tv NASAJPL - Exploring Mars CSPAN March 6, 2019 9:14am-9:59am EST
today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. provider. >> last month nasa ended the opportunity rover mission after it spent 15 years exploring 28 miles of the surface of mars. before that announcement, nasa scientists gave a presentation on the latest discoveries from the various mars missions and plans for future missions to the red planet. this is just over an hour. >> nasa's jet propulsion laboratory presents, the lecture, a series of talks by scientists and engineers who are exploring our planet, our solar system and all that lies beyond.
beyond. >> hello and welcome. good evening. [laughter]. [applause] >> thanks. well, welcome to nasa's jet propulsion laboratory in pasadena, california, i'm preston, and welcome to the lecture series we call the von karmen lecture. our two speakers will tell about the two rovers on the red planet including the next planned to launch in 2020 and latest arrival on the insight lander. our first speaker is dr. abigail simon, a research scientists working here at jpl and her focus is understanding the rocky bodies in the solar system. she was the campaign lead during curiosity rover's
exploration of vera ruben ridge recently. she received her ph.d. in sciences at washington university in st. louis, and completed a post doc at cal-tech before coming to jpl in 2016. see, please welcome her. [applaus [applause] >> awesome, thank you so much and i'm so excited to see you here today. what a good crowd. awesome. so, all right. let's get into it. i'll be doing the first half of this talk about our red planet rovers and insights and i will be focusing on the rovers we currently have exploring the planet and the rovers that we have had headed to the planet. to start, i'm going to take you back about six months ago from today. it's a monday morning and for the opportunity rover we came in in the morning and we were starting our regular tactical planning as we do every morning
for both rovers that are operating on mars. we were parked at this interesting outcrop called la h hoy -- lajolla, an informal name. this is a document that we've done every day that we've planned the mission, you can see it reads that opportunity is at the tan bed rock la jolla, in the apsx, that's one of our instruments is down. however, a dust storm is our next challenge. a measure of dust level that we call toa has jumped from .6 to 1.5. why did we report this? why do we care what the dust level is? here is a picture of rover, i'm sure you in the audience know it's powered by energy, we have solar power panels that charge our battery.
when you have dust in the at tear you can block out sunlight and it makes it harder to get power to the panels and power to do science. that monday when we had a dust level of one, the sun looked something like this. so, we were interested, the sun was dimmer than it usually is, but we were approaching summer in the time of year where the opportunity was investigating and sometimes we get dust storms in the summer and sometimes they're kind of big and times we let regional level dust storms. we thought maybe this would be a regional level dust storm, we'll have power the next few weeks, but managed our power and we've survived dust storms. this is something to be wary of, but not something that we think is super horrible. the next day on tuesday, when we got the reading of what the dust measurement was, it jumped and grown. and the dust level was up to 3. and by friday, we realized this
was a pretty massive storm and probably going to be pretty bad and probably one of the worst we've ever seen. we got data-- we can't tell how dark the sky was because when we tried to take a picture of the sun we couldn't see it through solar filter. we think that it was around 6. this is a simulation of 5. this is now friday. at this point we know it's a very seriously event, we could see by the orbital data, the dust storm was expand, sting to grow and likely to become global so all we could do is hunker down and do our best to manage power over the weekend and wait. that's what we did. we were careful and cancelled down links we thought we would have in order to save power. and we sat and waited. we waited until sunday when the data would come in. this is the sun would look like if it was 7. if it was 9. this is what we saw when we got
