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NASA's veteran Mars rover ready to start 10th year

As NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity neared the ninth anniversary of its landing on Mars, the rover was working in the 'Matijevic Hill' area seen in this view from Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam). (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)

Jan. 22, 2013 — NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, one of the twin rovers that bounced to airbag-cushioned safe landings on Mars nine years ago this week, is currently examining veined rocks on the rim of an ancient crater.

Opportunity has driven 22.03 miles (35.46 kilometers) since it landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on Jan. 24, 2004, PST (Jan. 25, Universal Time). Its original assignment was to keep working for three...

ChemCam follows the 'Yellowknife Road' to Martian wet area

The Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity Rover recently took this photo of the Martian landscape looking toward Mount Sharp while on its way toward Yellowknife Bay—an area where researchers have found minerals indicating the past presence of water. (Credit: NASA)

Jan. 15, 2013 — Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the French Space Agency have tracked a trail of minerals that point to the prior presence of water at the Curiosity rover site on...

NASA Mars rover preparing to drill into first Martian rock

'John Klein' Site Selected for Curiosity's Drill Debut: This view shows the patch of veined, flat-lying rock selected as the first drilling site for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. Image credit: (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Jan. 16, 2013 — NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is driving toward a flat rock with pale veins that may hold clues to a wet history on the Red Planet. If the rock meets rover engineers' approval when Curiosity rolls up to it in coming days, it will...

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover makes first use of its brush

This image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows the patch of rock cleaned by the first use of the rover's Dust Removal Tool (DRT). (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Jan. 7, 2013 — NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has completed first-time use of a brush it carries to sweep dust off rocks.

Nearing the end of a series of first-time uses of the rover's tools, the mission has cleared dust away from a targeted patch on a flat...

Mars rover Curiosity explores 'Yellowknife Bay'

The sinuous rock feature in the lower center of this mosaic of images recorded by the NASA Mars rover Curiosity is called "Snake River." The images in the mosaic were taken by Curiosity's Navigation Camera during the 133rd Martian day, or sol, of the rover's mission on Mars (Dec. 20, 2012). (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Jan. 5, 2013 — After imaging during the holidays, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity resumed driving Jan. 3 and pulled within arm's reach of a sinuous rock...

Mars Curiosity rover explores 'Yellowknife Bay'

The NASA Mars rover Curiosity used its left Navigation Camera to record this view of the step down into a shallow depression called "Yellowknife Bay." (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Dec. 19, 2012 — The NASA Mars rover Curiosity this week is driving within a shallow depression called "Yellowknife Bay," providing information to help researchers choose a rock to drill.

Using Curiosity's percussive drill to collect a sample from the interior of a rock, a feat never...

Mars rover Curiosity can be positioned with eclipses

Phobos in transit last September. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Dec. 13, 2012 — Observations from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity when Mars' moon Phobos crosses in front of the sun, like in September, help us to understand exactly where the rover is on the Red Planet. Researchers at the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain) have developed a method for achieving precisely this.

The exact location of Curiosity on the surface of Mars is determined using data...

Mars rover self-portrait shoot uses arm choreography

On the 84th and 85th Martian days of the NASA Mars rover Curiosity's mission on Mars (Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2012), NASA's Curiosity rover used the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to capture dozens of high-resolution images to be combined into self-portrait images of the rover. This version of the full-color self-portrait includes more of the surrounding terrain than a version produced earlier (PIA16239). (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Dec. 11, 2012 — The robotic arm on...

Mars rover Curiosity nearing Yellowknife Bay

Layered Martian Outcrop 'Shaler' in 'Glenelg' Area: The NASA Mars rover Curiosity used its Mast Camera (Mastcam) during the mission's 120th Martian day, or sol (Dec. 7, 2012), to record this view of a rock outcrop informally named "Shaler." (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Dec. 11, 2012 — The NASA Mars rover Curiosity drove 63 feet (19 meters) northeastward early Monday, Dec. 10, approaching a step down into a slightly lower area called "Yellowknife Bay," where...

Curiosity shakes, bakes, and tastes Mars with SAM

SAM's three instruments are visible in this view taken before installation of its side panels: the tunable laser spectrometer (TLS) at lower left, the quadrupole mass spectrometer (QMS) at upper right, and the gas chromatograph (GC) at lower right. SAM's solid sample inlet tubes (SSIT), visible at top right, are the routes by which Curiosity's robotic arm will deliver samples of soil and powdered rock for analysis. (Credit: NASA)

BestAstronomy (Dec. 3, 2012) — NASA's...

