Tag Archives: World

6 Surprising Facts About World’s Most Powerful Radio Telescope

Alma-star-trails-eso

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is the world’s most powerful observatory for studying the universe at the long-wavelength millimeter and submillimeter range of light. It’s designed to spot some of the most distant, ancient galaxies ever seen, and to probe the areas around young stars for planets in the process of forming.

The opening of the $1.3 billiontelescope array is being celebrated in an inauguration ceremony on Wednesday (March 13) at its observation site in Chile’s Atacama desert. Here are six things you should know about the ambitious, not to mention immense, astronomy project.

1. It Is Ginormous

ALMA combines the forces of 66 radio antennas, most almost 40 feet (12 meters) in diameter, to create images comparable to those that could be obtained with a single 46,000-foot-wide (14,000 meters) dish.

The observatory is accurate enough to discern a golf ball 9 miles (15 kilometers) away.

2. It Took a Decade to Build

The telescope is a collaboration of four continents, being sponsored by countries in North America, Europe and East Asia, with the cooperation of Chile. Planning and constructing the observatory took thousands of scientists and engineers from around the world more than 10 years.

3. ALMA Is One High Eye on the Sky

The observatory is among the highest instruments on Earth, at an altitude of 16,570 feet (5,050 meters) above sea level. Its perch high atop the Chajnantor plateau puts it above much of the Earth’s atmosphere, which blurs and distorts light.

4. It’s in the Driest Place on Earth

ALMA’s location in Chile’s Atacama desert, the driest place in the world, means almost every night is clear of clouds and free of light-distorting moisture. Some weather stations in the desert have never received rain, and scientists think the Atacama got no significant rainfall between 1570 and 1971.

5. ALMA Dishes Are Nearly Perfect

The surfaces of its dozens of radio dishes are almost perfect, with none deviating from an exact parabola by more than 20 micrometers (20 millionths of a meter, or about 0.00078 inches). This prevents any incoming radio waves from being lost, so that the resulting picture captures as much distant cosmic light as possible. The radio dishes, which weigh about 100 tons each, are made of ultra-stable CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic) for the reflector base, with reflecting panels of rhodium-coated nickel.

6. This Is One Cool Telescope — Literally

The electronic detector called the “front end” that amplifies and converts the radio signals collected at each ALMA antenna must be kept at a chilling 4 Kelvin ( minus 452 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 269 degrees Celsius), to prevent introducing noise to the signal.

Ultimately, the ground-breaking observatory promises to reveal many new secrets of the cosmos — not to mention some really pretty pictures.

Image courtesy of ESO/B. Tafreshi

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/03/11/facts-chile-radio-telescope/

Latest Mars Photo Shows Curiosity’s Tracks From Space

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NASA’s newest Mars rover Curiosity is taking its first tentative drives across the Martian surface and leaving tracks that have been spotted all the way from space in a spectacular photo snapped by an orbiting spacecraft.

The newview of Curiosity’s tracks from space was captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and released today. It shows the rover as a bright, boxy vehicle at the end of two tracks that create a single zig-zag pattern in the Martian surface.

Another photo from the MRO spacecraft spotted the car-size Curiosity rover’s parachute and protective backshell, which were jettisoned by the rover during its Aug. 5 landing. A previous photo by MRO taken on Curiosity’s actual landing day captured an image of theMars rover hanging from its parachute.

Scientists used the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera on the MRO spacecraft to take the new photos, which have created a buzz among the Curiosity rover’s science team.

“The HiRISE camera on MRO continues to take amazing photographs of Mars, and of us on Mars,” said Mike Watkins, Curiosity mission manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a briefing today.

The photo of Curiosity also includes the rover’s landing spot and shows the scorch marks left behind by the rockets on the sky crane that lowered the rover to the Martian surface.

“It’s a great image of where we stand relative to the touchdown point now,” Watkins said.

This isn’t the first time the MRO spacecraft has captured views of rovers on Mars. The orbiter repeatedly observed NASA’s smaller Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity as they explored the Martian surface following their own landings in January 2004. The Spirit rover’s mission was declared over last year, but Opportunity continues to rover across the Martian plains of Meridiani Planum.

