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Science and nature Travel and places

Thank you for the wonderful Opportunity to visit Mars

This last week saw the official end of the Opportunity rover’s mission on Mars. NASA was unable to coax it back to life after signalling it for about eight months. This remarkable rover continued exploring Mars long after it’s original 90 day mission.

Drive along with the NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover and hear the voices of scientists and engineers behind the mission. Designed to run for 90 days, the exploration spanned more than 15 years from 2004 to 2019. Along the way, it discovered definitive proof of liquid water on ancient Mars and set the off-world driving record. For more information on the Mars Exploration Rovers and all of NASA’s Mars missions, visit mars.nasa.gov.

There is a wealth of imagery, and other information available on the mission site that document Opportunity’s journey across part of Mars’ surface. I love this image of Opportunity’s tracks in the Martian sand:

Here’s a terrific video that provides context for the featured image I’ve added to this post:

Overhead and on-the-ground views of the 25-mile journey NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover has made since landing in 2004 – Courtesy of NASA

Another terrific resource (there’s so much available, I’m just picking items at random at this point), is this overview of the Opportunity and Spirit missions (Opportunity’s sibling, Spirit, went dormant several years ago):

This infographic highlights NASA’s twin robot geologists, the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Spirit and Opportunity. The rovers landed on the Red Planet in 2004, in search of answers about the history of water on Mars. Spirit concluded its mission in 2010. Opportunity last communicated with Earth on June 10, 2018, as a planet-wide dust storm blanketed the solar-powered rover’s location on Mars.
Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech

The wonderful xkcd published a tribute to Opportunity that really captures the impact Opportunity, Spirit, and the other rovers have on Humanity – they take us on voyages of discovery on other worlds!

These rovers take us along for the ride. All we need to do, is look out the window now and then.

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Film Science and nature

Voyager 2 enters interstellar space and all I can think about are Klingons

Last week we learned that Voyager 2 had followed in its sibling’s metaphorical footsteps, and entered interstellar space. According to Ars Technica:

On Monday, NASA announced that one of its longest-running experiments has started a new phase. Five years after Voyager 1 reached interstellar space, its sibling, Voyager 2, has joined it there. While the Oort Cloud of icy bodies extends well beyond the probes’ current locations, they’ve gone past the point where the charged particles of the solar wind dominate space. Instead, their current environment is dominated by cosmic rays ejected by other stars.

Ars Technica

When I read this news, I immediately thought about a scene in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier*, in which a Klingon Bird of Prey de-cloaks, and destroys one of the Voyager probes:

*Thanks to Ken Gagne for reminding me which movie this was!

If you’re not familiar with the Voyager probes, definitely take a look at NASA’s mini-site with information, and multimedia about these two historic probes, and trailblazers.

These infographics, alone, are awesome!

Categories
Science and nature

The sound of wind on Mars

NASA’s InSight probe has heard the sound of wind on Mars. Just think about that for a moment: the sound of wind on Mars!

Listen to Martian wind blow across NASA’s InSight lander. The spacecraft’s seismometer and air pressure sensor picked up vibrations from 10-15 mph (16-24 kph) winds as they blew across Mars’ Elysium Planitia on Dec. 1, 2018.

I played this for our kids this morning. Our son seemed to be impressed, although our daughter’s response was something along the lines of: “Meh, it sounds like wind … 🙄”. Kids!

If you’re curious about the InSight mission, the Oatmeal has a terrific explainer of the InSight mission that may work well for kids too:

The Oatmeal explainer of the NASA InSight mission

You can also find loads of images, and other information about the mission on NASA’s InSight homepage. NASA makes so much content available about their missions, they’re one of the reasons the Internet is so amazing!

Another great resource is the mission’s Twitter profile: