Curiosity’s landing on Mars – now in HD with audio!

There have been a number of Curiosity landing videos on the web lately, variations of the official versions, showing the incredible landing that the rover made about three weeks ago. Now there is another new official version, just posted on the Curiosity web site. This one is in beautiful HD colour, with audio from mission control added, as significant events occurred during the landing. It begins as before, with the heat shield separating and falling to the ground and continuing until the actual touchdown. Amazing!

Curiosity starts roving on Mars

Panorama showing the first wheel tracks made by Curiosity. Part of Mount Sharp and other crater rim mountains can be seen in the distance. Click image for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

The Curiosity rover has just taken its first short drive since landing a couple weeks ago, a test run of its mobility systems. Moving about 6 metres (20 feet) from its landing spot, the rover created its first wheel tracks in the gravelly soil, a major and critical accomplishment.

“Curiosity is a much more complex vehicle than earlier Mars rovers. The testing and characterization activities during the initial weeks of the mission lay important groundwork for operating our precious national resource with appropriate care,” according to Project Manager Pete Theisinger of JPL. “Sixteen days in, we are making excellent progress,” he adds.

See for the full article.

Curiosity extends its robotic arm

Curiosity’s extended robotic arm with turret of instruments at the end. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

The Curiosity rover has deployed its robotic arm, another major milestone in the mission. About 2.1 metres (6.9 feet) long, it is the most complex of its kind so far, with a turret of instruments at its end which includes a camera, drill, spectrometer, scoop and other tools for sieving and portioning samples of powdered rock and soil for chemical analysis. It is a big part of what makes Curiosity a true mobile laboratory!

If all of Kepler’s exoplanets orbited one star, this is what it would look like

Artist’s conception of Kepler-22b, an exoplanet which is less than two and half times the size of Earth and orbits in the habitable zone of its star. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

As the number of exoplanets being found by the Kepler space telescope continues to grow into the thousands, it can start to feel overwhelming (in a good way though). So many worlds found so far, and many more, probably millions, waiting to be discovered.

The Kepler planetary candidates are of a wide variety, orbiting different kinds of stars. Some are large gas giants like Jupiter or Saturn, and others are small and rocky, like Earth. The most current observations now suggest that they are common in the universe, maybe even outnumbering the stars themselves.

See for the full article (and video).

Now is the Time: a message for our future in space

At a time when robotic exploration of the solar system is making unprecedented achievements, the prospects for future human missions may seem to be declining, perhaps for a long time. While plans continue for manned missions back to the Moon, an asteroid and eventually Mars, the timetable is undetermined with no firm target dates for any of them. Recent budget cuts have slashed spending, leaving a depressed feeling that the days of human spaceflight may be over, other than commercial ventures into near-Earth orbit, etc.

So if you need to feel inspired that this can change, then watch this new video from OpenSite called Now is the Time. A unique and cool message, from a weather balloon launched with an iPhone loaded with quotes and images about the great accomplishments made so far in manned spaceflight. We’ve done it before and we can do it again.