the down link on sunday. we had a level that was above 10.5, so, the son probably looked something like this to the vehicle, this is the highest we've ever measured on the surface of mars how dark it got. we were amazed we heard from the vehicle at all. we knew at this point we were probably going to lose contact with the vehicle and lower power mode fault and sit and hunker down and wait out and see what happened. let's go back and talk about what opportunity was doing before this all happened, and the really interesting science that we were doing, you know, why was our arm down on that particular rock? well, opportunity is our robot field geologist on the surface of mars. the payload of the rover are instruments designed to act like a geologist in the field would do. we have a tool that we can use to grind into rocks a lot like a rock hammer. we have a microscope that acts
like a geologist hand lens, we can look close up to the rock. we have other instruments to measure the chemistry of the rock and fine scale pictures of them. integrated we can use these tools to tell about the geology of the environment and understand the past and past performances that sheet these rocks. throughout the traverse, opportunity has started up here at endurance crater and we've crater-hopped through the area of the plains. we started in endurance and traveled to eagle crater and down to a slightly bigger crater called victoria crater. in 2010 we got to the rim of this giant crater, about 22 kilometers in diameter called endeavor crater. this is an exciting place for us to study because we know that the rocks exposed on the rim of this really large crater are a lot older than the plains rocks that we've been driving across. they represent a period of time in mars' history that was a lot longer ago than the rocks we
have been looking at before so we got to see different environments, different geologic processes and all the signatures were in the rocks. the mission basically you start it over again when we got to the rim of endeavor crater. this is also the first time we've been able to investigate the rim of such a large crater on any planet anywhere and that's really important because impact processes, the formation of crater is a universal process across planet in the solar system. so the opportunity to investigate one on another planet, to get really good data is important, not only for understanding mars and its history, but also, how does this operate across the entire solar system. for the past year we've been exploring this feature called perseverance valley, which is about the size of a football field, and this is an area on the rim of the crater, you'll note here the north arrow is pointed to the side. this is just to kind of show what it looks like. we're driving down the valley into the crater, in the valley
the crater looks interesting, bifurcated channels and flow features. the questions we were answering, what is the process that formed this particular valley. we had three kind of ideas we thought of before we went into the valley. the first formed by a dry avalanche, a bunch of rocks that rolled down the hill and carved this out. we didn't think this was likely, it was a little too shallow. the second idea is a debris flow which you can have in slightly shallower slopes, in this case kind much a slurry of mud and rocks. or the third option, maybe an ancient river channel, this was kind after gully that was a lot of water. so we went down there to check it out and see if we could figure it out. this is the valley the top looking down and you might look at that and say where is it? i don't see it. it turps o-- turns out this morphology, we can see it from orbit. this is beautiful down, you can see a shadow and that's our
mast right there. but we've got in the valley and we noted something really interesting and started look ago the rocks exposed there and we found with evidence that there's these linear faults that were kind of running up and down the valley. you can see there are two kinds of rocks on other side of the fault. there's a process that's shaping and faulting the linear faultings along the crater rim and then we took a closer look at some much the rocks. we could see that they were sculpted in a really interesting way and if you take a really close look, you can see in this rock, there's kind of these more resistant little pebbles sticking up and coming off the pebbles are the sort of flow lines. you go, flow lines, maybe this is evidence there's a river. if you look carefully at the direction, they're pointed uphill and water doesn't flow uphill. this isn't water that's shaping these at least modern-day surfaces, this is wind. this is the result of wind erosion in the modern day surface of mars.
