November, 2014

Philae Lands on Comet, Formation of Mount Sharp, Beagle 2 Found

Rosetta Intercepts Target


Philae Lands on Comet

On November 12, 2014, the Rosetta spacecraft’s Philae Lander successfully landed on the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The landing was not without some excitement. The lander’s automated harpoon system failed to work, allowing Philae to bounce twice before coming safely to rest. This mosaic is composed of a series of images captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera before, during, and after Philae’s first touchdown.

Unfortunately, the solar-powered lander ended up in the shadow of a cliff. Within its two-and-a-half day primary mission, it completed its science data collection and transmitted the data to Earth. Then it entered hibernation due to power loss. As the comet approaches the Sun there may be enough light available to wake up the lander.

Rosetta is an international mission led by the European Space Agency.

Image courtesy of ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team


Formation of Mount Sharp

Formation of Mount Sharp

Created using data collected by three Mars orbiters, this image (top) reveals Mount Sharp in the center of Gale Crater. In 2012 the Curiosity rover landed near the foot of Mount Sharp. Its lower rock layers interested mission scientists because they may contain minerals that form in relation to water. During its third year on Mars, Curiosity finally studied the layers up close. Mission scientists discovered that Mount Sharp may have been built by sediments deposited in a large lake bed.

This diagram (bottom left) reveals how Mount Sharp may have formed billions of years ago. (A) Gale Crater was filled with layers of sediment that were deposited during wet and dry periods. The environment alternated between that of lakes, rivers, and deserts. (B) Over time the layers were eroded away, creating the mountain. Curiosity captured this image (bottom right) on August 7, 2014. This type of evenly layered rock is seen in lake-floor deposits on Earth.

Gale Crater image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS
Diagram courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech
Layered rock image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


Beagle 2 Found

Beagle 2 Found

On January 16, 2015, NASA announced the discovery of Beagle 2, the United Kingdom’s long-lost Mars Lander. Carried by the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, Beagle 2 was released for a Christmas Day 2003 touchdown, but was never heard from after its expected landing. The lander, and some hardware ejected during descent, were found in these images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's high-resolution imager HiRISE.

Images courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratoy-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Leicester



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