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Dr. Tanya Harrison
Perseverance captured this view of Ingenuity’s third flight on Mars with its Mastcam-Z camera. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/ASU

The tiny 4-pound (1.8 kg) helicopter that hitched a ride to Mars with NASA’s Perseverance rover just got a mission upgrade. Initially planned as a “technology demonstration” to prove whether or not powered flight was possible in the thin martian atmosphere, Ingenuity surpassed all expectations on the—at the time of writing—four flights it has successfully conducted thus far in its short tenure on Mars. …


Four years ago on Earth Day, I spoke in front of a crowd of approximately 3,000 people in Toronto for the March for Science on the importance of assets in space in the everyday lives of Canadians here on Earth. Since the messages are still entirely relevant today, here is the full text of that speech. (Note that certain references and budgets given are reflective of 2017, where the speech was given.)

Canadian Astronaut David Saint-Jacques snapped this view of some of Canada’s major cities at night in a single frame from the Cupola window aboard the International Space Station in 2019.

As a scientist who works on robots that we send to other planets, I often hear complaints about how much money is spent on “space.” Space is viewed…


Most people are probably familiar, even if not by name, with the iconic “Earthrise” and “Blue Marble” view of Earth taken by Apollo astronauts on their journeys to the Moon. Apollo 8’s Earthrise, taken on Christmas Eve in 1968, is often referred to as one of the catalysts that led to the environmental movement and the creation of Earth Day. Since then, many other space missions have captured photographs of Earth on their way to their final destinations across the Solar System. …


Scientists and engineers are nerds who like to have a bit of fun—even when it comes to their spacecraft. Let’s take a look at some of the Easter Eggs they’ve put aboard the rovers and landers on Mars:

The Code in the Parachute

Actual footage from the Perseverance rover looking up at its parachute as it was landing on Mars in February 2021. You can view the entire descent video here. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Actual footage from the Perseverance rover looking up at its parachute as it was landing on Mars in February 2021. You can view the entire descent video here. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Actual footage from the Perseverance rover looking up at its parachute as it was landing on Mars in February 2021. You can view the entire descent video here. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Perhaps the most famous Easter egg recently was hidden in the landing parachute for NASA’s Perseverance rover. At first glance, you might not think anything of the design. But there is actually a binary code in the pattern. …


This week, NASA’s Curiosity rover returned a stunning image of martian clouds.

Twilight clouds over “Mont Mercou” as seen by the Right Navigation Camera onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3072 (March 28, 2021). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
Twilight clouds over “Mont Mercou” as seen by the Right Navigation Camera onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3072 (March 28, 2021). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
Twilight clouds over Mont Mercou in Gale Crater, as seen by the Right Navigation Camera (Navcam) onboard NASA’s Curiosity rover on sol 3072 (March 28, 2021). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Mars is a freezing polar desert. Nearly all of the water there is locked up in ice in the polar caps or surface frost, buried underground, or locked up in the mineral structures within rocks. But some of it exists high in the air as water-ice clouds. The image above shows the latest view of these clouds on Mars, hanging over the Curiosity rover in Gale Crater near dusk on the 3072nd martian day (“sol”) the rover has been on the surface of the Red Planet. …


Eric Berger’s new book gives me a whole new appreciation for what Elon Musk and all of the talented engineers at SpaceX have managed to achieve.

“Liftoff” (Publisher: William Morrow, 2021); ISBN: 978–0–06–297997–1

The commercial space landscape has come a long way in the past decade. Ten years ago, SpaceX barely had any successful launches under their belt. The Space Shuttle was about to retire, and I doubt anyone around at the time would have guessed that the next time humans launched into space from American soil would be aboard a SpaceX rocket, inside a SpaceX crew capsule, only nine years later. …


Artist’s rendering of a tourist aboard a Blue Origin New Shepard flight. Credit: Blue Origin

Any space fans that grew up in the era of Apollo will likely tell you they thought that by the 2020s, we’d have humans living on the Moon and traveling to Mars. Weekend jaunts up to space hotels orbiting Earth would be commonplace, and maybe we’d be getting to spaceports in our flying cars.

But we don’t have any of this. As of right now, only 7 “tourists” have been into space. All were launched aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket coordinated by a U.S.-based company called Space Adventures (who prefers the term “private astronauts” rather than “space tourists”). …


I resisted the idea of this for years, but I’ve finally come to terms with it.

When I was a child, I was a pretty normal kid in terms of physical activity. Growing up mostly before the age of home internet, all we had at our house was a Commodore 64 that my dad could only sporadically get to work. This meant my younger sister and I spent a lot of time playing outside. In grade 5, I was on the local basketball team—chosen specifically because I thought it would be unexpected of me as the shortest person in my…


The space industry is rapidly growing, with an almost overwhelming array of options to chose from.

NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, during a spacewalk in 2013. Image credit: NASA

At the SEDS Ascension conference today, a student question came up during a panel I was on: If you’re interested in a lot of different things when it comes to space, how do you pick what to focus on?

This is a great question, and one that would have helped me early in my university path in terms of selecting a major. Starting college, I knew I was obsessed with Mars, and so I went into astronomy because planets are in space. It wasn’t…


NASA’s Perseverance rover carried an Easter egg onboard: A family portrait showing the evolution of our wheeled avatars on the Red Planet. What have these rovers taught us?

Mars rover family portrait aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Five rovers have successfully landed on the surface of Mars to date, all from NASA: Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance. Each one of these has built upon the knowledge gained from its predecessors to help us paint a more complete picture of the history of water—and potentially life—on Mars.

Sojourner

Dr. Tanya Harrison

Professional Martian. PhD Geoscientist at Planet Labs. Former operations team member for Opportunity, Curiosity, & the Mars Recon. Orbiter. Views = my own.

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