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For fans of astrophotography, Kevin M. Gill needs no introduction. Even if you’re not up on the latest astronomical news and developments, chances are you’ve still seen some of his images over the years. From beautiful artist renditions to breathtaking photographs of far-off planets, Gill has covered it all. Among the latest images available on his official Flickr page are pictures of a unique feature on Mars: the Chasma Boreale Megadunes!

Gill is a California-based software engineer, planetary and climate data “wrangler,” and science data visualization artist with a long history of working with NASA. In addition to artistic renderings of space missions, Solar bodies, and exoplanets, he is also renowned for his images of extraterrestrial environments. These images are obtained by NASA missions, which are black and white and unprocessed when they reach Earth.

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Artist’s impression of the Chasma Boreale Megadunes. Credit: Kevin M. Gill/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGSE

By adding color, depth, and better resolution, Gill is able to convey these extraterrestrial environments’ true depth and beauty. This time around, Gill used images acquired by the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) – a camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) – of the Chasma Boreale region, a large canyon located in the vicinity of Mars’s northern polar ice cap.

These images are part of a series taken by HiRISE to create Martian Digital Terrain Models (DTMs) of various geographical regions on Mars. HiRISE DTMs are made from two images of the same area taken from different angles, then processed using sophisticated software. The DTM of the Chasma Boreale region (shown below) highlights the layered features known as “megadunes” that are the result of seasonal deposition from melting ice and dust storms.

These dunes are similar to Barchan dunes (see image below), a feature that has been imaged by the MRO’s HiRISE and other Martian orbiters for decades. These dunes are located in the northern polar reaches of Mars and are largely the result of wind-borne deposition. These same winds, caused by seasonal temperature variations between the northern and southern hemispheres, are what the barchan dunes their signature shape.

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Data acquired by the MRO’s HiRISE instrument. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS

These dunes are hard to detect during the winter because they are covered in frost. But come summer, the frost sublimates, and they become visible because their mineral composition makes them appear darker than their surroundings. Like their counterparts on Earth, these dunes slowly migrate as the Martian winds push them across the surface. The megadunes, in contrast, have the barchans beat in terms of size and may even contain secrets about Mars’ past.

To create his photos of the megadunes, Gill processed the HiRISE data using Geospatial Data Abstraction Library (GDAL) software, an open-source geospatial data processing platform. The images were then rendered using the 3D computer graphics software Blender and Adobe Lightroom, the cloud-based photo editing platform. The resulting images he created show what the megadunes look like from the surface.

These features could be witnessed by surface missions destined for the northern polar region in the near future. It’s also possible that astronauts will see them up-close when the first crewed missions to Mars are conducted in the next decade! Studying these megadunes and other layered features could reveal clues about how Mars’ climate changed, which would be apparent from how wind patterns and glacial melting changed over time.

In the meantime, the artist’s rendering provides us with a glimpse of what we could be seeing soon!

Further Reading: Kevin Gill (Flickr)/AUHiRISE; LPL

The post One Feature Mars has

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Odysseus Is Going to Sleep After Sending Snapshots From Moon Landing

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Intuitive Machines says it’s putting its Odysseus moon lander to bed for a long lunar night, with hopes of reviving it once the sun rises again near the moon’s south pole.

The Houston-based company and NASA recapped Odysseus’s six days of operation on the lunar surface, shared pictures showing its off-kilter configuration, and looked ahead to the mission’s next phase during a briefing today at Johnson Space Center in Texas.

The original plan called for the solar-powered spacecraft to be turned off when the sun fell below the lunar horizon, but Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus said mission controllers would instead put the Odysseus into hibernation and try restoring contact in three weeks’ time. “We are going to leave the computers and the power system in a place where we can wake it up and do this development test objective, to actually try to ping it with an antenna and see if we can’t wake it up once it gets power again,” he told reporters.