The Mars rover Curiosity took its first drive on Mars on Aug. 22 and completed its longest drive, a 100-foot trek, on Sept. 4. So far, the rover has driven a total of 358 feet on Mars, but is actually just 69 feet away from its landing site due to the turns the rover has performed along the way.

Mission scientists have also tested the rover’s mast-mounted cameras and laser, which is used to study the composition of Martian rocks, and are preparing a weeklong set of tests to calibrate Curiosity’s instrument-tipped robotic arm.

NASA’s $2.5 billion Curiosity rover is designed to spend the next two years exploring the vast Gale Crater on Mars to determine if the area could have once supported microbial life. Mission scientists also plan to send the rover up Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain rising up from the center of the crater.

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/06/nasa-photo-curiosity-tracks/

Astronauts Will Have Thanksgiving Feast in Space

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Turkey and all the trimmings are a staple for Americans on Thanksgiving, and that doesn’t have to change for Americans in space.

Astronaut food has come a long way from the early days of human spaceflight, and crewmembers on the International Space Station these days can enjoy many Turkey Day traditions, such as cornbread stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes, cherry blueberry cobbler, and, of course, turkey itself.

This year, NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, commander of the space station’s Expedition 34 mission, will celebrate with his Russian crewmates Evgeny Tarelkin and Oleg Novitskiy.

“Thanksgiving is not a holiday that the Russians celebrate, but we have found that on orbit the crewmembers celebrate each others’ holidays,” said Vickie Kloeris, manager of the Space Food Systems Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “They will take part in Kevin Ford’s celebration of Thanksgiving, just as American crewmembers will take part in some of the Russian holidays.”

The space station’s Thanksgiving delicacies will come in somewhat different forms than what may be on most holiday tables, though. Space food falls into two categories: freeze-dried (just add water) or thermostabilized (comes in a pouch). And all food sent to the space station has to meet certain microbiological requirements and have a sufficient shelf life.

For example, the cornbread dressing on offer is a replacement for the traditional bread-based stuffing that many people are used to. However, break makes too many crumbs that float around in all directions in weightlessness and are difficult to clean up.

Still, the current Thanksgiving menu is a huge improvement over what earlier space travelers had available.

“If you want to go all the way back to Mercury and Gemini, there were no holiday meals back then,” Kloeris told SPACE.com. “All you had was cube foods and tube foods. We’ve definitely expanded greatly the amount of traditional items that we have made available for holiday times, and that only makes sense because when we started having crewmembers stay on space station long term, we knew every year we’d be hitting Thanksgiving and Christmas with somebody.”

In addition to the standard holiday menu items, each astronaut gets a certain number of “bonus containers” to pack whatever particular foods they’d like, provided they meet the basic requirements. Most pack off-the-shelf products like cookies and other treats.

“We have crewmembers who take icing in tubs and cookies, and they’ll ice them at Christmas time,” Kloeris said. “We’ve even had crewmembers take food coloring so they could color the icing.”

The importance of having traditional holiday foods varies from crewmember to crewmember, she said. “That’s always evident when they go to plan their bonus containers. You immediately know who has the strongest ties to holiday food because they’ll be the first ones to bring up the fact that, ‘Hey, I’m going to be up there at Christmas.'”

Each of the holiday foods that are provided by NASA have made it through a thorough vetting process.

It starts with a basic recipe for, say, cherry blueberry cobbler. Then the NASA food scientists modify the recipe so that it can be packed in pouches, which is similar to canning. After that, they test its texture, color, and taste.

“When it goes through the thermostabilizing process, the chemistry of the food changes quite a bit,” Kloeris said. “Often what happens is we’ll take a formulation and we’ll try it afterwards, and it’s like, ‘No, that’s not acceptable.'”

The scientists often have to go through many iterations of a recipe, including scaling it up so it still tastes good if made in large batches, before a food is ready for orbit. And some recipes just never quite make it.

“We tried for a while to come up with thermostabilized cheesecake, and we just flat gave up on it,” Kloeris said. “The color changes we got were just too severe. Not everything works.”