Curiosity rover preparing for Thanksgiving activities

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity drove 83 feet eastward during the 102nd Martian day, or sol, of the mission (Nov. 18, 2012), and used its left navigation camera to record this view ahead at the end of the drive. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

BestAstronomy (Nov. 20, 2012) — NASA's Mars rover Curiosity completed a touch-and-go inspection of one rock on Sunday, Nov. 18, then pivoted and, on the same day, drove toward a Thanksgiving overlook location.

Last week...

Melt water on Mars could sustain life, new research suggests

BestAstronomy (Nov. 16, 2012) — Near surface water has shaped the landscape of Mars. Areas of the planet's northern and southern hemispheres have alternately thawed and frozen in recent geologic history and comprise striking similarities to the landscape of Svalbard. This suggests that water has played a more extensive role than previously envisioned, and that environments capable of sustaining life could exist, according to new research from the University of Gothenburg...

Curiosity team switches back to Earth time

On Sol 84 (Oct. 31, 2012), NASA's Curiosity rover used the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to capture this set of 55 high-resolution images, which were stitched together to create this full-color self-portrait. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)

BestAstronomy (Nov. 7, 2012) — After three months working on "Mars time," the team operating NASA Mars rover Curiosity has switched to more regular hours, as planned.

A Martian day, called a sol, is...

Mars longevity champ switching computers

NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft passes above Mars' south pole in this artist's concept. The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since October 24, 2001. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

BestAstronomy (Nov. 2, 2012) — NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, already the longest-working spacecraft ever sent to Mars, will switch to some fresh, redundant equipment next week that has not been used since before launch in 2001.

Like many spacecraft, this orbiter carries a pair of redundant main...

Mars like Hawaii? NASA rover's first soil studies help fingerprint Martian minerals

First X-ray View of Martian Soil: This graphic shows results of the first analysis of Martian soil by the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) experiment on NASA's Curiosity rover. The image reveals the presence of crystalline feldspar, pyroxenes and olivine mixed with some amorphous (non-crystalline) material. The soil sample, taken from a wind-blown deposit within Gale Crater, where the rover landed, is similar to volcanic soils in Hawaii. The colors in the graphic represent the...

Assessing drop-off to Mars rover's observation tray

Sample material from the fourth scoop of Martian soil collected by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is on the rover's observation tray in this image taken during the mission's 78th Martian day, or sol, (Oct. 24, 2012) by Curiosity's left Navigation Camera. The tray is 3 inches (7.8 centimeters) in diameter. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

BestAstronomy (Oct. 26, 2012) — NASA's Mars rover Curiosity used its Mast Camera (Mastcam) during the mission's 78th sol (Oct. 24, 2012) to...

Curiosity rover collects fourth scoop of Martian soil

The Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity used its laser and spectrometers to examine what chemical elements are in a drift of Martian sand during the mission's 74th Martian day, or sol (Oct. 20, 2012). (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP/LPGN/CNRS)

BestAstronomy (Oct. 22, 2012) — NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shook a scoopful of dusty sand inside its sample-handling mechanism on Sol 75 (Oct. 21, 2012) as the third scrubbing of...

Mars soil sample delivered for analysis inside rover

The robotic arm on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity delivered a sample of Martian soil to the rover's observation tray for the first time during the mission's 70th Martian day, or sol (Oct. 16, 2012). (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

BestAstronomy (Oct. 19, 2012) — NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has ingested its first solid sample into an analytical instrument inside the rover, a capability at the core of the two-year mission.

The rover's Chemistry and Mineralogy...

Mars rock touched by NASA Curiosity has surprises

Target: Jake Matijevic Rock. This image shows where NASA's Curiosity rover aimed two different instruments to study a rock known as "Jake Matijevic." (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

BestAstronomy (Oct. 12, 2012) — The first Martian rock NASA's Curiosity rover has reached out to touch presents a more varied composition than expected from previous missions. The rock also resembles some unusual rocks from Earth's interior.

The rover team used two instruments on...

NASA Mars Curiosity rover prepares to study martian soil

Wheel Scuff Mark at 'Rocknest': NASA's Mars rover Curiosity cut a wheel scuff mark into a wind-formed ripple at the "Rocknest" site to give researchers a better opportunity to examine the particle-size distribution of the material forming the ripple. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

BestAstronomy (Oct. 4, 2012) — NASA's Curiosity rover is in a position on Mars where scientists and engineers can begin preparing the rover to take its first scoop of soil for...

My life on Mars: Engineering student experiences life on the Red Planet

BestAstronomy (Oct. 2, 2012) — As NASA's Curiosity rover scours the surface of Mars and beams pictures of the stark and desolate landscape back to Earth, we've begun to paint a picture of what living on the red planet might actually be like.

In this month's Physics World (, Ashley Dale, a PhD student at the University of Bristol, brings this image to life by giving his account of the two weeks he spent living in the Utah desert as part of a simulated...