Of holes on Mars and flying saucers

CuriosityIt’s been a month since my last MSL update, so I’m lagging badly; however, mission news coming out of JPL has been a little lax, so I’m not too far behind the times.

Following my last Curiosity report, drilling and sample-gathering in the area dubbed “The Kimberley” has been completed, and the rover is once more on the move, heading west before turning more to the south once more.

The drilling / sampling operation took place on Sol 621 (Monday May 5th, PDT, 2014), with the percussion drill mounted on the rover’s robot arm turret cutting a hole some 6.5 centimetres (2.6 inches) deep and 1.6 cem (0.63 in) across into a flat sandstone slab which had been dubbed “Windjana” shortly after Curiosity arrived in “The Kimberley” at the end of March 2014. The tailings gathered as a part of the drilling operations were delivered to the CHIMRA (Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis) system, in preparation for them to be transferred to the rover’s on-board science laboratory. Confirmation that the sample-gathering had been successful came early in the morning (PDT) on Tuesday May 6th.

Holey moley. An image captured by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) Curiosity’s robot arm turret on Sol 627 (May 12th PDT, 2014) showing the sample gathering hole cut into “Windjana”. Dark tailings from the operation lay around the hole and have partially filled the test drilling hole just below it. The two patches of grey visible slightly to the right and blow the drill holes mark the points where Curiosity’s ChemCam laser was used to vapourise dust covering the surface of the rock. Surface material around the rock was subjected to miniature “landslides” as a result of the percussive hammering of the drill (click to enlarge)

The drilling operation, the third time Curiosity has gathered samples from inside a Martian rock for analysis, has caused some excitement among the mission team. “The drill tailings from this rock are darker-toned and less red than we saw at the two previous drill sites,” Jim Bell, deputy principal investigator for Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) said after the drilling operation. “This suggests that the detailed chemical and mineral analysis that will be coming from Curiosity’s other instruments could reveal different materials than we’ve seen before. We can’t wait to find out!”

Curiosity’s first two drilling operations took place over a year ago in the “Yellowknife Bay” area of Gale Crater, some four kilometres (2.5 miles) north-east of “The Kimberley”. Analysis of those samples, gathered from mudstone  yielded evidence that “Yellowknife Bay” had once been a part of an ancient lakebed environment which contained key chemical elements and a chemical energy source that long ago provided conditions favourable for microbial life.

Following their transfer to CHIMRA, the tailings cut from “Windjana” were  sifted and graded in readiness for delivery to the ChemMin (Chemical and Mineralogical analysis) and SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) suites of instruments, located in the body of the rover. The initial sample transfer to both instrument suites was made on May 15th PDT, 2014. and analysis of the samples should be carried out as the rover continues its journey towards the lower slopes of “Mount Sharp”.

A composite of eight shots from MAHLI showing successive strikes from the ShemCam laser, both within the sample drilling hole at "Windjana" and where the tailings have mixed with surface dust (top right). Such strikes allow the chemical coposition of the dust and rock to be analysed (click to enlrage)
A composite of eight shots from MAHLI showing successive dot-like strikes from the ChemCam laser, both within the sample drilling hole at “Windjana” and where the tailings have mixed with surface dust (top right). Such strikes allow the chemical composition of the dust and rock to be analysed (click to enlarge)

Prior to departing “The Kimberley”, Curiosity carried out a final set of science operations. These involved using the turret-mounted MAHLI (Mars Hand Lens Imager) and spectrometer to examine the texture and composition of the cuttings from the sample drill hole in situ. The ChemCam laser was also used to vapourise some of the drill tailings on the surface of “Windjana” and rock from the inside of the sample hole itself, allowing the ChemCam to analyse the chemical composition of the resultant vapours.

Continue reading “Of holes on Mars and flying saucers”

SL11B Community Celebration: calling SL bloggers and press!

The days are counting down to the to opening of the SL11B Community Celebration, and the start of a week’s worth of festivities to mark the eleventh anniversary of Second Life throwing wide its doors to the world at large.

The sims have been laid out, and across all of them, people are busily putting together their exhibits. Across the rest of Second Life, entertainers are readying themselves to participate in a 24/7 round of entertainment which will run throughout the celebrations.

The SL11B CC Auditorium by Pygar Bu
A part of the SL11B CC Auditorium, designed by Pygar Bu

While the gates officially open to the public at noon, SLT on Sunday, June 22nd, bloggers and members of the SL press can get to see all of the builds across the 11 regions of the celebrations ahead of the rush.