But other foods that are stereotypically associated with space are actually rarely eaten there.

“The freeze-dried ice cream actually only flew once” on an Apollo mission, when a crewmember requested it, Kloeris said. “It’s more like hard cotton candy. Certainly if [astronauts] wanted to request that they could, but that’s not something that adults want. Kids like it; they sell it at the gift shop.”

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/21/astronauts-thanksgiving-space/

Tiny Satellite Will Grow Mold in Orbit

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University students in Japan are building a slime mold-housing micro-satellite that will orbit the Earth and send back photos of the microorganisms’ growth. The small satellite will transmit the pictures to Earth using amateur radio.

The Microbial Observation Satellite, TeikyoSat-3, is a project of Teikyo University and is a small satellite project of the Space System Society at the university’s Utsunomiya campus.

TeikyoSat-3 weighs 44 pounds (20 kilograms) and is designed to study the impact of space radiation and the microgravity environment on a mold called Dictyostelium discoideum. This species of soil-living amoeba belongs to the phylum Mycetozoa and is often given the less-than-highbrow biological label of “slime mold.”

TeikyoSat-3 is slated for launch on Japan’s H-IIA booster in Japanese Fiscal Year 2013, and will ride along with the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) main satellite, officials from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) public affairs department told SPACE.com.

JAXA and NASA collaborated on the development of the GPM spacecraft as part of an international network of satellites that provide next-generation global observations of rain and snow.

Amateur Satellites and Biology

TeikyoSat-3 is one of several small satellites set to piggyback on a launch scheduled for January 2014, said Hirotoshi Kubota, professor of a special mission, faculty of science and engineering at Teikyo University. “This satellite is now in the process of testing of [the] engineering model,” he told SPACE.com via email.

The TeikyoSat-3 group proposal stated, “Our micro satellite, TeikyoSat-3, takes a picture of the growth process of the slime mold, Dictyostelium discoideum, in space, and then downlinks the pictures to the ground station. We’ll release the pictures on our website to the public and radio amateurs. We expect the public and radio amateurs to promote their interest of the amateur satellites and biology.”

A ground station at the Teikyo University Utsunomiya campus will keep in contact with TeikyoSat-3. The plan is to actively make details about the tiny satellite available to the public in order to enable radio amateurs to receive images of slime mold directly from the spacecraft.

In building TeikyoSat-3, the university students are plotting out a low-cost “pharmacological mission,” one that makes use of microscope and miniature-camera technology. The students will also have to control the temperature on board the satellite to ensure an environment within which the slime mold can live.

Life of its Own

The value of studying microbial creatures in space has taken on a life of its own over the years.

During its 15 years of space travel, which ended when it deorbited in March 2001, Russia’s Mir space station was found to house colonies of organisms. They were found alive and well — growing on rubber gaskets around windows, space suit hardware and cable insulation and tubing.

Officials from NASA’s Human Research Program plan to gather and analyze biological samples to better investigate the International Space Station’s “microbiome” — the ever-changing microbial environment that can be found on the Earth-orbiting facility and its crew members.

Carrying out this work within the hectic environment of space is expected to give researchers data about whether alterations in the crew’s microbiome are harmful to human health.

Bio-Burden

China isn’t exempt from the bio-burden of protecting human space travelers, either.

Researchers have eyed the “Heavenly Palace” that is China’s Tiangong-1 space module as a microbial haven, too.

Despite an air purifier that cleans the module’s air and the astronauts’ practice of wiping away dust with wet tissues before leaving, there could be unknown risks, said Wang Xiang, chief commander of the space lab system. Microbes can pose a hazard to astronaut health, he told China Daily.

Wang said that mold was not only found on surfaces aboard Russia’s Mir Space Station; it has also been seen on the International Space Station. He spotlighted one “moldie oldie” report stating that fungus grew in cosmonauts’ ears during a mission on the former Soviet Union’s Salyut space station.

Mold also presents a threat to space module components, Wang said. “It is a subject we will keep studying until China builds its own space station,” he said.

