This week has been all about Mars and the Curiosity rover. We’ve posted lots of images taken on the Martian surface this week including a pretty awesome color panorama. We’ve selected a new image as our Photo of the Week as it shows the left side of Curiosity, blast marks from the mission’s descent stage and the rim of the Gale Crater.
There’s going to be a lot of news from Mars this month as a one-ton rover – fondly known as Curiosity – attempts to make its way to the surface of the red planet.
The mission, which launched in November of 2011, is a massive endeavor that aims to answer the age-old question of Mars’ habitability, among other things. Curiosity is expected to land on the Martian surface at 1:30 a.m. ET Monday, Aug. 6. And, as we’ve mentioned previously, we’re more than a bit worried about the now-famous “Seven minutes of Terror.” That’s the time it’ll take Curiosity to get from the top of Mars’ atmosphere to its surface. (If you haven’t seen the video, you must.) Anyone else experiencing a bit of anxiety?
In honor of the mission, we’ve placed a countdown on the left side of our homepage. Nothing fancy … it’ll work for now.
August brings some other news, including the Perseid meteor shower. Check out the video below for more information about that as well as some other interesting things you could see in the night sky this August.
Curiosity, a one-ton rover headed straight for Mars, is scheduled to land on the red planet in early August. “The landing will mark the beginning of a two-year prime mission to investigate whether one of the most intriguing places on Mars ever offered an environment favorable for microbial life,” according to NASA.
Here’s an intense video explaining the challenges of landing the car-sized rover on Mars. (On a scale of one to 10, NASA said landing on the planet is a 20!) In seven minutes time, the rover has to go from 13,000-miles-per-hour to zero.
The whole scenario seems impossible! I can’t believe scientists can actually do this. Good luck, Curiosity. Go get ’em!
Just in case you were wondering about previous missions to Mars, here’s a great infographic I posted on Twitter yesterday. Follow me @LM_Ortiz
It’s been a busy, busy week! I haven’t had time to write very much, so I’ll do a quick round-up of this week’s news.
Four gas giants discovered
Like I’ve said, it seems as if we are finding new planets every day. 2012 isn’t going to be any different. The year started off with the discovery of four gas giants, which according to this abstract, are larger than Jupiter. Jupiter! Wow. The planets are called HAT-P-34b, HAT-P-35b, HAT-P-36b, and HAT-P-37b.
We really have to come up with better names.
An airplane mission to Titan
I wrote my first piece for Universe Today earlier this week. Yah! The article is about a concept airplane mission to Titan – Saturn’s largest moon. The plan, dubbed AVIATR (pretty neat, huh?), would allow for a plane to soar through Titan’s skies and study its geography, atmosphere, and even potential landing sites for future missions. You gotta check out the story here.
GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B reach moon’s orbit
NASA’s GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) mission celebrated an exciting week. Two of the mission’s spacecrafts – GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B – finally reached the moon’s orbit. The goal of the mission is to map the moon from the surface to its core using gravity. Read more about the mission and what we could learn in this Space Oddities post.
A home for the winter
The Mars rover Opportunity will be spending the winter in a place called “Greeley Haven.” Want to see what it looks like? Look here. I love seeing photographs of Mars’ surface.