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NASA lets new rover go over in 2020, announces multi-year Mars program

Approaching Mars

NASA / JPL

An artist's concept of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft approaching Mars.

Martian landscape

NASA

This image was taken during NASA's 1997 Pathfinder mission to Mars. The terrain at this northern equatorial region is uneven and rocky.

Planet Mars Makes A Close Approach To Earth

NASA/Getty Images

This image released August 27, 2003 captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows a close-up of the red planet Mars when it was just 34,648,840 miles (55,760,220 km) away. This color image was assembled from a series of exposures taken between 6:20 p.m. and 7:12 p.m. EDT August 26, 2003 with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. The picture was taken just 11 hours before the planet made its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years. Many small, dark, circular impact craters can be seen, attesting to the Hubble telescope's ability to reveal fine detail on the planet's surface.


Mars is ours for the forseeable future, NASA announced Tuesday with plans for a "robust" multi-year program that includes a 2020 launch date for a new robotic science rover.

With over-the-moon elation, the space agency reinforced its commitment to a Mars exploration program that meets "our nation's scientific and human exploration objectives," according to the official news release.

"The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "With this next mission, we're ensuring America remains the world leader in the exploration of the Red Planet, while taking another significant step toward sending humans there in the 2030s."

The "planned portfolio" includes:

  • Curiosity and Opportunity rovers
  • Two NASA spacecraft
  • Contributions to one European spacecraft currently orbiting Mars
  • 2013 launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter to study the Martian upper atmosphere
  • Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission, which will take the first look into the deep interior of Mars
  • Participation in ESA's 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions, including providing "Electra" telecommunication radios to ESA's 2016 mission and a critical element of the premier astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover

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Photos: NASA's Opportunity rover finds 'newberries' on Mars, may contain clay

MARS OPPORTUNITY

NASA/JPL

NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity’s Investigations at Endeavour Crater. Image shown during news conference by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Steve Squyres of Cornell University at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting in San Francisco on Dec. 4, 2012.

MARS OPPORTUNITY

NASA/JPL

NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity’s Investigations at Endeavour Crater. Image shown during news conference by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Steve Squyres of Cornell University at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting in San Francisco on Dec. 4, 2012.

opportunity rover mars

NASA/JPL

NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity’s Investigations at Endeavour Crater. Image shown during news conference by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Steve Squyres of Cornell University at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting in San Francisco on Dec. 4, 2012.

MARS OPPORTUNITY

NASA/JPL

NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity’s Investigations at Endeavour Crater. Image shown during news conference by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Steve Squyres of Cornell University at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting in San Francisco on Dec. 4, 2012.


Knock knock — NASA's Opportunity rover has some Martian clay news for you.

Scientists said Tuesday at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco that Opportunity — the solar-powered six-wheeler that landed on Mars in 2004 (and has far outlasted its original, three-month mission) — uncovered hints of clay minerals along the western rim of the Endeavour crater.

Steve Squyres, the mission's principal investigator at Cornell University said, "If you are a geologist studying a site like this, one of the first things you do is walk the outcrop, and that's what we've done with Opportunity," reports NASA.

Two outcrops of high interest on Matijevic Hill are "Whitewater Lake" and "Kirkwood." Whitewater Lake is light-toned material that science team members believe may contain clay.Kirkwood contains small spheres with composition, structure and distribution that differ from other iron-rich spherules, nicknamed blueberries, that Opportunity found at its landing site and throughout the Meridiani Planum area it has explored. Squyres calls the Kirkwood spheres "newberries." 

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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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