≡ Menu


This look back at a dune that NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover drove across was taken by the rover’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) during the 538th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Feb. 9, 2014). The rover had driven over the dune three days earlier. For scale, the distance between the parallel wheel tracks is about 9 feet (2.7 meters). The dune is about 3 feet (1 meter) tall in the middle of its span across an opening called “Dingo Gap.” This view is looking eastward. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

First: Spirit (MER-A), Mars Exploration Rover, launched on June 10, 2003 at 13:58:47 EDT[7] and landed successfully on January 4, 2004. Nearly 6 years after the original mission limit, Spirit had covered a total distance of 7.73km (4.80mi) but its wheels became trapped in sand.

Around January 26, 2010, NASA conceded defeat in its efforts to free the rover and stated that it would now function as a stationary science platform.  The last communication received from the rover was on March 22, 2010, and NASA ceased attempts to re-establish communication on May 25, 2011. Mars rover

On First Looking Out of NASA’s Spirit Rover(Written on 2004-01-04)

First moments of viewing first mosaic from Mars

Much have I imagined the arcing vaults of space,
And many fiery launches and cold orbits seen;
Round the darksided moon have I been
And raised a flag above Tranquility base.
Oft on one Red Planet would I place
Dreams of deep-brow’d Bradbury’s Morning Green
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I saw Curiosity gaze upon our brother’s face:
Then felt I like some sentinel in strange skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like those at JPL, when the Curiosity’s eyes
Delivered them an image through the stars,
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise–
“All green” upon the dusty plains of Mars.

(Apologies to Keats. who would understand)

Then Curiosity: 2,000 Days on Mars With the Curiosity Rover –  It has now been just more than 2,000 days since NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on the surface of Mars.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is seen at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called ‘Buckskin’ on lower Mount Sharp in this low-angle self-portrait taken August 5, 2015 and released August 19, 2015. 

In the days (or “sols,” as they are called on Mars) since its complex sky-crane touchdown, Curiosity has made countless discoveries with multiple instruments, including drills, lasers, and an array of imaging instruments that so far have sent 468,926 images back to Earth. Gathered here are a few images of Mars from Curiosity over the past few years.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kinch January 31, 2018, 11:01 PM

    I’m afraid your paean to Man’s questing spirit lacks the perspective of a Wise Latina.

  • John A. Fleming January 31, 2018, 11:26 PM

    Mars is … hmm, the best day on Mars is worse than the worst day on Earth. Very cold, even near the equator. -80 degC every night. No water. No breathable air. The aer so thin that we need pressure suits to go outside. Sleeting radiation from cosmic ray showers and solar protons. The dirt (aerth) full of peroxide and perchlorate salts, nasty stuff. There’s water there, but it’s salty buried glaciers or permafrost and you have to dig for it. No food, no water, no air, no heat, no nothing. Welcome to Mars, humans.

    You land on Mars with what you brought with you. It has to be just enough to start a settlement. To create a colony, everything has to be made, or found, or purified. Every thing you can think of. Every thing. Those pix make it look like some place on Earth. Earth is going to send you the highest value, 21Cen technology stuff. You’ll get a shipment every two years. Everything that is 19th Century or before is made on Mars. Including food. You’ve got two years to get your farms up and running, cuz that ‘s all the food you brought with you.

    We’ll be bringing nuclear reactors with us. And thingy making machines. And lots of chemical processing facilities. You wanna be a Martian? Degrees in chemical engineering go a long way.

    Skip the Spocks and Kirks. Useless good for nothings, wastes of air. We need Scottys and McCoy’s and everybody’s a farmer. Build and farm, or die. When you go there, you’re never coming back. Your lander will be completely cut up and used for everything.

    The sun is weak and the sky is dusty. We need heat and power. We have to dig for water, make our air, create houses and farms. We need to recycle our poo. Poo is wealth. There are no organics on Mars. We need to build habitats where anaerobic and aerobic bacteria can recycle our poo and our farm waste. The very foundation of our wealth is aerroir, aerth with the salts flushed out, full of joyous Earth bacteria multiplying and munching away on all the organic material we are mixing into it. All organics are recycled. All water is recycled. Salts are thrown away into the wind.

    Imagine this. Bring a small quantity of your favorite magic dirt Earth terroir. Keep it in the anti-radiation vault on the long journey from Earth. As soon as you get the heated farm domes up, and the salts flushed out, mix in the organic composted waste from all the food you have brought with you into the earth, water it, and add the terroir. Call your settlement New Provence or Iowa, cuz that’s where your bacteria are from.