The SL11B Community Celebration Press Day will be held on Saturday, June 21st. The regions will open at noon, and those attending are welcome to take snapshots, videos and blog about the regions, the exhibits and the attractions. Press packs will be provided to all those attending, containing lots of additional information, as well as goodies donated by exhibitors.

There will also be a series of press tours taking place during the day, all of which will commence at the Welcome Area and will be open to anyone attending the Press Day. Tours will start at 14:00, 16:00 and 18:00 SLT, and will visit all the main attractions.

Inside the rock stage, designed by Kazuhiro Aridian )
Inside the rock stage, designed by Kazuhiro Aridian

If you are a blogger or member of the SL press, and would like the opportunity to preview the SL11BCC regions, please complete and submit the follow below (posted on behalf of the SL11BCC team) before  noon SLT on Wednesday June 18th:


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Of catching a thief, being a cat, living a dog’s lives and saving a princess

It’s time to kick-off another week of fabulous story-telling in Voice, brought to Second Life and Kitely by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library.

As always, all times SLT / PDT, and unless otherwise stated, events will be held on the Seanchai Library’s home on Imagination Island.

Sunday June 8th

10:00: Seanchai Kitely: Irish Romance

Join Shandon Loring at Seanchai’s home region in Kitely (hop://osgrid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/144/129/29), as he brings us tales of love and romance from the Emerald Isle.

13:30: Tea-time at Baker Street: The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

Tea-time at Baker Street sees Caledonia Skytower, Corwyn Allen and Kayden Oconnell open the pages of The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, the final set of twelve Sherlock Holmes short stories first published in the Strand Magazine between October 1921 and April 1927.

This week: The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone

The year is 1903, and John Watson has returned to 221B Baker Street to see his old friend and colleague, Sherlock Holmes. However, he is met not by Holmes, but by Billy Boy, one of the Baker Street Irregulars. Holmes, it seems, is up to his eyeballs trying to solve a case – that of a stolen £100,000 crown diamond.

In due course, Holmes appears, but not before Billy Boy has revealed  – much to Watson’s surprise – a very life-like effigy of the great detective, posed in an armchair as if reading and sitting in the window bay. And if that isn’t enough, Holmes, having exchanged greetings with Watson, dispatches Billy Boy on an errand and promptly adds to the good Doctor’s surprise.

“That boy is a problem, Watson. How far am I justified in allowing him to be in danger?”

“Danger of what, Holmes?”

“Of sudden death. I’m expecting something this evening.”

“Expecting what?”

“To be murdered, Watson.”

Join Cale, Corwyn and Kayden as they unravel one of only two Sherlock Holmes mysteries to be written in the third-person.

Monday June 9th, 19:00: Space Wars: The Man Who Would Be Kzin, Part 2

Gyro Muggins continues to tell a tale drawn from the deadly Man-Kzin Wars.

The Kzinti, are a warlike race Niven first introduced to the world in his 1966 story The Warriors. They permeated many of his stories set in the Known Space series, and well as appearing in his Nebula and Hugo award-winning Ringworld. In his stories, Niven references a series of conflicts between Kzinti and humans, but did not write about the wars himself. Such was the demand for more information on the wars, however, he allowed the Man-Kzin wars to become a shared universe series, with the majority of the stories written by other science-fiction authors such as Poul Anderson, Dean Ing, Jerry Pournelle, S.M. Stirling, Greg Bear and others.

The Man Who Would Be Kzin, written in 1991 by Greg Bear and S.M Stirling, appears in the Man-Kzin Wars IV, and The Best of All Possible Wars. It poses the interesting question: how exactly does a human spy infiltrate a civilisation of 8-foot tall anthropomorphic tiger-like cats?

Tuesday June 10th, 19:00: A Dog’s Purpose, Continued

Reincarnation can be confusing for a human; reborn into different lives, trying to learn lessons of the past in order to discover one’s purpose … Imagine what it must be like for a dog.

That’s exactly what humourist W. Bruce Cameron has done in his 2010 best seller A Dog’s Purpose. Bailey, pup of a stray, is rather surprised to find himself reborn as a Golden Retriever after being euthanized. It surprises him even more when, after a happy life involving a young boy, a farm and more, Bailey passes from the world … Only to find himself occupying the body of a German shepherd bitch. Thus comes the realisation that he is serving some higher purpose.

The problem is, and as his lives continue, Bailey can’t figure out exactly what that purpose might be…

Travel with Caledonia Skytower and Kayden Oconnell as they continue their journey through Bailey’s heartwarming and funny tale of many lives, a dog’s-eye commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man’s best friend; a story in which love never dies, and true friends are always with us.

