirise camera

Image via Facebook.com/MarsCuriosity

Even on Mars, someone is watching. This lucky shot of the landing itself (parachute and all) was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE camera.


KPCC reporters had been talking to Southland scientists and engineers and counting down the days until NASA's most ambitious rover yet — Curiosity — prepares to land on the Martian surface. Follow the series online.


With its Google Android shadow and Gabby Douglas landing, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity began sending images of itself in its surroundings within seconds of safely arriving on the surface of the red planet Sunday night/Monday morning.

Within two hours of settling in to its new Martian home, the world's coolest remote control vehicle transmitted to Mission Control — located at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena — a higher resolution image of Gale Crater taken by a Hazard Avoidance Camera (Hazcam).

Other shots show a towering mound they believe to be a three-mile high mountain called Mount Sharp. Both Gale Crater and Mount Sharp are of interest to geologists who can study them for insights into Mars' past.

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JPL/NASA: Underground ocean likely exists on Saturn moon

saturn titan ocean

Photo: A. Tavani/JPL/NASA

Inside Titan This artist's concept shows a possible scenario for the internal structure of Titan, as suggested by data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Scientists have been trying to determine what is under Titan's organic-rich atmosphere and icy crust. Data from the radio science experiment make the strongest case yet for a global subsurface ocean, sitting above a subsurface layer of high-pressure ice and a water-infused silicate core.

Scientists say they have strong evidence to support what they have long suspected -- that Saturn's largest moon harbors a subsurface ocean. 

If confirmed, Titan would join a short list of bodies in the solar system with liquid water essential for life. However, the presence of liquid water itself does not necessarily indicate life, according to researchers at NASA's Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Scientists think life is more likely to arise when liquid water is in contact with rock, and these measurements cannot tell whether the ocean bottom is made up of rock or ice. The results have a bigger implication for the mystery of methane replenishment on Titan.

JPL researchers say their findings -- that 100 kilometers beneath the gassy/icy surface likely exists an ocean -- came from data collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The discovery was published in the June 29 issue of Science.

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NASA's newest X-ray telescope hops a Pegasus to space

Image Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation/JPL

NASA's NuSTAR and its rocket drop from the carrier "Stargazer" plane.

NASA's new black hole-hunting, X-ray telescope was launched into orbit Wednesday from a remote island in the Pacific. This is real life.

Managed by SoCal's JPL, the Pasadena-controlled peeper begins a two-year mission to seek out celestial objects in the Milky Way, and other galaxies, that are difficult to see. 

The NuSTAR telescope, short for Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, is designed to cut through interstellar dust and gas to capture light that's gone undetected by other orbiting telescopes.

Paul Hertz, director of NASA's Astrophysics Division, says the telescope will focus on the "poorly explored hard X-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum" and could open up "a new window on the universe."

The space agency opted for the less expensive air-launch option (instead of rocketing from a launch pad) and sent its $170 million mission into the sky via a Pegasus rocket dropped by an aircraft that took off from the Pacific's Kwajalein Atoll.

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