    Prof. Peterson says the young men are desperately looking for a purpose. Go out There, young man.

  • JoeDaddy February 1, 2018, 3:09 AM

    If they would only show us ALL the pix….the one’s that reveal the truth.

  • Ten February 1, 2018, 4:17 AM

    John A. Fleming has it right. Going to Mars is an idiot’s dream. The ostensible right’s obsession with “exploring space” is just that, a hoo-rah, make-work, nationalistic folly. A boondoogle. A nightmare. Socialism for scientists. An unexamined adolescent fantasy inculcated by television.

    Mars is not a place to go to. It is a place to abandon.

    On another subject but still concerning Mars, someone tell us why the place is littered with jagged burnt rocks, why the upper half of its sphere is so much smaller in diameter than the bottom, why the enormous canyons have no signs of water inflow or outflow, and why it has that vast gash running through its waist.

    That’s where things get interesting. Actually going there? Ridiculous.

  • Vanderleun February 1, 2018, 9:08 AM

    And so say we all….

    Until of course we start shipping off our deplorables to Mars…. much like what was done…. not so long ago. I can envision a whole new line of science-fiction/faction:

    “The Coffin Ships of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs

  • Sam L. February 1, 2018, 9:30 AM

    “It was said that sharks could be seen following the ships, because so many bodies were thrown overboard.[5][6][7]” I recall reading that about the slave ships…and that the sharks still swim that route to this day. (I’m pretty sure the sharks are smarter than that.)

  • Vanderleun February 1, 2018, 9:41 AM

    I’m pretty sure the sharks are smarter too. That whole little meme reeks of yet another clot of propaganda in the endless Narrative of the Noble Negro.

  • John A. Fleming February 1, 2018, 10:17 AM

    Hi Ten. I’m one of those idiot engineers. I’ve got Mars fever bad. Mars may be a way muy malo place, but we can do this. This will be the rhyming story of the American Colonies. We have the engineering expertise and knowledge to get started. But we go in eyes wide open. Are we as tough as the Russians? Are we as industrious as the Chinese? Are we as persistent as the Hispanos?

    Here’s how it will go down. Somebody will send the first settlers to build the first settlement. They will be under a Sovereign Charter. Think back to the Massachusetts Bay colony, or the Pennsylvania Colony. They were joint stock companies in England, that sold land to new settlers. They obtained a Royal Charter. The King had rights and responsibilities to the Colony, and likewise did the Colony to the King. Look it up.

    Our Colony Company will send resupplies every two years, the critical stuff that can’t be made on Mars. What are the colonists’ jobs? 1. Build a nearly self-sustaining settlement. 2. Build a second one. Sell it to the second wave.

    What is the Colony company selling, how does it make a profit? The proprietary knowledge won by the first settlers, on how to survive and thrive on Mars. When we all see people living on Mars, water, air, farms, dwellings, workshops. Every country, every people will want to send their people to Mars. But there’s only one Company that knows how to do it. Ours. And we know where the water is, and we’re camped out on and claiming the best source on the equator, somewhere between 0-20 degrees latitude. All those other colonies are going to have find water on their own. Our colony will be selling access to water, and a ready-to-move in settlement in our colony.

    The first settlement probably won’t make it, a la Jamestown. Maybe too the 2nd or 3rd. That’s the way life is. Eventually, we’ll learn enough to make it stick.

    Idiot, maybe. But of such are worlds won.

  • Ten February 1, 2018, 10:31 AM

    I doubt you’re an idiot, John, but are you collecting your pay from the public teat?

    Anyway, unless the Massachusetts Bay colony or the Pennsylvania Colony found themselves in a place wholly unable to support them outside of pressure suits standing on airless, waterless sandpaper, the analogy fails. Our nonsensical, fanfared appeals to the indomitable spirit of the explorer and the sheer nobility of the task yada yada is slathered all over these dumb notions of “exploring space” that rightists are commonly on about but that doesn’t make it so; it makes it the right’s version of collectivist folly. We can strike all the thousand yard stares we want, fists on our hips, legs apart, and with low camera angles and that doesn’t change.

    It is collectivist folly. It is foolish, ruinously expensive, dead-ended, futile, and collectively, stupefyingly arrogant, especially for a nation a quarter quadrillion dollars deep in red ink lacking not just a plan to correct it, but that is being conveyed along by a national debt machinery that as soon as the power is cut falls into chaos.