Wednesday June 11th, 19:00: Tales of Despereaux, Continued

Following-on from Flora and Ulysses, Caledonia Skytower reads from Kate DiCamillo’s first novel to win a prestigious Newbery Award.

The Tales of Despereaux is a story of four parts, each part told from the perspective of a different character. Despereaux Tilling, is a mouse, and the hero of the piece. Born a runt with big ears and eyes, he is an incurable romantic, given to reading tales about knights and princesses. Chiaroscuro is a dungeon rat with an obsession with light, bright things. Miggery Sow is a simply serving girl with an impossible dream.

Together, these three become bound in a tale of dungeons, betrayal, kidnap, redemption and a princess named Pea, as well as a host of other memorable characters.

Thursday June 12th

16:00: More Stories from the Ozland Galley

With Llola Lane.

19:00: Ladon, Part 2

Shandon Loring continues the tale of Ladon, the first monster to crawl out of the sea in search of food that wasn’t fish, only to acquire an insatiable craving for human flesh. Summoned by Hera, Ladon becomes a pawn in Hera’s plot to destroy Hercules. However, not only do the best laid plans of mice an men oft go astray. so can those hatched by the Queen of the Gods.


Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule. The featured charity for May-June is Habitat for Humanity: envisioning a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

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Fashion for Life 2014 underway

Fashion for Life 2014: Voyage
Fashion for Life 2014: Voyage

Fashion for Life 2014 opened its doors in Second Life on Saturday June 7th, and will run through until midnight SLT on Friday June 20th.

Supporting Relay for Life of SL (as it always does), Fashion For Life is spread across ten themed regions, each one hosting stores and shops offering the best and latest of their fashions and accessories. In a major change to previous FFL events, every item for sale is a donation item; designers can choose whether 15, 25, 50, 75 or 100% of the proceeds of a sale go to RFL of SL.

Fashion for Life 2014: Trek
Fashion for Life 2014: Trek

The theme of this year’s event is Wanderlust, a reflection of RFL of SL’s central theme of A Journey of Promise. In keeping with this, each of the FFL regions is focused on a means of transportation – be it by air, land or water. The ten regions, their themes, their designers and sponsors are:

  • FFL Amble: automobiles; designed by Bianca Bender; sponsored by MoonDance and PurpleMoon
  • FFL Excursion: water transportation on rivers; designed by Barnesworth Anubis; sponsored by Tres Beau and Lapointe & Bastchild
  • FFL Journey: Steampunk Ground transport; designed by TotalLunar Eclipse; sponsored by EMO-tions and Heydra
  • FFL Meander: ocean-going transport; designed by Grace Loudon; sponsored by Pure Poison and Body Canvas
  • FFL Parade: Pedal Power; designed by Pluto Fairey; sponsored by KL Couture and LeeZu
  • FFL Perambulate: Foot-driven, skateboards or skates; designed by Eclair Martinek; sponsored by BSD Design Studio and Legal Insanity
  • FFL Promenade: Space; designed by Rathmeous Dagger; sponsored by FBD Fashion and ZOZ
  • FFL Trek: mechanised flight; designed by Troy Vogel; sponsored by Essenz and Azul
  • FFL Voyage: 2 & 3 wheelers; designed by Jara Lowell; sponsored by Vintage Jewels and Mon Cheri
  • FFL Wander: non-mechanised flight; designed by Grace Loudon and Rathmeous Dagger; sponsored by Zanze and Miamai
Fashion for Life 2014: Meander
Fashion for Life 2014: Meander

For those not so into shopping and fashion (and for those who are!), FFL is running The Passport Game, a HUD-based game which builds on the theme of the event and the themes of the FFL regions.

To play, simply pick-up a passport HUD at any of the FFL region arrival points, wear it, and then visit the Gacha Station in each of the 10 regions and purchase the special souvenirs made by each of region builders – the proceeds go directly to RFL of SL. When you wear a souvenir, your passport will be stamped. When you have all 10 stamps, go to the redemption centre on any region and claim a prize donated by a number of the designers participating in FFL 2014.

Fashion for Life 2014: Perambulate
Fashion for Life 2014: Perambulate

As well as the stores in each region, FFL will feature a range of events and activities, these will include runway shows, a lookbook organized and sponsored by Best of SL under the direction of Reign Congrejo and live music and DJ events organised and sponsored by Zenzibar’s Zzoie Zee. Keep an eye on the FFL 2014 blog for details on events.

So why not broaden your travel horizons, and book a break in the FFL regions?

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