Mars Exploration Digest: Issue March 2023

A regular monthly digest of Mars research news for March 2023. PDF: Issue 6, Volume 2, ISSN 2788-225X.


[SK] Slovenskú verziu článku si môžte prečítať tu: Výber z výskumu Marsu: Marec 2023

Information about the previous issue of the Mars Exploration Digest

The previous issue of the digital magazine was not published due to technical problems. The content of the February 2023 edition is included in this current issue – March 2023.

Mars Odyssey has fuel supplies for at least until 2025

Since NASA launched the 2001 Mars Odyssey Orbiter to the Red Planet almost 22 years ago, the spacecraft has looped around Mars more than 94,000 times. That’s about the equivalent of 1.37 billion miles (2.21 billion kilometers), a distance that has required extremely careful management of the spacecraft’s fuel supply. This feat is all the more impressive given that Odyssey has no fuel gauge; engineers have had to rely on math instead.

Snapshot from the simulation of the current position of the Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech, Dr. Kozar.

But last year, Odyssey looked as if it might be running out of gas: Calculations indicated its hydrazine fuel was much lower than expected.

Fuel level estimate in January 2022 indicated only 6 pounds (2.8 kilograms) of hydrazine remained.

If the figures were accurate, Odyssey would be running on empty in less than a year. Either the spacecraft had experienced some kind of failure, like a leak, or something was off in the team’s measurements.

Months of testing and an intense investigation ensued. After studying the mystery of the “missing” fuel, mission engineers have learned new things about how the aging spacecraft’s complex fuel system behaves in flight. Their conclusion: The orbiter should actually have enough to last at least through the end of 2025. [1]

NASA’s Curiosity views first ‘Sun rays’ on Mars

Martian sunsets are uniquely moody, but NASA’s Curiosity rover captured one last month that stands out. As the Sun descended over the horizon on Feb. 2, rays of light illuminated a bank of clouds. These “sun rays” are also known as crepuscular rays, from the Latin word for “twilight.” It was the first time sun rays have been so clearly viewed on Mars.

Curiosity captured the scene during the rover’s newest twilight cloud survey, which builds on its 2021 observations of noctilucent, or night-shining, clouds. While most Martian clouds hover no more than 37 miles (60 kilometers) above the ground and are composed of water ice, the clouds in the latest images appear to be at a higher altitude, where it’s especially cold. That suggests these clouds are made of carbon dioxide ice or dry ice. [2]

This feather-shaped iridescent cloud was captured just after sunset on Jan. 27, 2023, the 3,724th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s mission. Studying the colors in iridescent clouds tells scientists something about particle size within the clouds and how they grow over time. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity finds surprise clues to Mars’ watery past

Among other discoveries made by the rover, rippled rock textures suggest lakes existed in a region of ancient Mars that scientists expected to be drier.

When NASA’s Curiosity rover arrived at the “sulfate-bearing unit” last fall, scientists thought they’d seen the last evidence that lakes once covered this region of Mars. That’s because the rock layers here formed in drier settings than in regions explored earlier in the mission. The area’s sulfates – salty minerals – are thought to have been left behind when water was drying to a trickle.

So Curiosity’s team was surprised to discover the mission’s clearest evidence yet of ancient water ripples that formed within lakes. Billions of years ago, waves on the surface of a shallow lake stirred up sediment at the lake bottom, over time creating rippled textures left in the rock. [3]

Perseverance rover set to begin the third year at Jezero crater

After completing the first sample depot on another world, the rover continues its hunt for Mars rocks worthy of study on Earth.

NASA’s Perseverance rover will celebrate its second anniversary on the surface of Mars Saturday, Feb. 18. Since arriving at Jezero Crater in 2021, the six-wheeled, nuclear-powered rover has been examining geologic features and collecting samples of the Red Planet that are central to the first step of the NASA-ESA (European Space Agency) Mars Sample Return campaign. Scientists want to study Martian samples with powerful lab equipment on Earth to search for signs of ancient microbial life and to better understand the processes that have shaped the surface of Mars.

NASA’s Perseverance rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

In addition to the rock cores, Perseverance has collected two regolith samples and one atmospheric sample, and it has sealed three “witness” tubes.

Interesting numbers of Perseverance’s mission on Mars:

Perseverance Science Statistics

The rover carries seven science instruments.