Image: Freie Universität Berlin

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/19/space-mold/

This Song Was Recorded in Space

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Using Soundcloud and YouTube, astronaut Chris Hadfield beamed a song from space to Earth. Hadfield recorded “Jewel in the Night” aboard the International Space Station this week, saying, “You can hear the slight buzz of the station’s fans in the background.”

He adds the song is “some of the first original music written for and performed on” the ISS.

Hadfield, with the Canadian Space Agency, is the commander of the 147-day ISS mission.

Hadfield shared the Soundcloud player and a YouTube video on Twitter, where he has been keeping people updated on his space adventures. Here’s a sampling of his holiday tweets:

Days before launching into space to arrive on the ISS, Hadfield participated in “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit. In his introduction, he explained that he attempts to routinely check his social media for questions and comments from followers.

Heat-Sensitive Telescope Could Find Aliens

Exoplanet

We might be able find aliens using the heat their civilizations give off, astronomers say, but it will take a megatelescope to do the job. The development of such a telescope is in the works.

The telescope — called Colossus — would be a massive 250-foot (77-meter) telescope, which is more than double the aperture of any telescope yet constructed.

To keep costs down, the proposed $1 billion telescope would use thin mirror technology and few large aperture mirror segments to build Colossus. The sensitivity of the scope could be enough to spot cities or other signs of aliens for planets as far as 60 to 70 light-years from Earth, its backers said.

“If we had an investor come and say, ‘Look, here are the resources you need,’ we could have the telescope built within five years,” said Jeff Kuhn, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, who is on the proposal team.

Building on Dyson Spheres

In searches for extraterrestrial intelligence, astronomers generally focus on seeking out beamed signals from other civilizations. In four decades of searching, nothing definitive has been found. There were, however, a few interesting moments, such as the so-called “Wow!” signal heard in 1977 that was never repeated.

There are limitations with that method, however. Perhaps the aliens might not send out signals themselves. Maybe they broadcast in channels we wouldn’t think of using. Moreover, humans should be cautious about sending out signals and alerting more advanced civilizations to their presence, as Stephen Hawking has said.

This is where Colossus can shine, Kuhn said. The telescope is a passive receiver that allows astronomers to seek out extraterrestrials without alerting them to the search.

Kuhn’s team builds on a concept first proposed by physicist Freeman Dyson in the 1960s. Humans can capture only a fraction of the energy sent out by the sun, but a more advanced civilization would want to grab as much as possible.

Dyson suggested an extraterrestrial civilization would surround their star with a structure — now known as a “Dyson sphere” — that would capture the energy needed and then bleed the rest off into space.

From Earth, a star that is faint optically but very strong in the infrared could be an indication of such a sphere, Dyson mused. Kuhn’s team, rather than focusing on stars, is instead looking at the surfaces of alien planets.

“Similarly, an exoplanet that was optically dark, but thermally bright, would be evidence of extraterrestrial civilization,” Kuhn said.

Seeking the Heat

To date, there are few images obtained of exoplanets; they are only faintly visible, and their parent stars tend to overwhelm their radiated light. That’s why such a large mirror is needed to peer at them, Kuhn explained.

“The biggest telescopes that we’re likely to see in the next 100 years or so will not be able to directly image cities or organized structures on the planet,” he said. Still, he added, local heat sources could be visible.

“We do that by using the fact that the planet has to rotate, and that civilization is clustered either by the formation of continents or the use of land, which is agrarian versus organized into population centers. The assumption we make is that civilizations will cluster their heat use. It won’t be uniform; they distribute it.”

Volcanoes and other natural features also produce heat, Kuhn said, but astronomers would probe heat sources in at least two different wavelengths to obtain the temperature. Natural features are likely to be far above the background heat of the planet. Those heat sources that are slightly above the planet’s natural radiation are more likely to be signs of civilization, he said.

The method does have limitations, he added.

“It is possible to be confused on a planet which is perpetually cloud-covered, and we wouldn’t be able to detect a signal on a planet where somehow the alien society managed to uniformly distribute itself around the planet so it isn’t clustered,” Kuhn said.

