5th August 2017 Sol 1777 – 5 years on Mars

Posted by ap507 at Aug 07, 2017 10:52 AM |
Professor John Bridges discusses 5 years since the successful landing of Mars Science Laboratory
5th August 2017 Sol 1777 – 5 years on Mars

MSL cruise configuration

Think: Leicester does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Leicester - it expresses the independent views and opinions of the academic who has authored the piece. If you do not agree with the opinions expressed, and you are a doctoral student/academic at the University of Leicester, you may write a counter opinion for Think: Leicester and send to ap507@le.ac.uk

The 5th August marks 5 Earth years since the successful landing of Mars Science Laboratory.  

During the landing I was at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.  We were all nervous but the signals for successful atmospheric entry, parachute deployment, Skycrane operation and then landing all came through.  

The first image of Mt Sharp came back via Mars Odyssey and the mission was on its way. Looking at our map – updated daily during operations – you can see that we have driven over 17 km, most of the time we have been driving – at up to 80-100 m day though usually less – past the Bagnold Dunes.  

We have now cut through them are on Mt Sharp itself. (more formally known as Aeolis Mons).  

Some of the key science targets are approaching in the next year or so of operations, we are just below the Vera Rubin Ridge now and once that science campaign is completed we will drive on to the main clay-rich unit.  The list of discoveries is long and growing: unexpected types of fractionated igneous rocks (the Leicester-led and Open University UK Participating Scientist team has a new paper in press about them), methane, organics, K-Ar dating, ancient groundwater in the mudstones laid down in a large lake that once filled much of Gale Crater, and so on.

As Mars moves out of Solar Conjunction next week we will recommence our operations work on Mars – here is hoping for another 5 years of discoveries with the Curiosity Rover!

and in my older blog posts (starting with the days leading up to landing) archived here.

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Think: Leicester does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Leicester - it expresses the independent views and opinions of the academic who has authored the piece. If you do not agree with the opinions expressed, and you are a doctoral student/academic at the University of Leicester, you may write a counter opinion for Think: Leicester and send to ap507@le.ac.uk