A view from the "Kimberley" formation on Mars taken by NASA's Curiosity rover. The strata in the foreground dip towards the base of Mount Sharp, indicating flow of water toward a basin that existed before the larger bulk of the mountain formed.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Mars: Once Upon A Day At The Beach

I live in a tourist town. A favorite pastime of visitors is to head down to the pebble beach along Lake Superior and skip rocks on the water. The flatter they are, the better they skip. Each pebble’s rounded contours are visible evidence of the erosive power of the lake before them. Years and years…
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NASA’s ‘Flying Saucer’ For Mars Landings Gets Put To The Test

Sometime before 2:30 p.m. CDT tomorrow, NASA will test a new way of landing heavy equipment on Mars using a ‘flying saucer’ design. It’s called the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), and it’s designed to inflate into a large disk dragging a parachute behind it. Whenever we launch a Mars landing mission, reaching the surface safely is critical. All…
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Scars On Mars Fade … Sometimes / Comet-cluster Mashup

Curiosity descent and heat shield impact. Best heat shield images are at the end. It’s only been a couple years, but the blast marks left by the descent stage that delivered the Curiosity rover to Mars as well as it heat shield that protected it have changed markedly in appearance. But not exactly the way…
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Mars Opportunity Rover Falters, May Be On The Chopping Block

If you have a digital camera you’re familiar with reformatting your memory card after you’ve filled it up and downloaded your images. Reformatting clears the card and allows you to write to it again. But after maybe a hundred of these digital lobotomies a card will often begin to malfunction. Now unreliable, it can’t be…
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Spectacular Meteor Storm Lights Up Mars During Recent Comet Flyby

Oh, to have stood under the Martian sky on October 19th! As Comet Siding Spring passed just 87,000 miles (140,000 km) from the planet that night, dust in its tail slammed into the Martian atmosphere at 126,000 mph, burning up in storm of meteoric madness. “Thousands per hour fell,” said Nick Schneider, instrument lead for NASA’s…
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