    And we’re going to Mars? Why? How? By what justification, by what accord, and on whose dime?

    If you’re an engineer you’re no idiot but if you’re a thinker, why are you promoting an idiotic scheme?

  • Ten February 1, 2018, 11:02 AM

    Try this:


    If not so much for the piece, which is correct if not exhaustive, then for the ruckus in the comments: A hundred Bold Explorers with paragraph after paragraph of jumped-up rhetoric trying to emote their way to glory.

    Although there was a good one. From a NASA guy.

    “Kudos to David Von Drehle for introducing a less popular perspective on the current push for manned Mars missions and colonization. As a radiation physicist emeritus still publishing via NASA GSFC, I would also like to add that cosmic ray exposure and surface temperatures are not the only hazards that would make human exploration difficult. Mars visitors, especially those who plan to stay longer-term, are likely to suffer the effects of zero gravity during the extended voyages and one-third Earth gravity while visiting Mars. These travelers would also not have the critical protection of Earth’s magnetic field, i.e. no protective magnetosphere. Surface conditions on Mars would be brutal; the lack of water, the toxic soil, and the month-long dust-storms would make successful terraforming exceedingly unlikely. Hollywood has painted an inspiring and benign picture of potential Martian settlements, which, unfortunately, is still in the realm of fantasy and science fiction. Readers interested in an overview of scientific elements that make such missions unrealistic at this time can review my essay “The Mars Conundrum” at http://www.spaceradiation.net/facts-and-fancy-blog… Finally, from a philosophical perspective, the essay below addresses the reality that humans carry their strengths, and, alas, their weaknesses, wherever they travel: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yolanda-reid-chassia… Thank you. Epaminondas G. Stassinopoulos, Astrophysicist Emeritus, NASA GSFC”

  • Chex February 1, 2018, 11:37 AM

    jeez Ten- quit holding back, and tell us what you really think!

    Myself, I say that Mars is simply another heavenly construct of the collective unconscious. The planets did not have distinct form until the moment just before Galileo Galilei put his eyes to the telescope…

  • John A. Fleming February 1, 2018, 12:26 PM

    Ten, I’m not on the public dime. Note carefully. I’m not advocating “exploring space” with people. I agree with you, it is “foolish, ruinously expensive, dead-ended, futile, and collectively, stupefyingly arrogant”. And it is what the US Government wants to do. The vision of bureaucracies. Individually, the people are stellar, but the organization grinds that into grey goo.

    Not me. All I want to know is where is the water, where are the ores. Where to build, where to live. How to create wealth, not burn it up.

    As to “By what justification, by what accord, and on whose dime?” Right now, I don’t care. I’m working on the engineering, to be ready. The past is prologue, history rhymes. Someone, somewhere, someday will answer that question. Ask Tsiolkovsky. No one was ready to answer the question, but he is the great-grandfather of space.

  • Ten February 1, 2018, 1:42 PM

    We should prepare to survive ourselves here, John. We cannot, we shall not, and that’s why we won’t fare better off-world where survival is two or three orders of magnitude harder.

    I grew up poring through reams and heaps of sci-fi too, and I can use crap like “gravity well” and all the other term-dropping popular among rightist pocket-protected worlds-makers out there but I know one thing they evidently do not. In order to justify the enormous courageous character of living there we ought to first learn how to live here. We have not done this.

    Otherwise who cares if earth is obliterated by a distant rock. I also seem to remember that of all our many futurist narratives the dystopian ones win the story line twenty to one.

  • Casey Klahn February 1, 2018, 7:34 PM

    Mars is manifestly the place to go. It is such by proximity. It is there.

    Foolish humans. Does everything have to sort on a balance sheet? Yes, in an economy. Yes, in a business. But, what about in exploration?

  • John the River February 1, 2018, 8:40 PM

    Well read in classic Science Fiction I crib from the visionaries of the past; don’t land on Mars until we have developed the asteroid belt which we will do because there is more accessible precious metal there than mined on the surface of the earth in human history, ice in comets and perhaps in the belt too.
    Don’t land on Mars until we drop a couple dozen ice bearing comets on it, (after we learn to steer them), Mars needs them to thicken the atmosphere and they’re safer for the earth being dropped somewhere else.
    Set up habitats in the Lagrange points for manufacturing together with Mars, and the belt civilization add a few extra eggs of human existence as insurance for this one basket that also contains all our ‘nuts’.