Last week, Odysseus became the first-ever commercial spacecraft to survive a descent to the lunar surface, and the first U.S.-built spacecraft to do so since NASA’s Apollo 17 mission in 1972. NASA struck a deal to pay Intuitive Machines $118 million to deliver six science instruments to the lunar surface under the terms of its Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, or CLPS.

Sue Lederer, NASA’s project scientist for CLPS at Johnson Space Center, said every one of NASA’s payloads has met “some level of their objectives, and we’re very excited about that.”

NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration, Joel Kearns, said the space agency considered the mission to be a success despite the difficulties encountered during Odysseus’ landing. He also said the mission validated NASA’s strategy of enlisting private companies to provide robotic rides to the moon.

“It’s an exciting time to be on Day 6 of this new era in the 21st century,” Kearns said.

The new era has had more than its fair share of challenges. Tim Crain, who serves as Intuitive Machines’ chief technology officer as well as Odysseus’s IM-1 mission director, said there were at least 11 do-or-die moments along the way.

One of the most critical challenges came when the mission team discovered that the lander’s laser range-finding system couldn’t be activated for the Feb. 22 landing, due to a safety lock that wasn’t deactivated before the Feb. 15 launch.

Engineers came up with what they thought would be a last-minute fix. That involved connecting one of NASA’s payloads, an experimental laser range-finding system, to Odysseus’s internal guidance system.

However, when the Odysseus team later reconstructed the events leading up to the landing, they found out that the readings from the NASA system couldn’t be processed because they lacked a required data-verification code, Crain said. Instead, the lander had to rely on its inertial measurement unit and its optical navigation system.

That appears to explain why Odysseus’s landing was rougher than expected. “The flight dynamics guys calculate that we actually came down just short of our [intended] landing site, at a higher elevation than where our landing site was going to be,” Altemus said.

As a result, Odysseus came down to the surface at a higher downward velocity, with extra sideward velocity as well. “We hit harder, and sort of skidded,” Altemus said.

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An ultra-wide-field version of an image sent back by the Odysseus moon lander during its Feb. 22 touchdown shows a landing leg breaking off and moon dirt being kicked up by engine exhaust. (Credit: Intuitive Machines)

One of the pictures released today shows Odysseus skidding to a stop, with pieces of a landing leg breaking off. “The landing gear did what it was supposed to do and protected the lander as it landed on the surface,” Altemus said.

The image also shows plumes of moon dirt spraying away from the blast of Odysseus’s engine. The lander was able to stay upright as long as its engine kept firing. “And then, as it wound
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Backpacking the Canadian Rockies: Nigel and Cataract Passes

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By Michael Lanza

A couple of hours up the Nigel Pass Trail, after a lunch break beside boulder-strewn rapids on chalky, glacially silted Nigel Creek, we pop out of forest into sub-alpine terrain with wildflowers and the kind of dense, low brush that conceals grizzly bears better than we think—enjoying our first expansive views of the peaks flanking this valley in Banff National Park. As we make our way farther up the valley, our gentle trail turns steeper, leading us up to Nigel Pass at 7,200 feet (2,195 meters), where we drink up a 360-degree panorama of tall cliffs and treeless mountainsides of broken rock in this little patch of the Canadian Rockies.

But even this barely hints at what lies ahead.

A descent of just minutes brings us to an easy rock-hop across the shallow Brazeau River, which runs milky and emerald with glacial till—and across an invisible boundary into Jasper National Park. Several other backpackers also crossing the river all continue in the direction of the well-known Brazeau Loop in Jasper. None turn in the same direction we’re hiking.