There’s no firm location yet for the telescope, but Kuhn suggested it could be built in the San Pedro Martir mountainous area of Baja California in Mexico, close to the location of one partner in the project: the National University of Mexico in Ensenada.

6 Patents Pending

Kuhn’s team is seeking funding from private funders, and will perhaps obtain money from patents as well. The scientists submitted six patent applications relating to optical technologies associated with the telescope design.

“We are not in competition with the astronomy projects,” he said when asked about obtaining federal science or NASA funding for the effort. “This is entirely private funding that we have been supported by.”

The team, however, is open to partnerships with other institutions. One possibility could be the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute itself, but the organization prefers to focus on radio telescopes right now, Kuhn said.

The notion was first thought up by Caisey Harlingten, an entrepreneur and amateur astronomer who sought two years ago to find a team capable of building the telescope, Kuhn said. The group includes a member with experience building Hawaii’s Keck and Suburu telescopes — David Halliday, founder of Canadian-based Dynamic Structures Inc.

Other partners in the project include Germany’s Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics, the National University of Mexico in Ensenada, Tohoku University in Japan, the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, the University of Lyon in France and Harlingten’s company, Innovative Optics.

An overview concept of the project was recently published in Astronomy magazine. The group is now creating a more detailed design and seeking funding. No start date has been set yet for construction.

Image courtesy of Flickr, NASA Blueshift

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/07/alien-heat-telescope/

Chinese Astronauts Beam Science Lesson From Space

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There’s a lot to learn from living in space, but only so many get to have the experience firsthand. In order to share what they’ve seen with curious students, the three Chinese astronauts currently in orbit have delivered a lesson from space to students and countrymen on Earth.

The Shenzhou 10 astronauts (or “taikonauts”) beamed down China’s first live space science lesson video to 330 elementary and middle school children in Beijing from their position onboard the nation’s Tiangong 1 space module. More than 60 million students and teachers also watched the televised broadcast from around China, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua.

Nie Haisheng and Wang Yaping — the second Chinese woman to fly to space — demonstrated the high points of weightlessness during the lecture while Zhang Xiaoguang photographed the lesson, which was broadcast live on China’s state-run CCTV news channel.

“In a weightless environment, we are very skillful marshal artists,” Wang said after Nie floated around the lab in various positions.

Wang showed the students how water behaves in space, creating a bubble of liquid to demonstrate the properties of surface tension while in microgravity.

“Okay everybody, this is where magic happens,” Wang said as she held up a bubble of water trapped within a metal ring.

Wang engaged the students by asking questions throughout the nearly hourlong lecture. Students discussed how they weigh themselves on Earth before the taikonaut demonstrated how the space flyers weigh objects in microgravity.

The astronauts also took questions from their student audience.

“Do you enjoy any view that’s different from what you can see on the Earth?” one student asked Wang. “Do the stars twinkle, and do you see the UFOs?”

“From the window, we can see the beautiful Earth and the sun, the moon and the stars, but we haven’t seen the UFO,” Wang said. “As we are now in outer space without the atmosphere, we can see the stars shining brightly, but they do not twinkle.”
China’s Shenzhou 10 crew launched into orbit on June 11 for a 15-day stint in space. Tiangong 1 is expected to remain in service for another three months, after which it will be deorbited or destroyed, experts have said.

This trip marks China’s fifth manned spaceflight. China’s first astronaut, Yang Liwei, launched into orbit in 2003, making China the third nation to launch astronauts into space using its own vehicles after Russia and the United States.

The Tiangong 1 space lab has been orbiting Earth since September 2011 and is considered China’s first step on the way toward building a large space laboratory by about 2020.

Mashable composite, images via iStockphoto, inhauscreative and courtesy of Flickr, nist6ss

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/21/lesson-from-space/

Super-Realistic Simulator Lands NASA’s Curiosity Rover on Mars

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As NASA’s Curiosity rover gets closer to its early Monday morning landing on Mars, the agency has released a spectacular simulator that will take you through every detail of the complicated landing procedure.

If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft, officially called the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), will land on the Red Planet at 1:30 A.M. Eastern Time on August 5.

