Landers / Rovers

Blogs about landers and rovers

A panorama of the area accessing Perseverance Valley (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity has begun its scientific work in yet another Mars area to be explored during a mission that has been going on for over 13 Earth’s years. This mission was extended for the tenth time in 2016 and now its goal is to study “Perseverance Valley”, an ancient valley on the inner slope of the Endeavor crater’s rim to figure out how it formed.

Artist's concept comparing Mars as it is today and as it was 4 billion years ago (Image NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

An article published in the journal “Science” describes a research on the atmosphere of the planet Mars that indicates the Sun’s wind and radiation as the principal culprits of the fact that today that atmosphere is so thin. A team led by Bruce Jakosky, principal investigator of NASA’s MAVEN space probe’s mission, examined the measurements of the existing gases estimating for example that 65% of argon present origininally got lost in space. This research confirms the one published in November 2015.

SpaceIL lander (Image courtesy SpaceIL)

The Google Lunar XPRIZE announced the $1 million Diversity Prize, which will be split among the 16 teams participating in the competition. The most important announcement concerns the 5 teams that are advancing to the final phase of the competition having proved they have valid contracts for the launch of their vehicle to the Moon by December 31, 2016. The final goal is to bring a robotic spacecraft to the Moon that after the landing has to travel at least 500 meters on the surface and send images and data back to Earth.

Artistic representation of the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) (Image ESA–D. Ducros)

The ESA and Roscosmos’ TGO (Trace Gas Orbiter) space probe and the lander Schiaparelli have reached Mars completing the first phase of the first mission within the ExoMars program, started with their launch on March 14, 2016. Schiaparelli had separated from the TGO on October 16 with some thrill because the maneuver was successful but its telemetry data arrived with considerable delay.

Wharton Ridge (ImageNASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)

After extending the mission of the venerable Mars Rover Opportunity another time, NASA announced that it will drive down a gully dug by a fluid a long time ago, maybe by water. The goal is to understand whether this is the remains of an ancient Martian river. It’s the beginning of yet another mission for Opportunity, which suffers wear and might be at risk because of a storm that will hit Mars.