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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-books to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

Backpackers hiking the Nigel Cataract and Cline Passes Route toward Cataract Pass in Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies.
” data-image-caption=”Our group backpacking up the Brazeau River Valley toward Cataract Pass in Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Goat1-30-Our-group-backpacking-the-Nigel-Cataract-and-Cline-Passes-Route-toward-Cataract-Pass-in-Jasper-National-Park-Canadian-Rockies.jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Goat1-30-Our-group-backpacking-the-Nigel-Cataract-and-Cline-Passes-Route-toward-Cataract-Pass-in-Jasper-National-Park-Canadian-Rockies.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Goat1-30-Our-group-backpacking-the-Nigel-Cataract-and-Cline-Passes-Route-toward-Cataract-Pass-in-Jasper-National-Park-Canadian-Rockies.jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”Backpackers hiking the Nigel Cataract and Cline Passes Route toward Cataract Pass in Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies.” class=”wp-image-62175″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Goat1-30-Our-group-backpacking-the-Nigel-Cataract-and-Cline-Passes-Route-toward-Cataract-Pass-in-Jasper-National-Park-Canadian-Rockies.jpg?resize=1024%2C683&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Goat1-30-Our-group-backpacking-the-Nigel-Cataract-and-Cline-Passes-Route-toward-Cataract-Pass-in-Jasper-National-Park-Canadian-Rockies.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Goat1-30-Our-group-backpacking-the-Nigel-Cataract-and-Cline-Passes-Route-toward-Cataract-Pass-in-Jasper-National-Park-Canadian-Rockies.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Goat1-30-Our-group-backpacking-the-Nigel-Cataract-and-Cline-Passes-Route-toward-Cataract-Pass-in-Jasper-National-Park-Canadian-Rockies.jpg?resize=150%2C100&ssl=1 150w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Goat1-30-Our-group-backpacking-the-Nigel-Cataract-and-Cline-Passes-Route-toward-Cataract-Pass-in-Jasper-National-Park-Canadian-Rockies.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Our group backpacking up the Brazeau River Valley toward Cataract Pass in Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies.

On the river’s opposite bank, we find what seems a promising indication of what our route ahead
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Ingenuity Won’t Fly Again Because It’s Missing a Rotor Blade

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Ingenuity has been the first aerial vehicle on another world. NASA announced the end of the Martian helicopter’s life at the end of its 72nd flight. During the flight there had been a problem on landing and, following the incident a few photos revealed chips in one of the rotor blades but nothing too serious. New images have been revealed that show the craft is missing one of its rotor blades entirely! 

Mars Ingenuity was developed by NASA as a small lightweight drone that made history by becoming the first powered flight on Mars. It was part of the mission that took the Perseverance rover to Mars in February 2021.  Undertaking powered flights in the thin Martian atmosphere it demonstrated that powered flight was possible as it surveyed the surrounding area for items of interest for further exploration. 

Mars Ingenuity helicopter on the surface of Mars
Image of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter (Source : NASA)

The construction was the brainchild of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory who oversaw the construction on behalf of the agency. NASA’s Ames Research Centre and Langley Research Center played a significant role in flight performance analysis and technical support.

On board the vehicle was some cutting edge technology that was tailored for the conditions on Mars. First of course, are the rotors, the thin atmosphere on Mars mean larger than usual blades were needed to generate the lift required. It was built with lightweight materials like carbon fibre to make it as efficient as possible, new and efficient solar cells that would drive the autonomous navigation systems. It was equipped with sensors and cameras to enable data collection of the Martian terrain to send back to Perseverance rover and controllers on Earth.

Ingenuity had been flying in a terrain with few rocks – which it uses in some part for navigation – and so had been experiencing difficulties. On 6 Jan it made an emergency landing because it couldn’t accurately identify its location. It happened again on the next flight but this time it seems to have come down at an angle and struck the ground with one of its rotors. Images suggested it had suffered some chips on one of the rotor blades however, recent images reveal the damage is more severe.

On 11 Feb, NASA used the black and white navigation camera to record a video showing the shadow of the rotors turning. It was an ingenious idea by the engineers to try and understand the extent of the damage to the 1.2m blades. To their surprise the footage revealed that one fo the blades, the upper blade seems to be absent! It looks like the blade detected near the mast.

Source : Ingenuity’s Navcam Reveals a Missing Rotor Blade 

The post Ingenuity Won’t Fly Again Because It’s Missing a Rotor Blade appeared first on Universe Today.

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