  • Laser shots fired by the SuperCam science instrument: 230,554
  • Soundings performed by the RIMFAX (Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment) ground-penetrating radar to study underground rock layers: 676,828
  • Mars audio recordings taken by SuperCam’s microphone: 662
  • Hours of Mars weather data recorded by MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer): 15,769.1
  • Hours the X-ray filament on the PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry) instrument has operated: 298.2
  • Laser shots by the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals) instrument: 4,337,010
  • SHERLOC spectroscopy observations: 33

Perseverance Mobility and Operational Statistics

Along with the massive drill-toting robotic arm, the rover has a small sample handling arm inside its belly.

  • Times the rover’s main robotic arm has been unstowed and stowed: 64
  • Times the drill on that arm has touched Mars: 39
  • Times drill bits have been exchanged: 48
  • Abrasions performed by the drill: 17
  • The distance the rover’s sample handling arm’s z-stage has traveled up and down: 676.1 feet (206.1 meters)

Perseverance’s Camera Statistics

Perseverance packs seven science cameras along with nine engineering cameras. Together, those cameras have taken more than 166,000 images. Here are the image tallies for several of them.

  • Mastcam-Z: 86,660
  • Navigation Cameras: 21,571
  • Front Hazard-Avoidance Cameras: 3,909
  • Rear Hazard-Avoidance Cameras: 474
  • Sampling and Caching System Camera: 1,321
  • SuperCam Remote Micro-Imager: 2,825
  • SHERLOC Context Imager: 2,260
  • MEDA SkyCam: 1,831
  • PIXL Micro-Context Camera: 1,012
  • Entry, Descent, and Landing Cameras: 33,279

In fact, when Perseverance marks its second landing anniversary, Mars will be 97 million miles (156 million kilometers) from Earth. The weather at Jezero Crater is expected to be sunny with a high of about 7 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 14 degrees Celsius). The rover has instructions to perform remote science and take images of a place in Jezero Crater called “Jenkins Gap.” And people on the mission team are expected to take at least one moment to recall where they were and how they felt two years ago when Perseverance landed on Mars. [4]

The possibility of contributing to the monthly magazine about Mars

Are you looking for a professional journal or magazine where you could publish your text, research, or scientific-popular article? Do you like planets and space? Are you a student, researcher, astronomer, teacher, or space enthusiast? Here is a unique opportunity for you to publish your text in a new professional periodical.

The cover of the January 2023 edition. Image credit: Jozef Kozar, Ph.D.

Use this opportunity to publish in the new magazine “Mars Exploration Digest” (abbreviation “MXD”). This new monthly magazine is starting its second year. It is available to everyone for free (open access). It is published in PDF format in two languages – English and Slovak (posts in Czech are also welcome).

The focus of this monthly magazine is not commercial. Its goal is not only to provide information from the world of Mars exploration but also to help in education and publishing new knowledge.

And a bonus for you? You can contribute your text for free. You can use this published article as a reference in your list of publications because Mars Exploration Digest is a professional journal. The readership of this magazine is growing rapidly, as it is a very specific periodical. So don’t hesitate and take your chance now. Mars Exploration Digest is registered under ISSN 2788-225X by the Czech National Technical Library in Prague (The Czech Republic, EU).

~ Jozef Kozár, PhD.

PDF: Issue 6, Volume 2, ISSN 2788-225X.



[1] JPL News; Engineers Keep an Eye on Fuel Supply of NASA’s Oldest Mars Orbiter. March 15, 2023; NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
[2] NASA; Mars Science Laboratory; March 2023,
[3] NASA’s Curiosity Finds Surprise Clues to Mars’ Watery Past – NASA Mars Exploration. NASA Mars Exploration [online]. Available at:
[4] NASA Mars Exploration [online]. Available at:



Slovenskú verziu článku si môžte prečítať tu: Výber z výskumu Marsu: Marec 2023


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March 2023


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Cite this text:
Jozef Kozár, PhD (July 23, 2024) Mars Exploration Digest: Issue March 2023. Retrieved from
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Jozef Kozár, PhD April 14, 2023 Mars Exploration Digest: Issue March 2023., viewed July 23, 2024,<>
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Dr. Jozef Kozár

Author, Research Scientist, Consultant.

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