  • ghostsniper February 2, 2018, 4:29 AM

    “Does everything have to sort on a balance sheet?”
    If YOU are trying to balance MY sheet, then yes, it does have to sort in accordance with my demands.

    Anyway, all this Mars stuff is premature as they should have already developed their learning curve 40 years ago by developing the frickin moon.

    Branson, Musk, all the other wealthy people, as well as Disney, Space X, etc., should joint venture and create a vacation haven on both the light and dark sides of the moon with trice daily excursions with the price about $10k per head for a 10 day “cruise”. NO gov’t allowed, private entities only. Don’t fuck up the moon like they fucked up the earth.

  • Ten February 2, 2018, 6:40 AM

    No offense, John, but it’s this nonsense that powers what I’m on about:

    “…don’t land on Mars until we have developed the asteroid belt which we will do because there is more accessible precious metal there than mined on the surface of the earth in human history…”

    You say that with such detached confidence. Except that the costs of it – whatever these “precious metals” might represent to an Earth already rich in them – are so vast you can’t even imagine them. This, however, brings folks like you to expound on how we’ll just print what we need to finance the endeavor, and then assuming we succeed, which we cannot possibly, proceed to destroy Earth’s economy.

    How will this economic wreckage happen? That, my friend, should be self-evident but unfortunately the right is no more clued-in about it than is the psychotic left. If you knew how money worked you’d abandon this plan before you ever propose it. You’d run from it.

    And that’s before we get into the physical impossibility of ever even attempting to do what the right’s many Tom Swift types dredged up in some 30 year old paperback. In other words, it ain’t happening and you don’t want it too either. Win or lose, either way the disruption would be absolutely catastrophic.

    “…ice in comets and perhaps in the belt too…”

    There is no ice in comets. That’s old cosmology. Comets are arid rock. 67P showed the Rosetta mission just that, as predicted and as witnessed scores of times prior. There is no water out there for you to reestablish life with, John. Even the Oort Cloud is a seventy year old conjecture. Right there you have a problem you cannot solve.

    “…Don’t land on Mars until we drop a couple dozen ice bearing comets on it, (after we learn to steer them)…”

    Now you’re just fantasizing. You have no realistic, conceivably way to “drop comets on Mars” and even if you could – at a billion a whack – you couldn’t possibly fund the billions of them you’d need.

    “…Mars needs them to thicken the atmosphere and they’re safer for the earth being dropped somewhere else….”

    That’s an even more preposterous fantasy. You don’t know why Mars is airless, don’t have any way to give it a magnetosphere, and can’t possibly make it support life. Humanity will never, ever produce an atmosphere on another world. The thought of it is sheer, unmitigated hubris.

    “…Set up habitats in the Lagrange points for manufacturing together with Mars…”

    How, making what, and to what end, given the above?

    “…add a few extra eggs of human existence as insurance for this one basket that also contains all our ‘nuts’.”

    That’s probably the most outrageous notion of them all. You’ve proposed an absolutely ruinous, wholly unscientific plan the purpose of which is to escape an Eden in favor of an utterly barren rock … so you can appear to have humanity’s eternal survival in mind. Justify that set of ethics if you can.

    You have no valid cause, no means of enacting your plan, and no way of preventing it ruining Earth’s economy. None of that will discourage you.

  • Hammer's Thor February 4, 2018, 9:23 PM

    We want to go because it is there. To explore, to learn, to grow. To see new places with our own eyes. It’s about reaching new possibilities, conquering new frontiers, about going boldly where no man has gone before. To survive in an environment that has no mercy.

    If you don’t want to go, don’t. But if enough people do, and are willing to contribute their own skills, and money, and lives, and take the risks, then that’s what matters. It’s sad to see someone who cannot imagine the adventure. Without adventure, we become stagnant pools of our own malaise. As humans, we MUST go there, and beyond. I have always believed this, and pity the naysayer who would rather stay home.

  • Ten February 5, 2018, 10:17 AM

    You’d think that with Hammer’s Thor’s emotional self-exultation all us pitiable nay-saying realists would suddenly snap to and start writing checks so he could leap off a $1B rocket in a $5M suit, strike a valiant pose wailing away with his tiny twenty thousand dollar Estwing, and succumb to hard vacuum, quoting Hillary.

    Because, ‘to boldly go’. And you thought this wasn’t really about television…