The remarkable web-based interactive animation lets you see precisely where in space the 1-ton, $2.5 billion Mars rover is located at this moment, or using Preview Mode, you can jump forward and backward in time, speeding up events so you can see each aspect of the flight and landing. That includes the last step, which lowers the unusually heavy rover using an incredible “sky crane.”

During the “seven minutes of terror,” NASA‘s way of explaining the Rube-Goldbergian process of landing the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars, it won’t be possible to watch the Mars landing live because of the 14-minute communications delay between Mars and Earth. But an interactive animation of the landing will be viewable in real time in this simulator as it happens early Monday morning.

In the meantime, we’ve been having lots of fun playing with this simulator, going forward and backward in time, dragging the mouse to change camera angles, and even looking back at a tiny Earth, way off in the distance.

Try it yourself — and pay close attention to those “seven minutes of terror,” the most complicated landing sequence ever attempted. While you’re at it, keep your fingers crossed at 1:30 A.M. Eastern time on Monday morning, because key NASA officials are saying there’s a lot riding on this landing. Doug McQuiston, director of NASA’s Mars exploration program calls it “the most significant event in the history of planetary exploration.”

Lead scientist for the mission, John Grotzinger, told Space.com, “I think if we are fatal on landing, that will have a very negative influence.” He added, “It’s going to force people to look back and ask if it’s possible to achieve these very complex, more demanding missions from a technological perspective. How can you talk about sample-return if you can’t do MSL [Mars Science Laboratory] first?”

Good luck, NASA. Do you think the spacecraft will land on Mars successfully?

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/04/simulator-mars-curiosity-rover/

Travel 13 Billion Years Across the Entire Known Universe in HD

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Space never ceases to amaze. With advanced technology, we continue to discover more unknown territory, revealing the tininess of our world.

We’ve seen everything from the Hubble Telescope’s amazing view of the universe to a whole galaxy developing — is there anything we haven’t seen? Of course there is.

Though scientists have yet to invent commercial time travel, you can journey 13.7 billion years away (in HD!) on YouTube, thanks to user stormeindustries. It begins with the Himalayas and travels across the entire known universe, which you eventually see through the afterglow of the Big Bang.

If this video doesn’t make you feel small already, it also notes the amount of unknown territory that’s yet to be explored.

Curiosity Rover Makes First Foursquare Check-in on Mars

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Curiosity is NASA’s most digitally savvy rover yet. She tweets regularly, posts her pictures and now she is the first Foursquare user to ever check in on Mars.

Curiosity’s first check-in was today at the Gale Crater, where she made her first landing on the night of Aug. 5. Located on the equator of Mars, the Gale Crater is home to the 3-mile high Mount Sharp and is Curiosity’s primary target as it holds billions of years of Martian history.

Curiosity will continue to check in and share updates throughout her 23-month expedition.

“Like any great trip, you want to share with your friends back home, so that is why the rover is sharing check-ins and tips from her amazing trip,” says Stephanie L. Smith, who is part of the three-woman team that runs Curiosity’s social media.

Since Curiosity is the first to post from the Red Planet, she will regularly give travel tips for future space tourists.

“Mars is cold, dry and rocky. Extra moisturizer and sturdy shoes would be a good idea, plus oxygen for those of you who breathe,” she posted along with a snapshot of the desert-like landscape.

Curiosity’s next check-in will be from Rocknest, another point within the Gale Crater where the rover will be parked for the next two weeks to conduct various experiments.

“We’ll start getting to more specific locations within the crater,” says Veronica McGregor, social media manager at NASA. “We may not do daily check-ins for each drive, but we will be able to do check-ins and tips for locations after we name them.”

Curiosity’s Foursquare tips will be a mix of science and humor. “We’re having fun with these tips,” says NASA social media specialist Courtney O’Connor. “We have to consider things like atmosphere, temperature and things we don’t normally think about on Earth. We have to put ourselves into her point of view. You have to get into character.”

So far, the rover has checked in two times today. She only has one more check-in until she becomes mayor of Gale Crater — an honor that, McGregor says, is well-deserved.

“If anyone should be mayor, it’s that rover.”

Bonus: Mars Curiosity’s First Tracks