integrating all of these things we found we cape up with a new hypothesis to consider, maybe parts of this valley are carved by wind erosion. we have these faults that we see cutting through them. maybe wind is taking advantage of the preexisting faults and sort of carving it out. but you know, if they were partially a debris flow or river we might expect to find all of these deposits to be carried by the events that would kind of be the signature for these events and they'd be at the bottom of the valley. so we'd have to wait until we get to the bottom of the valley before we can say for sure, are these deposits here or aren't they here? so we're still exploring. another awesome thing that perseverance valley exposed that was totally unexpected were some really interesting rocks and the rocks that it turned up are unlike any of the rocks that we've seen before in the entire 14 years of the mission. it was something completely new. here is a picture of some of these rocks that this big valley was sort of digging up. you can see their textures, they have kind of pits in them. we're wondering, is this
weathering? weather rocks and get pits like this? it could be from trapped gases inside the rocks coming out. we're not sure. so we're investigating the chemistry and texture of rocks. and the outcrop that we were in when the storm hit, la hoya, is there a relationship in terms of, you know, maybe one melted from another or not. so we were trying to piece together this whole story and that's why we were at la hoya and what we were doing when the day in june happened and we lost contact with the vehicle. we did something else fun in perseverance valley. that is we hit the mission, sol 5,000, and we did a first time activity that we had never done for 14 years, that's particular a selfie. you've probably seen the selfies from curiosity and
curiosity takes them by taking them the end of the arm and they worked good and we were jealous. you know what we have a camera on the end of our arm and the focus is not the same. if we take a selfie it will be blurry, but we can do it and smart people put their hand together and planned this mosaic and i think it came out beautifully. this is awesome, the first time human eyes had seen this side of opportunity since it left earth in 2003. so, i'm so glad we got this observation and it's really special to commemorate sol 5,000. i'm going to put that into context to you. how long is 5,000 sols? here is my personal career plotted along opportunity's traverse. and opportunity is a very special rover to me. when i was in high school i got to come out to jpl as an outreach sponsored by the planetary society and be here the night that opportunity landed, i got to be in the room for the landing press conference, got to be with the science team and that totally
blew my mind and inspired me to pursue space exploration. so i took that night and i said this is great, this mission will last three months, maybe six and hopefully be more stuff going on, but since that time i managed to graduate from high school, i went to undergrad, graduated from undergrad, i started grad school. my graduate advisor is on the opportunity science team so the graduate student i started doing tactical shifts. i was a documentarian. post doc and now the deputy science of the mission and so this mission has been going a really, really long time. [applause] we do know we haven't heard from opportunity, it's been exactly six months to today. june 10th is the last time we
heard from it and it's now january 10th. six month is the last time we heard it from it. we know it's still there. this is a picture we captured from orbit and the dust settled and we could see the surface. can you see the rover in perseverance valley? we can see from orbit she hasn't blown away. so what we're doing now at jpl we're trying to do recovery efforts for the vehicle. so we think the temperatures haven't gotten cold enough that anything would break. we're in summertime so that's helpful. so what we're trying to do is two things. first, we're always going to be listening for the vehicle. so opportunity, if everything, if she wakes up, if whatever dust settled on her solar panel that causes her to have low power blows away, we'll hear from her no matter what. if there's enough dust blows away to wake up and not enough to call home. we're doing sweeping beeps. and we're sweeping the ranges we know that she's listening
and beep if you hear us. and we've been doing that campaign for a few months and hoping there will be a beautiful gust of wind that will clean the panels off and we'll hear from her. this is what the dust storm looked like from orbit. you can see it started around opportunity. you notice another guy on planet, curiosity, that's our other rover and this event was so big it encircled the panel that curiosity saw it as well. and june 11th. one of the selfies that we took with curiosity and it was a great week for curiosity, we used our drill and collected a drill sample after a long time. we got our drill up and got a sample. you can see in the selfie sort of this ominous dust cloud on the horizon as the global dust storm is approaching and this is an image, series of images we took of the wall. we've landed in a big crater
with curiosity and we can watch as the walls on the mountain and crater are harder and harder to see kind of like a smoggy day in l.a. when the smog comes in, you can't see the mountains anymore. that's what we're seeing here. you know, the dust storm was really bad for opportunity, but it's a great chance for curiosity to, for the first time since viking in the '70s, we were able to make observations on the ground of a dust storm and the effects it has on mars and this is really important because it helps us understand more about how these processes start, how they operate and the effects that they have on the surface. curiosity is, former, equipped not only with the cameras that you can see, but we also have a weather station on curiosity so we can make near continuous measurements now the dust storm affected the temperature, affected the pressure, how it affected the relative humidity, and what reaches the surface we can put into the meteorology.
and you can see the rock, the sand nearby, this is what it looked like at the height of the dust storm. every picture we took in the height of the dust storm has this like kind of unearthly reddish hue, the exposure for this picture is also a lot longer, so you can think of it's really, really dark. it turns out we had to expose the photos a lot longer for curiosity and build it into our margins for the planning that the photos are going to take longer when the dust storm is happening. and everything looked cool, weird red color, but we got a lot of good observations about the environment and what was happening. in september, after the dust storm settled, these storms can t